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Mirabelle (Claire Danes) works the glove counter at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, selling things nobody buys. She keeps to herself, but when rich, handsome, fifty-something Ray (Steve Martin) sweeps her off her feet, she revels in the attention and quickly falls in love. Realizing it can't last forever, Mirabelle has to decide: Does she stick with Ray, hoping his feelings for her will grow? Or does she take a chance on young, struggling musician Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman)? Written by Steve Martin (based on his best-selling novella) and directed by Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie).
 

 L.A. Story

L.A. Los Angeles. City of Angels. Hell-A. Hollywood. Hollyweird.

I have had a complicated relationship with L.A.

For a pop-culture obsessed kid, growing up in the far away Far East, it was everything that was shiny and bright and new and exciting.

For a struggling young wannabe filmmaker, sitting in the back row of London's Scala Cinema in the early ’80s, it was Eldorado. You know it’s out there somewhere, but you don't even know how to find the map. Meanwhile, up on the big screen, Travis Bickle is really freaking me out.

When I finally did set two feet on the boiling hot tarmac of LAX, I couldn't get the measure of the place. Firstly, where the hell was it? Secondly, why did I seem to spend most of my time sitting in a hotel room above a freeway, waiting for the phone to ring? Thirdly, why didn't anybody recognize my genius?

As the years went by, I spent many weeks sitting in various hotel rooms, waiting. And feeling more and more dislocated. I came to dread the trips, as they kept reminding me of the disparity between my directing fantasy life, and my not-directing real life.

And then, one day, I got the chance to live my own L.A. Story. And I fell in love. So here is a list of some of my favourite L.A. things…

1) L.A. Story. A perfect movie. And attainable, as directed by another Brit who also had once worked at the BBC. If Mick could do it, then maybe so could I.

2) Peets Coffee, Santa Monica. I don't know where to begin. Just brilliant coffee. My spiritual home. For a coffee fanatic, a bit like heaven. And the best conversations to eavesdrop on first bleary-eyed-thing.

3) Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain. Terse, sparse, controlled writing of the most emotional and explosive kind. And a portrait of the feeling landscape of the City.

4) Amoeba Records. OH MY GOD. That's what I said when I first walked in. Out loud. I have been haunting record stores since I was old enough to steal money from my mother's purse and buy very bad Cat Stevens records. (I was 11.) I would sometimes drive all the way from Santa Monica, just to walk up and down the aisles. It's like a record nerd’s wet dream. I spent a lot of (my own) money.

5) The Arclight. Right next door to Amoeba. This is what all cinemas should be like. When they say raked seats, they mean raked.

6) The RKO globe on the Paramount Lot. I have two all-time director heroes: Michael Powell and Jacques Tourneur. Tourneur made I Walked with a Zombie and Cat People on this lot. Both those movies have the spinning RKO globe on the front. My student film was a reworking of Cat People. It was called The Sleep of Reason. On my first-ever trip to L.A., I carried it on the plane to the UCLA Student Film Festival. I think a lot of people walked out. And they were right. It was a very bad film. But that globe keeps spinning in my head.

7) The 405 at 4am. I never thought I would love an eight-lane highway. But the quiet zoom down the empty lanes with just this vastness of dark light every- where would actually take my breath away.

8) Cheese Danishes. Now I know these aren't particular to L.A., but you can't get the sweet, rich, real thing for love nor money here in sunny London.

9) Silver Lake. We shot large parts of Shopgirl here, and it’s cool. It’s old. You can walk down the steps where Laurel and Hardy dropped the piano. They have a fantastic street festival at Sunset Junction, which was happening on my first very jet-lagged visit here on a recce in 2003. I saw Sonic Youth play majestically and hauntingly live. I have never seen so much black leather, black hair, black makeup and just generally gothy black stuff in such a confined space ever before or since.

10) Downtown. There is a stretch of disused theatres in downtown which are so grand and majestic and, well, European, that it was one of the first things that made me see L.A. in a different light. It harked back to golden days of elegiac elegance which I am not sure today’s modern, informal (which I also quite like) world of the glitzy Hollywood showbiz life can match. But this is also one of the poorest, most run-down areas of L.A. To fully understand why, you need to read...

11) City of Quartz, by Mike Davis. I read this on the plane flying into L.A., at the start of my almost two years of living there. It tells the story of how the city became itself through the history of its real estate. And as unlikely as it may seem, it is utterly compelling.

12) Listening to BBC Radio 4 on the internet as I fell asleep each night. Cheating, but still one of my favourite things.

13) The Coyote that eyeballed me one dusky evening somewhere on a side street in The Valley, while I was on the phone. Talking some movie nonsense, I think. He stared at me for a very long time, and then turned his back on me. He was backlit by the most incredible....

14) Light.