By Anjelica Oswald
Jake Gyllenhaal takes to the streets of Los Angeles as a sleazy freelance TV crime reporter intent on capturing footage of accidents and crime in Nightcrawler, screenwriter Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut. The film has received praise since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival — the Los Angeles Times‘ Kenneth Turan described the film as “pulp with a purpose” — and has built Oscar buzz since then. Turan also hailed cinematographer Robert Elswit’s ability to make “Los Angeles look like the dream and the nightmare rolled into one.”
Gilroy’s film has earned comparisons to Crash (2004), another L.A.-based crime drama that shocked many when it won best picture at the 2005 Oscars. With a vast majority of Academy members living in and around L.A., films located in L.A. may appeal to voters. Tom Ortenberg, the CEO of Open Road Films, Nightcrawler’s distributor, addressed similarities between both films to The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg when he said, “They’re both very much L.A. stories — they’re movies that are about Los Angeles, that were shot in Los Angeles, that are important to the L.A. community and that say a lot about Los Angeles.” He also added, “It’s natural for them (L.A. residents) to seek the movie out, to be talking about the movie and to be affected by the film.”
In 2008, the L.A Times created a list of the top 25 films based in L.A. from the last 25 years which showcased features such as the neo-noir crime film L.A. Confidential (1997) and the Coen brothers’ comedy The Big Lebowski (1998). Not all of them received Oscar nominations, but some L.A.-based films did get an unexpected boost from the Academy. A number of 21st-century films centered in L.A. have scored Oscar nominations and wins, including four best picture winners: Million Dollar Baby (2004), Crash, The Artist (2011) and Argo (2012).