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.