Top 5 New York City Movies from the ’70s

In response to this summer’s “New York in the 70s” film festival at Film Forum, MovefiedNYC decided to repost our first list, the “Top Five NYC Movies from the ’70s.”  The choice for our first list was obvious; it had to come from our own backyard, a place and time—now perhaps mythological—of unrelenting creativity, expression, and guts.  A town broke, dangerous, black-and-white and obscured by sweat and steam: New York City in 1970’s, the place that made our love for film like a beginning buzz (from one too many cocktails) that turned into a continuous intoxication.  -JDW & MD

John David’s Top Five 1970s NYC

Broadway, high fashion, yellow cabs, prostitutes, and neurotic intellectuals who romanticize their lives in black ‘n’ white. These are some of the images that helped form my Top Five New York City movies from the 1970s.

 1. Taxi Driver (1976)

Like the bankrupt city on edge, ready to crack under the pressure of urban decay, sleaze and political distrustTaxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, paranoid and alienated from society, looks at himself in the mirror and asks, “Are you talking to me?” Is he having fun or is Scorsese speaking what’s on the viewer’s mind? Thirty-six years later we’re still imitating DeNiro’s line. This movie has all the grit of the ’70s gritty city. Taxi Driver plays like an indexical sign that proves to us today that the mythological gritty 1970s New York City did exist.

 2. Manhattan (1979)

Every now and then I find myself in one of those “Wow-I-Love-This-City” moments. Woody Allen shares those same feelings in his 1979 film Manhattan.  The city is a character that we along with Allen romanticize. Annie Hall seemed like the obvious choice, but then Manhattan stepped up, as if to say, “Really? Let’s get serious, I have New York City shot in black-and-white, widescreen Panavision aspect ratio (2.35:1) with a nine-minute montage of New York City set to George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue!” Yes, OK, Manhattan, you win: all that and that iconic 4 A.M. shot in front of the Queensborough Bridge secure Manhattan on my list.

 3. All That Jazz (1979)

Fosse submerges his autobiographical self into the character of Joe Gideon, a hyper-sexed, director/choreographer who pops Dexedrine, screws sexy dancers, neglects his loved ones, chain smokes (even in the shower) and works himself to a perfectly choreographed death. It’s the ’70s: the Me decade, cynical and all about Fosse. The opening audition scene set to George Benson’s “On Broadway” captures the desire, joy and disappointment every dancer feels who wants to be on Broadway. 

4. Klute (1971)

New York City as it enters a decade on the brink of a meltdown. Jane Fonda plays a call girl who is complex, vulnerable, and lacks that ever-expected heart of gold. Besides Fonda’s brilliant performance, what makes this film memorable is a shot from inside a stark, corporate office on the upper floor of a high-rise. Through floor-to-ceiling windows, we see the two towers of the World Trade Center under construction. A financially powerful man sits at his desk, diminished against the multiple cranes high in the air, constructing the tallest buildings in the world. The image takes on new meaning when one realizes that the mass of construction outside the window will someday fall to a heap of destruction that will affect us all. 

5. Eyesof Laura Mars (1978)

1970s disco-fashion juxtaposed against ’70s New York City grit. Ultra glamorous Fay Dunaway is Laura Mars, a fashion photographer who wields a Nikon camera to photograph sexy models in stylized violent murder settings: Columbus Circle ablaze with overturned cars on fire as glossy girls wearing lingerie and fur coats pull each other’s hair. The violence is thrust right back at Laura when a serial killer turns her photos into real murders.  The character of Laura doubles as the camera when she witnesses the murders through the killer’s eyes, while they are happening, through her own eyes.  The film’s director, Irvin Kershner, turns the movie’s view of violence on the audience: are we looking at the eyes or are the eyes looking at us?

Myrna’s Top Five 1970’s NYC

NYC as it was in the ’70s. Sex, drugs, street gangs, disco divas, politicians, the homeless, celebrities, musicians, hookers, and some major attitude. So many great films to choose from; it is almost impossible to leave any of them off this list. I went with my gut, what I liked: candy over substance most times. I took a deep breath, wrote down five titles and never looked back.

