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Mike’s Top Ten of 1971

1971. There’s a year. This is where the proper 70s begin. This is where all the below the line stuff is just awesome, and it’s all weird 70s stuff, and not just ‘old school Hollywood’ stuff. Not that old school Hollywood stuff is bad, but it doesn’t fit what this decade is all about.

This year in particular though… it’s got some bangers. Look at that top ten list. One hidden gem, one weird movie that I love, but the rest are all straight classics (or at the very least part of famous franchises). The top ten is so strong. But, what’s even cooler is that there are such great films all the way down the line. You don’t just stop at the top ten in a year like this. You’re gonna find great stuff all the way through.

Pay attention, kids. The 70s are a decade you don’t wanna just skim through.

Mike’s Top Ten of 1971

A Clockwork Orange

Diamonds Are Forever

Dirty Harry

The French Connection

The Last Picture Show

McCabe & Mrs. Miller

Straw Dogs

Summer of ‘42

Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

11-20: The Anderson Tapes, Brian’s Song, Duck You Sucker!, Duel, Fiddler on the Roof, Get Carter, Harold and Maude, Klute, Nicholas and Alexandra, Walkabout

Tier two: $, 10 Rillington Place, The Andromeda Strain, Bananas, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Beguiled, The Boy Friend, Carnal Knowledge, The Emigrants, The Hospital, Kotch, Le Mans, Little Murders, A New Leaf, The Omega Man, Red Sun, Shaft, THX 1138, Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point

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1. The French Connection

“That son of a bitch is here. I saw him. I’m gonna get him.”

This movie gets better in my estimation every time I see it. I keep thinking, “It’s just a police procedural thriller, there’s no way it can be that good.” But it can. And it is.

William Friedkin rightly won an Oscar for directing this and the film won Best Picture, which is both nuts to me and makes total sense, because this was the best film of 1971. Gene Hackman (who won his first Oscar for this) and Roy Scheider star as two cops trying to chase down a heroin smuggling ring. There’s such iconic moments in this movie — Hackman in a Santa suit chasing down a perp, “Did you ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?”, the car chase (which apparently was half stolen shots!), the foot chase, and that final sequence.

It’s stunning how well this movie holds up. Quite honestly one of the best American movies ever made.

2. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

“Try some more. The strawberries taste like strawberries, and the snozzberries taste like snozzberries.”
“Snozzberries? Who ever heard of a snozzberry?”
“We are the music makers… and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

It’s Willy Wonka. What more do I have to say?

This movie is perfect, this movie is all of our childhoods, and we all love this movie, very, very much.

In a way, this should be #1, but I’m not gonna let nostalgia completely win out. But we all know how much we love this movie, so it’s fine. Does the ranking really matter after a certain point? No one’s coming here to be recommended this movie. If that’s the case, you got a lot more movie watching to do before I can help you.

3. McCabe & Mrs. Miller

“If a man is fool enough to get into business with a woman, she ain’t going to think much of him.”

This is my favorite Robert Altman film. I just adore this movie. It’s a western that’s also an anti-western. It completely subverts every western trope that you know. It’s brilliant.

Warren Beatty plays a gambler who shows up to a sleepy northwest town and immediately starts taking over. He’s smart and talks fast, and immediately starts bending the laid back townspeople to his whim. He starts enterprising, and sets up a brothel. Though pretty soon, Julie Christie, a proper madam, shows up to run a proper whorehouse. The two enter into a unique relationship. Though pretty soon a mining company wants to move in and buy up land, and Beatty doesn’t want to sell, which brings forth the prospect of violence. It’s — really good.

This is the first time Altman used his now-trademark overlapping dialogue. Which plays hell with the sound design, since this was all shot on location, and it gives the film a very unique soundscape.

What’s also fascinating to me about this movie is how little of it is dedicated to the actual relationship referenced in the film’s title.

Oh, and the movie has songs composed by Leonard Cohen. I could keep going on about it. It’s so great.

I know everyone thinks Nashville is the masterpiece, and they’re probably not wrong, but give me this one any day over that one. This movie is just so great in so many ways. This is the kind of movie I’d want to show people in a film class and dissect it endlessly, because there’s so much going on here, from a filmmaking standpoint to a storytelling standpoint to a western genre standpoint.

