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The Deuce

The Deuce

2021-11-0901:05:08

How two New York classics captured the essence of Times Square then – and what they tell us about it now.   No two films capture the urban grime and desperate time of New York City in the late 1960s and 1970s like John Schlesinger’s “Midnight Cowboy” and Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.” Both films set much of their action in Times Square (and specifically on “The Deuce,” the block of porno houses and grindhouses on 42nd between Seventh and Eighth Avenues), evocatively documenting that district in its heyday – or its nadir, depending on who you talk to. In this episode, we’ll examine the history of Times Square, and its evolution from Gotham’s epicenter of sex to its soulless current iteration, as well as the making of “Midnight Cowboy” and “Taxi Driver.” And in telling those stories, we’ll look at how the “Disneyfication” of Times Square mirrors the suburbanization of New York, and ask what was lost (and gained) in the transition. Our guests are “Midnight Cowboy” cinematographer Adam Holender, film critic and historian Glenn Kenny, historian and author Kim Phillips-Fein, and “Taxi Driver” director Martin Scorsese. Check out our website at funcitycinema.com for more information and episodes.
Keep America Great

Keep America Great

2021-10-2501:10:34

How a riot in Manhattan reconfigured a New York exploitation classic – and American politics for half a century. John G. Avildsen’s 1970 New York drama was originally titled The Gap, dramatizing the white-hot topic of the generation gap through the story of a white-collar businessman searching for his hippie daughter in New York’s seedy youth underbelly. But when it came out in that summer, its ad campaign focused on the supporting character of a loudmouth, bigoted hardhat, and it had also been retitled after that character: Joe. In this episode, we’ll look at how the May 1970 “Hardhat Riot” in downtown New York City prompted not only that change, but a shift in electoral norms and party politics that continues to this day. And we’ll look at Milos Forman’s Taking Off, released the following year, which told a similar story of well-to-do parents searching for their hippie daughter in Gotham, but in a very different way (and with a very different outcome). Our guests are author and historians Jefferson Cowie and Derek Nystrom, filmmaker Larry Karaszweski, and film writers Kristy Puchko and Zach Vasquez.
Subway Stories

Subway Stories

2021-10-1201:06:29

One of the mainstays of NYC cinema is the subway, which serves as an immediate visual cue to not only the city’s setting, but its mood. But the subway is also, conveniently for dramatists, a microcosm of Gotham. The city and its subway are both places where people of all walks of life – race, class, gender, temperament – rub shoulders and try to get along. In this episode, we look at the production of two iconic examples of NYC subway cinema: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) and The Warriors (1979). But we also look at the complicated history of the subway – where it came from, what it promised, and what it delivered – as well as its challenging present and uncertain future. Our guests are historian Nancy Groce, pop culture writer Hunter Harris, Warriors director Walter Hill, public transit expert Danny Pearlstein, and film critic Alissa Wilkinson.
The 1974 Charles Bronson vehicle Death Wish is far from the best New York movie of the era – but it may be the most influential. Its story of a mild-mannered upper-class Manhattan resident who responds to the rising crime rates by taking the law into his own hands, hitting the streets and taking out muggers and criminals of various types (but mostly black, brown, and poor) hit a nerve in the city, and across the country.    Its influence was reflected not only in movies – where it beget a series of sequels, imitators, remakes, and rip-offs – but in the culture, where its noble image of the one-man justice squad often resulted in messier outcomes than onscreen. And it altered the lives of several of its participants, including star Bronson (who found himself typecast for the rest of his career) and Brian Garfield, author of the book that inspired it, who spent the rest of his life crusading against the film adaptation’s mangled message.   We’ll explore all of that and more in this two-part episode. Our guests for part two are New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb, film historians and pop culture critics LaToya Ferguson, Matt Prigge, and Paul Talbot, and filmmaker (and Death Wish 3 co-star) Alex Winter.
The 1974 Charles Bronson vehicle “Death Wish” is far from the best New York movie of the era – but it may be the most influential. Its story of a mild-mannered upper-class Manhattan resident who responds to the rising crime rates by taking the law into his own hands, hitting the streets and taking out muggers and criminals of various types (but mostly black, brown, and poor) hit a nerve in the city, and across the country.  Its influence was reflected not only in movies – where it beget a series of sequels, imitators, remakes, and rip-offs – but in the culture, where its noble image of the one-man justice squad often resulted in messier outcomes than onscreen. And it altered the lives of several of its participants, including star Bronson (who found himself typecast for the rest of his career) and Brian Garfield, author of the book that inspired it, who spent the rest of his life crusading against the film adaptation’s mangled message. We’ll explore all of that and more in this two-part episode. Our guests for part one are film historians and pop culture critics LaToya Ferguson, Matt Prigge, and Paul Talbot, as well as filmmaker (and “Death Wish 3” co-star) Alex Winter.
Tribute in Light

