Episode 42: Nightcrawler

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Fresh from being serenaded by singing ‘toons in the last episode, Sean and Cody sprint for the finish line of their “L.A. trilogy” and delve into the heart of darkness—and modern Los Angeles—as they examine this media-savvy 2014 thriller. In Nightcrawler, sleazy ne’er-do-well Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) graduates from Satan’s entrepreneurship program and starts going around L.A. filming bloody car crashes and crime scenes so he can sell the gore-soaked tapes to Channel 6’s program director Nina (Rene Russo). But when he and his camera witness a murder that’s tailor-made to inflame the fears and prejudices of Angelenos, whatever used to pass for journalistic ethics gets sliced, diced and filleted as Lou uses the incident to vault to the top of the city’s grimy underground of freelance stringers. Environmental issues discussed include the geography of crime and its incidence as an environmental threat, how the digital media landscape affects political decisions, and how Los Angeles got to be the way it is, especially after the processes discussed in the recent Chinatown and Who Framed Roger Rabbit episodes.

How can cities be designed better to cut down on crime? Why did Los Angeles not only ignore all the ways that can be done, but actively try to thwart them by doing the opposite? Is crime in big cities going up or down, or does it depend on the political beliefs of who you ask? How many “stringers” are there in L.A.? What wild animal is the character of Lou Bloom based on? How does Nightcrawler uniquely illustrate the “Six L.A.s” discussed in the Strange Days episode? How are right-wingers taking over America’s local news TV stations? What’s the connection between Nightcrawler and Chinatown? What legendary science fiction writer did one of the Green Screen hosts have lunch with in 1999? Now having done three L.A. pictures in a row, can we please move on to something else? All these questions are creeping out of the suburbs and coming for your children in this creepy-crawly episode of Green Screen.

Original 2014 trailer for Nightcrawler.

At the beginning of Nightcrawler, Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is on the lay for anything: including making money by stealing scrap metal. This is our introduction to Bloom and his amoral sensibilities.

In Nightcrawler, “stringer” Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), in search of bloody footage he can sell to a local news station, witnesses a murder from start to finish–and films it all.

Deciding to press his advantage–and speaking often in LinkedIn status updates–Bloom “negotiates” with Channel 6 station boss Nina (Rene Russo) for a better deal. Nightcrawler is a commentary on ethics in late capitalism as much as it is on media extremism.

The incredible car chase sequence from Nightcrawler, discussed toward the end of the episode. Compare this to the iconic chase in The French Connection from 1971.

Additional Materials About This Episode:

Environmental History: L.A. and Crime

John MacDonald, “Community Design and Crime: The Impact of Housing and the Built Environment,” Crime and Justice, Vol. 44, No. 1 (September 2015):
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/681558

James M. Anderson, John M. MacDonald, Ricky Blumenthal & J. Scott Ashwood, “Reducing Crime by Shaping the Built Environment With Zoning: An Empirical Study of Los Angeles,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 161, No. 3 (February 2013):
https://www.jstor.org/stable/23527820

Geography and Locations

 

Nightcrawler filming locations (Global Film Locations):
https://globalfilmlocations.net/2016/11/18/nightcrawler-film-locations/

More on filming locations, including the “murder house” in Tarzana, from MovieLocationsAndMore:
http://movielocationsandmore.blogspot.com/2014/11/nightcrawler-2014.html

nightcrawler blooms apartment

Bloom’s apartment building, 1045 Figureroa Terrace, near downtown L.A. Google Maps link.

Here is the “murder house” at 4808 N. Topeka Drive, Tarzana. A portion of the image has been blurred out possibly at the homeowner’s request.

north hollywood shootout location

Location of the “North Hollywood Shootout” of February 28, 1997, only blocks from where the car chase in Nightcrawler was filmed. The real-life shootout eerily resembled a scene in the 1995 movie Heat. Google Maps link.

Documentary on Griffith Park (L.A.) from KCET, referenced in the episode.

Right-Wing Media Takeover:

Gregory J. Martin & Josh McCrain, “Yes, Sinclair Broadcast Group does cut local news, increase national news and tilt its stations rightward,” The Washington Post, April 10, 2018:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/04/10/yes-sinclair-broadcast-group-does-cut-local-news-increase-national-news-and-tilt-its-stations-rightward/

Jon Swaine, “Sinclair TV Chairman to Trump: ‘We Are Here to Deliver Your Message,'” The Guardian, April 10, 2018:
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/apr/10/donald-trump-sinclair-david-smith-white-house-meeting

Danny Hayes & Jennifer L. Lawless, “The Decline of Local News and its Effects: New Evidence for Longitudinal Data,” The Journal of Politics, Vol 80, No. 1 (October 2017):
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320476575_The_Decline_of_Local_News_and_Its_Effects_New_Evidence_from_Longitudinal_Data

Vera Bergengruen, “QAnon Candidates are Winning Local Elections. Can They Be Stopped?” Time, April 16, 2021:
https://time.com/5955248/qanon-local-elections/

The Movie:

“Is there any explanation for Lou Bloom’s mannerisms and personality in Nightcrawler?” (Forum discussion in Movies.Stackexchange.Com), April 5, 2015:
https://movies.stackexchange.com/questions/32935/is-there-any-explanation-for-lou-blooms-mannerisms-and-personality-in-nightcraw/32958#32958

Interview with Dan Gilroy, writer and director of Nightcrawler, from the Behind the Curtain channel.

Here is video movie analyst Thomas Flight’s masterful essay on Nightcrawler, referenced in the episode.

Nightcrawler (2014) on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2872718/
Nightcrawler (2014) on Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/film/nightcrawler/

Next Movie Up: First Cow (2020)

The image associated with Nightcrawler is presumably copyright (C) 2014 by Sierra/Affinity or Bold Films. Its inclusion here is believed permissible under fair use. We are not the uploader of any YouTube clips embedded here.

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