Night at the Museum
For fans of NYC’s past performances, don’t bother with Ben Stiller’s droll and uninteresting Night at the Museum. While early scenes in the film do indeed boast the promise of a standout performance from the city that never seems to sleep, showing key exteriors and that trademark hustle and bustle that helped make the city a star at the advent of talkies, those moments are too few and far between. With the vast majority of the American Museum of Natural History scenes shot in a Canadian soundstage, Night at the Museum squanders a more than capable New York City performance leaving audiences to watch its lead, Stiller, roam from historical vignette to historical vignette. The result of which is an absolute yawn!
Maid in Manhattan
A bonafide charmer of the highest decree, Maid in Manhattan is a crowd-pleaser from start to finish thanks to the dazzling chemistry between its two leads, Lopez and the borough of Manhattan. With Ralph Fiennes serving as, more or less, window dressing. Maid in Manhattan sees the city at its most endearing and delightful. Come for the wish-fulfillment, but stay for the idealized version of Manhattan!
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
A disappointing bite out of a major borough, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan provides New York City with little to do than look menacing and overly grimy. Arriving on screen after nearly an hour spent aboard one of those boats that takes you from a lake in New Jersey all the way to Time Square, the city, unfortunately, flounders in the final act of the film. Much like the titular Jason meeting his end via the toxic waste that apparently runs through Manhattan’s sewer system, New York’s presence in Friday the 13th Part VIII is something of a steaming mess. For fans of NYC’s earlier horror work, consider C.H.U.D. instead.
West Side Story (2021)
2021 was a year of on-screen transformations for some of Hollywood’s greatest stars. With Jessica Chastain, Jared Leto, and Nicole Kidman all undergoing varying metamorphoses via prosthetics and makeup to deliver memorable performances. But somehow lost in the shuffle is the most significant on-screen alteration of all, New York City’s full visual revision from 2019 rise & grind NYC to a more simplistic 1957 NYC on the verge of physical and social change. More than just throwing on some eye shadow and adopting a funny voice, in Speilberg’s West Side Story the city’s modernist landscape is unrecognizable amidst a bevy of cut-off white tees, easy to access fire escapes, and Chevrolet automobiles. While Academy voters were all too happy to leave New York City off their Oscar ballots, one must tip their cap to the city’s indelible performance.
In one of NYC’s most stripped down and bare-bones performances to date, the city stars opposite Travis Bickle, a cab driver whose slow descent into madness is chronicled throughout the Scorsese film. And while DeNiro’s Bickle is unquestionably the lead of the picture, one cannot help but applaud New York City’s turn as a decaying and morally bankrupt wasteland where every woman is a sex worker, every man is a pimp, and every interaction is expletive-laden and unpleasant. As foreboding as it is unseemly, you’ve never seen NYC quite like this. Taxi Driver proudly features “the great melting pot” at its absolute boiling point and we as audiences can only shake our heads with wonder and amazement.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
With an assortment of wow-worthy establishing shots of various city landmarks and a standout scene involving a limousine driver, a cheese pizza, and a trip to the toy store, Home Alone 2: Lost In New York serves a more than formidable slice of the big apple. Acting as both friend and foe to young Kevin McCallister, New York City, alongside the incomparable Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, churns out a larger-than-life performance that will leave audiences asking, “Is it really that easy to sneak into Carnegie Hall?”