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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Love That Dirty Water

Mystic River
Mystic River

Entering the practically echoing movie theater with my boyfriend to see The Departed for the second time, I wondered whether there would be an ample turnout for a movie that had been in theaters since October 6th. We ended up having people on all sides in a practically sold-out theater. Leaving the theater in a sea of Red Sox and Celtics memorabilia, hearing people praise the movie and the “actahs,” it was clear The Departed delivered Bostonians something they needed.

The pride people have in this city seems unsurpassed by any other city, and my trip to see Martin Scorsese’s latest crime drama was my demonstration of the true, proud Bostonian I am. The Departed gave me a feeling-a feeling I didn’t get from watching Employee of the Month. The acting and directing were great, and while the storyline was more twisted than a pretzel, the familiarity and intensity of the Boston backdrop made the film particularly striking.

As humans, we have a natural propensity towards things with which we are familiar. Maybe it’s all about partiality, or maybe it’s just that we as Bostonians do get pleasure in seeing places on the big screen that we know from experience. Maybe there is something comforting and cognizant about hearing actors speak in a “language” that only Bostonians seem to understand. Is this just a Boston bias? The U.S. Box Office reports of gross earnings of $144 million domestically and $180 million worldwide for The Departed can’t be discounted.

As more films are filmed and set in Boston (in the past decade, in particular), Hollywood has given moviegoers Celtic-green-tinted glasses through which to view some of the most memorable movies of all time.

Whether a picture is entirely filmed in Boston or simply set in Boston with local cameos from the State House, Castle Island, or The Garden, Boston has made its mark among directors and actors as one of the most “real” locales across the country. What is it about Boston-based movies that makes them incongruous compared to Hollywood-set films? Why are more directors trading in their sunglasses and shorts and shipping up to Boston?

Perhaps it’s my Bostonian bias, but it seems to me that movies that take place in or are filmed in Boston have a certain intensity not found in movies set in other cinematic cities. Lacking the sun and superficiality of Los Angeles and the crowds and commercialism of New York City, Boston balances history, pride, class issues, and a certain crass fraternity.

Some of the most memorable movies I know have Boston links. Director Troy Duffy gave us the cult-favorite The Boondock Saints in 1999; one year earlier, director John Shea brought viewers the low-budget, oft-forgotten drama Southie. Familiar Boston landmarks make appearances in both. And who could forget Clint Eastwood’s riveting crime drama Mystic River?

The Boston Garden, then still the original Garden, was the setting for most of Tom DeCherchio’s 1996 film, Celtic Pride. The film cast extras from Boston to take part in the filming of the movie, real Boston fans, and thus brought true Boston pride. Gus Van Sant’s multiple-Oscar winner Good Will Hunting, set and filmed in Boston was lent greatness from shots of Charlestown, South Boston, and the ever-familiar MBTA Red, Orange, and Blue Lines. OK, Celtic Pride wasn’t exactly Oscar-worthy (or was it?), but it certainly gave the most diehard Celtics’ fans something with which to relate.

Capitalizing on Boston’s love affair with the local sports teams, the Farrelly Brothers unfolded the conviction with which Red Sox fans exhibit their dedication in their 2005 Fever Pitch. Whether you enjoyed the film or thought it too much of a chick-flick, sports fans alike can agree that the best, most unforgettable scenes of the film were taped within the walls of the nostalgic Fenway Park. Just a shot of The Green Monster and the green, metal bleacher seats is enough to evoke an emotion. Perhaps it’s because we are from Boston and by blood are supposed to hate the Yankees, but images of Yankee Stadium or New York-based settings just don’t seem to do that.

I’m not singling out one movie over another by comparing a low-budget film with a multi-million dollar one because it isn’t the budget of these movies that evokes such powerful sentiment in the viewer… it’s the Boston skyline and landmarks.

So with the latest DVD release of The Departed, Hollywood’s latest tribute to the glory and personality of The Hub, Boston once again proves that it is a city of great tradition, a city that conjures up a sense of affection in all who visit. A sense of something that doesn’t quite have a name, but is felt in the heart. A city to which I am proud to sing: “Boston, you’re my home.”