City of Gold

Directed by Laura Gabbert

Starring Jonathan Gold

As the unabashed cradle of Hollywood superficiality and smoggy urban sprawl, Los Angeles has long been condemned as a cultural wasteland. In the richly penetrating documentary odyssey City of Gold, Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold shows us another Los Angeles, where ethnic cooking is a kaleidoscopic portal to the mysteries of an unwieldy city and the soul of America.

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  • ★★★½ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd

    63/100

    MKE Film Fest #2

    Initially seemed like a disjointed, cobbled-together docu-portrait, but the beginning blandness somehow works in the favor of our main, ultimately fascinating subject. Flawed in many conversational moments because it doesn't seem like director Laura Gabbert understands the concept of depicting reality, instead settling in on abysmal scenes of pretend office work and review pitches, but its filmmaking soon winds its way into an LA groove which proves to be irresistible. There's a series of twilight cityscape dissolves fading into one another set to Funkadelic's 'Maggot Brain' which had me entranced, lucidly becoming aware of the city's vastness, its gigantic, ethereal scope.

  • ★★★★ review by Michael Casey on Letterboxd

    Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold calls himself “the belly of Los Angeles,” and he is that and more. LA is a foodie haven and its restaurants represent a vast array of cultures with each dish a living history. Gold’s weekly reviews traverse this vast metropolis and catalogue the many different people who call LA home. In a sense, Gold’s reviews are as important to the cultural make-up of LA as the writings of Raymond Chandler.

    Gold, formerly of the LA Weekly now of the Los Angeles Times, is food critic par excellence and not simply for his incredibly discerning palate and quick wit with the keyboard, but also his devotion to the craft. Unlike many East Coast critics, Gold eschews prestige and hunts high and low for the hole in the wall restaurants with family history. Many of his raves have boosted hard-working immigrant families toiling in food trucks or sun-soaked strip malls, barely making it by until Gold comes along and transforms their businesses into successes. His reviews don’t just help realize lifelong dreams, but preserve a bit of family history and culture in the process.

    City of Gold follows the clever critic down sun bleached streets from the cab of his much-loved Dodge pick-up as Gold gives a tour of LA; the sights, the sounds, the smells. LA is a giant sprawling metropolis, one that has baffled many of writers, but Gold has found a way to grasp the city by the guts and show it for the wonderful and eclectic land it truly is.

    Boulder Weekly

  • ★★★★ review by Charlie on Letterboxd

    lalaland can beat it, this is the real love song to LA dreamers. this documentary rocked my world. and it's a documentary.

  • ★★★½ review by Samuel B. Prime on Letterboxd

    Empathy from one being to another, based on the character explicitly tied to journalistic function: a noble way to lead a life. The burner phones and fake names are all part of the allure, but - unlike a spy or detective - everybody is in on the method. A slightly meandering love letter that wobbles like the spinning plates at an amateur circus; not formally up to snuff, but sincere. Solid Gold.

  • ★★★★½ review by Christopher Rowe on Letterboxd

    It's a great film about what it means to be a critic, and a great portrait of Los Angeles.

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