Tribute in Light

2021-08-3159:14

When the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center fell on September 11, 2001, New York City was changed forever: its skyline, its people, its mood. And its films were changed as well – some more immediately than others, as filmmakers struggled to determine how to deal with the now ghostly presence of the towers in films completed but not released before 9/11. 
Some films edited them out, some digitally removed them. But Brooklyn’s own Spike Lee went the opposite direction, adding the tragedy into his film “25th Hour,” which was slated to shoot in the city that fall and winter. In doing so, he ended up crafting what we now consider the definitive post-9/11 New York movie. We’ll hear archival audio of Lee and star Edward Norton explaining that decision and that process, and we’ll break down the film that resulted, with the help of film critics Roxana Hadadi, Keith Phipps, and Scott Tobias, as well as filmmaker Jennifer Westfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”). Content warning: From 3:36 to 7:41, you will hear audio of news reports from 9/11.
Lost in New York

Lost in New York

2020-12-1154:13

We thought it would be fun to do a nice, light Christmas episode, focusing on one of the many beloved Gotham holiday movies. Just take it easy for an episode, right? Kinda phone it in?  So we settled on Chris Columbus and John Hughes’ 1992 smash "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" – and ended up talking about Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, “Broken Windows,” the Central Park Five, and 9/11, along with the film’s total geographical inconsistency and the spectacular tonal failure of its violence. Our guests are “Close-Ups: New York Movies” author Mark Asch, Pitchfork senior editor Jillian Mapes, “You’re Wrong About” co-host Sarah Marshall, and freelance film writer Anya Stanley. Happy holidays!
No Wave Women

No Wave Women

2020-10-3059:48

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a combination of factors – including low rents in abandoned neighborhoods, new and more affordable technology, a cross-pollination of media, and a punk-influenced DIY spirit – collided on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to create a scene, commonly known as “No-Wave,” that dominated music, visual art, and film. And, unique among American independent cinema movements, there were just as many women in downtown NYC making movies as men.  What was it about this scene that made it possible for women filmmakers to not only thrive, but dominate? To find out, we talked to three of them: Susan Seidelman (“Smithereens”), Bette Gordon (“Variety”), and Lizzie Borden (“Born in Flames”), as well as contemporary film and fashion writer Abbey Bender.  Go to funcitycinema.com for more information.
Starring the NYPD

Starring the NYPD

2020-09-2301:14:33

How the New York cop movies of the 1970s sculpted (and whitewashed) the public perception of the NYPD   The New York movie and the New York cop movie are inextricably intertwined – so much so that the first major studio picture of the talking era to be shot in New York, The Naked City, was a cop movie. But in the years following the protests and policing reforms of the 1960s, Gotham cop movies like The French Connection and The Seven-Ups focused on a specific kind of New York cop, who could only clean up the mean streets if he bent those pesky rules. This episode contrasts the NYPD of film and television to the real department – one that was, in the same era, rife with graft, corruption, and worse – and reexamines that messaging within the current national conversation about policing.   Our guests are MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, The Undefeated’s Soraya Nadia McDonald, and film writer Zach Vasquez, with a special appearance by Karina Longworth.
Fight the Power - B-side

