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Historic New York’s Catalogue of Crime and Decline: ‘Back to the Future’ Film Festival

For CITY JOURNAL, Michael Anton writesThe times in New York are about to get, as they say, “interesting.” Having elected a liberal dopier than David Dinkins and John Lindsay combined, New Yorkers are in for a wild ride. It’s been pointed out that fully one-third of the city’s population is under age 24 and another third between 25 and 44. That means that at least a third has no memory of the Dinkins or Lindsay eras at all—and well over half have no memory of the financial crisis, the welfare spike, the crime wave, the crack epidemic, the Crown Heights riots, the “vibrant” old Times Square, and the whole panoply of scum and villainy that for the better part of two decades made New York so gosh-darn “colorful.” And that’s only if you assume that everyone who lives here was born here. But New York’s fantastic run over the last 20 years has attracted a lot of out-of-towners, so the actual number of ignorant rubes in for the shock of their lives is higher. Well, all these transplants are about to discover, the hard way, that they aren’t in Kansas anymore.

[See also: The gritty 1970s photographs that capture New York when it was a city in decline as crime soared and hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants fled to the suburbs]

For anyone wishing to get acclimated ahead of time, New York’s colorful past has been amply recorded on film. What follows is a short tour through some of the most memorable, classic films of Old New York—not Edith Wharton’s but Travis Bickle’s.

crimedeclineNYC

Three caveats: first, please don’t consider this list exhaustive. It’s meant merely to be representative. Second, I’m including only films that were actually shot on location in New York. Hollywood back lots just can’t provide the same flavor. Third, I’m not including period pieces. Only films actually set and shot during New York’s Rust Age will be considered.

So, in chronological order, here we go…

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Liberal Nostalgia: Vision for NYC’s Future

De Blasio’s victory wouldn’t be possible without Giuliani’s successes and liberals’ short memories. 

Taxi Driver: Scene where Travis describes his nights, and how he thanks god for the rain.

The Big Apple’s Left Turn

Jonah Goldberg writes: The new mayor of New York City is a Red Sox fan. According to the rules of the New York I grew up in, I’d expect to see the Hudson turn into a river of blood and Zabar’s to close owing to a locust infestation before that happened.

But if de Blasio’s remarkable rise proves anything, it’s that the rules can change. A liberal’s crazy liberal, de Blasio still waxes nostalgic about the noble struggle of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, for whom he raised money in the 1980s. He violated the ban on travel to Cuba for his honeymoon with his formerly gay wife, and he often talks as if he’s handing out literature in Union Square for the left-wing New Party, for which he used to work.

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