When you write a book that covers 100 years of one subject’s history, you’re going to have to leave a lot of stuff out. When you write a book that covers 100 years of two subject’s history, you’re going to have to leave out even more. This is the conundrum I was faced with in writing “Fun City Cinema: New York and the Movies That Made It”(out in fall of 2021 from ABRAMS Books); it’s an intermingled history of New York City and New York City movies, covering 1920 to 2020, with each chapter focusing on one key NYC film from each decade. Plenty of other films come into the mix, of course, but the plain-as-day limitations of space mean that a good number of the incredible films and fascinating stories I encountered in my research simply weren’t used.
So we started a podcast.
On the “Fun City Cinema” podcast – which you can subscribe to via your podcatcher of choice here – co-host Mike Hull and I dig deeper into iconic New York movies, examine the long-running themes of Gotham cinema, and connect those films to the real events in New York history that they were commenting on, inspired by, and more. Since starting the podcast in the fall, we’ve looked at the stories of police brutality and racial injustice that prompted Spike Lee to make “Do the Right Thing”; processed how great tough-guy New York cop movies like “The French Connection” sculpted (and whitewashed) public perceptions of the NYPD; and taken listeners back to the “No-Wave” filmmaking scene of downtown New York in the early 1980s, talking to filmmakers Susan Seidelman, Bette Gordon, and Lizzie Borden about how they made “Smithereens,” “Variety,” and “Born in Flames” – the most memorable movies of that movement.
We’ve dug into some pretty heavy themes thus far – systemic racism, police brutality, institutional sexism, etc. – so our plan was to take it easy for the holidays, tackling an easy-breezy New York Christmas movie and just having some fun. 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 special guests are Mark Asch, Jillian Mapes, Sarah Marshall, and Anya Stanley. Happy holidays!