Hello again! I hope you are all enjoying this series about films shot in all the 50 states! (I mean, if you aren’t, why are you still reading?) We’re back today with part 3! We have a great variety of films, so none of you should leave disappointed!
Last time, we went from Hawaii to Maine, but today we’ll be going cross-country from New Hampshire to Nevada, covering a wide range of states in between! So, sit back, relax, and enjoy this magnificent journey through Americana!
If you missed any of the parts to this series, click below!
Massachusetts — Good Will Hunting (1997)
I’m hit with a rush of emotion each time I see Good Will Hunting. Sometimes it’s inspiration. Sometimes it’s joy. And sometimes I don’t know what the emotion is, but it makes me cry. Good Will Hunting stars Matt Damon as a janitor at M.I.T. who needs just a little guidance from a psychologist played by Robin Williams. First of all, Massachusetts is a beautiful place to film with its historical buildings and colonial atmosphere. But there’s a scene in this film, a particular scene, where Robin Williams is telling Matt Damon about life and how Damon doesn’t know anything about it because he’s only a kid. That is a masterpiece. Williams’ delivery, the subtle cinematography that slowly zooms out to show Damon’s face, the peaceful setting — that’s what gets me. Good Will Hunting is a beautiful, inspiring film set in an equally beautiful, inspiring place and it is one of my favorite movies.
Michigan — Gran Torino (2008)
Gran Torino has its flaws — Clint Eastwood’s character is slightly (very) racist, the dialogue sometimes sounds like it was pulled out of a failed gangster movie, and some of the characters are slightly flat. (Not to mention a bit of a white savior issue as well.) Yet, it’s an entertaining film to watch and one that I think encapsulates the neighborhoods of Michigan well. The plot is basically this: Clint Eastwood is an angry Korean War veteran who just wants everyone to get off his lawn, regardless of who they are or what they’re doing; however, he ends up being the neighborhood savior with his shotguns and pistols. Gran Torino is an honest depiction of race relations, gangs, and just day-to-day living in a hardened neighborhood. Plus, it’s not afraid to make a joke or two (I’m looking at you, Mr. Finger Guns Eastwood).
Note: it was very hard for me not to choose 8 Mile (2002) for this category, but I realize that not everyone loves Eminem as much as I do. A shame, really.
Minnesota — Fargo (1996)
The Coen brothers really do have a knack for creating some wacky yet lovable films. Fargo is no different from O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) or Raising Arizona (1987) on the weirdness factor, though this one is quite a bit more sinister. The plot revolves around a kidnapping gone wrong, turning into more of a bloodbath than the kidnapper ever planned for. Fargo stars Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy, and Frances McDormand, who all give hilariously over-the-top performances. Not to mention that their Minnesota accents are pretty spot-on. What gives Fargo a right to be on this list is the fact that it has all the best parts of Minnesota: the accents, the innocence, the boring yet amusing small talk, the freezing cold, and that good old Midwestern hospitality.
Mississippi — The Help (2011)
Based on the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, The Help revolves around the African-American maids of the South in the 1960s. We follow a few different story lines throughout, which come together through the writing of Skeeter Phelan’s (Emma Stone) book. Of course, this film has a phenomenal line-up of stars in its cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Alison Janney, and Jessica Chastain put in convincing performances. Something unique about this film is the vivid color palette. While I’m sure a skilled cinematographer and editor are involved in how eye-popping the color is, I think a lot of it is simply due to the gorgeous hues of Mississippi itself. They carry a subtle emphasis for the heavy emotions of the film.
Missouri — Gone Girl (2014)
Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl is quite a dark film as it sheds light on domestic abuse. Based on the book of the same name, the plot revolves around the disappearance of Amy Dunne (Pike) and her husband, Nick Dunne’s (Affleck), suspicious involvement. To emphasize the issue’s prominence throughout the nation, Gone Girl was filmed in Missouri, practically the heart of Midwestern suburban America. Every scene is coldly calculated and orchestrated to the point of perfection. Director David Fincher’s use of lighting, cinematography, and monologues is captivating. Of course, most of this film’s greatness can be attributed to Rosamund Pike’s emotional yet distant performance. Far from a romantic film, Gone Girl retains important moral value and utilizes great cinematic techniques to emphasize that point.
Montana — The Shining (1980)
The Shining is a shining (pun definitely intended) example of a psychological horror/thriller. Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, who goes absolutely insane in an isolated mountain hotel in the winter; of course, this leads to a delightfully murderous rampage. Shelley Duvall plays Jack’s wife, Wendy Torrance, who simply wants to get her and her creepy psychic son to safety. Director Stanley Kubrick utilized all of his finely honed directing skills to create this cinematic spectacle that stands the test of time. The strong music cues, the subtle foreshadowing, the pure fear evoked, and even the sparseness of the setting create an uneasy feeling that make The Shining one of the greatest thrillers ever.
Nebraska — Terms of Endearment (1983)
I was not expecting to include another Jack Nicholson film in this list, but yet here we are. Terms of Endearment reminds me of Steel Magnolias (1989) in that it’s a highly emotional film and it examines the intricacies of relationships. Like Steel Magnolias, the film has a phenomenal cast: Nicholson, Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Danny Devito, Jeff Daniels, and John Lithgow. Unsurprisingly, the film won five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Screenplay (adapted from another medium). Of course, the film mixes in hilarious comedic relief to offset its heavy emotional material. Terms of Endearment is a fantastic comical, tearjerker that will tear your heart apart and then sew it back together over and over.
Nevada — The Hangover (2009)
The Hangover toes the line of funny and obscene; sometimes it teeters too far toward obscene, but it still manages to retain its humor in the end. The trio of Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, and Ed Helms as three buddies trying to piece together what happened during a riotous bachelor party is hilarious. The extremes that director Todd Phillips went to just to get a laugh is astounding, but it works. Whether it’s laughing at some stupid remark Alan (Galifianakis) makes or just shaking your head at the zany antics the guys find themselves in, The Hangover is definitely a wild ride. Plus, taking place not only on the main strip of Vegas but on all the assorted side streets as well adds an amusing variety to the film. It’s no wonder this film is already considered a classic comedy.
New Hampshire — On Golden Pond (1981)
I’m beginning to sense a pattern here as to the films I enjoy: 80s dramedy films. On Golden Pond is no different from Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment in that it takes Hollywood’s greatest actors and brings them together for an emotional family film. Starring Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond is about a couple who agrees to watch their daughter’s son, despite their strained familial relationship. Along the way, we cry, laugh, and sometimes both. Something On Golden Pond does well is show off its beautiful New Hampshire scenery. The beautiful lake and forest surrounding the house add an air of tranquility to this emotional drama. Add in some great quotes and powerful acting and you have a fantastic film.
New Jersey — On The Waterfront (1954)
Now this is a powerful film. Marlon Brando stars as Terry Malloy, a boxer turned longshoremen; instead of facing fighters, he’s facing corrupt union bosses. As any good cinephile knows, this is where we get the iconic line, “I coulda been a contender!” However, this film is full of equally powerful lines and scenes that give the audience goosebumps. Director Elia Kazan uses beautiful cinematography and the docks of New Jersey to create a despairing setting. We feel Terry’s depression and we rejoice with his victories. The ending is especially unforgettable in its close-up shots and powerful message. On The Waterfront is absolutely stunning in its execution, acting, and dialogue.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on Part 3 of Films Shot in All 50 States? Comment down below!
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