 1. The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1974)

“Respect My Ass!”  screams Mel, and I do. Neil Simon’s slice of New York city life—once again like in The Out of Towners, not a very nice place—in Prisoner of Second Avenue is rich in its mundane everyday quality, shrouded in genuine humor delivered brilliantly by the cast. The pounding New York City heat wave is so palpable it is a character in the film. The Prisoner of Second Avenue shows us witty New Yorkers on the verge of, and breaking down in, their urban habitat, pacing back and forth, drowning in the ever—relentless noise—wrapped in a high rise box.

2. The French Connection (1971)

“Doyle fights dirty and he plays rough, but that’s ok because Doyle is a good cop” —growls the trailer.  Let’s be honest: New York looks better in grit than any other city, and The French Connection’s grimy realism and downbeat ending are refreshing. Popeye Doyle—not your classic hero—violent, racist and mean-spirited. His dedication to his job, just short of dangerous obsession—a New Yorker! The film’s high point, a high-speed car chase with Doyle tailing an elevated train, was one of the most exciting screen moments of its day. The French Connection gives me the visceral charge that keeps me addicted to New York.

 3. Shaft (1971) 

I can not ignore the blaxploitation genre when talking about the New York of the 1970s. Shaft full of mood, attitude and fashion. Brought the world—the Harlem-dude look of feather-hat, platform boots and silver-top cane—what delicious eye candy! The theme song also unforgettable . Shaft took us all over the city; he lived in the Village, worked in Times Square and cruised up and down 125th Street.  Can you dig it?  

4. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

John Travolta strutting down the streets of Brooklyn to his dead end job changed the world as we knew it. No one ever walked down the street the same way again. He escapes to the local disco, where he is/was King and dreams for a better life in Manhattan. Don’t we all? Fever is dripping with a  gritty sense of the ’70s economic malaise that plagued New York. Dance numbers, the Bee Gees soundtrack and Travolta’s white-suited presence all set in the city of dreams. “They had me at hello” 

5. All That Jazz (1979)
“It’s showtime!” Director and choreographer Bob Fosse takes a Felliniesque look at the life of a driven entertainer (some say his own life)—Joe Gideon. The ultimate work-and-pleasure aholic. All That Jazz shows the merciless price you pay to be an entertainer, taking us from realistic dance numbers to extravagant flights of cinematic fancy with Gideon as our guide; he meditates on his life, his women and his death. A ll That Jazz is a  fiercely personal personal film. Roy Scheider’s brilliant performance as Joe Gideon leaves me wanting for more every time.

 

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What’s New on Netflix 3/6/2015: MoviefiedNYC Recommends

With nearly 7,000 films available on Netflix, picking something to watch can become an anxiety inducing ordeal. If you’re anything like us, you’ll scroll through every genre without finding anything you’re really in the mood for. Your “My List” would better off titled “Things I Might Watch, Eventually,” luckily, MoviefiedNYC is here to help. Here’s our pick of the best films that were recently released on Netflix Instant Streaming.

Taxi_Driver

Taxi Driver (1976)

Dir: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd

This is the film that arguably defined the careers of both Scorsese and De Niro, and could be the high point of a decades long partnership. De Niro plays Travis Bickle, a tortured and emotionally unstable Vietnam vet and the film’s titular taxi driver. The film takes place in the true underbelly of New York, around Times Square with its regular crowd of prostitutes, crackheads, and criminals; it’s far from the glamorous Disney-fied tourist attraction of today. Jodie Foster also stars as Iris, a young prostitute for whom Bickle develops a protective attachment. Taxi Driver is grim and violent, an unforgiving portrait of a twisted soul, a neo-noir psychological drama nominated for four Oscars and a defining film of Hollywood in the 1970s; it’s Scorsese at his best.

Watch It

Donnie Brasco

Donnie Brasco (1980)

Dir: Mike Newell

Starring: Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen

Donnie Brasco is both a classic mob movie and a classic New York movie, set in NYC in the ‘70s in all its seedy glory. The film is based on the true story of Joe Pistone, played by Johnny Depp, an FBI agent who spent six years undercover among the Five Families of the city’s Mafia, namely the Bonanno family. The mob’s seedy criminal exploits are the backdrop for the relationship between Joe Pistone, going by the alias Donnie Brasco, and Lefty (Al Pacino), a low level gangster trying to find his place as a cog in the wheel of the Mafia machine. Both leads deliver strong performances as the pair grows close despite the inherent falseness of their relationship. It’s a classic undercover tale, as Brasco grows to care for his Mafia targets despite the constant threat of being exposed. Donnie Brasco is a realistic and violent portrayal of the New York Mafia. 

