Top 10 Film Locations: Go on location with this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture
Though production for this sci-fi thriller, noted for its physics-defying visual effects, occurred in six countries and on four continents (from Tangiers to Tokyo and beyond), Paris is the film location of some of Inception’s most pivotal mind-bending scenes. First, grab a panini at Da Stuzzi, the Italian café in the 15th arrondissement where characters Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Ariadne (Ellen Page) sit during an incredible explosive sequence in which the city appears to fold in on itself (the corner café had a fake awning added in order to portray a Parisian bistro onscreen). A short walk away, traverse the vaulted Bir-Hakeim bridge near the elevated Passy metro station that is reported to have housed Cobb’s dream training facility and where Ariadne first tests her subconscious’ architectural skills. Next, visit the post-modernist Parc de la Villette, a conceptually experimental complex with roots in architectural deconstructivism, and ponder its 26 “follies” – seemingly unfinished red metal buildings (they serve as park offices and activity venues) that evoke the impossible objects created in the film’s lucid dream worlds (remember those endless stairs?). The city’s largest park, Villette also lays claim to one of the biggest science museums in Europe and offers a continuous calendar of activities for adults and kids, including circus arts workshops, gypsy dancing lessons, plays, and musical performances. In the evening, get gussied up to see a French flick at the Cinéma Gaumont Champs-Elysées Marignan, where the stars gathered for Inception’s Paris premiere.
Want to experience the inspiration behind Director Darren Aronofsky’s eerily beautiful psychological thriller about a ballerina’s stomach-churning spiral into total madness? Visit film location New York City’s Lincoln Center, backdrop for Black Swan and home to the prestigious company from which Nina Sayer’s (played by Natalie Portman) world is fashioned – the New York City Ballet. If money’s no object, attend The School of American Ballet’s Winter Ball on March 14 – a glamorous annual benefit featuring a one-time-only performance by the school’s advanced students (single tickets for the public are – eek – $1,500). For a real-life glimpse into a ballerina’s inner psyche, attend a Dancer’s Chat, held during select months by the NYCB, before embarking on a one-hour guided tour of Lincoln Center ($15 for adults), where you might happen upon a rehearsal at the David H. Koch Theater, the ballet’s home-stage. Tiptoe into On Stage Dancewear on Madison Avenue to pick up a pair of handmade pointe shoes and the perfect tutu. Once you’ve got the gear, drop in on an adult beginner’s class at downtown’s Joffrey Ballet School (from $15). Afterwards, unwind at newish Brooklyn bar coincidentally named (you guessed it) Black Swan, or swing by Forum, the East Village nightclub where uptight Nina finally cuts loose.
The Kids Are All Right
This quirky comedic drama centering on two lesbian mothers (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), their teenage kids, and their leather-clad sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), was shot and set in the hip and hilly L.A. neighborhooods of Silverlake and Echo Park – both wedged between downtown and West Hollywood and known for housing the city’s more eclectic denizens. To obtain the cozy vintage vibe of restaurateur and donor-dad Paul’s bachelor bungalow, spend an afternoon at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in nearby Pasadena, where the film’s set decorator scored much of his material and stylish Echo Park natives go to shop. Emulate Paul’s organic farming lifestyle and bag a bushel of locally grown, pesticide-free produce (or sample some tasty BBQ) at the Echo Park Farmer’s Market – or visit one of Los Angeles’s 70 community gardens. Wish you could eat at an über-trendy locavore restaurant like the one he owns? Silverlake’s popular Forage is supplied almost entirely by the backyard bounty of certified urban gardens in the surrounding area, with a chic atmosphere, to boot.
The King’s Speech
Trace King George VI’s (Colin Firth) path to coronation and his challenge to overcome a lifelong stutter with a London-area film locations tour beginning at Wembley Stadium, where then Prince Albert struggles to deliver an address at the opening of the film (it’s also set to serve as a 2012 Olympic venue). Continue with an excursion to Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire (silver screen stand-in for Westminster Abbey, set about 70 miles from the city), or view the imposing portraits of former monarchs in Drapers’ Hall back in London proper (replacement for St. James’s Palace during the accession council scene). Next, take a stroll down prestigious Harley Street, which hasn’t changed much since the 1920s; number 146 marks the site of speech therapist Lionel Logue’s (played by Geoffrey Rush) actual former practice. A peek into the windows of 33 Portland Place is as close as you’ll get to the shabby-chic, 18th-century townhouse in central London that serves as Logue’s striking consultation room in the film (and, unbeknownst to audiences, was also the same film set for the Duke and Duchess’s Picadilly home) – unless you’re on the VIP list for one of owner Lord Davenport’s lavish, celebrity-ridden soirees. Watch out for crowds around April 29, when thousands will flock to Westminster Abbey for Will and Kate’s royal wedding! If you’re in town for the event, catch a glimpse of King George VI’s great-grandson and his new bride as they sail through Parliament Square in a horse-drawn carriage, emerging briefly at Buckingham Palace to grace their subjects with that trademark royal wave.
