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The B+ Movie Guide: Part XXIX

In May of 2012, Colin said I should make a list of movies that need to be seen, because he felt there were huge gaps in what he’d seen, and wanted something to do. The idea was that I’d make up a list, as “homework” for him, and he’d use that as things to watch.

So we came up with a giant list of 500 movies that worked, and Colin went about finishing it. And now that it’s finished, we’re gonna write it up. Because you don’t watch a giant list of movies without documenting that you did it.

We’re going through the entire list, little by little, for posterity’s sake. And here’s the next set:

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Mike:

(2)

Colin:

One of the most famous, iconic, messed-up, prophetic stories of the 1970s. And Stanley Kubrick nailing it. Lots of violence (and ultra-violence), some sex (and rape) and plenty of droogs. It’s one of the giants of the dystopian genre. 

Dirty Harry (1971)

Mike:

(3)

Colin:

The first time most of us saw Eastwood outside of the wild West, and frankly, he’s not much different. What do you say about Dirty Harry? Everyone knows this movie and the movies that followed. Movies about cops who will use whatever means necessary to scare criminals shitless.

The French Connection (1971)

Mike:

I’ll defer to Colin on this one, but personally I like this chase better than Bullit’s. (2)

Colin:

There are a lot of other reasons to love this movie. Gene Hackman is another crazy cop. “Did you ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?!” Drugs, murders, hijackings — it’s got all the good stuff. The car chase… I’ll explain my reasoning.

For sure, it’s one of the best chases in the history of film. The way they stuck the camera low on the front bumper makes it that much more terrifying when a car pulls out in front of Hackman and he has to swerve. It’s also broken up nicely when Hackman gets out to go up the steps to the first station. Here’s where I’m less enthusiastic.

First, it’s sped up. The car wasn’t going that fast, and there are moments where you can tell they’re speeding up the film. Then, there’s the way it’s edited, which doesn’t allow for much continuity. We’re cutting back and forth between shots a little too fast to see where he is or how he’s progressing through the city. Someone who isn’t familiar with Brooklyn wouldn’t know the difference if they had shot the whole thing on the same three blocks, while the Bullitt chases moves through distinct neighborhoods and then onto a highway, using relatively long shots. The two main reasons that I prefer that chase to this one is that that one had character work and cars. So first, there was good character work in how it started with them following him slowly and how he then turned that around. We see him acting calm under pressure, and then the quiet shock on Hickman’s face as he sees the Mustang in the mirror. The cars are where you really have to give it to them, though — these are car guys with amazing vehicles who now have the chance to put their skills to the test. It’s a proper duel with serious weapons. McQueen in a Mustang GT 390 and Hickman in a Charger 440 Magnum. We see what the cars can do, get a feel for their characters, hear them wailing and watch them pushing the limits of what they’re capable of, against each other. Gene Hackman (actually, also Bill Hickman doing the driving) is in a 1971 Pontiac LeMans, an altogether uninspired choice, and he’s driving it in pursuit of a train, not another driver. That’s just less exciting to me. It’s still a great chase — it just prioritizes sensation more than style, and I watch old movies for style.

Harold and Maude (1971)

Mike:

What a beautiful movie about weird people. You know all those movies that the tumblr teenagers like now because it makes them feel as if finally someone gets them? Like that one in the mental institution with Zach Galifianakis? This was that movie for everyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s. Obviously, this year, if you saw Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, that owes a lot to this movie. (3)

Colin:

I never had that problem, because I guess I was just not a super weird teen. I also failed to identify with those kids, so I guess that’s all lost on me. I guess I enjoyed this because of Bud Cort. I first knew him from MASH and then lost my shit when I found out that he was the bond company stooge in The Life Aquatic. But really, people who decide that there’s a proper age to die…what the hell are you thinking?

