Welcome back to City Lights, a series about films that feature particular cities. Today, we hit one of the greatest film cities of them all: New York, New York!
We're not exactly spoiled for choice here, so I added an additional qualification for myself: films feature the city as its primary setting, or represent an aspect of city life. Even so, I've ended up with a list that not only shows off my favorite New York movies, but includes some of my favorite movies of all time.
I just saw Sweet Smell of Success a couple of weeks ago, and my love for it grows with every passing thought. As I wrote in my review of it: "I don't think even Woody Allen has taken better advantage of the city of New York. The neon lights have never seemed quite so sinister. Like J.J's omnipresent glasses, they watch over events both seedy and magnetic."
This is New York before they cleaned up Times Square, a downtown that attracted lowlifes and power brokers looking to indulge in their worst selves.
From beginning to end, All About Eve captures the rhythms and cadences of the New York theater and all the vultures circling around it. As with Sweet Smell of Success, the only person with real power is the critic, in this case, Addison DeWitt. All these theatrical personalities live their lives and act out their petty coups like they have any control in their lives, and ultimately, loving the theater means worshipping Addison. The only one who seems immune to Addison's power is, oddly enough, Margo herself.
Everyone has their guilty pleasure romantic comedy, and Serendipity is mine (I am not even slightly ashamed). There's something magical about a rom-com that takes the preposterously coincidental nature of the genre and integrates it into the plotline.
So who cares whether they know each other, like each other or anything else, all that matters is that they find Love in the Time of Cholera and ice skate to the sweet dulcet sounds of Nick Drake. Along the way, they hit every New York tourist trap.
Annie Hall: There are probably other Woody Allen films that do a better job of showing off the city, but this is my favorite (I didn't particularly care for Manhattan. Blasphemy, I know!). Since I first saw it, I've seen it about ten times, and each time I love and appreciate new facets of the film (I really, really hate my "first impression" review of it, it's embarassing and jejune).
Annie Hall was the seed that grew into a full-fledged obsession with Woody Allen, whose films seem almost entirely guided by love: love of women, love of himself, and love of film. Because of that, he teases out the best aspects of the settings he chooses.
When I was wee, I was obsessed with this movie. The toy stores, the rube goldberg-like schemes to get Marv to fall on his face, the general being a fucking kid set free in New York! I was always drawn to the mischievous characters in fiction, whether Kevin or Dennis the Menace or the tomboys of Enid Blyton books.
But I'll be honest, this movie introduced me to New York. I learned of the Plaza Hotel and Central Park and Duncan's Toy Shop and Carnegie Hall. At 8 years old, New York was nothing more than a mythical place. This movie made it come alive.
Honorable Mentions: Planet of the Apes, King Kong
Tell me, what are your favorite Big Apple films?