7 overlooked New York movies you must watch

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All the good shit you should be watching, as curated by east London film club Deeper Into Movies.

Author Jason Bailey has put together Deeper Into Movies favorite movie book of 2021. Obsessively researching and beautifully written, Fun city cinema tells about 100 years of cinema in New York, from The jazz singer (1927) and King Kong (1933), to Children (1995) and Francoise Ha (2012). With exclusive interviews from legendary filmmakers like Noah Baumbach, Larry Clark, Greta Gerwig, Walter Hill, Jerry Schatzberg, Martin Scorsese and Susan Seidelman, Fun city cinema reveals how the city’s classic films were inspired by its grain and beauty.

For this month’s column, we asked Jason to pick out a few little-known gems from New York’s rich cinematic history:

When preparing a book on movies, there are a lot of important questions you should ask yourself beforehand. What style will I adopt? Do I have access to the right research material? Who will deign to be interviewed by me, a draw? But the key question, by far the most important for both the robustness of your project and your own sanity, is: do I want to spend one to three years watching movies related to this topic?

While working on my latest book, Fun City Cinema: New York and the Movies That Made It, the answer was such a resounding “yes”, the other questions didn’t really matter. I knew that in writing the book – a double 100-year history of New York City, New York cinema, and their various intersections – I would analyze some of the classics of Gotham cinema: Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy, Dog Day Afternoon, King Kong, The Take of Pelham One Two Three, etc. But the really exciting part was having an excuse to hunt down lesser-known titles, and to revisit and shine a light on some of New York’s gems that don’t get the attention they deserve. Here are a few. – Jason bailey

‘Quick Change’ (1990, Dir: Bill Murray and Harold Franklin)

Jason Bailey: Everyone knows and loves ghost hunters like one of the great New York comedies, but if I told you that there is another one New York movie Bill Murray, made six years later, which is arguably funnier, certainly more faithful to the New York experience, and, bonus, not inexplicably championed by vast bands of incels online?

Murray didn’t just star in this terrific adaptation of Jay Cronley’s novel, he co-directed it with screenwriter Howard Franklin. It starts with the big guy himself robbing a Manhattan bank in a clown and fancy dress suit, and we settle in for a typical, but funny, bank caper photo (“What kind of a clown are you, anyway? “kind of inside, I guess”). But then, about a third of the way, Murray and his accomplices succeed and attempt their escapade; the comic twist here is that the bank robbery is easy, but get to the airport is impossible. You thus have an ingenious mixture of Dog day afternoon and After hours, and if you need further proof of his Gotham good faith, it’s all filmed by Michael Chapman, the great cinematographer of Taxi driver and Angry bull.

“The Night of the Juggler” (1980, Director: Robert Butler)

JB: This barehanded action thriller has never seen a proper home DVD or Blu-ray release and isn’t available digitally, so if you want to see it you’ll have to watch one of the sketchy rips that float around. on Youtube. And you absolutely should.

James Brolin stars an ex-cop whose teenage daughter is kidnapped by a giggling psychopath (Cliff Gorman, totally off balance) who mistook her for the daughter of a real estate titan. Brolin spends most of the film running around Manhattan and the South Bronx trying to save his baby girl – without the help of the NPYD, since he has referred several of his fellow officers to the Knapp Commission. It’s just one of the small touches of true New York City history woven seamlessly into the fabric of this sweaty little mining image, which also features memorable supporting towers from Richard S. Castellano (“Clemenza” of The Godfather) and a Dan Hedaya wielding a shotgun.

“I like it like that” (1994, Réal: Darnell Martin)

JB: When Columbia Pictures released this vibrant comedy-drama in 1994, it proudly announced its status as the first major studio-released movie directed by an African-American woman – a pretty sad anecdote, indeed. But they clearly had no idea how to market the film on its merits, which is a shame; it’s an entertaining breath of fresh air, with a hyper-saturated color palette and hyperactive visual style reminiscent of Do the right thing.

He also shares the sense of community of this film; Martin immerses us in his film’s South Bronx neighborhood, where thin walls and open windows ensure that everyone knows each other’s affairs and has a stake in the outcome. Lauren Velez shines as the protagonist of the picture, who dreams of becoming famous in Manhattan; Griffin Dunne is formidable as the slightly shady record executive boss, and even Queen Rita Moreno comes in in a supporting role.

“Live Aloud” (1998, Dir: Richard LaGravenese)

JB: Renowned screenwriter Richard LaGravenese made his directorial debut with this sparkling but grounded romantic comedy-drama, starring Holly Hunter as a wealthy Upper West Side resident who finds herself rethinking her life and his ambitions after a messy divorce. It’s cut from the fabric of the great New York domestic dramas of the 1970s – A single woman, diary of a crazy housewife, Kramer vs. Kramer, etc. – but with wonderful little flourishes of surrealism, romance and comedy. Danny DeVito provides both comedy and romance as a potential love interest for Hunter, the damn good-hearted guy who operates the elevator in his apartment building.

“Sidewalk Stories” (1989, Director: Charles Lane)

JB: Writer / director / star Charles Lane took a look at New York’s homeless crisis of the 1980s and found a brilliant way to approach it in cinema: like a silent comedy. Charles Chaplin’s fingerprints are all over Lane’s 1989 feature debut, which borrows Chaplin’s Depression-era philosophy. Modern times and City lights and the story of its first The child, with Lane as a street artist who unexpectedly finds himself taking care of an orphaned baby. But Lane doesn’t romanticize this world; his film is darker than Chaplin, sometimes touched by violence and genuine despair, and he mixes the pathetic with the authentic portrayal of an urgent urban problem, while massaging the gags of the everyday apparatus of city life.

“The Angel Levine” (1970, Director: Ján Kadár)

JB: The late and great Bill Gunn has been rediscovered and recognized as one of New York’s great filmmakers, thanks to his films Ganja & Hess and Personal issues and its brilliant screenplay for Hal Ashby’s The owner. Less discussed – and, thanks to its limited availability, less seen – is this comedy-drama from director Ján Kadár, released the same year as The owner and play in the same thematic sandbox of race and class conflicts in the city.

Zero Mostel plays the role of a besieged Jewish tailor who pleads with God to send him help; that help comes in the form of Harry Belafonte as the black con artist angel. Both characters work through the tensions of these miniature communities, aided by Gunn’s insightful dialogue and his ability to transform scenes in the blink of an eye from the comic to the tragic (and back again). Gunn excelled at writing wild, ambitious, messy and humanistic NYC mosaics, and Kadár stages this one with sensitivity and skill.

“Cops and Thieves” (1973, Director: Aram Avakian)

JB: The corruption and bribery of the NYPD in the 1970s inspired many fine dramas (including Serpico and Report to the statutory auditor); It also gave us this awesome crime comedy, written by Prince Pulp Donald E. Westlake. Joseph Bologna and The night of the jugglerCliff Gorman stars as two New York cops, frustrated with low wages, long working hours, and stagnant pensions, who decide to fund their retirement by robbing a slimy blue blood banker and selling his bearer bonds to the Mafia. It sounds like a big, wacky comedy, but director Avakian anchors the film in the city’s real economic frustrations (which was well on its way to near bankruptcy) and the gulf between the haves and have-nots.

@deepermovies

Learn more about Fun city cinema here.



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