Free film screenings are a great summer tradition in New York City. If the grass (or concrete, in some cases) stays cool and dry, if a space can be squeezed amongst the throngs of filmgoers, and if friends bring the requisite drinks and snacks, then it can make for a wonderful summer night. With half a dozen different locations showing free films every week, it can be hard to choose which flick to watch; however, I’ve been looking forward to one screening location for the other 8 months of the year.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is brand spanking new, with a lovely grassy expanse looking out over NY harbor. Furthermore, their opening screening of Woody Allen’s Manhattan is a match made in movie heaven. Granted, it’s not your typical summer movie: although the film is built upon Woody’s classically comedic & nebbishly anxious tone; this romantic flick was filmed as a March-October romance. I love it to death but I would happily replace it with any of my favorite New York Summer Swelter movies.
Before I get down to my top 3, let me define the Summer Swelter subgenre: These films typically take place in a single day or two—and the aforementioned day is the hottest one of the year. Tensions boil over with the mercury level and there is an urgent need for any of drama’s great catalysts: money, love, respect, and/or protection from malevolent forces with guns.
Without further delay, my Summer Swelter 3:
Die Hard With a Vengeance
It’s one hell of a day for John McClane. This is a seminal New York film, from the opening montage and unexpected explosion at a midtown Jewelry store to the mind-bending puzzles and riddles at classic New York locations: Grays Papaya, Tompkins Square Park and Yankee Stadium. To top it all off, Sameul L. Jackson performs one of the greatest supporting roles of all time, WELL BEFORE Taratino cemented him in the pantheon of cinema as a bad ass motherf*cker.
Summer of Sam
A Spike Lee joint, and one of his most underrated. Spike tells the story of the Son of Sam, one of the most terrorizing serial killers in New York’s history, not through a single day, but over the course of the summer of ’77. An outstanding ensemble cast led by Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, and John Leguizamo, these fine native New Yorkers spin a yarn of filial loyalty, youthful rebellion and deadly secrets. The icing on the cake is New York journalist Jimmy Breslin’s true-life introduction to the story of the hottest summer in NY’s history.
Dog Day Afternoon
My favorite film of all time stars a lithe, young Al Pacino and the greatest actor you never heard of, John Cazale who play Sonny and Sal, two Vietnam War veterans who attempt to rob a bank. Guess what? Nothing goes as planned. With a healthy mix of comedy, gut-wrenching suspense and a terrific analogy for the modern media as a three-ring-circus, this film is riveting from start to finish. Seminal New York filmmaker Sidney Lumet, who went on to the great screening room in the sky a few months ago, draws one of Pacino’s most energetic performances and Frank Pierson’s screenplay has a number of lines and moments that have been seared into my memory.
In summation, you can sit in your darkened studio bedroom and Netflix these classics, or you can head out to a big open-air screening and watch other films. Or you can do BOTH! Viva NYC in the summertime!
By Jonah Levy