Watch It

Bill Murray

Groundhog Day (1993)

Dir: Harold Ramis

Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliot

Groundhog Day is probably Bill Murray’s most iconic and memorable film, second to Ghostbusters. Murray plays Phil, a weatherman who gets stuck in an infinite loop of repeating the same day over and over. It’s an existential nightmare and a terrifying prospect, but the film uses the concept for all its comedic potential. Groundhog Day is a film that is both funny and profound, surreal in its concept but not in its execution. Phil makes the most of a bad situation, ultimately using using the fact that he has an unlimited number of chances to his advantage in wooing his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell). It’s rare that a film based on a high concept such as Groundhog Day is successful without relying on gimmicks but this film achieves that goal, and is unquestionably one of the best and most iconic comedies of the past few decades.

Watch It

Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Dir: Martin Brest

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton

Fresh off his four year stint at SNL, Eddie Murphy took the role of Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop, a franchise of three films (with a fourth announced for 2016) that helped to define his career as a comedic actor. Like Groundhog Day it’s a film that exists based around a “what if” concept; what if a tough, street-wise Detroit cop found himself in Beverly Hills? It’s a classic fish out of water story with both action and comedy as Foley investigates the murder of his friend in an attempt to avenge the killing. Murphy’s fast talking, one-liner dropping style is perfect for the role and it’s one of his most memorable characters.

Watch It

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Dir: Guy Ritchie

Starring: Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is director Guy Ritchie’s first film, a cult classic that is in many ways a prototype for his later films like Snatch. and Revolver. After a plan to make some cash off a card game goes wrong four friends get themselves wrapped up in a dangerous world of gangsters and thugs. The plot is complex and the dialogue is often incomprehensible to American ears, but the film is fun, comedic, and violent. Jason Statham plays one of the four friends in his first ever film role, launching the career of the action movie star as well as his director Guy Ritchie.

Watch It

– Wil Barlow

Moviefied’s Top Five New York City Movies from the ’70s

Inspired by Filmspotting, our movie-list muse, we present our first of many Moviefied Top Five Lists.  The choice for our first list was obvious; it had to come from our own backyard, a place and time—now perhaps mythological—of unrelenting creativity, expression, and guts.  A town broke, dangerous, black-and-white and obscured by sweat and steam: New York City in 1970’s, the place that made our love for film like a beginning buzz (from one too many cocktails) that turned into a continuous intoxication.  -JDW & MD
John David’s Top Five 1970s NYC
 
Broadway, high fashion, yellow cabs, prostitutes, and neurotic intellectuals who romanticize their lives in black ‘n’ white. These are some of the images that helped form my Top Five New York City movies from the 1970s.
 
1. Taxi Driver (1976) 
Like the bankrupt city on edge, ready to crack under the pressure of urban decay, sleaze and political distrustTaxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, paranoid and alienated from society, looks at himself in the mirror and asks, “Are you talking to me?” Is he having fun or is Scorsese speaking what’s on the viewer’s mind? Thirty-six years later we’re still imitating DeNiro’s line. This movie has all the grit of the ’70s gritty city. Taxi Driver plays like an indexical sign that proves to us today that the mythological gritty 1970s New York City did exist.
 
2. Manhattan (1979)
Every now and then I find myself in one of those “Wow-I-Love-This-City” moments. Woody Allen shares those same feelings in his 1979 film Manhattan.  The city is a character that we along with Allen romanticize. Annie Hall seemed like the obvious choice, but then Manhattan stepped up, as if to say, “Really? Let’s get serious, I have New York City shot in black-and-white, widescreen Panavision aspect ratio (2.35:1) with a nine-minute montage of New York City set to George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue!” Yes, OK, Manhattan, you win: all that and that iconic 4 A.M. shot in front of the Queensborough Bridge secure Manhattan on my list.
 
3. All That Jazz (1979)
Fosse submerges his autobiographical self into the character of Joe Gideon, a hyper-sexed, director/choreographer who pops Dexedrine, screws sexy dancers, neglects his loved ones, chain smokes (even in the shower) and works himself to a perfectly choreographed death. It’s the ’70s: the Me decade, cynical and all about Fosse. The opening audition scene set to George Benson’s “On Broadway” captures the desire, joy and disappointment every dancer feels who wants to be on Broadway.
 
