In Do the Movies Have a Future? (Simon & Schuster), New Yorker movie critic David Denby weighs in on what has become an endangered species, the movies, once America’s primary popular art form. Assessing the careers of auteurs and actors and celebrating the films that have resonated with audiences, Do the Movies Have a Future is a sharp, engaging guide for film lovers.
Here, Denby shares his picks for the best movie theaters in New York and his favorite quintessential New York movies.
141 W 54th St
New York, NY 10019
As everyone knows, it has the last truly big screen in Manhattan, a general air of plush décor and luxury, though I have to admit it doesn’t have the fantasy qualities of the old movie palaces, with their floating cherubs painted on the ceilings and their mentholated gents’ rooms. But it will do.
209 West Houston Street
New York, NY 10014
It is serious without being pretentious, and it always has something good to see. Film Forum shows classics, including silent films with piano accompaniment, and new documentaries and features from the four corners of the world. Often, movies that they discover branch out to much wider distribution. The coffee and brownies are great. It as close to Paris as you can get.
AMC Lincoln Square
New York, NY 10023
Okay, it’s a multiplex, but as multiplexes go but it’s nicely laid out, the theaters are reasonably insulated, from one another, and it’s well run. I thought I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t include at least one place typical of the theaters that most Americans see movie in. As for myself, I must have seen a hundred movies there.
Sweet Smell of Success
This downbeat black-and-white production from 1957, starring Burt Lancaster as a blackmailing newspaper columnist, and Tony Curtis as a hustling press agent, has a special, wised-up, acrid flavor that seems the essence of New York cynicism. Much of the dialogue, which was written by Clifford Odets is so mannered that it’s almost funny. The movie has the fascination of a slightly dangerous object.
Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film about a sleepless, psychotic cabbie, who seems to live in hell–steam rises from the streets, and a reddish neon glows at night–is the ultimate despairing love letter to New York as a place of loneliness and sin. With Robert De Niro’s classic performance and Harvey Keitel as a pimp.
Manhattan and Annie Hall
Woody Allen’s two love duets with Diane Keaton have a chattering, knowing air that capture the nervous intelligence of New York’s upper middle class at play, and also a wonderful melancholy. In both cases Woody gets the girl but can’t hold her, and you are left wondering what, exactly, has gone wrong. Two modern love lyrics.