2 years ago
caricakes
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The Peculiar Geography of Films Shot in New York City
I am a walking, talking cliche. I am one of those I Heart New York t-shirts you can buy 3 for $10 at any shady bodega in Midtown. I am every Frank Sinatra song about Manhattan and I am every teenager dreaming about the bright lights. I am obsessed with this city.
Luckily, I've been able to live in this concrete jungle for the past five years and have attempted to get to know each and every neighbourhood in Manhattan like it is an old friend.
That being said, I love trying to decode films set in this city and lay out a map of where the stories are actually unfolding. As with most cities, the boring bits (I'm looking at you, Garment District) get brushed over and don't get any screen time. I've picked out a few films that have their characters running all over the city, in many cases at impossible speeds.

Leon: The Professional

This is actually the film that inspired this card. I just watched it today and even though I loved it, I couldn't help but notice that little Mathilda leaves her apartment on 23rd Street to grab milk at the bodega on 97th Street. Granted, I did have to look up the official locations for where that bodega was, but it certainly wasn't next to the Chelsea Hotel (where Mathilda and Leon live)
Most of their world actually takes place in Chinatown (to be fair, its very close to Little Italy) and Harlem, along with the endless apartments they find themselves in.
This didn't make the movie any less impactful for me though, and I knew I would love it the second the opening credits had me flying downtown over the park.

The Royal Tenebaums

Wes Anderson doesn't care about making much sense in his films as long as it is visually stunning, slightly off-kilter, and sprinkled with the perfect song at the perfect time. It's no surprise that the house on Archer Avenue is in fact on Convent Avenue in Harlem.
They're constantly bouncing from Manhattan to Queens to Brooklyn and even - god forbid- to Yonkers!

When Harry Met Sally

This is the film that solidified my love of New York. I always grew up with the mindset of "when I live in Manhattan..." and this romantic comedy of ugly sweaters and bad hair is to blame. I will have a house on Washington Square one day, just you wait.
They start their story under the arch in Washington Square and spend much of their time in Lower Manhattan. They explore Union Square, the Boathouse in Central Park, Katz's Deli in the Lower East Side, The Met, Bethesda Fountain, I could go on and on. They hit every beautiful part of New York, every little corner I call home.

Cruel Intentions

This is a movie I always forget exists until someone brings it up and I am overcome with the desire to watch it again. It's basically the worst movie ever.
But! It shows side of New York City that I might never see (and don't really have the desire to...) The inner world of the Upper East Side.
The film is set almost exclusively in the Upper East Side (they don't even leave the east side of the park for heaven's sake!!) except for Annette who lives on the west side but inexplicably can get to the other side of the park in mere seconds by car. I've tried it, not possible.
Doesn't make the ending of this movie any less ridiculous though. I still sit there staring in shock at the end credits no matter how many times I've seen this.

The Day After Tomorrow

Alright, I'm picky and as you can probably figure out from reading this card, I love picking up on tiny mistakes in films. A Day After Tomorrow sacrificed the structure of 5th Avenue in Midtown for dramatic effect and it bothers me every single time I watch it. I'm also the obnoxious audience member that points it out every chance I get ;)
The boat that glides in front of the public library carrying wolves and medicine and creepy vibes could never have gotten up the 42nd Street without turning a corner at some point. There's just no way, even in Ice Age-d Manhattan. Totally insignificant, but a fun fact for you to show off your NYC knowledge.

Do The Right Thing

Now if you want a film that doesn't mess with New York's layout, Spike Lee has you covered.
One block, one neighborhood, and Danny Aiello still owns an Italian restaurant (as he does in Leon, and probably dozens of other films)
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4 comments
I feel like more than 50% of movies just don't give a shit about keeping it "geographically accurate" since a lot of viewers won't notice anyways. But there are those of us that totally do notice!!!