1. “The Valley Plays Itself.” For Grantland, Molly Lambert on Paul Thomas Anderson’s Los Angeles.
“Three of Paul Thomas Anderson’s first four movies take place in the San Fernando Valley, where he and I both grew up. This alone probably made me a mark for PTA fandom, as no other director has ever portrayed the Valley as Anderson does: lovingly. The Valley’s reputation in Los Angeles is a bit like New Jersey’s in New York. People in Los Angeles proper are known to hate on the Valley for being 10 degrees hotter, for its supposed lack of culture, for being far away (mostly psychologically). But if you’ve grown up there, you find that those hang-ups are irrelevant. The Valley is its own creature, part of Los Angeles but also a world of its own. Suburban sprawl means lots of space for riding bikes, green city parks, big backyards with avocado trees and swimming pools. It includes a diverse cross-section of industrial zones, rich neighborhoods littered with tacky McMansions, and ranch land right out of the Old West.”