4. A Clockwork Orange

“It had been a wonderful evening and what I needed now to give it the perfect ending was a bit of the old Ludwig van.”

I mean, yeah. It’s A Clockwork Orange. Everyone goes in for a little ultraviolence.

One of Kubrick’s most iconic films. It’s nuts how all over the shop he was, and how good all of the films are. Consider this: to this point, he started by making noirs, then made an all-time epic in Spartacus, an adaptation of Lolita that is still iconic because of that image of Sue Lyons, Dr. Strangelove, one of the greatest comedies and one of the greatest satires ever made, and 2001, which — fucking hell, right?

If I have my facts correct (we don’t fact check here), this is the film that got Kubrick to stay in London for the rest of his life. I think the death threats he got from this one (along with his fear of flying) led to him staying pretty secluded.

But yeah, it’s Clockwork, we all know how good this is. I don’t need to get into all that other stuff. We all know this movie and we know how great it is. We all saw this in high school when we were getting into movies and, while we didn’t fully understand it, we all loved it and understood its greatness.

5. The Last Picture Show

“One thing I know for sure. A person can’t sneeze in this town without somebody offering them a handkerchief.”

I’ve had a complicated history with this movie. I saw it before I was aware enough to appreciate it. Then I started getting into movies and the Oscars, and I saw all the wrong people talking about how great this movie was, and then I started to get the opinion that the film was overrated. (In a sense, I still think that, but in a very specific way that has nothing to do with the film’s quality.) But the more I go back and watch it over the years, the more I appreciate it.

It’s unquestioningly Peter Bogdanovich’s masterpiece. I prefer Paper Moon to this one, which is his other masterpiece, but this is the one for which he will be known forever. (His next film is also quite good, but we’ll get to that in 1972.)

It’s about life in a small town, and we follow the lives and dramas of the people there. It’s got a great cast: Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Eileen Brennan, Timothy Bottoms, Randy Quaid. It’s absolutely terrific. Fantastic performances all around. The film won both Supporting acting Oscars this year, for Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman.

You can’t get into film without coming across this one really early. It’s a fantastic film, and one I will caution against getting into too soon. Because while it is a laid back, straightforward kind of movie, it’s not gonna be this enlightening stroke of genius that’ll hit you over the head the way something like Citizen Kane hits you over the head. It’s a subtle masterpiece, and I think the people who oversell it are doing it a disservice. I prefer to say — this movie is quite good, and you should sit back and enjoy it one day when you’ve got the time.

6. Diamonds Are Forever

“Hi, I’m Plenty.”
“But of course you are.”
“Plenty O’Toole.”
“Named after your father perhaps?”

So Sean Connery leaves the Bond franchise after You Only Live Twice. They then pick up George Lazenby, completely hamstring him by making the first twenty minutes of his film a love letter to Connery, and on top of that, give him the least Bond movie of the entire franchise (which also happens to be one of the best of the franchise, but that’s beside the point).

After that movie was completed, Lazenby said, “I’m out.” Why? Because I’m sure the producers treated him like shit and spent the entire time going, “You’re no Connery. Plus, we run the show, so shut up and do what we say, because this is our playground.” The head of United Artists, as they were prepping this film, went, “Fucking get Connery back.” So they gave him a crazy high salary and agreed to make two films that he wanted to make (one of which was The Offence, which will feature into 1973’s article. The other was a Macbeth adaptation that they abandoned because Polanski beat them to the punch. But imagine that film. An actual Scotsman playing Macbeth). And here we have Connery returning to the role for a sixth and final time.

It is the weakest of the Connery Bond films, but that really only goes to show how strong the other five are. This is still a really solid Bond movie, one that I would place above at least five of the Roger Moore films, possibly both of the Dalton films and I’d say three of the four Brosnan films.

Interestingly, the film opens with continuity, having Bond on the hunt for Blofeld after the events of the previous film. (One could argue that it’s after the events of Connery’s previous film as well. There’s an interesting continuity there.) Then the rest of the film becomes about diamond smuggling. It bears a lot of the great franchise hallmarks — car chases (a great one through Vegas), pun character names (Plenty O’Toole — named after her father, perhaps) and great quips (“Your problems are all behind you now,” as he shoves a cassette tapes in a woman’s bikini bottom). I also really like an early elevator fight Bond has with a smuggler. That’s a highlight of the film for me.

