Sunday, 16 September 2012

Week 38: Oregon

"Well, Portland, Oregon and sloe gin fizz:
 If that ain't love then tell me what is.
 Well, I lost my heart, it didn't take no time,
 But that ain't all. I lost my mind
 In Oregon..."
 - 'Portland Oregon',
 Loretta Lynn and Jack White

We're going to hit that Oregon Trail this coming fall. And we're going to travel all the way out west. California to the south, Washington to the north, and the Pacific Ocean crashing its waves on the rocky fog-shrouded coast.


Oregon strikes me as being not quite one thing or the other. As you go north in California civilisation tends to peter out a bit. North of San Francisco you get the epic coastal drives, the sea mist and the giant redwood forests. North of there you hit Oregon: more coast, more mist, more pine trees. It is the entrance to the Pacific Northwest. It does not have any city as big as Seattle in Washington. The Willamette Valley contains the bulk of the population, running parallel with the shore as it runs north up to the mouth of the great Columbia River, the original route for explorers, fur-trappers and settlers. Its inhabitants were once hardy frontiersmen and those desperate for a new life. I get the impression that today its inhabitants are liberal, ethical and perhaps just a little bit wacky. I see it as a wilder Vermont, full of ex-California hippies eating organic vegetables. But east of the Willamette Valley there is... not very much. The Great Basin lies vast, bare and empty as it stretches towards the Idaho border.
 
We've already been here before. More of My Own Private Idaho took place in Washington and Oregon than actually in Idaho. In fact Keanu Reeves's Scott is the son of the mayor of Portland. Oregon clearly has a special place in the heart of director Gus van Sant: as well as My Own Private Idaho he also set and shot Drugstore Cowboy in Oregon. Drugstore Cowboy even made it on to the first draft of my schedule for this week. But I have seen it before. And I made the decision to focus elsewhere for my Oregon films.
 
Because Oregon, like Illinois, seems to be just the greatest place for kids - particularly in the '80s. As a result I have selected three films starring children. And there were more childrens' films I could have selected from as well: Short Circuit or Free Willy for example. But the three films I have chosen are:
  • The Goonies (1985)
  • Stand By Me (1986)
  • Coraline (2009)
 

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