Friday, July 8, 2011

Manhattan

Manhattan
seen @ Movies With a View, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NY
7.7.11

Getting delayed on the subway is as much a part of the New York experience as homeless people begging for change and street preachers on 42nd Street - and just as annoying. I had yesterday evening planned out fairly well: I'd go uptown to see my friend Lisa at an art gallery opening, and then head back down to Brooklyn to see Manhattan at Brooklyn Bridge Park (if it didn't rain). The city's transit system has recently improved in terms of communicating when trains will arrive and whether certain trains are delayed, but because the system is so very old and worn, delays have a tendency to happen fairly often, when you want them least. One time a train delay made me late for a job interview, and it was only through the kindness of the employer that I was allowed to reschedule.


So I came into Manhattan from Brooklyn, on the subway. The car filled up quicker than expected, even for rush hour, and before long I could tell that something was wrong. I looked up from my book and noticed a conversation between several people, complaining about the delay on another train that led them here. It was raining, and for a moment I thought perhaps there was flooding, a not-uncommon occurrence in the subways. According to the passengers, someone fell onto the tracks. Something like that is not as rare as you might think, either.


By the time the uptown train reached Greenwich Village, I was getting concerned that I might run late for Lisa's show. I hadn't planned on staying long, because it was important to me that I make it to the park early enough to get a decent spot in front of the screen. On the other hand, though, I hadn't seen Lisa in a very long time, and was hoping to do a little bit of catching up. Sure enough, I heard over the station loudspeaker that there were delays on the Brooklyn-bound trains and that uptown trains were moving at slower speeds. I got off the train and out of the station and walked to a different train. It had stopped raining by that point, for which I was grateful.


Lisa is one of the many people I met during my summer vacation in Barcelona back in 1993. (That's also where I met Vija.) It was a painting class arranged by my college as part of a program of art classes in Europe. I hadn't seen Lisa since that summer. I recently found her on Facebook; that's how I knew about her show. She was part of a big group exhibit in a gallery in someone's brownstone on the Upper West Side. 



Amazingly, she hadn't changed a bit looks-wise: tall, blonde and gorgeous. I was one of an army of friends and well-wishers who had come to her show, however - all of whom were more immediate parts of her life than me - and as it turned out, we didn't have time for more than a brief chat. I did, however, see Steve, another member of our erstwhile band of artists reconnected recently through Facebook. I had heard he might be there as well, so I was glad to see him too, since I hadn't seen him in 18 years either. We talked for a bit longer, but then I had to cut out.


After stopping into a deli for some food, I got back on the train, and by this time the delays were gone, though I was still worried about how crowded the park would be. I've been to Brooklyn Bridge Park a number of times in the past year or so (I went there last summer to see Some Like It Hot). It's a beautiful park, with the Bridge and the Manhattan skyline right in front of you. 

I got to the park at around eight and walked to the lawn where the movie screen was set up and wouldn't you know it... the lawn was packed near to capacity. I had hoped the rain might scare away a few people, but the rain had stopped for a couple of hours at least. Plus, this was the first movie in the series, which I had forgotten about. Many people were treating this event as an all-day picnic. I saw one group of people with a huge tray full of fried chicken, along with other kinds of food and drink, enough to feed a dozen at least! 


I carefully navigated my way through the minefield of beach blankets and tarps fulls of people to the far side of the lawn, where there was a small incline and small trees in a row. After a few minutes of walking up and down this area, I settled on a spot next to one of the trees, which worked out well after all because I could lean against it as I watched the movie.

As I spread out my blanket and got out my food, another problem arose. I distinctly remember ordering a ham and cheese sandwich, but I was given someone else's order by accident! I got a hamburger with the works, which might not have been so bad except I don't like ketchup on my hamburger, and I was only given one measly napkin to wipe it off the bun and burger. I got up and walked over to one of the promotional/customer service booths set up by the park and the movie series' sponsor, SyFy (yes, I realize Manhattan is not a sci-fi movie). The girl at the booth would not give me a napkin, even though she had an entire roll of paper towels behind her, citing some stupid house rule about limited supplies or something like that. I don't even remember. 

