Location, location, location. Where a movie takes place is often as important as the characters, to the point that it can become a character in its own right. New York has been a character in any number of films (New York, I Love You, Sidewalks of New York), as has Paris, Beijing and most other major cities.
Ohio, being one of the most densely populated states in the country, has its fair share of spotlight moments. Individual areas (Cleveland, Xenia) have been highlighted, fictional places have been created and generalizations have been made. There are a huge number of flicks set in our great state, and here are a six of the best.
Super 8 is the love child of two auteurs, one of which was directly influenced by the other and was paying homage through the creation of the film. That sounds convoluted, but the result is a modern flick set in a world of immediate nostalgia – Ohio on the cusp of the 80s. Part E.T., part Cloverfield, Super 8 has proven once again that great, family friendly films are still possible. The kids in the movie set out to make a movie when they opportunistically record a train wreck. The military shows up, closes the town and wants the tape. That all builds a backdrop for a story about a boy that lost his mother and the emotional damage caused by the death. The whole thing takes place in Lillian, Ohio, a made-up town presumably near Dayton – because of the Air Force thing.
Rocky Horror Picture Show
With one of the most passionate fanbases of all-time, Rocky Horror Picture Show is the musical that gave us Susan Sarandon in her underwear and Tim Curry in a bustier. An audience participation showing of the film has been performed weekly somewhere in the world for over 25 years, including once a month at the Cedar Lee. Some people will debate whether Rocky Horror Picture Show is actually set in Ohio, but I think it is clear when Susan Sarandon holds a copy of the Plain Dealer over her head to keep from getting wet when they have to go to the transsexual’s castle to ask to use the phone. Someone should have told them that castles don’t have phones.
And God said “Let there be lips!,” and there was. And they were good.
The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio
This little film stars Julianne Moore as a housewife that puts her writing background to good use winning jingle contests for household goods and supplies. Woody Harrelson, in what may be his most nuanced acting performance ever, plays her husband, a drunk machinist that had to give up his dream of being a famous singer. While this film may not be the most exciting, dramatic two hours on the list, it is every bit as good as the others. It’s a character piece that shows a little bit of what life was like here, then.
Another true story, because people from Ohio are so cool people from everywhere else wants to make movies about us, American Splendor is the story of Cleveland’s own Harvey Pekar. Paul Giamatti stars alongside the real Harvey Pekar in a film that follows the comic creator from his comic roots through his appearances on David Letterman to his “cancer years,” the period in his life that was the focus of some of his most acclaimed work. Mr. Pekar passed away not too long ago, but fortunately we can remember him through his comics, this film and the magic of YouTube. Here’s a clip that gets geek-meta before getting geek meta was geek sheik:
(Note: every time this scene starts, the lyrics “We went to White Castle and we got thrown out.” from “License to Ill” Zerg-rushes my cranium and I can’t think of anything else for a few seconds.)
When the name Gummo is uttered in a film discussion, there are two possible outcomes. The first is the blank stare, the look of people that have not seen the bathtub scene although they may have heard of it. The second is a sharp, vehement reaction of either pure delight or utter horror. Gummo is more than the bathtub scene. It is stark classism in disaster struck Xenia, Ohio. It is disturbing throughout, filled with non-actors (only 5 of 30 speaking roles had experience) and settings you can drive through if you just head away from downtown long enough. It also has Chloë Sevigny, filled with a post-Kids glow, and that makes it worth putting on almost any list.
Christian Slater, Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty and a bleach cocktail. The 80′s lived and breathed Ohio and all its glory in this dark comedy ode to the Brat Pack, school cliques and quotable dialogue. They eat Corn Nuts, play croquet and go cow tipping in their spare time. “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw” is part of their vernacular. And most importantly, Winona Ryder represents the heart of it all when she destroys Christian Slater in the name of the Dumptrucks of the world. Because this is what happens when you fuck with someone from Ohio:
Edit: The whole movie is on YouTube. It probably won’t be there forever, but while it is there I’m embedding it here. Leave a note in the comments if the link dies, and I’ll replace it with what it was originally.