The Last Picture Show - 39

The Last Picture Show (1971)

Mike:

Peter Bogdanovich. What a cast, too. This is one of those movies that was considered one of the greatest films of all time for a certain era. I don’t know if it holds up as much anymore. It’s in that next tier of “great, essential, cultural classics,” but not quite on that level of, you know — The Grapes of Wrath. Which isn’t a bad place to be. I just feel like that’s what’s happened in the ten years that I’ve really been into movies. (3)

Colin:

This is the movie I watched before going to Texas for the first time in my life. Weirdly, I found Texas to be both better and worse than this movie made it out to be. There was also less Jeff Bridges where I was.

mccabe-mrs-miller-7

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

Mike:

My favorite Robert Altman movie. I love this. This movie is so good. It’s a western, but almost not a western. It’s kind of strange. Takes a minute to get acclimated to. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. It’s… I don’t know. If you have the mindset for it, it’s incredible. Either way, everyone needs to see it. (3)

Colin:

There’s kind of a lot of Robert Altman going on around this point, huh? Nothing wrong with that, though. There’s also a lot of Warren Beatty going on. I’m not sure I really throw this in the Western category, even though that’s probably where it belongs. I didn’t see it until watching the list and everything about it seemed a bit off — not that it was a bad movie or not enjoyable, but rather that it was unlike any other Western I’d ever watched. Even stuff that sort of breaks the mold like Jeremiah Johnson still sort of has the feel you look for in a Western, and this one just didn’t. It’s not even a case like you see in other Revisionist Westerns where you’re given a hero or a group of heroes who then turn out to be unheroic. This one just never gives you a hero to begin with. I guess that’s why I was so fascinated by it. It sort of defies classification in that regard. 

Straw Dogs (1971)

Mike:

Yeah… this movie. Bad things happen to Dustin Hoffman and his wife. Controversial at the time because of the way it depicts rape. And the entire third act is crazy good. (3)

Colin:

This movie. Eesh. I got to the end of this thinking, “Who the hell would want to move to this place, anyway?” Dustin Hoffman moves to this English village with his British wife and things are very, very bad. I’m not sure Sam Peckinpah was able to do things that weren’t shocking at this point.

However, it’s also notable because of what it says about American masculinity. I think the whole subversion of the macho man persona as seen in Hoffman’s rise to stardom was called into question in this film, and his character responds in a very un-Hoffman way. At least until that point. Most of his characters thus far had been fairly compromising in their conduct, second-guessing themselves or giving up at some point. This guy behaves that way for a while, but once you cross the line, that’s it. I was blown away by the last third of this movie. As were some other people. In the movie.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Mike:

(1)

Colin:

There has never been a movie that was as sweet and as creepy at the same time. Roald Dahl just had that going for himself, didn’t? Sweetness and creepiness at the same time? Gene Wilder, national treasure as he was, gives a once in a lifetime performance here with a bunch of kids who end up in serious peril at their own faults. There’s something messed up about listening to Wilder sing those lovely songs and then watch a child almost die, and then listen to midgets sing cautionary polka. But hey, we all grew up on it.

1776 - 1

1776 (1972)

Mike:

This movie combines my two great loves, musicals and musicals about American history. Who the hell wouldn’t want to see a musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence? John Adams is played by Mr. Feeny! Everyone needs to see this movie. It’s so good. I am wary of anyone who doesn’t like this movie. (3)

Colin:

This is exactly how it happened, as far as I’m concerned. They should show this movie to middle school kids on the first day of civics or government or whatever children study these days. Our modern political system is in a shambles because we don’t have enough singing. Watch them sing this song and tell me that isn’t a way better version of things than whatever you learned from a dumb old textbook.

Cabaret - 16

Cabaret (1972)

Mike:

One of the greatest musicals ever made. One of the greatest films ever made. Bob Fosse only directed five movies in his life. Three of them are full stop essential. Two of them are way up there on the greatest movies ever made list. This is one of them. (2)

Colin:

This is the biggest movie about the rise of the Nazi regime that doesn’t really care about the rise of the Nazi regime. Dancing, singing… cabaret. Progressive sexuality, big ideas about women’s independence, and a specter of doom. Though, when I think about this movie now, I find myself going back to the songs performed by the Emcee, Joel Grey, who got an Oscar for just doing that stuff. I mean, wow.

– – – – – – – – – –

Final Thoughts:

Mike:

I miss the 70s. That is all.

Colin:

I still miss the 30s – 60s more. But taking a good look at this list… we’re still doing pretty well.

– – – – – – – – – –

More movies tomorrow.

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