Let Me Tell You About NYC – A Film by Andrei Shah

Let Me Tell You About NYC

Once upon a time the place was called (among other things) the center of the world. That’s along with The City that Never Sleeps. And New York is famous for The Great White Way (aka Broadway and Times Square) as well as having a Little Italy, and a Chinatown which make up just two of a multitude of neighborhoods – what you might call ‘villages’ within the overall confines of New York.

I know this for a fact as I am a former New Yorker who lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (East 91st Street between Park and Madison Avenues) through parts of four decades. My neighbors at times were Woody Allen, journalist and author Carl Bernstein, film director Sidney Lumet, actor Burt Young, hockey star Wayne Gretzky to name but a few.

Across the street was The Dalton School – First Program where the children of Diana Ross and Donald Sutherland attended and napped in their very first classrooms. I think I saw Kiefer Sutherland in a pram before he was even old enough to count to 24. Across Madison, but still on 91st was the The Spence School, an all-girls school. The daughters of the Bouviers, Bloombergs, Fricks, Astors, and Bianca Jagger went to school there. And at the end of the block – on the corner of 91st Street and Fifth Avenue is the Convent of the Sacred Heart, once a private home, now a private school.

Let’s see, Ethel, Joan, and Caroline Kennedy went to school there. As did Gloria Vanderbilt, Elaine Stritch, Suri Cruise (yes, that would be Tom’s daughter), as well as Stefani Germanotta who these days is widely known around the world by her working name – Lady Gaga.

That was my neighborhood.

Nowadays I take the sun, my morning coffee, and when I shave, the cuttings circle down the drain in Sarasota, Florida. So I’ve lived in the Big Apple, rooted for the Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers for so long that I can recite the New York anthem, called New York, New York and made famous by Frank Sinatra – by heart.

But that’s just me.

For others, visiting or living in New York is either a strong desire, a fond wish, or a bucket-list item, so they come, and they’ll struggle to survive (to make it) and maybe they do, or maybe they don’t. But they continue to come and give it a try.

New York is not the easiest place to live – just have a look at the lyrics from Tom Waits crooning about the Downtown Train

Or Billy Joel singing about coming back because he’s in a New York State of Mind.

Then there’s Alicia Keys known best for her stirring and hopeful Empire State of Mind.

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York!
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New Yooork!

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Hail, Caesar!

From Golgotha to West Malibu….from Busby Berkeley to Preston Sturges to the near never-ending series of MGM musicals – if you are of a certain age, or are familiar with That’s Entertainment (from 1974), then this is an ideal film for you.

Actually Hail, Caesar begins in the confessional box in a church somewhere. It is 4 in the morning, and Eddie Mannix, played brilliantly by Josh Brolin is feeling the need to get something off his chest. It seems he’s been smoking due to the pressures of his work (running a major Hollywood studio), and he’s promised his wife that he had or would give up smoking.

So begins the Coen Brothers homage (or is it a send-up?) of the old Hollywood , circa early 1950’s, when the studios controlled the actors under the star system. Now Brolin’s Mannix runs Capitol Studios – a thinly disguised MGM – and answers only to an unseen head of the overall corporation who is based in New York or somewhere other than Hollywood.

In truth, this is a zany look at the movies from actual movies being shot – there are westerns, a biblical film (Hail, Caesar), light-hearted drawing-room comedies – many within the huge sound stages, and others on location on studio back-lots. We get to the editing process, the studio campus and commissary, and even the uniformed guard at the studio gate has a speaking role.

We get to watch a director struggling and failing to get an actor to effectively say something like, Would that it twere so simple.

But wait there’s more. There’s a kidnapping, there’s the threat of the Communist scourge, Mannix is doing a film (the film within the film that we are watching called Hail, Caesar – A Tale of the Christ) that requires him to sit down with a priest, a rabbi, a reverend, and a Greek Orthodox cleric and ask them if they’ve done a credible version of Jesus.

Now this scene falls a little short of being howlingly funny, and it is more like a take-off on an old joke – 4 clerics walk into a bar – only it is not a bar but an oak-panel board room of the film studio.

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