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New York Movies and "The Fugitive"

I'm so behind in my reading of the New York Daily News that I just discovered that Elizabeth Weitzman referred to me in a recent column of hers, which continues a series of enlightening articles she's been writing on people's "favorite, [New York-] city-centric films." I've really enjoyed her series. Readers can check out that series of articles here, here, here, here, here, and here.

As for my all-time favorite films, which have used New York City as a backdrop, here's a brief list (in no particular order):

"King Kong" (the classic 1933 and also Peter Jackson's remake)
"North By Northwest" (a Cary Grant-Alfred Hitchcock tour de force)
"Angels with Dirty Faces" (James Cagney at his best)
"The Godfather" (I and II) (the greatest Mafia Movie Masterpieces of all time, in my view)
"Dog Day Afternoon" (dramatizing a bank robbery that took place in my neighborhood)
"Pride of the Yankees" (probably my favorite baseball movie of all time, about the great Lou Gehrig)
"West Side Story" (one of my favorite Movie Musicals of all time)
"Funny Girl" (another favorite musical, which takes us from vaudeville to the Ziegfeld Follies)
"An Affair to Remember" (Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in a romance atop the Empire State Building)
"Rear Window" (claustrophobic Jimmy Stewart-Hitchcock classic)
"Miracle on 34th Street" (among my favorite Christmas films of all time)
"Malcolm X" (from Harlem to Mecca, a sprawling epic)
"Independence Day" (great sci-fi special effects)
"The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" (great monster movie)
"Saturday Night Fever" (Travolta struttin' his stuff in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn)

Last week, Weitzman asked readers to send in their favorite New York-centric comedies, and I sent her a note that included the following list:

o "Barefoot in the Park"... hilarious ... and NY'ers recognize the reality of small apartments and long walk-ups.
o Two absolutely classic Cary Grant vehicles: "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" and "Arsenic and Old Lace" ... the first, a perennial favorite contrasting the confines of that small apartment (again) and the confines of a different sort posed by an ever-growing nightmare in the suburbs! And the second: Well, Hallowe'en in Brooklyn, NY is just dark comedy at its best!
o Finally, "Pocketful of Miracles" and "Arthur" ... both featuring classic performances, great cast, and hilarious---and poignant---moments.
I'm sure you'll hear from those who like other ticklers, like "Ghostbusters" ... but wanted to make sure some of the above were mentioned too!

I discovered that Weitzman mentioned my note to her in her column on Friday, August 17, 2007. She writes:

"I'm sure you'll hear from those who like 'Ghostbusters,'" offers Chris Sciabarra, before putting in a word for "Barefoot in the Park."

Notablog readers who have other favorite New York-centric films... I'd love to hear from you.

Finally, as an aside, I should mention that in another column, Weitzman reports on "the most exciting news," which I've known about for a while, thanks to a good friend: David Janssen's immortal television role as Dr. Richard Kimble is finally brought to DVD with the release of Volume One, Season One of "The Fugitive." I've received the set as a gift and can't wait to see the newly restored existential drama. It is among my very favorite series of all time. I urge readers who have not seen this classic television show to see it!


I happen to like Edward Norton's romantic comedy ~Keeping the Faith~ -- beautiful NYC imagery, and great performances by Norton, Ben Stiller, & Jenna Elfman.

~When Harry Met Sally~ is another romantic comedy I'd name in the NYC-centric category; I find it a realistic and charming look at the evolution of a relationship.

~Comedian~, a documentary about Jerry's Seinfeld's journey to Broadway after the end of his sitcom, is a wonderfully artful and insightful film about the joys and challenges of working as a stand-up comic. It takes place largely in New York and the New York feeling is in there strong.

Finally, Penny Marshall's ~Awakenings~ has always been a favorite of mine. It takes place in the Bronx, mainly in the late 60s, with a bit in the beginning from the 30s (I think), and gives a strong flavor of New York at that time. Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams are fabulous, and there's also a nice performance from Julie Kavner. Plus, the film features Dexter Gordon in a small role as a jazz-piano-playing patient, and a beautiful score by Randy Newman. Can't beat that with a stick!

I'm not as well informed about film as I would like to be, and I don't think I can usefully add to your list. But I wanted to remark that I have quite liked the television series "Sex and the City"; it has a continuing theme that links the episodes together—urbanity as a system of values in general, and its application to sexual conduct in particular—and it does a good job of maintaining that theme in particular episodes. The characterization is excellent, too: we have four women characters, all much of an age, and all intended as sympathetic figures, but no two of them could be confused with each other, or omitted from the series without diminishing it.

Well, you list a lot of good films, but also omit some greats: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas -- hmm, I'm focusing on Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese here, but I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting.

And HOORAY for the long-overdue DVD release of The Fugitive!

It is worth remembering that the young Ayn Rand in the USSR would sit through two showings of a movie to see the New York skyline. Weren't most of Woody Allen films set in NYC. Hitchcock set Saboteur to end at the Statue of Liberty.

Hey, folks, thanks so much for all the fine, fine comments on this thread.

I've not seen "Keeping the Faith," "Awakenings," or "Comedian" but sure did enjoy "When Harry Met Sally." Agreed on "Sex and the City": I've often thought the City was the Star of that show!

Aeon, classic films you've listed! And good points, Chris, and great also to note Allen and Hitchcock's "Saboteur" (classic).

Weitzman's series continues in the DAILY NEWS... so visit the site as often as you can!