The harrowing true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s (played by this year’s Academy Awards’ co-host, James Franco) five days spent pinned beneath a boulder in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, 127 Hours is not a film for the faint of heart. If you’re too scared to actually see the movie, but still want to wander the remote desert canyons and blazing sandstone formations of its film locations, the Utah Office of Tourism has crafted five, 127-hour-long customizable itineraries for visitors. We’re partial to the “127 Hours in Moab” itinerary for experiencing the film’s iconic landscape, which suggests hiking amongst the desert’s iconic arches and jetboating the Colorado River. True adventure-seekers should enlist the pros at Moab Cliffs and Canyons for high-caliber (and chaperoned) canyoneering in Blue John Canyon, near where Ralston was trapped (in fact, the outfit provided cliffside rigging for the film’s production crew; the full-day trip costs
Cambridge, Massachusetts & Silicon Valley, California
The Social Network
This fictionalized biopic about the creation of Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, includes film locations at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts (where Zuckerberg is portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg as an ironically misanthropic undergrad when genius struck), and Silicon Valley (now home to Facebook’s powerhouse headquarters). Though the Harvard scenes were all actually shot off-campus and if you, unlike the screenwriter, aren’t privy to a reported private tour of the Ivy League campus’s secret upper-crust clubs, sign up for the next best thing: a free, student-led tour of Harvard Yard (America’s de facto axis of academic affairs) before hitting up an Oscar party at Cambridge’s The Charles Hotel on Sunday, replete with red carpet and paparazzi. And unless you’ve got a buddy in the biz, you’ll have to resort to drastic measures for the best way to see Silicon Valley’s most famous tech-company complexes: Airship Ventures offers 45-minute to 90-minute tours aboard a 246-foot-long zeppelin (one of only two in the world currently in operation) that promise prime views of programming hot spots like the Googleplex and Apple HQ’s (from $375 a pop).
Toy Story 3
The latest installment of Disney Pixar’s beloved film series (featuring voiceovers by Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and now Whoopi Goldberg), Toy Story 3 is the third computer-animated movie in history to be nominated for Best Picture (after Beauty and the Beast and Up). BothOrlando’s Walt Disney World and Anaheim’s Disneyland feature interactive Toy Story Mania! attractions, where your little one can splatter eggs on barnyard targets, capture little green aliens, and practice their shooting aim with Woody and Rexx voiceovers or life-size characters to cheer you on. Or, cruise on Disney’s Wonder and take in Toy Story – The Musical Broadway-style while singing along to your favorite tunes from the film, like Randy Newman’s classic “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” Last but not least, snag a rink-side seat to Disney on Ice’s super-fun show in a city near you (now through May 22; September 22–25), and watch Mr. Potato Head and an army of camo-clad army men (don’t forget Mickey and Minnie!) skate and twirl their way around the rink before a real-life Buzz Lightyear flies to the rescue. To infinity, and beyond!
The Coen Brothers’ remake of this classic Western about a crusty old one-eyed U.S. marshal (played by Jeff Bridges) and a stubborn girl in search of her father’s murderer (Hailee Steinfield) put Granger, Texas, on the map. Set designers transformed the small tumbleweed town, deep in the heart of central Texas and an hour from Austin, into 19th-century Fort Smith, Arkansas, for production. Now that the movie set is gone, head south to Bandera and saddle up at one of the self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital’s half-dozen bona fide dude ranches. Rancho Cortez provides ample opportunity to ride and rope with all-inclusive rates starting from $155/night for activities, meals, and a room in a spacious cabin (or $99 for a spot in the bunkhouse. Head further west to beautiful Monastery Lake, just north of Pecos, New Mexico, and embark on a day hike to where further filming took place. Alternatively, fans of the 1969 original (starring John Wayne) can book a weekend package film locations tour of Ouray, Colorado, with “On Location with True Grit” (from $565 for two; available late May through October), including Jeep Wrangler rental or guided tour of set sites, two nights at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs, and a meal at Wayne’s favorite local restaurant, The Outlaw.
The Ozarks, Missouri
Winter’s Bone (starring nominee and newcomer Jennifer Lawrence) paints a bleak picture of life in Southern Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, an otherwise beautiful landscape that appears stark and desolate onscreen. Most film locations were set near Branson, a popular vacation spot boasting endless activities from fishing to zip-lining, a number of wineries, and square-dancing and variety show establishments. For an out-of-town experience, drive an hour-and-a-half through the Mark Twain National Forest to the sprawling, upscale Stonewater Cove Resort, situated on 500 acres along the shores of Table Rock Lake in the midst of the Ozarks. The handsome, intimate retreat (there are just 18 rooms, with 3 more coming in March) is debuting a new tree house spa facility on Memorial Day, plus five zip lines. Or, to experience true rustic Ozark living, rent a fully furnished log cabin near Branson via Hidden Falls Cabin Rentals from $175 per night and lend a hand towards addressing some of the poverty portrayed in the film at one of the region’s many volunteer organizations, like Habitat for Humanity.