I was getting pissed. First I get the wrong order and now this. I managed to finagle a napkin from an ice cream vendor instead but I still couldn't wipe the ketchup off completely. Finally I said the hell with it and ate the burger without the bun. At least I had chips and a Snapple to go with it.



As this was the first show of the summer at Brooklyn Bridge Park, the pre-show announcements were accompanied by guest appearances from some local politicos looking to score points with the hoi polloi. There was a short film about New York tugboats. The filmmaker was about halfway across the lawn from me, surrounded by her friends. I know this because she stood up and waved when the emcee gave her a shout-out, although the emcee couldn't see her. For that matter, I couldn't see the emcee. That's how far back I was.


I must admit that I had never seen Manhattan before, even though I have seen most of Woody Allen's other films. People say that it's his paean to New York, but the truth is that Woody's New York is lily-white and upper-middle-class and always has been. I found the characters self-indulgent and thoroughly unlikeable, especially Woody's - his character's relationship with Muriel Hemingway is particularly creepy in light of his real-life relationship with Soon-Yi Previn. Maybe I needed to see this at another time, when I was a little less crabby over the subway and the sandwich and the napkin, but I doubt I would've liked the movie much more.


One part of the movie I should mention: there's a scene where Woody's complaining about a friend buying a new car, and he says something like, "All cars in Manhattan should be banned," and that got a small cheer from some people in the back. It was probably members of Transportation Alternatives, a local advocacy group that's a co-sponsor of the movie series. (They were there last night to valet park bicycles.) As much as I may complain about the subway, the bottom line is that New York is much better off with it than without it.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing a slice of NY life, Rich. Interesting how our mood and circumstances affect how we feel about a given film, we may feel differently if we watch it at a later time.

    I've never seen Manhattan but I can see that a lot of characters in Woody Allen movies are unlikable. I'm baffled as to why lots of actors want to work with him desperately.

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  2. I wouldn't say a lot of his characters are unlikeable, but with 'Manhattan' in particular it's like: you've got these privileged, affluent, over-educated white people who have nothing better to do than to lie to and cheat on each other. This doesn't have the pure comic gusto of 'Annie Hall' or the gravitas of 'Crimes and Misdemeanors.' It's just a bunch of unsympathetic people living in a glass bubble without any connection with the 'real' New York - which has more to do with subways and deli sandwiches and schmoozing politicians than anything in this movie.

    That said, however, when he's really on, Woody can be a superb writer, which is probably why Hollywood's finest continue to work with him. And I don't just mean actors - Gordon Willis' cinematography in 'Manhattan' is exquisite.

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  3. I last saw Manhattan as a Midnight Movie at the Sunshine. It was the end of a full evening of being with friends and food and not wanting the night to end. We didn't even pay to get in. I was with great company.

    The film didn't stand up. Woody Allen and Muriel Hemingway as a couple? Ridiculous. The pretentious assholes throughout the film. Even the freaking scene in the Guggenheim was just UGH! I'm not a fan of Woody's films generally, with only SLEEPER, BANANAS and ZELIG being the three I really really like. Those are also romantic comedies as well, but in a more roundabout way.

    I really don't think in a better setting you'd like Manhattan more. It should be retitled "Upper East Side and maybe a little downtown"

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  4. Yeah, that's another thing - for a movie called 'Manhattan,' we don't really see a whole lot of it outside of the beginning and end montages.

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  5. It freaks me out too when I saw Woody having a relationship with a 17 year old in a movie, and I also remembered his relationship with Soon-Yi. It's probably why it turned me off, despite of the beautiful views of NY in black and white.

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  6. In all fairness, the Soon-Yi affair happened after Woody made 'Manhattan,' but even within the context of the movie it's still disturbing to see him with an underage character.

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