"You got extra rooms here right?!" quipped Spike Lee at last night's Grand Classics screening of Midnight Cowboy at the W Downtown as a lightning storm raged outside, lending the evening a cozy, if not slightly apocalyptic, feel.
Grand Classics, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, first began as a way to bring people together following the events of Sept. 11, giving a platform for celebrated actors and directors to share films that have inspired them, and to celebrate New York in cinema.
Lee selected Midnight Cowboy, the Academy Award-winning, 1969 film starring Jon Voigt as a Texas hustler, and Dustin Hoffman as the iconic "I'm walkin' here!" Ratso Rizzo, when Grand Classics first started ten years ago, but as the filmmaker maintains, "This shit keeps gettin' better."
"In '69, I was 12 years old. I wasn't worried too much about films," Lee said. "'69 was a great year here in New York, and to watch this film, this is a document of New York City at that time. It's changed a lot."
Lee also gave a shout-out to pal Susan Sarandon, who was in attendance. "I want you to know—West 8th Street, I was right there for Rocky Horror every night! Right next to Electric Lady Studios."
"What were you wearing?" Sarandon heckled from the audience. "I didn't dress up! I was in high school!" Lee countered, crushing our dreams of seeing the filmmaker in full-on Tim Curry transvestite regalia.
The evening kicked off with a cocktail reception on the hotel's 5th-floor lounge and terrace, where guests sipped wine and munched on sliders and mini quiche.
Others in attendance at the W's financial district outpost were Alvin Valley, Amy Heckerling, David Denman, Lucy Sykes Rellie, Sofia Sondervan, Whit Stillman, and Cary Woods.
We caught up with Whit Stillman (looking dapper in pressed khakis and a madras jacket) and his date for the evening, Lucy Sykes Rellie. "It's fascinating to get to know this neighborhood better. It's kind of the dark side of the moon for some of us," the Damsels in Distress filmmaker told Interview. "But another reason for me to be going to these parties is to bludgeon people like Lucy into seeing my film! Most of the marketing campaign for the film now is me coming to parties."
And their favorite depiction of New York on film? "There are so many. I would say Annie Hall," Stillman said. Sykes Rellie picked a classic as well. "Breakfast at Tiffany's! You know what would be really good? Having the rap song, "New York" by Jay-Z and cutting it to Breakfast at Tiffany's." Jay, take note for your next music video.
Following the reception, guests were taken up to the hotel's 31st floor to the screening room, where they enjoyed an assortment of retro candy, spiced popcorn, and plenty of champagne amidst panoramic (albeit stormy) views of the East River and Lower Manhattan.
Tickets for the July 31 screening are on sale and available to the public online; all proceeds will benefit NYU Film School.—Colleen Kelsey