Overall, I’d say this is about middle of the pack for Bond films. It’s solid and enjoyable, but not as great as the real classics of the franchise. It is very rooted in its era, with references to Howard Hughes and the alleged fake Moon Landing. But that’s the joy of the franchise, isn’t it? Wait til we get to the next Bond film, if you wanna talk about rooted in its era.

7. Dirty Harry

“I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

One of the great cop films of all time and probably the most iconic. Even without having seen the film, everyone knows that monologue and understands what the phrase “Dirty Harry” means. (To the point where there really isn’t even a sex joke about it. It’s too famous for that.)

What’s so interesting about this movie is how specific it is. The killer in the movie is the Zodiac killer. The dude calls himself Scorpio and is so clearly rooted in Zodiac it’s crazy this movie became as iconic as it did and spawned a franchise. But yeah, Eastwood is a San Francisco police detective sent to track down the killer. It’s awesome.

It’s a really well-made film, directed by Don Siegel, who made five films with Eastwood, all of which are good. This was their fourth collaboration, after Coogan’s Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sara and The Beguiled (which will feature down below).

What I like best about this movie is actually the procedural aspect and not the stuff that people remember it for, like the monologue. I really like how rooted in police work it is. (Well, you know, as much as it could be, I guess.)

8. Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?

God, I love this movie so much. I had no idea what it was until I started the Oscar Quest. Then you see a movie with this title and immediately think, “What the hell is this?” It earned a stray nomination for Barbara Harris in Best Supporting Actress, and that is the only reason I saw it when I did. I’d like to think my love of Dustin Hoffman would have led me to it eventually, but who knows?

The film is — I don’t even know how to explain it. The only way I ever try is by giving you the opening sequence and letting you decide from there.

The film begins with a long zoom onto a high rise balcony at night, while Dustin Hoffman composes a suicide note. Takes him about four minutes to actually finishes the note, which he rereads and alters at least once. The note then flies out of his hand in the wind, causing him to fall over the balcony. The opening credits then play over Dr. Hook’s “Last Mornin'” as he falls in slow motion. And then finally, when we get to the end of the credits, he lands on his psychiatrist’s cough. And the movie just takes off from there.

The entire thing is presented stream-of-consciousness, and completely shifts gears on a whim. It’s very much of its era, and very surreal and absurdist. At one point, Jack Warden, who plays the psychiatrist, responds by mouthing the words to Ray Charles’ “Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles.” At another point, he shows up dressed like Santa Claus. At another point, he speaks inexplicably in a Jamaican accent. It’s all over the place.

This is not for everyone, but holy shit, was this for me. I love how nuts it is. It feels profound, in a very insignificant way. This is one of my favorite hidden gems of the 70s.

9. Straw Dogs

“Ok, you’ve had your fun. I’ll give you one more chance, and if you don’t clear out now, there’ll be real trouble. I mean it.”

Our second film featuring a pretty graphic rape scene. You take the good with the bad when you’re in the 70s.

This and The Wild Bunch are probably the pinnacle of Sam Peckinpah’s career. They’re the two films for which he is best known, and the two films that perfectly capture what he, personally, was able to bring to the medium of film. There’s a poetry to the violence in his films, and sometimes that poetry is pretty brutal.

This film is one where the violence is very much built toward, and once everything boils over, it really boils over. Dustin Hoffman (two in a row for him!) plays a scholar who moves to the UK with his wife. Her ex-boyfriend and his thuggish friends soon come around and end up being hired to paint the couple’s house. However, the group resents Hoffman, a foreigner, who married a local girl and seems way less tough and manly than they are, and tensions begin to mount. Things boil over during a particularly famous scene, and then it’s just fucking violence.

Dustin Hoffman is terrific here, and this is a film that seems like only Sam Peckinpah could have told it. It’s so well done and had anyone else attempted it, I don’t think the complexities of the characters would have shown through. And I think there would have been way more action had other people tried it.

10. Summer of ’42

“Life is made up of small comings and goings. And for everything we take with us, there is something that we leave behind. In the summer of ’42, we raided the Coast Guard station four times, we saw five movies, and had nine days of rain. Benji broke his watch, Oscy gave up the harmonica, and in a very special way, I lost Hermie forever.”

