Sunday, July 6, 2008
While this list technically spans several genres (heist films dominate) all of these films deal with entrapment and liberation, and most have implicit political messages. Also, rest assured, these are not the only ten movies set in a single day in the Big Apple. Some dis/honorable mentions: Phone Booth, Panic Room, World Trade Center, Night At The Museum, My Dinner With Andre, Kids.
10. Booty Call (1997). Starring Oscar-nominated actor Jamie Foxx and Razzie-nominated actress Vivica A. Fox, this is a raunchy slapstick farce about dating in the 1990s. The funniest sequence involves a prolonged search for contraception in Chinatown. It falls apart a bit towards the end, as most farces do, but Foxx and Fox as the two no-good playas named “Bunz” and “Lysterine” carry the film.
9. Quick Change (1990). An underviewed, underrated comedic heist movie starring Bill Murray, Randy Quaid, and Geena Davis as a trio of bank robbers who can’t escape the five boroughs. Murray was co-director and does some fine work in a clown suit. Legend of the stage and screen Jason Robards also stars. The film could be seen as an homage to semi-comedic seventies -24hrs/all NYC pics like The Taking of the Pelham 1-2-3 and Dog Day Afternoon (see below), as Robards resembles Matthau’s character in the former and the final scene at the airport is reminiscent of the latter.
8. Escape from New York (1981). The year is 1997. Manhattan is a maximum-security prison. Air Force One has crash-landed on the island, and the President is being held hostage by the inmates. The hang-gliding con “Snake” Plissken (Kurt Russell) has twenty-three hours to rescue the President and get off the island. As a college student, I spent a lot of time in NYC in the late 1990s, and trust me, this movie captures that time and place perfectly.
7. After Hours (1985). There’s no such thing as bad pizza, bad sex, or a bad Scorcese movie. Sure, some might seem lousy when compared to the finest stuff, but you’ll enjoy it all the same. (With the possible exceptions of Domino’s, that regrettable night junior year of college, and The Aviator.) The movie is almost like a video game—follow the hero through the streets of New York as he tries to get home, staying mindful of the amount of money in his pocket and the time on the clock. Also, keep an eye out for the cameos (Bronson Pinchot, Teri Garr, Cheech & Chong), and enjoy this more light-hearted entry in the Scorcese oeuvre.
6. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). A hi-jacked subway car. Walter Matthau. Jerry Stiller. Lots of bell bottoms and a funky-ass score. Can’t beat that with a bat.
5. The 25th Hour (2002). Spike Lee Joints could dominate this list, as Inside Man is also a -24hrs/all NYC film (although sticklers could point out that it technically breaks this rule with a two-weeks-later epilogue), and his finest film of all clearly deserves top honors (see below). But this sober account of Edward Norton’s last day of freedom before heading upstate to serve out a seven-year prison sentence is bleak but satisfying. Just as Scorcese dwells on Men and Clans, and Spielberg focuses on Little Boys Lost, Lee’s movies are invariably about Adrift Men Who Face A Reckoning. Like Malcolm and Mookie, Monty is a guy who’s wasted a lot of time squandering his gifts, and now faces a decision about whether and how to do the right thing.
4. Twelve Angry Men (1957). Sidney Lumet, a man whose love for filming New York rivaled Woody Allen, somehow managed to inject shots of the city into his first film, the all-indoors jury room drama, Twelve Angry Men. Bringing a shot of the Woolworth building into the action is a way of reminding the viewer that claustrophobic, smoke-filled jury rooms city monuments as well, as they are civic spaces that hopefully demonstrate the best of the city’s citizens.
3. Rope (1948). Let’s say you and your gay lover decide to murder an old schoolmate for a thrill, a la Leopold and Loeb. What would make it more fun? Why not invite his family over to your tony apartment and serve them dinner while his corpse is in a chest in the living room? Oh, yes, and don’t forget to invite your creepy Nietzsche-spouting teacher (a miscast J-J-Jimmy Stewart) and engage him on the topic of the perfect murder. And if you’re director Alfred Hitchcock, why not add to challenge and have it appear to take place in nearly one seamless shot? As with Twelve Angry Men, New York is only really seen through a window, but it has a tangible presence all the same. The intricate, glowing background model of the city plays a crucial role, as it demonstrates the thematic descent in darkness.
2. Dog Day Afternoon (1975). Let’s say you and your gay lover decide he needs a sex change operation. Makes you a little less gay, I suppose, but the real question is: how are you going to pay for it? By robbing a bank, of course. When that turns into an armed standoff/impromptu gay-rights demonstration, I guess the only appropriate thing for the bank robber (Al Pacino) to do is to compare his plight a recent infamous prison riot. Does any of this raucous comic-tragedy (filmed lovingly, once again, by Sidney Lumet) make any sense? Of course not. But it’s a true story, man. It was the fucking seventies, man. Attica!!!!
1. Do The Right Thing (1989). Bedford-Stuyvesant reaches a boil on the hottest day of the year. Lee’s Brooklyn is hyper-saturated and scorching. The bricks glow red, the sidewalks shimmer, pizza slices glisten, and the graffiti is all in gloriously late-80s day-glo. Excellent performances from Giancarlo Esposito and Danny Aiello. Radio Rahim picks up where Pacino left off, setting off a Brooklyn riot that is of course fundamentally about race but is superficially about Mookie’s hatred of the Boston Celtics and Rahim’s constitutional right to split eardrums with his boom box. Does any of this make any sense? Well, yes, it does, especially when you consider that the small and seemingly trivial symbols are often the flash points of racial and cultural conflicts. Furthermore, it was the fucking eighties, dude. Fight the Power!!!!