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Fun City Cinema
66 minutes | Oct 12, 2021
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.
64 minutes | Sep 28, 2021
Judge, Jury, and Executioner (Part Two)
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.
56 minutes | Sep 14, 2021
Judge, Jury, and Executioner (Part One)
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.
59 minutes | Aug 31, 2021
Tribute in Light
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.
20 minutes | Aug 20, 2021
MARK YOUR CALENDERS
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.
54 minutes | Dec 11, 2020
Lost in New York
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!
60 minutes | Oct 30, 2020
No Wave Women
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.
75 minutes | Sep 23, 2020
Starring the NYPD
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.
78 minutes | Aug 31, 2020
Fight the Power - B-side
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 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.
77 minutes | Jul 31, 2020
Fight The Power
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 Aisha Harris, “Making Rent in Bed-Stuy” author Brandon Harris, indie film guru (and “Spike, Mike, Slackers, and Dykes” author) John Pierson, and “Rolling Stone” senior writer Jamil Smith. Check out our website for more information.Thanks for listening!
4 minutes | Jul 28, 2020
Sneak Peek: Fight the Power
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!
5 minutes | Jul 28, 2020
Introducing Fun City Cinema
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.
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