• Summary

  • “As you see, we’re flying over an island. A city. A particular city. And this is a story of a number of people, and a story also of the city itself.” That’s from the opening voice-over of the 1948 movie The Naked City, which was a very big deal when it was made, because it was a rare studio film that was shot entirely, lock stock and barrel, on the streets of New York City. You see, the American motion picture industry began in New York, at the end of the 19th century – Thomas Edison and other early innovators had their laboratories here, and shot their early films in and around Manhattan. But the movies moved to California in the 1910s, and rarely came back. Plenty of films were set in New York… but astonishingly few were shot here. Studios constructed fake New Yorks on their Hollywood backlots; maybe, if they couldn’t fake it, they’d shoot a scene or two in New York, or send a crew to shoot exteriors, or use stock footage. But that all changed with Executive Order No. 10, issued by Mayor John V. Lindsay on May 31, 1966. That document formed the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting—a one-stop shop intended to eliminate the red tape and copious permits of New York filmmaking, and to lure filmmakers East. It worked - perhaps too well. The problem was, the explosion of production that followed the establishment of the Mayor’s Office in the mid-1960s coincided directly with the beginning of the most troubled period of the city’s history… a quarter-century of rising crime, increasing debt, decreases in public service and servants, and general urban anarchy. And that period was captured over the course of the next two decades, vividly, in the likes of Midnight Cowboy; The French Connection; Death Wish; Dog Day Afternoon; Taxi Driver; The Taking of Pelham 123, The Warriors; Fort Apache, The Bronx; Do the Right Thing; and After Hours—portraits of a city’s decay and downfall, and ones that, ironically enough, might not have existed at all were it not for the incentives provided by the city itself. Now, from the safe distance of a Disney-fied and gentrified Manhattan, these films provide us with a window into a past that’s been razed and replaced by a safer present. 9/11 took a toll on The City… so did the rise of income inequality, rendering New York City, more than ever, a place solely by and for the rich. That shift, and the rapid suburbanization that accompanied it, has left New York nearly indistinguishable from other large American cities. And thus these movies…. become a valuable reminder of what once was. And what we’re witnessing, in the films made in New York, and set in the present, is a conversation of, of connections and reflections between the fictional lives in their foregrounds… and the real lives happening behind them. So in their own unique ways, every great New York movie is an accidental documentary of what The City was - at the precise point of its production, and not a moment longer. All of those movies, taken together, tell their own version of the history of New York. That’s the history we’re here to tell.
    Copyright 2021 Jason Bailey & Michael Hull
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  • The Deuce

    Nov 9 2021
    How two New York classics captured the essence of Times Square then – and what they tell us about it now.   No two films capture the urban grime and desperate time of New York City in the late 1960s and 1970s like John Schlesinger’s “Midnight Cowboy” and Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.” Both films set much of their action in Times Square (and specifically on “The Deuce,” the block of porno houses and grindhouses on 42nd between Seventh and Eighth Avenues), evocatively documenting that district in its heyday – or its nadir, depending on who you talk to. In this episode, we’ll examine the history of Times Square, and its evolution from Gotham’s epicenter of sex to its soulless current iteration, as well as the making of “Midnight Cowboy” and “Taxi Driver.” And in telling those stories, we’ll look at how the “Disneyfication” of Times Square mirrors the suburbanization of New York, and ask what was lost (and gained) in the transition. Our guests are “Midnight Cowboy” cinematographer Adam Holender, film critic and historian Glenn Kenny, historian and author Kim Phillips-Fein, and “Taxi Driver” director Martin Scorsese. Check out our website at funcitycinema.com for more information and episodes. Support this podcast
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    1 hr and 5 mins
  • Keep America Great

    Oct 25 2021
    How a riot in Manhattan reconfigured a New York exploitation classic – and American politics for half a century. John G. Avildsen’s 1970 New York drama was originally titled The Gap, dramatizing the white-hot topic of the generation gap through the story of a white-collar businessman searching for his hippie daughter in New York’s seedy youth underbelly. But when it came out in that summer, its ad campaign focused on the supporting character of a loudmouth, bigoted hardhat, and it had also been retitled after that character: Joe. In this episode, we’ll look at how the May 1970 “Hardhat Riot” in downtown New York City prompted not only that change, but a shift in electoral norms and party politics that continues to this day. And we’ll look at Milos Forman’s Taking Off, released the following year, which told a similar story of well-to-do parents searching for their hippie daughter in Gotham, but in a very different way (and with a very different outcome). Our guests are author and historians Jefferson Cowie and Derek Nystrom, filmmaker Larry Karaszweski, and film writers Kristy Puchko and Zach Vasquez. Support this podcast
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    1 hr and 11 mins
  • Subway Stories

    Oct 12 2021
    One of the mainstays of NYC cinema is the subway, which serves as an immediate visual cue to not only the city’s setting, but its mood. But the subway is also, conveniently for dramatists, a microcosm of Gotham. The city and its subway are both places where people of all walks of life – race, class, gender, temperament – rub shoulders and try to get along. In this episode, we look at the production of two iconic examples of NYC subway cinema: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) and The Warriors (1979). But we also look at the complicated history of the subway – where it came from, what it promised, and what it delivered – as well as its challenging present and uncertain future. Our guests are historian Nancy Groce, pop culture writer Hunter Harris, Warriors director Walter Hill, public transit expert Danny Pearlstein, and film critic Alissa Wilkinson. Support this podcast
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    1 hr and 6 mins

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