City Journal Winter 2016

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Winter 2016
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Michael Anton
Back to the Future Film Festival « Back to Story

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A special note should be made of a forgotten classic: "Popi" 1969. A warm-hearted family comedy set among the Cuban-American community in Spanish Harlem. With Alan Arkin as an overwhelmed young widower determined to make a future for his two boys. I saw it with my parents when I was very little and the love and humor could not overcome the several scenes of gritty savagery and the sheer desperation of a Dad willing to give up his sons to assure their future. He takes them to Miami and sets them adrift in a small boat with the intention of passing them off as escaped Cubans to make them celebrities. It was a great flick but I have never been able to forget the really ugly scenes and they have been edited out of the Turner Classic version.

Also a sentimental teenage favorite: 1980s "Times Square" with fourteen year-old Trini Alvarado and Robin Johnson as two "girl interrupteds" who run away from a nuthouse and take up an underground existence in "colorful" Times Square. The ooky stuff from the novel has been toned down and the soundtrack is a New Wave period classic (for a dose of the flavor, go to YouTube and enter "Times Square (1980) - Sidewalk Dance").
Wow. I had no idea NYC was so young.
The Out of Towners was at the top of my list. Followed by The Prisoner of Second Avenue.
Great list. I concur that "Taxi Driver" should be the top movie that showcased NYC in the late 1970s.

I would put "The Warriors" at number 2. It was frightening to me when I saw it in the theater as a 7 year old (yes, we snuck in). I was so afraid of the gangs that I tried to get out of trips to NYC from north Jersey as a kid.

So many great lines in that movie:

"Warriors, come out to play-ay-ay!"
"Cyrus was right about one thing. It's all out there. All we have to do is figure out a way to go steal it."
As Steve and Michael Anton mentionned, I agree then "Escape from New York" should be on the list and and other Blaxploitation movie to have an honourable mention is "Cotton Comes to Harlem"(1970).

Another honourable mention then I could mention is Arthur Miller's play "Death of a Salesman" set in NYC during the late 1940s where Willy Loman's oldest son, Biff, at the end think then he could achieve the American dream elsewhere then in the Big Apple while his brother Happy decide to follow Willy's path.
Great piece! My Netflix queue is now maxed out at 500.
Those of us old enough to remember will recall this opening scene from Ft. Apache, The Bronx, sadly re-enacted in real life this past weekend:
D. Benjamin Wickowitz December 23, 2014 at 6:09 PM
The Fisher King needs to be atop this list.

It features New York City in 1991, after having suffered under decades of leftwing mayors, none of whom took law and order seriously. The Big Apple had become nigh on unlivable under their self-defeating policies. The conventional wisdom was that New York was doomed to forevermore be the world’s biggest village of the damned, the court of The Fisher King.

More here:

I like "For Pete's Sake". It shows lots of the Slope and emphasizes the bad job market and rapidly inflating food prices.
Little Murders.

Saw it again when Museum of the Moving Image did a series last year on movies from the Lindsay era (series was called Fun City). Many of yours were included. Guess they called it early....
The Anderson Tapes
Lived and worked through those God awful times.....and will NOT again.....As soon as i heard DiBlasio was so far ahead, I made my plans to leave.
I will NOT live in a city run by an extreme lib again. Make that a city run by a self proclaimed "progressive socialist".

Bye bye NYC. It was fun while it lasted.
The Driller Killer.
Excellent article, good content well written.
"The Odd Couple" for no other reason than for its nostalgia of another era, in [my] life...
Lawrence of Suburbia November 09, 2013 at 1:56 AM
A great scene in the Tom Wolf novel "A Man in Full" occurs when the black mayor of Atlanta shows the black defense attorney, who is defending a black running back of a rape of a white girl, the Atlanta neighborhood where the accused grew up. The place is so awful and frightening that even the mayor might be taken down weren't it for his menacing driver and bodyguard. The punch line is that if the player came from this place, this hell-hole without a single blot on his record how is it credible that he committed a rape? Yes, it is possible to rise above your background.
What about The Taking of Pelham One Two Three? (I mean the original movie from the 70s with Walter Matthau and Martin Balsam
I was wondering where taking of pelham 123 is.. the mayor is terrifically bad!
For the first time reading a City Journal article I'm speechless - wonderful!

