Thursday, October 23, 2008

A life in New York movie houses

The Captain looks back---
sometimes wayyy back---
on pivotal
New York
movie experiences.

Everyone who lives in New York has a New York story, whether it's the neighborhood they live(d) in, the person they married or dated or divorced, the struggle to survive and thrive or watching H&H bagels go up to two bucks apiece. As an American cinema aficionado, I can point to several movies I've seen in my time in the city which shifted or shaped my viewpoint whether because of the content of the movie or what I was doing at the time.

Here are six.

The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

This critic's favorite, starring Jeff and Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer and which I saw by myself at the Angelika, won several awards. But its story of two middle-aged piano playing brothers who mostly gig at crap lounges---one keyman a true artist, the other a hack who sprays his bald spot black before each show---put the fear of Zeus into me. "Welcome to your possible future," said a little voice in my head. "Baker Boys" is one of the reasons I do not play more in public, even though I have 3,000 or so songs in my head and could easily attain employment at some hotel or club playing your favorite hits.

Just because you can doesn't mean you have to.

Midnight Run (1989)

I saw "Midnight Run" at the Metro three days before I went to an Indian ashram to live for 5 months, and laughed louder than I might of had I not had felt a deep excitement mixed with panic. "In three days, I will on the other side of the planet," kept running through the brain, and "Midnight Run" is now cemented in that time period for me and is as much a reminder of India as are mangoes, papayas and the smell of burning leaves and cow shit.

That Thing You Do! (1996)

It's never been a great movie---the band-frolic scene is shamefully stolen from "A Hard Day's Night" and lead singer/songwriter Jimmy Mattingly looks more falafel than 1964 white bread. Look at the below pic---do you think "Rock 'n' Roll!" or "Ravi Shankar!" ?

It was the first movie I saw with the woman I'd marry, though, and if it comes on the tube, we both stop and watch and reminisce. I was also living, at the time we saw this movie at Lincoln Plaza, in my official Worst New York Apartment out of the 14 places I've lived, I was painting apartments for a living, and had just started a band which would become Josh Max's Outfit. "That Thing" is a reminder of what's vanished and what remains 12 years later.

I live in a better place now, I don't paint anything and the band has a new name and is on its way to recording its 4th album. Unlike the Wonders, the Maxes never broke up; we just had to find a way to make a jump out of the clubs and into Central Park Summerstage,for example, and we continue to weasel our way into show biz. The cannons still fire daily, as they must.

It's also interesting to watch all those actors in the movie band, "The Wonders," and note that none of them has gone on to stardom post-"That Thing."

Detour (1945)

"Detour" was part of a festival of noir playing at the Film Forum in the summer of 2004, and Mrs. M and I didn't miss "Double Indemnity," "Casablanca," "Touch of Evil," and about six others. Every time I get beyond fed-up with New York City and need to find reasons to stay rather than going somewhere warm, at least in wintertime, the Forum's at the top of the list. If you become a member, movies are only 6 bucks, too, so there's less pressure to stay if the movie blows.

"Detour" is also my top favorite noir flick---cheap, violent, packed with classic lines like "As I drove off, it was still raining and the drops streaked down the windshield like tears," and "Listen, Mister, I been around, and I know a wrong guy when I see one. What'd you do, kiss him with a wrench?"

Monkey Business (1931)

Saw this antique gagfest in a double feature at the now-defunct First Avenue Screening room at age 11 with Nick Max along with "Horsefeathers," "Duck Soup,"and "Cocoanuts," over a series of successive weekends. My life can be accurately divided into before and after the Marxes.

Big (1988)

I was dating a woman named Susan at the time, and the two lead characters in the movie are called Susan and Josh. "Big", for me, recalls that pre-Ashram time when the old mental, emotional and spiritual world was melting, and new concepts and attitudes toward life, work, sex, relationships, the world and the self were all rushing in. Susan was also the first person in New York I'd met who made enough money to have a new car and a nice apartment with the proceeds from her jewelry business. Dating her raised my bar for what was possible in the world of self-employment, as opposed to having a job.

Annie Hall (1978)

The final scene of this Oscar-winning Woody Allen movie, much of which occurs in Manhattan, takes place outside the Thalia, and I saw it in the Thalia. When the key scene appeared, the audience burst into wild applause. I saw it by myself soon after I moved to New York, and felt I really belonged afterward.

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