Friday, November 04, 2005


Your Neighborhood on Screen

How cool is it to go to the movies, and as you're watching, recognize a building, or a street, or an area you know or live in? I always enjoy it when this happens. I can think of a handful of films that have this personal connection for me. The first time this happened was with the film Hero at Large, starring (the late) John Ritter. In the film, he plays a down-on-his-luck actor who takes a job dressing up as a screen superhero to promote an upcoming film and ends up becoming a folk hero himself when he stops a robbery while wearing the costume. Early in the film (to promote the movie within the movie), he's dropped off in front of The Elmwood theater, a now defunct theater in Queens, NY, that holds many memories for me. Likewise in Howard Stern's Private Parts, about one third of the way into the film, he escorts a starlet to a movie premiere and the theater they enter is The Drake, another, now defunct, theater I frequented as a teenager and young adult. It now serves as an adjunct to the restaurant next door. I was in Pennsylvania on vacation when I went to see Coming to America, so it particularly surreal to watch Eddie Murphy's character relocate to (my hometown of) Queens, NY and take a job at McDonald's (in the film, McDowell's) on Queens Blvd and to watch him look down the boulevard at the Queens Center shopping mall (where I have often shopped). Much of Spider-Man takes place (and was shot) in and around the quiet Tudor-styled neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens, an town where I lived for a few years, while I was married. (I even watched a scene from Spider-Man being shot on location while I was there.) It was a kick to recognize the restaurant Louie's of Port Washington, NY (a town where I worked for several years, and a place where I had lunch and dinner many times) and the Main St it's on in the film Meet the Parents. All of The Godfather films, Abel Ferrara's China Girl, Norman Jewison's Moonstruck and Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets all use areas of Little Italy (and Moonstruck, areas of Brooklyn) that I have visited many times. I also recognize parts of Queens in Scorsese's Goodfellas as well. And scenes from When Harry Met Sally... and Annie Hall take place on the streets of Greenwhich Village I passed on a daily basis as a student at NYU. It never fails to be fun to spot these places on screen.

I have had similar experiences watching films there were shot in and around Cincinnati. In fact, the prison gym scene from "An Innocent Man" starring Tom Selleck was filmed in the school where I work. I was flipping channels the other day and saw a car moving down a street that looked very familiar. Then I realized the movie was "Rain Man" which was partly filmed here. The most recent film of notariety was "Traffic." My dad met the director of the film as one of the apartments buildings used in the movie was a building that my dad managed.

It is also fun to go somewhere that you have never been and recognize the area because of a movie you've seen.
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