Top of the mountain - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Watching the third episode of The Last of Us on HBO, a show based on a wildly popular video game released 10 years ago, I, like a few others, found myself pulled out of the action.
It was a great episode and one that many people are rightly including among the best episodes of television ever produced. But, it was an establishing shot of a mountainous range that had a few people second-guessing the title card that denoted the location as being 10 miles west of Boston. HBO filmed the show in Alberta, so, as boston.com rightfully notes, the show wants us to believe that 10 miles west of Boston looks like “a coniferous forest in the Canadian Rockies.”
Even New England-based horror author Stephen King jumped in, saying he loved the episode of the show, but that, essentially, that ain’t Boston. Sure, the show deals in zombie-like figures (unrealistic), devastating global pandemics (getting warmer) and gun-crazy, right-wing survivalists (scorching hot), but it was the supposed mountainous range splendor of the great City of Boston that went too far.
It got me thinking of that years-long rush for the Canadian film and television industry, that, to a degree, is still going on, when Canadian cities would stand in for great American ones.
The first one that always jumps to mind is Angel Eyes from 2001. It’s not memorable at all and it’s not even particularly good (though I’m not even sure if I actually saw it front to back), but I remember it being the butt of a lot of GTA-area jokes when it was released.
The film, starring the great Jennifer Lopez, was meant to be set in Chicago - a sister city of Toronto. Lopez played a Chicago police officer, so the city itself was really baked into the concept of the film, but, on more than one occasion, the filmmakers didn’t even bother to avoid landmarks like the CN Tower, which, for all Chicago has, it doesn’t have one of those.
A look online at a Torontoist article spots a number of spots those familiar with Toronto will recognize, such as Honest Ed’s, Sam the Record Man, a Lick’s logo, the old Varsity Stadium and even the Silver Dollar Room. Most of those are excusable, as one location will play for another in movies all the time, but the CN Tower was the one that really got Canadians going, especially since both cities - Toronto and Chicago - have very notable and distinct skylines. So, to substitute one for the other so shamelessly... just doesn’t work.
I remember in my days at Rogers Video that a Lindsay Lohan movie (that’s how long ago that was) would sometimes play on the TVs around the store. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen was meant to be set between New York and New Jersey, but I always remember a scene near the end where they head from New Jersey into New York for a big concert at... the Elgin Theatre on Yonge Street, where I’ve since seen Come From Away.
There are countless examples, but those are just some that stick out. As someone who’s been to Boston a few times, I just didn’t remember that last-minute descent on the airplane beyond the glorious mountains west of the city, making way to the cityscape of Boston as you arrived, but maybe I was too busy trying to catch a glimpse of Fenway Park.
Attention to details like that is something that’s crucial to the job we do here at The Citizen. The idea behind always getting it right is that, if one detail is wrong, it can cast doubt over the entire story and, really, the entire publication. So keep an eye out for any stray mountain ranges in the background of our Huron County pictures in the coming weeks.