Fight the Power - B-side

2020-08-3101:18:27

We're pleased to present our very first bonus episode, in which we talk a bit about making "Fight the Power," expand on some of the themes within it, preview our next installment, and share our full, one-hour interview with author Brandon Harris ("Making Rent in Bed-Stuy").  These bonus episodes will only be available to Patreon subscribers starting next month, but we decided to drop one on the main feed so you get a sense of what's coming down the line. On that note, we tease our September bonus episode. You see, this spring, when Jason interviewed Martin Scorsese for the book, the filmmaker shared a sacred document: his list of 60+ essential New York movies. This is (as far as we can tell!) a Fun City Cinema exclusive. So we're going to walk through that list with you next month, with the help of film critic and historian Glenn Kenny, author of https://www.amazon.com/dp/1335016503/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_FJrsFb91RF01V (Made Men: The Story of 'Goodfellas,') - which is also out next month, coincidentally enough (not coincidentally). So that's what's on the horizon. Here's the bonus episode. Hope you enjoy it.
Fight The Power

Fight The Power

2020-07-3101:16:361

Spike Lee’s 1989 film “Do the Right Thing,” shot on location in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, is now considered not only a classic of modern cinema, but a clarion call to social justice, frequently connected with current acts of racist violence.  But “Do the Right Thing” is inspired by specific historical events in New York City in the years before its release – and a general atmosphere of racial tension and police brutality, much of it empowered by the casual racism of Mayor Ed Koch. This episode connects the film to those incidents and to that atmosphere, and looks back at its initial (and fraught) reception. We also connect Lee’s iconic work to current events, and ask how we can carry its lessons into the current struggle. Our guests are “New York Times” culture / op-ed editor https://www.nytimes.com/by/aisha-harris (Aisha Harris), “Making Rent in Bed-Stuy” author https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B0748JGZ6N?_encoding=UTF8&node=283155&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-sidecar-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader (Brandon Harris), indie film guru (and “Spike, Mike, Slackers, and Dykes” author) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KALM6PG/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_SU2iFbM9Q1HQ7 (John Pierson), and “Rolling Stone” senior writer https://www.rollingstone.com/author/jamil-smith/ (Jamil Smith).  Check out our https://www.funcitycinema.com/ (website) for more information. Thanks for listening!
Our first episode drops this week, so we wanted to give you a taste of what’s to come. “Fight the Power” tells the story of Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” now considered not only a classic of modern cinema, but a clarion call to social justice, frequently connected with current acts of racist violence.  But “Do the Right Thing” is inspired by specific historical events in New York City in the years before its release – and a general atmosphere of racial tension and police brutality, much of it empowered by the casual racism of Mayor Ed Koch.  For more information check out our website - funcitycinema.com. Thanks for listening!
New York City is one of the most important and recognizable locations in motion pictures – like a character itself, as countless films and filmmakers have tiresomely insisted. And though first American films were shot in New York at the end of the 19th century, the industry moved West in the 1910s and rarely came back.  And when, thanks the Herculean efforts of city government, filmmakers finally brought their cameras back to Gotham in the mid-1960s, they did so just in time to capture a city in crisis, a cesspool of crime, decay, and conflict.  So the movies that were shot in New York in those years aren’t just telling their stories. They’re telling the city’s story – and one that’s still being told. 
Heads up: Jason and Mike were lucky enough to contribute an audio commentary to Fun City Editions’ new Blu-ray of “Born to Win,” one of the great unsung gems of early ‘70s fun city cinema. This seriocomic drama from 1971, directed by Ivan Passer (“Cutter’s Way”), tells the story of a high-class hairdresser turned low-rung junkie. George Segal stars, alongside Karen Black, Paula Prentiss, a young Hector Elizondo, and an even younger Robert De Niro.   In this bonus episode, we’ll tell you a bit about the movie and our experience doing the commentary; we’ll also play you a brief excerpt from it.    And you can order your copy now, via Vinegar Syndrome: https://vinegarsyndrome.com/collections/frontpage-partner-labels/products/born-to-win-fun-city-editions (https://vinegarsyndrome.com/collections/frontpage-partner-labels/products/born-to-win-fun-city-editions) Thanks for listening!
MARK YOUR CALENDERS

MARK YOUR CALENDERS

2021-08-2020:21

A quick hello from Jason and Mike, with a few brief words about our upcoming second season (starting 8/31), Mike's new documentary 'Betrayal at Attica' (now streaming on HBO Max), and more.
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