New York City is populated with more than 8 million people total, each one of them a unique living, breathing story.
This week, amidst your still-snowy surroundings, skip the fictional stuff to instead explore real-life, local tales. With this list of worthwhile documentaries ranging from gritty to touching (or both), you'll find hours of entertainment and enlightenment that will truly hit close to home.
The Cruise (1998) follows strange and lovable Tim "Speed" Levitch, a tour guide for Manhattan's Gray Line double-decker tour buses. Throughout the film, Levitch reflects on his love for the job and the city as a whole and relays bizzarely hard-hitting philosophies via his longterm "on again, off again" relationship with the Big Apple.
Man on Wire (2008) received much critical praise for its gripping tale of French street performer Philippe Petit's brave but illegal venture to tightrope walk between the World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974. Interviews with those involved as well as archived footage send viewers on a tense, emotional ride from the idea's inception to its unlikely success.
Herb & Dorothy (2008) sets out to redefine what it means to be an art collector by telling the story of Herb and Dorothy Vogel, a New York couple of modest means who amassed one of the most impressive collections of minimalist modern art in history. Follow the adorably likable, inseparable couple as they revisit artists they supported in their careers' infancy by purchasing small, inexpensive pieces.
Dark Days (2000) goes underground, literally, to speak with a "family" of a dozen or so homeless men and women who have squatted in abandoned subway tunnels for years. Filmmaker Marc Singer lived with the community for a month in order to show the intricate, sometimes ingenius, systems built to live in these pitch-dark caves.
Not a true documentary, but created with the feel of one is Man Push Cart (2005). In it, writer and director Ramin Bahrani chronicles a night in the life of Ahmad, a former Pakistani rock star who now sells coffee and donuts from a push cart on the streets of Manhattan. This "Everyman" tale explores the loneliness and hope behind dreams continually deferred.
Crazy Love (2007) unwraps the bizarre true love story of Linda Riss and Burt Pugach, both born-and-raised New Yorkers. This tabloid-esque tale of twisted obsession made headline news when it happened, and instead of giving too many details away, we'll simply say the romantically deranged, crime-ridden ride will leave you in disbelief.
PBS's Emmy-winning New York is an expansive, seven-part look at the history of New York City. Narrated by David Ogden Stiers and directed by filmmaker Ric Burns, the 14.5-hour journey will enlighten you to the intricate, fascinating details of how the buildings, streets, and infrastructure around you originally came to be.
Blank City (2010) looks back at the 1970s, when Manhattan provided the rat, drug, and crime infested home to burgeoning musicians and artists. Interviews with greats like John Waters, Steve Buscemi, Deborah Harry, and Jim Jarmusch shed light on how the DIY movement's seeds were planted and able to grow in this gritty, madness-fueled atmosphere.
What other documentaries about or based in New York City have you seen and loved? Let us know which films we missed in the comments!