We’re just a few days away from the Super Bowl, which pits the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers. It takes a lot for a team to reach the Super Bowl. What it certainly does NOT take is possessing a rich movie scene in a team’s home city. But let’s compare the two anyway, just in case this is finally the year where that kind of thing somehow makes a difference on the field. Which city boasts a better movie scene, Baltimore or San Francisco?
First Quarter: Notable Films
There’s a surprisingly long list of films that have been made in Baltimore. The most notable films on the list include Diner (1982), Twelve Monkeys (1995), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Mosquito Coast (1986), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and… uh… Major League II (1994), I guess. Additionally, part of Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964) is set in Baltimore, as are many films from John Waters and Barry Levinson. That’s a solid showing, even if The Wire can’t be counted for the extremely scientific purposes of this article since it’s a TV show.
The list of films made in San Francisco includes Dirty Harry (1971), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Harold and Maude (1971), Vertigo (1958), Happy Gilmore (1996), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), and What’s Up, Doc? (1972), amongst others. Expanding the list to include films set in, but not filmed in, San Francisco adds The Graduate (1967), The Birds (1963), The Maltese Falcon (1941), and Greed (1924). Unfortunately for San Francisco, it’s also responsible for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).
I’ve concocted a totally scientific and mathematical point system. It’s executed by a robot named the GridBot Filmsphere 3000. Through that, I can now award points to each city. Baltimore asserts itself as a pesky underdog with a surprising list, earning a field goal (3 points). It also earns another field goal simply because San Francisco is responsible for Star Trek IV. San Francisco, on the other hand, proves to be a juggernaut, jumping out to a whopping 21 points thanks to five AFI top 100 films and several other AFI top 100 nominees. Few cities in America could compete with San Francisco’s firepower here. At the end of the first quarter, it’s San Francisco 21, Baltimore 6.
Second Quarter: Notable Directors
San Francisco boasts a respectable amount of natives who went on to direct movies. Mervyn LeRoy and David Butler anchor San Francisco’s list in the first half of the 20th century, each possessing healthy filmographies with reasonable quality. Since 1970, the city’s list of directors is dominated by two names- David Fincher and Clint Eastwood, each having directed Oscar Best Picture nominees.
Baltimore’s director list matches San Francisco blow-for-blow. Charley Chase worked mostly as a silent film director, and was responsible for the classic comedy, Sons of the Desert (1933). Barry Levinson hails from Baltimore (or is it Bawlmer?), as does John Waters and his army of oddball films.
San Francisco’s list gives them a decent quarter of cinefootball, earning them another touchdown with GridBot. However, Baltimore’s list earns a touchdown as well, and picks up a field goal because their directors are very true to their city. At halftime, San Francisco has opened up a 28 to 16 lead. Can Baltimore close the gap in the second half?
Third Quarter: Notable Actors
Baltimore comes out swinging in the third quarter- the one about actors- by giving the world John Astin, Julie Bowen (starlet from Happy Gilmore, a San Francisco film), Ed Wood stalwart Conrad Brooks, John Waters stalwart Divine, Charles Dutton, character actor Michael Tucker, and the big one- Edward Norton.
San Francisco’s answer includes Danny Glover, Rob Schneider (ouch), Natalie Wood, Alicia Silverstone, Liev Schreiber, Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood, Leslie Mann, and Benjamin Bratt. Sorry, San Francisco. You’re going to have to pay for Rob Schneider.
The actor list for Baltimore is mostly underwhelming, but Edward Norton earns big points in the super-duper scientific points system, and awards Baltimore a touchdown all by himself. But once again, Baltimore can’t make up much ground. Although no single member of San Francisco’s trio of Danny Glover, Natalie Wood, and Bruce Lee is as good as Edward Norton, they add up to match Baltimore’s touchdown. Throw in Eastwood and you get three more points. Through three quarters, San Francisco has a seemingly safe 38 to 23 advantage. Are there any intangibles that will help Baltimore close the gap?
Fourth Quarter: Intangibles
John Waters’ distinct style earns Baltimore some extra credit, particularly since it’s so inexorably linked to the city. In fact, as a general rule, films associated with Baltimore- either via actors, directors, or filming locations- have a lot of very unique character, a certain charm that transcends the generic. Additionally, there’s never been a San Francisco movie scene as ridiculous as the popcorn box scene in Diner. None of these aspects are the deciding factor, although it’s more than enough for the GridBot to tack another 10 points onto Baltimore’s score.
San Francisco, on the other hand, asserts its presence every time it’s on screen. The Golden Gate bridge is a massive and unforgettable icon, and the steep incline of the city streets as well as the bay make it a highly recognizable filming location. Moreover, Baltimore has nothing that can answer for Alcatraz, the site of numerous movies. GridBot awards another 10 points to San Francisco.
That gives us a final score of 48 to 33, a high-scoring affair. Baltimore was true to its role as a scrappy underdog. Against other cities like St. Louis, Seattle, or Atlanta, Baltimore surely would have emerged victorious. However, San Francisco is not just any other city. It’s a film juggernaut, more on par with places like New York, Chicago, Boston, or Los Angeles. Now it’s time to put the GridBot away for another year, prepare a bunch of unhealthy snacks, watch some commercials, and hope for a good game.