P.S. (how about "Liquid Sky")
Coogan's Bluff (1968); it has a rather preposterous average rating of 6.5 at IMDB, which is a tell-tale sign. History lessons seem to be lost on the hoi polloi, so it all is bound to be repeated.
Escape from New York is exactly the kind of movie I was avoiding. It's a pure fantasy, and set in "the future" to boot.

Good points re: Allen. I left him out because he never shows the city at its worst or even as bad in anyway. 1977 was a low point for a number of reasons yet Annie Hall, made that year, shows a fairy tale Manhattan. Manhattan (the film) is tremendous and a wonderful valentine to the city, but an airbrushed portrait. The virtue of Allen is that he reminds us that there remaind a great deal of great in the city, even at its worst.
You missed 'Escape from New York' (1981). 'Bye Bye Braverman' (1968) is a wonderful celebration of the NY before all of this as well as a meditation on the meaning of friendship. And then there are the 40s movies such as 'Portrait of Jenny' which depict NY at it's peak.

Kudos to Ann for her thoughtful post. I've given up on the conservative blogs where the comments section is all bellowing.

Well, a bear market is defined as a trend where both the peaks and troughs are successively lower. Did the peak years of the 90s and 00s exceed the golden years of the 40s? So now we go down again probably to hit a lower low than the low that you describe here. Keep your faith in God and try your best to live an honorable life which is equally possible in both good times and bad.
a friend who lives on the upper east side informs me that there are actually people in their twenties, like her kids, who don't know what a mugging is. It came up in conversation and her kids went - what's that? How quickly we forget everything and take good things, like safety, for granted.
Liberals like crime because they regard it as the justified rebellion of the masses against the bosses. Crime comes from injustice, they reason, so the only legitimate reason for crime to be reduced is when injustice disappears. if crime goes down for any other reason, such as improved policing and increased imprisonment, that is evil. To liberals any person who is not rich or upper middle class who is not a criminal is a fool. If that person is patriotic or religious, well, that defies all sense, in the liberal mind. Such people are dupes. If the person who is not a criminal is African American he is an uncle tom or incredibly noble. I am sorry to say that none of this is exaggerated. Liberals honestly believe that the US is so bad that blacks have no choice but to become criminals and that any attempt to improve conditions, through charter schools or school choice, say, is just putting a bandage on the huge gaping wound that is America.
The conservative thinking is, yeah life is unjust but you still should not turn to crime. It is not that we are unaware of life’s hardship. But we are aware that order is hard to create and easy to destroy and that if people really thought like liberals, civilization would be impossible. Life is hard even in the welfare state nations. So those who become criminals should not be openly sympathized with and their conduct justified. It is an insult to those who despite temptation obey the law.
One could argue that the filmmaker most associated with New York during this period was Woody Allen.
Manhattan, Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and her Sisters, etc., are not really happy movies, and don't exactly celebrate the city with the pure enthusiasm as, say, On the Town (1949). But New York does come across attractively, as a place of sophistication and rare beauty. The famous opening lines of Manhattan ("...he adored New York City…he romanticized it all out of proportion...") indicate Woody Allen knows that the New York he portrays is influenced by his own subjective passion and parochialism, that he's not giving the whole story. But, still, it does seem appropriate to view his work as a defense of New York during its darkest times. I take his polemics against Los Angeles in Annie Hall to be completely serious ("I don't want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light".)
An entertaining way of looking at those times. It was then the new normal and it morphed briefly into something like what we had a long time ago because one man pushed for decency. But what he achieved was paper thin, depending as it did on one man, and the gravitational pull of decay and lies will now reassert itself. Morons have the whip hand now.
How can 'King of New York' not make it on this list?