Nicholas DeRenzo
Mar 2021

In any given year, great movies have a way of inspiring us to travel. (Remember seeing Before Sunrise or Amélie for the first time?) That fact is truer than ever this year, when most—if not all—of our movie watching has taken place from the comfort of our couches. From the wild Western expanses of Nomadland to the jazz clubs of Soul, these five new films have us searching for flights for that much needed next vacation.

Mank / Courtesy Netflix; Inset: Kemper Campbell Ranch / Credit: Scott Campbell


Destination: Southern California

10 nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Supporting Actress (Amanda Seyfried), Best Cinematography (Erik Messerschmidt), Best Original Score (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound

David Fincher’s ode to Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) was shot in and around Los Angeles to capture the spirit of Golden Age Hollywood. Scenes were filmed on the back lots at MGM, Warner Bros. and Paramount—the original production was based here on Stage 19—while the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens stood in for exteriors at Hearst Castle. Mank recuperates after a car crash at a high desert ranch, and in a fun twist, that very property, Victorville’s Kemper Campbell Ranch, cameos as itself. Better yet, it’s open to rent for groups of 15 to 40 movie buffs or wannabe cowboys.

Watch now: Netflix

Nomadland / Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures; Inset: Badlands National Park / Credit: Getty Images


Destination: Badlands National Park, South Dakota

6 nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Chloé Zhao), Best Adapted Screenplay (Chloé Zhao), Best Cinematography (Joshua James Richards), Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Film Editing

At this year’s Golden Globes, Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color to win Best Director, and only the second woman ever to win the award. Her intimate yet epic travelogue about modern-day pioneers follows another trailblazer, a woman named Fern (Frances McDormand) who sets out in a van, taking odd jobs across the American West. You can retrace Fern’s footsteps—treads?—on a zigzagging road trip from the former mining town of Empire, Nevada (there’s not much to see there) to Quartzsite, Arizona (where Fern sells roadside rocks and gems) to the redwood forests of Mendocino County, California. Perhaps the best place from the film to plan a vacation around, however, is South Dakota, the setting for scenes that feature wonders both natural (the striated mountains of Badlands National Park) and human-made (the 80-foot concrete dinosaur at kitschy Wall Drug).

Watch now: Hulu

The Trial of the Chicago 7 / Credit: Nino Tavernise / Netflix © 2020; Inset: Newark City Hall / Credit: Alamy

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Destination: Newark

5 nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Sacha Baron Cohen), Best Original Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin), Best Cinematography (Phedon Papamichael), Best Film Editing

Aaron Sorkin’s riveting legal thriller follows the story of the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-war protesters charged with inciting a riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It took a bit of movie magic to stitch together scenes that were shot mainly across New Jersey: The courthouse exteriors were filmed at the 1902 beaux-arts Newark City Hall, courtroom scenes were staged in the Community Baptist Church of Love in nearby Paterson, and Hoboken’s Dino & Harry’s steak house stood in for Chicago’s Haymarket Lounge, where police pushed demonstrators through a plate-glass window. For added authenticity, the production moved to Chicago to shoot scenes in Grant Park, where the most severe clashes really happened. Visitors can see the General John Logan Memorial that protesters climbed on August 26, sparking the conflict.

Watch now: Netflix

Soul / Courtesy Disney/Pixar; Inset: Village Vanguard / Credit: Alamy


Destination: Greenwich Village

3 nominations: Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste), Best Sound

Before a fall into an open manhole sends music teacher Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) reeling into the surreal Great Before, Disney/Pixar’s first movie with a Black protagonist is a true New York City tale. Joe plays piano with saxophonist Dorothea Williams (voiced by Angela Bassett) at the Half Note Jazz Club. If you’ve spent any time below 14th Street, that fictional club’s red awning and neon sign will immediately call to mind the Village Vanguard, a Greenwich Village venue that opened in 1935 and has hosted the likes of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. While it’s temporarily closed, you can support this legendary institution by buying tickets to its livestreamed concerts.

Watch now: Disney+

One Night in Miami / Courtesy of Amazon Studios; Inset: Room where Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed at Hampton House / Credit: Emily Michot / Miami Herald via AP

One Night in Miami

Destination: Miami

2 nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Leslie Odom, Jr.), Best Adapted Screenplay (Kemp Powers)

Regina King’s feature directorial debut imagines the fictionalized 1964 meeting of Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.) at Miami’s Hampton House, a Green Book-listed hotel during the Jim Crow era. While the movie was filmed on a set in New Orleans, the original hotel still stands in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood, and a nonprofit organization has transformed it into the Historic Hampton House Cultural Center, which hosts films, talks and concerts. You can even visit a restored mid-century modern room where Martin Luther King, Jr., once slept.

Watch now: Prime Video

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