It’s been portrayed as a place of both immense opportunity and extreme decadence. It’s the multi-storied playground of lovers, socialites, gangsters, and alien invaders all alike. It’s both Gotham and Metropolis, both a suffocating mental prison and an alluring heaven on earth. The city always acts as a full-fledged cast member in the films where it’s depicted, one that’s a bustling hive by day, a crawling underworld by night, and always a bohemian international village. The city’s remarkable turnaround since the 1970’s has made casting it the easiest way of chronicling the vicissitudes of America without getting the entire nation involved, making it an extremely resilient universal solvent, fully flexing to filmmakers’ tastes and needs. Some of cinema’s most unforgettable characters are inconceivable and utterly uncompelling when removed from its great backdrop, and the asphalt pavements, having soaked up an immeasurable volume of tears and blood, are a profound testament.
Following that line of thought to see where it led, the editors of 151MM took a trip to NYC during Spring Break of 2016, and took in sights, sounds, and smells, while searching for traces of film in a day of wandering. Here’s what we found.
The Museum of the Moving Image
Despite it’s modest but respectable size, Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image is the country’s only museum dedicated to the “art, history, technique, and technology of the moving image in all its forms”, and has the nation’s largest and most comprehensive collection of artifacts relating to them. It’s exhibits are constantly changing, and feature everything from old cameras to the mask actor Peter Mayhew used to play Chewbacca, to Batman lunch boxes and retro gaming consoles (the museum’s name means video games are also in its realm of focus). The museum’s two beautiful screening rooms are capable of playing all formats from 16mm to 70mm, and showcase over 400 films annually. MoMI is attached to the historic Kaufman Astoria Studios, and is the 6th highest rated museum on Yelp in the New York area.
If you’re visiting NYU, stopping by this iconic art cinema is a must. When it’s five screens aren’t running its customary schedule of foreign and domestic independent film, they rotate between showing classic films on the weekend, short films before every feature, and cult movies on Fridays and Saturdays at midnight, named “Waverly Midnights”. The theater hosts the highly praised Doc NYC festival during November, providing a platform for the flourishing documentary scene. Don’t forget to stop by the concessions stand for organic popcorn with real, natural butter! (We’ve tried it, it’s good).
Film Society of Lincoln Center
The society’s physical nuclei are located in the center’s Walter Reade Theater and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center on W. 65th Street. The organisation itself was founded in 1969, and has evolved into a living, breathing cultural treasure for people of all walks of life, one of New York’s most essential. It’s been where countless directors, including Martin Scorsese, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Spike Lee, have made their name in America. The center is home to the 17 day New York Film Festival (NYFF), and a myriad of other festivals, all hosted in its state-of-the-art amphitheaters, studios, and screening rooms.