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5 great films with street names in their titles

August 5th, 2011 4:22 am by Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The ultra-low-budget "Bellflower," which opens in limited release this weekend, is named for the Southern California street where director-writer-star Evan Glodell was living when he went through the dramatic relationship that inspired the film. It's also the name of the generic street where much of the film's action takes place — the romance and, eventually, the break-up and brutal climax.


Providing a sense of place is a crucial part of luring us into a film, and that can start right from the very beginning. So here's a journey through five great movies with street names in their titles. Try not to get lost:


— "Sunset Boulevard" (1950): Billy Wilder's sharp, biting satire remains one of the most insightful films ever made about Hollywood. All these decades later, the names have changed and the technology has improved but the egos and illusions remain. LA's Sunset Boulevard is where aging silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) lives in her garish mansion, dreaming of a comeback, and it's where writer Joe Gillis (William Holden) narrates from the great beyond while lying face-down in her swimming pool at the start. Holden is the film's steady, quick-witted anchor, while Swanson teeters brilliantly on the brink of madness until the very end. She IS big. It's the pictures that got small.


— "Mulholland Dr." (2001): David Lynch's dreamlike Hollywood noir gave us a major star in Naomi Watts. She's mesmerizing here in multiple roles as both a bright-eyed aspiring actress and a starlet who's seen better days. She and Laura Elena Harring form a giddy, girly friendship that morphs into something darker and more intense. The name comes from the long, winding road that snakes along the top of the mountains that separate Los Angeles from the San Fernando Valley; it's where the car crash takes place that sends Harring's character into amnesia and into Watts' life. I will admit I did not get "Mulholland Dr." when I first saw it, but after multiple viewings, I now find myself drawn to its complicated structure and haunting mood.


— "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984): Despite various sequels, remakes and reboots, we're going with Wes Craven's original here, for sake of argument and because it's the best. Craven's core concept — that if you die in your dreams, you die in real life — was truly disturbing back then, and it provided an exploration of the frightening power of the subconscious. With his jaunty fedora and torn sweater, his hideous, scorched skin and an arsenal of one-liners, child-killer Freddy Krueger (the venerable Robert Englund) could be anywhere at any time. There was no way to stop him. At some point, you have to fall asleep. And the idea that such brutal killings could take place on Elm Street, which sounds like such a safe and familiar place in Anytown, U.S.A., made the horrors hit even closer to home.


— "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947): He's not crazy, he's just Santa. Edmund Gwenn earned an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Kris Kringle in this holiday favorite. Gwenn plays a kindly old man who takes over as Santa Claus at the flagship Macy's department store on 34th Street in New York City (hence the title). But he infuses the place with such jolly, ruddy-faced goodness, people begin to wonder whether he's the real deal. When he's deemed delusional and committed to Bellevue, he pleads his case at a legal hearing, becomes a sensation and makes everyone believe in the power of Christmas, including a young Natalie Wood. How are you gonna hate on that?


— "Cloverfield" (2008): The title of this low-budget sci-fi thriller helped build its buzz. What is Cloverfield? What could it possibly mean? And what does it have to do with a monster that terrorizes New York? Well, nothing. And that's part of its charm. Cloverfield is the name of a street near producer J.J. Abrams' Santa Monica office. It's a code word the filmmakers used to keep the project under wraps — but it stuck, adding to the mystery. Director Matt Reeves' film is a thrill ride tailor-made for the YouTube generation, with the attack being documented entirely through the perspective of a partygoer's hand-held video camera. You know that would be your first instinct, too — and that not only gives the film a feeling of authenticity, but makes it more interactive.


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Think of any other examples? Share them with AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire through Twitter: http://twitter.com/christylemire.

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