Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sacramento is Having a Moment

Sacramento’s Tower Bridge. Photo: Michael Grindstaff

I live in Sacramento, a city that is usually known for triple-digit summer weather, California politics, and its location halfway between the glittering culture of the Bay Area and the recreation of the Sierra Nevada. Even if locals know there’s much more to it than that, the rest of the country probably doesn’t.
Unless they’ve seen Lady Bird. It’s a movie about a Sacramento teenager desperate to leave for a bigger, better city. And in the process, it makes clear exactly what a special place Sacramento actually is for people. Because the director got it right. From the odd-colored tile counter in the house’s one bathroom to the joke about UC Davis, every note of this movie rang true. 
It’s up for five Academy Awards tonight – Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, and Best Director.
Let’s recap: I just used the words “five Academy Awards” and “Sacramento” in the same sentence. They are not words ever strung together before this movie happened. We might be in the same state as Hollywood, but that’s where the similarities have always ended.
But now, Sacramento is embracing its inner Tinsel Town. There are Lady Bird tours, which hit all the locations featured in the movie. There’s the billboard owner who put congratulations high above Highway 50 the day the Oscar nominations came out. And then there’s any place that Greta Gerwig ever touched. She’s the film’s writer and director. And a Sacramentan through and through. “This is a love letter to Sacramento,” Gerwig told the audience at the city premiere of her movie. People who know her go skipping down the street with pride. Her alma mater, St. Francis High School, has a movie poster near the entrance and is having a big, dress-up Oscar party.
I didn’t grow up here, but it’s so neat to see the civic pride for someone who did – for the local kid who not only made it big, but did so with a story about a city nobody ever really pays attention to.
And that’s not all. There’s another movie in theaters nationwide about Sacramento. (That’s a 200 percent increase compared with, well, any other time ever.) The 15:17 to Paris is about three childhood friends traveling through Europe who stop a terrorist attack on their way to the French capital. The Train Heroes, remember?
Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone are all Sacramento boys. They tackled an armed terrorist aboard a high-speed train in 2015. They received the French Legion of Honor as well as medals from the Pentagon and a lot of well-deserved praise for selflessly throwing themselves in harm’s way. That’s more impressive than what comes next, but we’re talking pop culture here, so this is also noteworthy. Now they’re playing themselves in the movie. What heroes have ever gotten to do that? Wow, as the nice folks in Sacramento would say.
So if you go to the movies this weekend, think about seeing one with Sacramento ties. And if you watch the Oscars, root for Lady Bird. Everybody in SacTown is.

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