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Movie Reviews

New York, I love you…too.

When it comes to film, there are awards for the best performance, best direction and cinematography, best sound and even best costume.

Yet as countless actors, actresses and grips parade across lavishly lit stages each year – one distinctive element to the world of movies is repeatedly omitted.

Location, location, location.

Location has become a somewhat neglected element to film, considering it’s hard to tell which parts of our favorite movies are real and which are a fabrication on a sound stage. But even with the vast landscapes of some of the most exotic landscapes to grace the globe, when it comes to the magic of the movies there’s little competition and the distinction of best location, hands down – rests in the streets of New York City.

New York City. It’s where Holly Golightly spent her mornings sipping coffee and having breakfast at Tiffany’s. It may not technically be where Harry met Sally – but it’s where they fell in love. It’s where the Corleone family built a dynasty to transcend generations never to be outdone in cinematic form. It is where Woody Allen best tapped into his neurosis in “Annie Hall.” It is where Mookie learned to do the right thing.

Why do so many movies, love this city?

It’s simple really. From the Lower East Side to the Upper West, from Midtown to each and every borough, the city is a character in itself. It is a hero, a villain, a curious and hopeless romantic, a bitter cynic. Each of its streets is a backdrop filled with uniqueness that only lends to the authenticity of story and character. It wouldn’t, for example, be the same if Audrey Hepburn had glided down Main Street in Nowheresville Ohio to peek inside the nearest jewelry chain store. Or, imagine if you will, Tony Manero (John Travolta) strutting down any other street in any other part of the world in “Saturday Night Fever.”

Though locations in the city, filmmakers are able to add dimension to their characters. The competition of the working world on the female psyche would not have played out quite the same in “Working Girl” had Melanie Griffith been trying to be a ballsy no nonsense business woman in Los Angeles. And the world would have missed out on a beautiful shot of the young actress, shared only by the twin towers of the World Trade Center, an element cherished on film these days – and a testament in the world of cinema as to how film captures locations in time. Before they’re changed forever.

New York City, in many films, plays the role of the social inequity of so many story lines. Take for instance, “Holiday” where the hardworking everyman Johnny Case (Cary Grant) finds himself in an Upper East Side world quite unlike his ideals only to find a like mind in his intended fiance’s sister played by Katharine Hepburn. Or the contrast between Jack Lemmon’s work and life in “The Apartment.”

The list of those films so nestled in New York goes on forever and the thing about it is – each of them embrace a different element of the city that never sleeps. “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” embraced that fact as audiences followed the title characters through the city for an entire night. “Kids” exposed the gritty realities of the 90s. “The Seven Year Itch” gave a nod to the sultry summers in Manhattan (and Marilyn Monroe, of course) before Spike Lee. And New York itself became a playground for Tom Hanks in “Big.”

The only way to truly know the impact of a location when it comes to movies is to ask, would it be the same if it were anywhere else on earth?

When it comes to New York the answer is always no.

Though the city itself has been around long before cinema, watching each frame in which it’s featured, it seems as though the city were meant for that scene, that film alone. It’s a lot like love.

On Oct. 16, just the latest love letter to the city will hit theaters. “New York, I Love You” is a film as unique as the city’s people, its places, its architecture, its grandeur. The movie is a series of vignettes, a collaboration of directors and a sampling of stories that bring to life those beautiful moments in the city that one only sees when they’re watching closely.

Want to fall in love with New York? Here are a few other films that take place in and capture the essence of the city: Goodfellas, You’ve Got Mail, Bringing Up Baby, Manhattan, The Paper, World Trade Center, Midnight Cowboy, In America, The Visitor, The Devil Wears Prada, The Nanny Diaries, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Night on Earth… What are we missing? Tell the Yap your favorites.

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15 Responses to “New York, I love you…too.”

  1. Luisa says:

    THE WARRIORS!

  2. Well, all I can say is that NY is the best place on earth to shoot

  3. Joe Shearer says:

    I’d say at best it’s vague what city Gotham is modeled after in the movies. If you recall in "Superman: The Movie" Superman flies by the Statue of Liberty in Metropolis, and in "Superman II" he fights in Times Square.

    I’m assuming you’re talking about the Burton Batman as the original Batman, but it doesn’t really look anything like New York, and in the recent Batman series Christopher Nolan has said that Chicago was the model for Gotham City–he even filmed parts of both films in Chicago.

    One more thing re: the Burton Batman: the Gotham City flag was modelled after the Indiana state flag (the torch with stars surrounding), so there’s another

    Actually, now that I think about it, in "Batman Forever" Two Face’s helicopter crashed into the Statue of LIberty too, so I’d have to say even the movie Gotham is vague about where it’s "supposed" to be. Maybe it exists in a parallel universe where there are two Statues of Liberty. Or maybe the Burton/Schumacher Batman films exist in another parallel universe to the Donner/Lester Superman films.

  4. Gotham says:

    I find it funny that New York is imitated in so many movies when it’s actually a fictional city. In "The Royal Tenenbaums" there is nothing to prove they are actually in New York. Even in the original "Batman" it’s clearly NY but they call it Gotham… which is just a nick name for New York anyway.

  5. Ernest Chesterfield says:

    Woody Allen’s "Manhattan" should have been at the top of this list…

    "Chapter One. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Beneath his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. I love this. New York was his town, and it always would be…"

    The opening sequence alone is a cinematic love letter to NYC…

  6. Rob says:

    While I do love the city of New York quite a lot, I think having a movie set there is borderline cliche at this point. It seems that whenever aliens come to earth, they always land in New York (Thank god for District 9). Whenever people gain superhuman powers, they happen to be residents of New York. Does one city really need Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four AND Daredevil? Even in movies not set in New York, there is always a New Yorker around to remind the other characters where he’s from, like the "Brooklyn" jacket worn by Ed Burns in "Saving Private Ryan".

  7. Tim says:

    Sweet Smell of Success is a great New York movie. So are Rosemary’s Baby and Tootsie. Surprised no one has mentioned King Kong atop the Empire State Building yet!

  8. Matt says:

    "The Royal Tenenbaums"! A New Yorker New York if there ever was one.

  9. Yan says:

    For a great movie shot in New York, try Sue Lost in Manhattan.
    You may also want to check out Pieces of April, Baskiat and Daytrippers.

  10. Yan says:

    Gudbjorg, The Day After Tomorrow was actually shot in most on a soundstage in Montréal, Québec.

    Cheers!

  11. DM Pursell says:

    "Hannah and Her Sisters"–Woody Allen’s glorious Technicolor love letter to New York, especially a montage of architectural sites in and around the city as toured by the characters played by Dianne Wiest, Carrie Fisher and Sam Waterston, who plays an architect showing the women his favorite buildings.

  12. Erin says:

    Also …. 42nd Street!

  13. Erin says:

    A Chorus Line …. shows the frivolity and wonderment of Broadway (and the rivalry!)

  14. Marc says:

    What about The Warriors? New York is such an integral part of that movie.

  15. gudbjorg says:

    Well, don’t some of the biggest disaster movies take place in NYC? Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, Cloverfield spring to mind :)