After another fantastic year at Midlands Movies I treated myself to a little jaunt across the Atlantic to see some old friends in the city that never sleeps, New York. With its esteemed history of movie locations I wanted to visit some of my favourite movie settings in the city so over 7 days, headed around the city (mainly by foot by sometimes by subway as the 2013/14 “polar vortex” headed in) and if you ever visit on vacation I can highly recommend the below places for any cinema connoisseur.
As mentioned, I often used my Metro card to travel on the city’s subway which criss-crosses all five boroughs and is an easy and safe way to get around. However, the movies have previously portrayed this transit system as a place of gang warfare or crazy loners as seen in 1979’s cult classic The Warriors, 1990’s Ghost (“Get off my traaaaiiin!”) or even in Michael Jackson’s “Bad” music video. One of the stops is the city’s main hub at Grand Central Terminal, a huge building and the 6th most visited place in the world (!) which has been seen in Cloverfield (2008) as well as a great scene with disappearing people in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). More recently a large part of the finale of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (2012) is set on the raised part of the road nearby there.
Just a few blocks south is the art deco classic and iconic image of New York, the Empire State Building, which is most famously climbed by King Kong in the 1933 black and white film as well as again in Peter Jackson’s recent remake. Further down past Broadway is another infamous building in the slim-line facade of the Flat Iron Building. This plays the offices of the Daily Bugle in Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man movie.
Slightly off the track on the East of Manhattan I wandered down towards the University area where I headed to Washington Square (seen briefly with a monstrous apparition in 80s actionner Ghostbusters) before taking a short walk to a street of shops where I found The Little Lebowski Shop (215 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012 http://www.littlelebowskishop.com) which is the world’s only dedicated “dude” store.
Continuing around the East Village area I stumbled across Tompkins Square – the location where John McLane and Zeus (Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson) have to play a game for the villainous Jeremy Irons “Simon Says” with a couple of water jugs in the third Die hard movie. The park also hosts regular outdoor movie screenings every summer so if you go during the summer months you may be able to catch a film or two!
Slightly further south is Katz’s delicatessen (www.katzsdelicatessen.com) which has been established since 1888 and maintains its tradition of quality food but is beloved for film fans for its “orgasm” booth where Meg Ryan fakes her pleasure across the restaurant table to Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally (1989) – “I’ll have what she’s having”.
Another food related place is Joe’s Pizza where Peter Parker is (briefly) employed in Spider-Man 2 (2004) and although I didn’t pop in, the food smelt and looked great and the queue from the shop to outside seemed to suggest the same. Later on in the vacation, my friend who I was visiting worked at a restaurant uptown and to get there we came out of the 72nd Street subway station which also appeared in Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) as the place Simon gives our two protagonists a verbal riddle by phone as well as again appearing in The Warriors (1979).
Although I had been to New York 3 times before and had sampled the main attractions the city had to offer, one place had always eluded me but no more during this visit. I walked a long distance as the temperatures lowered (but that was not going to stop me) to the NYFD Hook and Ladder #8 Fire House. What’s that I hear you ask? Well, it’s from one of my favourite childhood films and may be better known as the Head Quarters to the Ghostbusters as seen in the 1984 film of the same name. The firehouse even has a (slightly faded) Ghostbusters-inspired insignia on the sidewalk outside and was one of those places that “looked just like the movie”.
As I was visiting in Dec/Jan, I was in the city for New Years. Planning to go to a friend’s party at a bar in Brooklyn I got a taste of the chaos in Times Square as I tried in vain to get to her apartment. Over 20 blocks were cordoned off by the police and the detour I had to take was massive as some subway stations were closed as well. The crowds were building and the streets densely packed and it was not even 7pm yet! The neon signs and advertisements of the square itself can be seen (although in a different context) in the deserted/empty scenes in the movies I Am Legend (2007) and Tom Cruise’s dreamy Vanilla Sky (2001). The emptiness of the square in those films contrasted massively to the reality of the tourist packed sidewalks of the holiday season.
I decided to avoid that area for the rest of the trip so over the next few days I went down Fifth Avenue to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, seen in classic sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) where a genetically engineered flying Gremlin is thrown in wet cement before drying on the Cathedral’s roof as an epic gargoyle.
Also on Fifth is the Rockefeller Building. Beneath the imposing height of the main skyscraper is the infamous ice rink with a statue that I found out when I got back is actually Prometheus! The area’s Christmas tree can be seen in Will Ferrell vehicle Elf (2003) as well as the meeting place in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992).
During my first trip to NYC in 2002 I stayed at a hotel on East 57th Street NY 10022 and opposite the hotel was a tall tower which I again saw on this trip and was used for the exterior shots of the Oscorp building in Spider-Man (2002). A few streets away are the Roosevelt Island cable cars which I rode and can also be seen in the same web-slinging movie as Spidey fights off the Green Goblin.
On the Upper East Side later in my trip I hopped off the subway and walked a short distance to the Guggenheim Museum, an iconic and startling looking circular building seen in Will Smith’s first alien encounter in the opening of Men in Black (1997).
Opposite is New York’s huge open green space Central Park which has been seen in everything from Ghostbusters (1984) to Annie Hall (1977) and Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy (1999). A walk through the park from East to West and I ended up at The Museum of Natural History which has the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the back of the building (81st Street, Central Park West) and this unique globe-inside-glass structure was seen in Spider-Man 2 (2004) for the John Jonah Jameson III benefit event.
Post New Year’s Eve and many days into the trip, the city was struck by what the media dubbed “Snowpocalypse” and then was subsequently labelled a “polar vortex” as snow, ice and below freezing temperatures swept the North East of the country. For me it was a cross between the planet Hoth from Star Wars (see a video I filmed here - facebook video) and disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow (2004) where Manhattan gets covered in a thick layer of icy snow such were the shockingly (and shiveringly) low temperatures.
However, on my final few days the snow began to thaw (briefly enough) to get on the Staten Island ferry which takes you out into the water near the Statue of Liberty as seen in Planet of the Apes (1968), Ghostbusters 2 (1989) and Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000). Once back on dry land, a short walk downtown saw me end up on Wall Street which is where Christopher Nolan filmed Bane’s attack on Gotham’s Stock Exchange in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) as well as being extensively in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (1987) and a brief appearance at the end of National Treasure (2004).
On Park Avenue, my last memory of the trip was seeing the famous Met Life Building (formerly Pan Am) which is in Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (2002) and doubles as the offices of The Daily Planet in Christopher Reeves’ incarnation of Superman (1978).
Not even the cold weather could stop my enjoyment of such a creative, bohemian and cosmopolitan city which is still one of my favourite places on the planet. If you get the chance then I can guarantee you will have a good time seeing iconic buildings and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the busy streets - but if you’re a film fan then there’s even more to marvel and enjoy and you will get an understanding of why New York is so regularly used on the big screen – hopefully you’ll have as much fun as Eddie Murphy does in Coming to America (1988)!
See all my New York pictures in this gallery here - Facebook Gallery
Midlands Movies Mike