On Location in LA

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

I had a couple of what you might call quintessential LA experiences on Sunday.

One of them was downtown. Driving past the old St. Vibiana's Cathedral, I noticed the neighborhood was taken over by filming trucks.

A few blocks later, in the Arts District, the 4th Street bridge over the LA River was blocked off for another film shoot.

It didn't affect me, but drivers bound for the Eastside were forced to detour -- to 6th or cross over the 1st Street bridge.

The next encounter came after I made my way to West Hollywood. I bought a ticket at Laemmle's Sunset 5 to see Somewhere, Sofia Coppola's new riff on show business life.

The film was entertaining enough. But what my wife and I really enjoyed was the only-in-LA moment that came as we left the theater.

Our eyes were immediately drawn across the street to the main location of the movie we'd just seen. The cozy old Chateau Marmont Hotel.

Like anybody who lives in LA, its not news for us to spot familiar locations in movies. Somewhere makes use of a street in Laurel Canyon that we know well. The Pickwick ice rink in Burbank also makes an appearance.

We almost expect to see places we recognize. Sometimes it even gets in the way of just enjoying the movie.

When we compared notes, we realized both of us had been distracted when the star of Somewhere is seen driving toward Ventura on the 101 freeway, then cuts to southbound in the next scene.

But this was the first time we could remember stepping out into the milieu of a movie we had just seen. We briefly considered walking across Sunset to the Chateau for a drink, then decided to just go home.

The day's Hollywood encounters, though, made me ponder Angelenos' complex relationship with the movies.

I saw stats last week saying that filming on location in Los Angeles is up in all categories – feature films, TV episodes and commercials.

That means a lot of the permanent cadre of Hollywood is back at work. And that's a good thing, after years of worrying by longtime Californians that they might have to move to Texas or Vancouver to keep working.

But --- my email inbox also has complaints about the surge in filming, especially in downtown on weekends.

What's usually not said in the media hype about downtown living is that the thin windows on those converted lofts are often rattled by fake gunfire and the screech of staged chase scenes.

Hollywood loves downtown's rugged streets, and City Hall loves Hollywood's money and celebrity status.

Ordinary residents sometimes lose out in that equation.

The tension between filmland and real Los Angeles has been there since the beginning. People didn't exactly admire Buster Keaton and the Keystone Kops racing through the streets in those early silent films.

But I'll bet you that tomorrow morning, when the Oscar nominations are announced, a lot of people here will be paying attention.

And tomorrow night, the Oscars will get almost as much local coverage as President Obama's State of the Union speech.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.