The B+ Movie Guide: Part XXXII

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:

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Mike:

Personally I don’t consider this that essential, but I wanted to not overlook the horror genre, as is my wont to do. And I think Colin felt the same way, which is how this ended up on there. (3)

Colin:

This is here to represent the low-budget horror genre, which really picks up with this movie. I mean, they made this movie for like six dollars and some belly-button lint. Turns out, it’s actually freaky — inbred murders with hammers and meat hooks and… chainsaws — and considerably more impressive than I was expecting. You need to know it because Leatherface is up there with Freddy and Jason and all the other horror icons that are disgust– er, discussed.

The Towering Inferno (1974)

Mike:

This is The Poseidon Adventure but with a burning building instead of a capsized ship. It’s great. Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, O.J. Simpson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, Richard Chamberlain — it’s a big ensemble disaster movie. (3)

Colin:

That about wraps it up. I was going to rewatch this soon, since I saw it growing up and didn’t watch it again for the list. You’ve got Paul Newman as the architect, William Holden as 70s Donald Trump, Steve McQueen as the coolest fire chief you’ve ever seen, and even Fred Astaire as an aging, romantic con man! There are a lot of movies that I watched growing up and subsequently forgot, but this movie is one classic thrill after another with a cast that would get anyone excited. And Ernest Borgnine doesn’t die! He’s not in it, but I still call that a selling point for disaster movies.

A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

Mike:

You have to mention at least one Cassavetes movie. He had such a unique style and was such a huge part of independent cinema during this era that one of them has to go on the list. This, to me, is his best. Gena Rowlands is incredible, and this is by far Peter Falk’s best dramatic performance. It’s not easy to get through, though. If you had trouble with Blue Valentine, you’re gonna have trouble with this. But it’s so worth it. (3)

Colin:

I did have trouble watching this, not gonna lie. I’m also not sure if or when I’ll watch it again, just because it was really hard to get through. All of that said, I’m not denying for even a second that this was a masterwork with performances the likes of which most film lovers are unaccustomed with. Gena Rowlands has mental issues, Peter Falk is her husband trying to deal with that. Cassavetes messes with Falk’s denial and his ineptitude as a husband and a father in the face of Rolands’ complete breakdown. It’s one of the few movies on this list with a strong message that never really makes you feel better at any point. It pushes the limits of what film narrative can do with two excellent actors. I was utterly devastated after watching this movie. 

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Mike:

(2)

Colin:

Mel Brooks really nailed the references to Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein here. I hadn’t seen those two when I saw this for the first time in high school, and it was already funny then. There’s very little horror here — it’s a comedy take on horror that does comedy better than most comedies. The perfect example is this GIF. Instead of having the monster perform some mundane task, Wilder’s Frankenstein has him tap dance to Puttin’ on the Ritz. That’s just spectacular.

Barry Lyndon - 169

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Mike:

This is the Kubrick movie that you can’t explain why it’s great, and it doesn’t sound great, but everyone who sees it is riveted by it. It’s a three hour movie about a dude in 18th century Europe. And it’s just fascinating. I’ve had friends who are not the audience for a movie like this who sat down and watched it, and every one of them said, “I don’t know why this was amazing, but it was.” There are a million reasons to talk yourself out of watching this movie, and yet when you do it just grabs you. Only Kubrick could do that. I don’t know how he did but, but he did. (3)

Colin:

This is a really long movie about stuff that you normally wouldn’t be super interested in. You’re following Ryan O’Neal as a European would-be gentleman, from Ireland to the Continent. It’s one of those stories (Forrest Gump is probably the example people are most familiar with) in which a character’s fortunes and pursuits change so often, you wonder how they could possibly sustain any sort of normalcy in life.

I’m also well aware that most Kubrick movies are more beloved than this one, for pretty obvious reasons. Don’t write it off. It’s still a brilliant movie, even if it doesn’t fit in with the rest of his repertoire just the way you’d like.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Mike:

(2)

Colin:

This move was pretty 70s, huh? Bank, hostages, cops, Pacino. All I can say is, when the woman from Saturday Night Fever says, “I just kissed Al Pacino,” I don’t think she was thinking of him in this role. 

Jaws (1975)

Mike:

(1)

Colin:

I don’t like swimming in the ocean.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail - 25

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Mike:

At least one had to go on here. This feels like the obvious choice, of all their films. Nothing like that good old ridiculously brilliant British humor. (2)

Colin:

This is clearly the obvious choice of all their films. I must have seen this for the first time in middle school, and by the seventh grade, pretty much every kid who was even slightly dorky could quote the entire thing. It’s to the point where it’s so cultishly quotable with dorks that you want to dislike it — that’s how I feel about Rocky Horror Picture Show and V for Vendetta too. But you have to like this because it is actually pretty funny. I’ll admit that like 80 percent of Monty Python isn’t for me, but this really is. It’s absurd, it’s watchable… you’ve seen it.

Nashville (1975)

Mike:

Robert Altman’s masterpiece. Most people call this his finest achievement. If you only see one Robert Altman movie — that is to say, if only one Robert Altman movie had to be considered essential, this is the one. (2)

Colin:

A lot of this is the cast and the music. I’m not much of a fan of the music, but that’s kinda okay because the movie is about so much more. Particularly the aspiration and the personality that come with the music industry. I’ve never seen a movie handle a scene of a tone-deaf woman in tears, stripping for a room of rowdy men, like this movie did.

You want to watch this for the awesome performances. First, Henry Gibson as a famous musician with political ambitions. Then, Shelley Duval as a woman who just wants to sleep with musicians. Oh, and Jeff Goldblum just rides around on a motor tricycle. How awesome is that?

one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-19

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Mike:

There’s something perfect about this movie. It beat Jaws, Barry Lyndon, Nashville and Dog Day Afternoon for Best Picture, and somehow it’s okay. Nicholson is incredible here. Louise Fletcher — wow. And then Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Brad Dourif. It’s really amazing. (2)

Colin:

There are movies about asylums (isn’t it weird that the plural of ‘asylum’ isn’t ‘asyla?’ What’s with that?), and then there’s this movie. And then there’s Midnight Express, but that’s sort of a different matter. This is the movie about Nicholson raising hell in an asylum, trying to get out and failing, and generally being tormented by Nurse Ratched. Louise Fletcher made the list of top villains of all time for her role as a nurse. A nurse. How do you not appreciate that?

If you can make it through the ending of this movie without feeling a complete sense of anguish, I don’t know how your head works. 

– – – – – – – – – –

Final Thoughts:

Mike:

Yes to all of this. I probably should be pointing out other things that could be here instead. But honestly, we’re 65% finished with this list, so at this point, let’s just ride it out.

Colin:

What here isn’t essential? You’re not arguing that stuff on this list is not essential, though I doubt that most people have seen A Woman Under the Influence. That one — you probably know it’s essential and just haven’t gotten around to watching it. Fair enough, because it’s one hell of a hard movie to watch. Everything else, though… we’re smack dab in the middle of the 70s. You’re going to start knowing more and more of the movies on this list. We’ve got less than 20 days left to go.

– – – – – – – – – –

More movies tomorrow.

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