Koch Reviews

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Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ August 31, 2015
"Koch" is an informative documentary about Edward I. Koch(1924-2013), the mayor of New York City from 1977 to 1989. He started by saving the city from bankruptcy while starting a troublesome trend of making the city more welcome to tourists and suburbanites than its own people. Throughout, his outsized personality proved perfect for the city's tabloids, as his politics became more conservative than those when he was a congressman representing just Greenwich Village.(By contrast, Kirsten Gillibrand's politics are much more liberal now that she is representing New York State as a Senator.) But his working both ends against the middle would eventually politically doom him.(If you want to see what New York City looked like in 1989, watch "Do the Right Thing.)

The biggest failure of his time in office was not doing enough during the AIDS crisis, with the Gay Men's Health Crisis picking up the slack in handling services that the city should have provided. As far as Koch's sexuality(or lack of) goes, I agree in an absolute sense of privacy but since Koch was publicly and proudly Jewish, shouldn't his sexuality be on the same level?

Overall, "Koch" does a good job of chronicling his life and times, with many then current conversations with the man himself, as the Queensboro Bridge is renamed in his honor. At the same time, the filmmakers could have cast a wider net in interview subjects, not just talking to his allies. For example, it would have helped if they at least also talked to Jimmy Breslin and Al Sharpton. And I know it's just a curious footnote, but I would also have liked to have seen more on his acting appearances that went beyond his hosting Saturday Night Live.
Super Reviewer
September 22, 2013
Barsky may have been a little too nice to Ed Koch with this film, but I appreciate the desire to openly examine his administration in all of it's little and big contradictions.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ August 31, 2015
"Koch" is an informative documentary about Edward I. Koch(1924-2013), the mayor of New York City from 1977 to 1989. He started by saving the city from bankruptcy while starting a troublesome trend of making the city more welcome to tourists and suburbanites than its own people. Throughout, his outsized personality proved perfect for the city's tabloids, as his politics became more conservative than those when he was a congressman representing just Greenwich Village.(By contrast, Kirsten Gillibrand's politics are much more liberal now that she is representing New York State as a Senator.) But his working both ends against the middle would eventually politically doom him.(If you want to see what New York City looked like in 1989, watch "Do the Right Thing.)

The biggest failure of his time in office was not doing enough during the AIDS crisis, with the Gay Men's Health Crisis picking up the slack in handling services that the city should have provided. As far as Koch's sexuality(or lack of) goes, I agree in an absolute sense of privacy but since Koch was publicly and proudly Jewish, shouldn't his sexuality be on the same level?

Overall, "Koch" does a good job of chronicling his life and times, with many then current conversations with the man himself, as the Queensboro Bridge is renamed in his honor. At the same time, the filmmakers could have cast a wider net in interview subjects, not just talking to his allies. For example, it would have helped if they at least also talked to Jimmy Breslin and Al Sharpton. And I know it's just a curious footnote, but I would also have liked to have seen more on his acting appearances that went beyond his hosting Saturday Night Live.
½ February 27, 2013
From 1978 to 1989, Ed Koch was the enormously powerful and enormously controversial Mayor of New York City. Elected to three terms before his eventual defeat, Mayor Koch's supporters claim that he helped lead New York out of bankruptcy and instituted many of the policies that led to New York's revival, while his opponents would argue he ignored the concerns of African-Americans and homosexuals. Using the framing device of a fight over renaming the Queensboro Bridge after the former Mayor, director Neil Barsky tells the story of Koch's mayoralty and provides insight into his life at the time of filming.

Both in the archival footage and the recent interviews conducted for the film, Ed Koch comes across at once funny, divisive, charming, maddening, clever, and strident. He is a man entirely comfortable with who he is: reliant for his happiness on the adoration of the public but unfazed by those who hate him. Yet even without an answer to who Mayor Koch was on a deeper level, "Koch" is a detailed and entertaining look at a fascinating time in New York City's history. Moving at a brisk pace for its 100 minutes, the film starts by providing the context of his term as Mayor and what he confronted when he moved to Gracie Mansion -- rampant crime, looming municipal bankruptcy, dysfunctional municipal government and services, a total breakdown in civil order -- and then goes on to cover many of the Mayor's works and initiatives. What clearly comes through is Ed Koch's larger than life personality as demonstrated in his cheering on city residents who walked to work over the Brooklyn Bridge during the 1980 transit strike.

The film also a fair hearing to some of the Mayor's biggest perceived failures; namely those who charge that he was insensitive to the African-American community in the closing of Sydenham Hospital, police brutality towards minorities, the myriad municipal corruption scandals in his last term, and his perceived inadequate response to the AIDS crisis. Despite the Mayor's protestations, these issues clearly are black marks on his legacy. Yet the Mayor's achievements are also shown, and it's clear that Ed Koch left New York City much better than he found it.

Neil Barsky makes his feature documentary debut here with a film that, astonishingly, might possibly please everyone, regardless of their opinion of Koch. With great good humor, including that of Koch himself, who appears to have cooperated fully in the production, Barsky paints a warts-and-all portrait of Ed Koch that is historically compelling, journalistically rigorous, and bursting with the larger than life character that Ed Koch was. Perhaps the remarkable thing about "Koch" is how generous it manages to be without losing its cool, impartial perspective on just how controversial Ed Koch was in almost every aspect of his mayoralty. As a final coda to punctuate his life, Ed Koch died one day before the film's premiere in the city he remade in his own image. Ed Koch was always a political showman and knew how to make an exit.
½ September 29, 2013
Really good documentary. Seeing NYC the way I remember it growing up in the 70's and 80's was nostalgic. Just wished that they expanded a bit more on some of the issues Koch had faced during his 3-term tenure as Mayor and more of what he had done after his tenure as Mayor. Not much was shown or discussed of the latter. Enjoyed the movie nonetheless.
½ August 30, 2013
It is a excellent documentary that presents an honest human portrait of the iconic larger-than-life one-time New York mayor who came to symbolize his great city. While the recently-deceased Ed Koch cooperated and was extensively interviewed in 2010 for the film, it is neither hagiography or a political hit piece. It is fair-minded and shows Koch as a politician who had great successes and great failures.
½ May 19, 2013
Very interesting doc. What a different world New York was back then. Seemed like it would have been more fun. Was filmed before he died. Could have gotten more in depth. Seemed to switch subjects when it was getting good.
February 6, 2013
where is it playing in 91732
February 3, 2013
Koch wasn't perfect but he was a character, and watching this movie while living in NYC today sure makes you appreciate the stuff he got right. R.I.P.
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