I’m thrilled to present another enjoyable entry by Susu and to announce that she’ll be regular, monthly contributor to Once Upon a Screen. No further introduction necessary…ENJOY!
To New York City: Movies that Remind Me of Home
Years ago, a dear friend and I had a deep discussion about the places, songs, and images that have crossed the barriers of our senses and become a part of us. We imagined the things that “would come tumbling out of our hearts if broken open.” During that conversation back then, I was at a bit of a loss. Isn’t everything we experience alive in us in some way? Today, though, as this Manhattan ex-pat sits in her home in the Jersey ‘burbs reaching for just the right intro to this post, it’s that conversation of open hearts that comes to mind. Maybe it’s because I realize only now that if my heart were broken open, New York City would come tumbling out.
I say it often: I am a city rat. Born, raised, and honed to caffeinating, strap-hanging, pavement-pounding perfection by The City. I announced my arrival to my parents and experienced 36 years of firsts in a first-floor apartment in Washington Heights. And if The Heights – made glorious by the son of Inwood, Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda – doesn’t sound familiar, I submit to you a map of Manhattan’s northernmost tip. There, in that sliver of bedrock between the Hudson and Harlem rivers, where the island connects to mainland America via George Washington Bridge, is Home.
I’ve been craving Home lately. Home as I knew it and Home as I wanted it to be. I miss the grit and the stardust of it, made eternal by some of the movies I dig most and have decided to watch again.
It’s been hard to choose the first film, but after a powerful car-karaoke performance of “That’s Amore” with Dean Martin, I found a starting point. The rest – and a few of their reasons – came tumbling out:
- Moonstruck (1987), directed by Norman Jewison, written by John Patrick Shanley: Because the old country is only a generation or two away, because its ways stay alive in modern-day Brooklyn, because of the view of a still-innocent lower Manhattan, and because I know how Loretta Castorini (Cher) feels when she walks into Lincoln Center for the first time.
- The Goodbye Girl (1977) directed by Herbert Ross, written by Neil Simon: Because of emotional corner phone booth conversations, because Elliot Garfield’s (Richard Dreyfuss) wit and cadence are Sexist Men Alive-material, and because of the small peek into the actual work of theater actors and dancers in New York City.
- The Fisher King (1991) directed by Terry Gilliam, written by Richard LaGravanese: Because like the City itself, Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is not as heartless as he appears to be, because all the main characters – Jack, Parry, Anne, and Lydia (Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, and Amanda Plummer) – are people I know, and because the singing telegram scene performed by a homeless cabaret singer (Michael Jeter) is EVERYTHING.
- When Harry Met Sally (1989), directed by Rob Reiner, written by Nora Ephron: Because the opening scene of elderly married couples telling their stories are spoken in a United Nations of accents, because Sally Albright (Meg Ryan), Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and their neuroses can thrive only in New York City, because Jess (Bruno Kirby) and Marie (Carrie Fisher) hop into a cab together, and because man-oh-man, to live in one of those brownstones.
- Barefoot in the Park (1967), directed by Gene Saks, written by Neil Simon: Because of fifth floor of walk-ups and tiny bedrooms, because of the surprise of wonderful neighbors, because of Washington Square Park before I got to know it, and because I’ve stepped on the same ground as Robert Redford’s bare feet.
- 25th Hour (2002), directed by Spike Lee, written by David Benioff: Because it touches our 9/11 wound without exploiting it, because Irish-white Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) is married to Puerto Rican-brown Naturelle Riviera (Rosario Dawson), and because I recognize the stunning stretch of Henry Hudson Parkway right below Washington Heights in a powerful sequence between Monty and his father, James (Brian Cox).
- Kiss Me, Guido (1997), written and directed by Tony Vitale: Because of the Bronx, a part of the whole that is New York City but a world unto itself, because Frankie (Nick Scotti) knows that he’s got to move to “The City” in order to make it as an artist, because of the actor he later meets who introduces himself as the “#” sign (David Deblinger), and because of Meryl (Molly Price), the perfectly furious, foul-mouthed single white female.
- The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984), directed by Stuart Rosenberg, written by Vincent Patrick: Because of the way Charlie (Mickey Rourke) primps before he steps out the front door, because he crosses the street where and when he feel like it, and because of the stick-ball scene featuring Charlie, cousin Paulie (Eric Roberts), and a team of grown men in polyester suits swaying to Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind,” the kids they just kicked out of the park watching from behind the fence.
- Sex and the City (2008), directed by written by Michael Patrick King, written by Michael Patrick King and Candace Bushnell: Because yeah, I’ll take a fun and insanely lucrative writing career, a pair of Manolo Blahniks or five, a penthouse apartment on the edge of Central Park, a fancy occasion at the breathtaking New York Public Library, and a steady stream of love and laughter in the company of my closest friends.
- Saturday Night Fever (1977), directed by John Badham, written by Norman Wexler: Because there is a place just outside of the everyday drudgery where Tony Manero (John Travolta) is king, because of perfect city struts, disco, and the Verrazano Bridge, and because that subway sequence near the end of the film is one that I feel in my bones, which might make it one of my all-time favorite New York City scenes.
Hear, hear to my beloved City and the bridges, tunnels, and daydreams that keep me connected to it.
Susu is getting her movie fix here and I couldn’t be happier about it, but she writes regularly at Sin Zapato, a barefoot blog wherein she shares insights on being. Take a look at it here or via the newly-created link on this blog’s home page.