Dream State: California in the Movies

Dream State: California in the Movies
Hardcover, 5.5 x 8.5, 224 pages.
ISBN: 9781597145329.

By Mick LaSalle

It hardly needs to be argued: nothing has contributed more to the mythology of California than the movies. Fed by the film industry, the California dream is instantly recognizable to people everywhere yet remains elusive for nearly everyone, including Californians themselves. That paradox is the subject of longtime San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle’s first book in nine years. The opposite of a dry historical primer, Dream State is a freewheeling journey through several dozen big-screen visions of the Golden State, with LaSalle’s unmistakable contrarian humor as the guide. His writing, unerringly perceptive and resistant to cliché, brings clarity to the haze of Hollywood reverie and self-regard. He leaps effortlessly between genres and generations, moving with ease from Double Indemnity to the first two versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Boyz n the Hood to Booksmart. There are natural disasters, heinous crimes, dubious utopias, dangerous romances, and unforgettable nights. Equally entertaining and unsettling, this book is a bold dissection of the California dream and how it shaped the modern world.

Reviews

“Mick LaSalle has written a remarkable book about California’s power to show its many faces through the movies: its topsy-turvy values; its apparent grandeur, which is a siren call to the down-and-out and regular guys and pretty young things looking for an outsize dream; its own disturbing brand of gritty noir. You will not agree with everything LaSalle writes, but you will want to discuss it with guests over martinis at the next pool party in Hollywood—the one where they rarely listen because they’re looking over your shoulder to see if there’s a movie star nearby. This book will catch their attention.” LYNDA OBST, author of Hello, He Lied: And Other Truths from the Hollywood Trenches
“A witty, engaging, and knowledgeable pastiche of cultural criticism, film studies, and California history. A sweeping panorama of what it is we are really shooting when we shoot films about California. You’ll never look at The Wizard of Oz, Sunset Boulevard, or Superbad the same way.” AMY WILENTZ, author of I Feel Earthquakes More Often Than They Happen: Coming to California in the Age of Schwarzenegger
“For two hundred years and more, the beaches, mountains, urban landscapes, and possibilities of the Golden State have created a California of the imagination. With witty juxtapositions of films not usually compared, and a wide perspective that stretches from the beginnings of the movie business to the present, Mick LaSalle shows us how it happened, delving deeply into the long Hollywood love affair with its hometown and its home state, where history and fantasy mix.” LEO BRAUDY, author of The Hollywood Sign: Reality and Fantasy of an American Icon
“Dream State is a witty, companionable, and blessedly unacademic assessment of the California-Hollywood connection, filled with sage sociological insights and fresh, surprising takes on movies as varied as The Wizard of Oz and Gidget.” PETER RAINER, author of Rainer on Film: Thirty Years of Film Writing in a Turbulent and Transformative Era
“Dream State is comprehensive, perceptive, and great at seeing the terroir of California as a place distinctive to noir and love and landscape in film, as unique as Burgundy or Champagne, but with our own deep vision for how murder, earthquakes, desire, and freedom are depicted on screen. The book travels from James M. Cain to Boots Riley, with La Bamba, Superbad, and Booksmart, and the list of films set here is a guide to enjoy.” SUSAN STRAIGHT, author of In the Country of Women
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Categories Forthcoming | History

About the Author

Mick LaSalle

Mick LaSalle

Mick LaSalle is the film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. In the late 1990s he was the on-air film critic for the ABC-TV affiliate in San Francisco, KGO. He is the author of three previous books: Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood, a history and critical study of the actresses who worked during the pre-censorship era of 1929–1934; Dangerous Men: Pre-Code Hollywood and the Birth of the Modern Man; and The Beauty of the Real: What Hollywood Can Learn from Contemporary French Actresses. He wrote and coproduced the Complicated Women documentary for Turner Classic Movies, which was narrated by Jane Fonda. He has written introductions to several books, including The Enduring Star, Peter Cowie’s biography of Joan Crawford.

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