Film Festival: "Hollywood to NYC: Drop Dead!" / by dan turner

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1975 was long before Times Square had a Gap, long before the mayor had to worry about citizens eating themselves to death, long before "broken windows", long before 9/11. It was ages ago, and NYC was a lost cause. I don't know if you're old enough to remember that city and what it was.

New York was facing bankruptcy, crime was rampant, the Federal government was threatening not to supply basic support. President Ford may never have actually said "Drop dead", but Mayor Beame accused Ford of “writing off New York City in one speech”. Everyone could taste the doom in the air, feel under their feet the slick razor blade they were all sliding down, with no end in sight.

And Hollywood loved it.

Remember that Los Angeles and New York long had a special, and not always friendly, relationship. LA's little-sibling 213 area code, after New York's original-flavor 212. The whole Dodgers thing. Woody Allen.

And what's a better cinematic backdrop than a major city fallen?

It was in this context that Hollywood rolled out movie after movie about urban decay, ranging from the "torn from the headlines" pseudo-realism of Serpico, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and Fort Apache, The Bronx, to the daily mythology of what goes on in the dark of The Warriors, to the "logical conclusion" milieu of Escape from New York. There's also an interesting documentary titled "Ford to NYC: Drop Dead" on the rise of punk, disco, and hip-hop, all as a response to the end of the world (or at least the city).

Sure, other cities were also falling apart, from Detroit to New Haven to Chicago (where parts of Streets of Fire) were shot, and Hollywood made generic "urban" horrors, such as C.H.U.D. – but it was always NYC that was the ur-urban, the model of the modern major disaster.

This film festival reviews these major visions of the failure of the real Gotham City, the first metropolis of the USA. I don't know if you kids remember New York City. It used to be great. it used to have no future.