Sunsets Over Hollywood

Gonna take a break from my account of NYC adventures to document something a bit more recent. So here we go…

The gridlock traffic was horrendous, but we made it to Hollywood and Highland around 5 o’clock on that sunny May Friday. Memorial Day Weekend was on the verge of beginning. A smoky, golden haze was starting to settle over the city, enveloping everyone in a casual sense of leisure. It would take a few more hours for the sun to go down, and the slender palms swayed lazily in the wind. Fellow Californians had their sunroofs and convertible tops open, and the reverberating beat of Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” radiated from a jeep in the lane to my left.

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We had some time to kill before our event at the Hollywood Bowl that night. The plan was to park at Hollywood and Highland, then grab some dinner, walk on some pink stars, and pursue the ultimate calf workout(read: walk uphill to the outdoor concert venue)– after which we would find our seats and enjoy a live-to-film screening of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land.

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(Apparently Hollywood and Highland had some “Mummy” attraction going on. Universal Studios vibes, anyone?)

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The Deck

On the third floor of Hollywood and Highland, you’ll find a roofless food court(dubbed “The Deck”) overlooking the street below. It offers great views of the El Capitan Theatre(pictured above) and the Walk of Fame. The Deck also has some pretty rad eateries, ranging from a health food joint to a Japanese poke place. I got food from the latter, enjoyed the warm weather, and people-watched. They also had some EDM resonating from two floors below… the MAC cosmetics company was having some sort of promo festival that day.

Marking Hollywood’s History

Afterwards, we walked down to the first floor and meandered along the sidewalk, looking at the grainy pink stars corresponding to notable Hollywood figures. (Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of these.)

A few strides away was the Garuman’s Chinese Theater.

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And on the floor were the hand/foot imprints of beloved actors and actresses.

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Shirley Temple, for instance.

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… And my favorite mates from Hogwarts. (Look at those wand imprints!)

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Gosling and Stone, too!

Trekking to the Hollywood Bowl

We left Hollywood and Highland about one hour before our concert. Getting to the Bowl was actually quite easy, since we were just following the sidewalk along Highland Avenue up to the park. A sea of cars(those who decided to drive to the venue and stack-park) filled up the main street, and the 10-minute walk up to the Bowl was accompanied by the sounds of horn-honking and car radios. Very reminiscent of La La Land‘s opening scene, hah.

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Despite the large crowds, I couldn’t stop grinning. The concert would consist of La La Land‘s screening, accompanied by a live orchestra conducted by the film’s composer, Justin Hurwitz. Think “outdoor concert” and “movies on the lawn” meshed into one.

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The crowds thickened as we approached the Bowl. More people, more Trader Joe’s tote bags.

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They had some costumes from the film on display. Their technicolor hues are even more gorgeous in person.

La La Land at the Hollywood Bowl

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Our seats were closer to the back, but the view was still amazing. In fact, the whole scenario was profoundly picturesque. Golden hour was over, and the pastel hues of twilight were starting to settle in. The white curvilinear architecture(designed by none other than Frank Gehry and Lloyd Wright) was beautifully juxtaposed with the speckled, rolling hills of LA. Griffith Observatory(a key location in the film) was peacefully perched on a hill in the distance.

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The sun gradually made its inevitable retreat. And Hurwitz’s orchestra played.

… And we watched Mia and Sebastian fall in love all over again.

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(I plan to start adding film reviews to this blog sometime soon, and I’ll definitely do one for La La Land. More on that later…)

Many of the vocalists from the film’s opening number performed that night, adorned in vibrant technicolor-esque dresses and suits. The orchestra also performed an exclusive overture that wasn’t featured in the film, and we were the first audience to hear that score. The energy of the crowd was also quite astounding; I was nestled in among hundreds of people who shared a sense of zeal for the same film. Many concert-goers sported the ‘vintage Hollywood’ look. Some even made plans to go jazz-clubbing afterwards. Others pulled chicken-on-a-stick from their Trader Joe’s totes. The screening was also punctuated with several cute surprises: for instance, the actual couple from the scene at the Hermosa Beach Pier appeared ONSTAGE and they were DANCING while the orchestra played ‘City of Stars’. Cue the collective “aww!”s.

The sun said its last goodbyes. The glimmering stars and blinking airplanes soon became visible overhead. The hills were completely dark as the film rolled. And then… FIREWORKS.

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They started going off during the Planetarium scene, and later accompanied the Epilogue and the credits. It. Was. Beautiful.

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Apparently the “firework + film + outdoor concert” concept is rather unique to the Hollywood Bowl. Another reason to love LA.

I was captivated by the film and its remarkable music, cinematography, story, etc.

La La Land, as many critics have noted, is essentially a love letter to Los Angeles and its communal visions of dreams and success. The iconic setting of the Hollywood Bowl, as well as the live orchestra, enhanced the viewing experience and made it even more spectacular. I ultimately fell in deeper in love with both the film and the city it so exuberantly portrays.

The way out was 2613830156294937 times more crowded than the way in, but that was absolutely fine. The experience had instilled a sense of ecstatic vitality within me; my first trip to the Hollywood Bowl had been a success, and I had been incredibly lucky to witness an event as amazing and different as the live-to-film. I wished “good luck” to those who stack-parked, and jauntily headed back down Highland Avenue.

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