4. Klute (1971)
New York City as it enters a decade on the brink of a meltdown. Jane Fonda plays a call girl who is complex, vulnerable, and lacks that ever-expected heart of gold. Besides Fonda’s brilliant performance, what makes this film memorable is a shot from inside a stark, corporate office on the upper floor of a high-rise. Through floor-to-ceiling windows, we see the two towers of the World Trade Center under construction. A financially powerful man sits at his desk, diminished against the multiple cranes high in the air, constructing the tallest buildings in the world. The image takes on new meaning when one realizes that the mass of construction outside the window will someday fall to a heap of destruction that will affect us all.
 
1970s disco-fashion juxtaposed against ’70s New York City grit. Ultra glamorous Fay Dunaway is Laura Mars, a fashion photographer who wields a Nikon camera to photograph sexy models in stylized violent murder settings: Columbus Circle ablaze with overturned cars on fire as glossy girls wearing lingerie and fur coats pull each other’s hair. The violence is thrust right back at Laura when a serial killer turns her photos into real murders.  The character of Laura doubles as the camera when she witnesses the murders through the killer’s eyes, while they are happening, through her own eyes.  The film’s director, Irvin Kershner, turns the movie’s view of violence on the audience: are we looking at the eyes or are the eyes looking at us?
Myrna’s Top Five 1970’s NYC
 
NYC as it was in the ’70s. Sex, drugs, street gangs, disco divas, politicians, the homeless, celebrities, musicians, hookers, and some major attitude. So many great films to choose from; it is almost impossible to leave any of them off this list. I went with my gut, what I liked: candy over substance most times. I took a deep breath, wrote down five titles and never looked back.
 
1. The Prisoner of Second Avenue  (1974)

“Respect My Ass!”  screams Mel, and I do. 
Neil Simon’s slice of New York city life—once again like in The Out of Towners, not a very nice place—in Prisoner of Second Avenue is rich in its mundane everyday quality, shrouded in genuine humor delivered brilliantly by the cast. The pounding New York City heat wave is so palpable it is a character in the film. The Prisoner of Second Avenue shows us witty New Yorkers on the verge of, and breaking down in, their urban habitat, pacing back and forth, drowning in the ever—relentless noise—wrapped in a high rise box.
 

2. The French Connection (1971)


“Doyle fights dirty and he plays rough, but that’s ok because Doyle is a good cop” —growls the trailer.  Let’s be honest: New York looks better in grit than any other city, and The French Connection’s grimy realism and downbeat ending are refreshing. Popeye Doyle—not your classic hero—violent, racist and mean-spirited. His dedication to his job, just short of dangerous obsession—a New Yorker! The film’s high point, a high-speed car chase with Doyle tailing an elevated train, was one of the most exciting screen moments of its day. The French Connection gives me the visceral charge that keeps me addicted to New York.
 

3. Shaft (1971) 


 I can not ignore the blaxploitation genre when talking about the New York of the 1970s. Shaft full of mood, attitude and fashion. Brought the world—the Harlem-dude look of feather-hat, platform boots and silver-top cane—what delicious eye candy! The theme song also unforgettable . Shaft took us all over the city; he lived in the Village, worked in Times Square and cruised up and down 125th Street.  Can you dig it? 

 
4. Saturday Night Fever  (1977)
John Travolta strutting down the streets of Brooklyn to his dead end job changed the world as we knew it. No one ever walked down the street the same way again. He escapes to the local disco, where he is/was King and dreams for a better life in Manhattan. Don’t we all? Fever is dripping with a  gritty sense of the ’70s economic malaise that plagued New York. Dance numbers, the Bee Gees soundtrack and Travolta’s white-suited presence all set in the city of dreams. “They had me at hello”
 
5. All That Jazz  (1979)

“It’s showtime!” Director and choreographer Bob Fosse takes a Felliniesque look at the life of a driven entertainer (some say his own life)—Joe Gideon. The ultimate work-and-pleasure aholic. All That Jazz shows the merciless price you pay to be an entertainer, taking us from realistic dance numbers to extravagant flights of cinematic fancy with Gideon as our guide; he meditates on his life, his women and his death. A ll That Jazz is a  fiercely personal personal film. Roy Scheider’s brilliant performance as Joe Gideon leaves me wanting for more every time.