There are few cities as cinematic as New York City. Since 1896, when William Heise placed a camera in Herald Square to capture 15 seconds of a bustling street corner, directors have been trying to distill the essence of New York into cinematic form. In his directorial debut Boogie, Eddie Huang reveals a whole new facet of the city. In the film, Alfred “Boogie” Chin (Taylor Takahashi), the son of Taiwanese immigrants (Perry Yung and Pamelyn Chee), attends high school in Queens and dreams of becoming an NBA star. In his spare time, Boogie makes the city his playground, playing street ball in downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan’s East River Park, visiting a fortune teller in Flushing, and meandering through the Lower East Side with his girlfriend (Taylour Paige). Huang, who has lived and worked in New York City for years, threads the multicultural mosaic that is at the heart of the city’s magic into every frame of his film. In “weaving Black, Hispanic, Asian and White teenage New Yorkers together with effortless ease.” Boogie captures the spirit of City, notes The Wrap,
With Boogie now on demand and in theaters, we’re exploring New York as our latest Movie City, looking at how different movies make it an essential cinematic destination.
Watch Boogie now.
The City's Gateway | Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Port Authority
For classic movies like Midnight Cowboy and Desperately Seeking Susan, New York’s Port Authority has served as the gritty, grimy gateway for wide-eyed newcomers arriving in the big city to fulfill their dreams. Opened in 1950, Port Authority quickly became one of the world’s largest transit stations. Today, more than 8,000 buses and 225,000 people rumble through the 2-block complex on any weekday. In Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Port Authority becomes many things to 17-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder). After traveling by bus from their small Pennsylvania town to secure Autumn needed medical services for her unwanted pregnancy, the two young women treat Port Authority as their base camp. Ferrying out by day to explore the city's labyrinthine health care system, Autumn and Skylar return to each night to the transit hub, treating it like a metropolis all to itself, a world filled with underground bowling alleys, cafes, and karaoke bars, in addition to the changing tides of commuters. “I felt like, for them, in some strange way, Port Authority would be a safe place,” explains Hittman. “They’re not here to see the city… It’s not that kind of movie.”
Beyond Manhattan | Pariah and Brooklyn
In recent years, Brooklyn has become the go-to location of a new type of New York story. Although director Dee Rees grew up in Nashville, she wanted to shoot her debut feature, Pariah, in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. The vibrant neighborhood, in which elegant brownstones abut bustling streets, has served as the backdrop for both Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It and Michel Gondry's Dave Chappelle's Block Party. “Brooklyn’s a place where there can be middle-class and working-class [people] right next to each other,” explains Rees. “I felt this was a story that could only happen in New York, because in New York there’s a lot of interstitial spaces; spaces in between spaces, where you’re changing... New York gives you the anonymity to be who you want to be.” In Pariah, Alike (Adepero Oduye) learns to try on different identities — poet, daughter, lesbian, African American, teenager — by moving through the different spaces of her neighborhood. All within a few blocks, she can attend church with her mother (Kim Wayans), hang out in a lesbian club with her best friend Laura (Pernell Walker), and discover her poetic voice at a local high school.
Meet Cute | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Long Island Rail Road
From Bud (Jack Lemmon) being squeezed into an elevator with Fran (Shirley Maclaine) in The Apartment to Spiderman (Tobey Maguire) hanging upside down to kiss Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) in Spiderman, New York City seems built for meet-cute moments. From crowded subways to overbooked cafes to Long Island commuter trains, it's pretty much impossible not to bump into someone in New York. In Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel (Jim Carrey) meets Clementine (Kate Winslet) on the Long Island Rail Road to Montauk one Valentine's Day. As they get to know each other— before deciding to erase the other from their memories — the two wander about Manhattan with a joyful aimlessness, meandering through little Italy, dashing away from Grand Central Station, and accidentally discovering a late-night circus parade at West 34th Street and 7th Avenue. Indeed, the inclusion in the movie of the Elephant Walk, an annual rite during which the Ringling Brothers march their star pachyderms through the NYC streets in the middle of the night in order to get them into Madison Square Garden, was a sort of cinematic meet-cute moment. Having accidentally run into this strange ritual, the filmmakers spontaneously decided to film Carey and Winslet alongside it, capturing one of the film's most magical moments.
Bizarre New York | Being John Malkovich and secret floors
Few know that New York’s most famous edifice, the Empire State Building, has a secret floor. The 103rd floor, which contains a knee-high balcony overlooking the city, is closed off to all but the most special visitors. From ghost subway stations to a secret apartment in Radio City Music Hall to a haunted house in the Bowery, New York is filled with strange architectural spaces. In Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, an unemployed puppeteer (John Cusack) takes a temp job only to discover that his new office on the 7 ½ floor of the Mertin-Flemmer building (fictionally located at 610 11th Avenue) contains a portal into the consciousness of actor John Malkovich. As Charlie Kaufman's plot spirals into more and more surreal territory, the basic premise — that behind the drabbest building facade might lie an unfathomable mystery — seems all too possible to most New Yorkers. For Variety what makes the film “so fresh is the decision to treat even the story’s most surreal inventions in real, rather than fantastical terms, placing Kaufman’s peculiar universe in everyday New York City, with characters who register each surprise development as merely another unusual but not incredible crease in the fabric of their lives.”
New York real estate | For a Good Time, Call... and Gramercy Park
What makes Rosemary’s Baby and Ghostbusters such perfect New York movies is that they demonstrate how people will do pretty much anything to get a hold of an affordable apartment in Manhattan. In Jamie Travis' For a Good Time, Call…, previous college frenemies, Katie (Ari Graynor) and Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller), agree to bury the hatchet and become roommates so that they can hold onto a sunny 2-bedroom apartment off Gramercy Park. When the two later join forces to set up a sex phone line, their entrepreneurial spirt to keep their apartment and succeed in business is ultimately the result of, as The Wrap points out, “the effects of a crappy economy on the career aspirations of unmarried young women” in New York City.