MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: "GREATEST USE OF THE CITY'S UNDERGROUND TRANSIT SYSTEM EVER CAPTURED ON FILM"
"What makes a great New York City movie?" begins the introduction to Vulture's ranking of The 101 Best New York City Movies. "Not just a movie set in New York — there are plenty of those. We’re talking about a great New York City movie that transcends establishing shots and dodgy accents to immortalize something distinct about this place. The anxious pace of a weekday commute, the philharmonic overlapping of sidewalk talk, the sweaty jockeying for position on any square foot. Great New York City movies find beauty in the rot of Times Square and ugliness in the penthouses of Central Park West. Many reflect the perilous reality of living in Brooklyn today and the Bronx yesterday; others, the urbane fantasy. The best do both. In assembling this list of the greatest New York movies, we laid down a few ground rules: in the interest of fairness, a director could only be represented twice on the list; any selection had to take place mostly in New York City (even if it wasn’t shot in New York City); and, most important, it had to feel deliberately set in one of the five boroughs. Not just in any big city, but here."
Coming in at number 24 on the list is Carlito's Way, with a summary provided by Matt Zoller Seitz, although we have to question whether the "World Trade Center subway platform and elevator system" actually appear in the film. De Palma had planned to shoot at the World Trade Center PATH Station, but two days prior to the scheduled filming, it was the target of a terrorist bombing. The climax was filmed at Grand Central Station, instead. Here's the Vulture summary from MZS:
The second collaboration between director Brian De Palma and star Al Pacino, this 1990s blockbuster apes 1970s New York urban potboilers while infusing the story with a melancholy gentleness that’s uncharacteristic of the filmmaker and positioning it as a life-affirming answer to their other team-up, 1983’s Scarface. Pacino plays the title character, a Puerto Rican gangster who gets out of prison and tries to reconnect with his young girlfriend (Penelope Ann Miller) and go straight but inevitably gets drawn back into the criminal life via his coked-up, mob-connected lawyer (Sean Penn). The plot mechanics owe a lot to westerns where an old gunfighter wants to settle down but can’t walk ten feet without some punk dragging him into a duel. The final action sequence, which sees Carlito fleeing Italian Mafia goons on foot through the subway system en route to Grand Central station, is the greatest use of the city’s underground transit system ever captured on film, geographically accurate down to the tiniest details of platforms, transfer points, and local-versus-express routes: MTA-map-nerd heaven. Keep an eye out for a voluptuous cameo by the World Trade Center subway platform and elevator system, which would cease to exist eight years after this film’s release.
Matt Zoller Seitz also provides the summary for #69 on the list, God Told Me To:
A repository of 1970s fears of urban decay, random violence, mass murder, UFOs, goverment conspiracies, and cult machinations, this thriller from schlock maestro Larry Cohen (It’s Alive!, Q) starts with a sniper killing 15 random pedestrians with a rifle from his perch in Times Square and gets weirder from there. Tony Lo Bianco stars as Detective Peter Nicholas, who fails to talk the sniper down (“God told me to,” the man says before leaping to his death). He suspects a connection between that tragedy and the random mass murders that follow (including two more mass shootings and a mass stabbing) and eventually uncovers a mystery that feels like an unholy fusion of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Rosemary’s Baby, The Fury, and half the conspiracy thrillers released during the ’70s. New York is presented as a mecca for madness, a nexus of every chaotic and sinister impulse obsessing Americans at that time.