One of the most underrated coming-of-age movies of all time.

Directed by Robert Mulligan (of Mockingbird fame), it was the sixth-highest grossing film of 1971. It’s similar to Mockingbird in that it’s a film about an older person reminiscing about a particular time in their childhood. The main boy is 15, and he spends his summers on Nantucket. At first, the film is him and his group of friends hanging out, looking at girls and trying to get laid. Like all kids. But then the kid ends up becoming friends with a beautiful woman that lives on the island whose husband has gone off to fight in the war. It’s a beautiful film about a boy’s first love, and it’s so, so good.

It’s got that ‘boys coming of age’ feel of films like Stand by Me and has that nostalgic kind of feel like The Sandlot. I had no idea what this was for the longest time and fell in love real hard with this. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

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11-20:

The Anderson Tapes — One of the great 70s thrillers that’s forgotten today. I’m gonna sell this one to you real easy. It was directed by Sidney Lumet, written by Frank Pierson (who wrote Cool Hand Luke and Dog Day Afternoon) and stars Sean Connery, Christopher Walken, Dyan Cannon, Ralph Meeker, Martin Balsam, Alan King and Garrett Morris. You in? Because you should be in. It’s one of those 70s paranoia films in the vein of The Conversation and The Parallax View. Connery plays a guy just out of prison after doing time for the son of a mob boss. He gets his payment for doing the time and uses that to bankroll a heist. It’s great. A triple feature of those three films is one that that features some of the best thrillers of all time. The Conversation is well known but is still a hidden gem, and as you get to The Parallax View and then this, you get even more into the gem territory. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough, and something like this is why you came here. Go see it.

Brian’s Song — One of two TV movies on this list, which just happen to be two of the most famous TV movies ever made. It’s about the friendship between Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, which is put through the ringer once Piccolo finds out he’s dying. James Caan plays Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams is Sayers. This is one of the great sports movies of all time and one of those movies that a lot of men will admit makes them cry. It’s very good. Jack Warden is also terrific as George Halas. This is iconic, and should be seen by everyone who loves movies.

Duck, You Sucker! — Sergio Leone’s final western. It’s known by a couple of names, most notably A Fistful of Dynamite and Once Upon a Time… in the Revolution. Duck, You Sucker was the intended title, because Leone thought that was a phrase used a lot in America. (The closest I can figure he thought it was — “Get down, asshole!”) It’s a Mexican Revolution film, starring Rod Steiger as a Mexican bandit and James Coburn as an ex-IRA explosives expert who both get drawn into the Revolution. It’s awesome. Not quite as amazing as Leone’s previous westerns, but still really good. And holy shit, the kill count in this movie is nuts. A great score here by Ennio Morricone, and just a very unheralded western.

Duel — Steven Spielberg’s first film, a TV movie, and quite possibly the greatest TV movie ever made. This has been imitated countless times. A guy is on the California highway on a business trip and draws the ire of a truck driver, who stalks him along the highway, putting him in immense danger. It’s fantastic. Very evident that Spielberg had the goods. This really holds up well, despite having been ripped off for almost fifty years.

Fiddler on the Roof — It’s Fiddler on the Roof. It’s awesome. It’s a classic. Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.

Get Carter — One of the great crime films of all time, and one of the greatest British films ever made. This, along with The Ipcress File and The Italian Job, forms a great Michael Caine trilogy of films. Here, he plays a gangster trying to figure out what actually happened in the death of his brother. It’s a gangster procedural. And it’s great. Mike Hodges directs and Caine delivers one of his many iconic performances.

Harold and Maude — One of those perennially beloved films, like The Princess Bride. Everyone likes this movie, and a fair share of them consider this one of their favorite films of all time. It’s a romantic black comedy directed by Hal Ashby. Bud Cort stars as a guy obsessed with death who attends strangers’ funerals. At one of them, he meets Ruth Gordon, an 80-year-old woman who also goes to strangers’ funerals. They strike up an interesting friendship/relationship. It’s a beautiful film. Don’t automatically assume you’re gonna love it as much as other people do, but you should see it.

Klute — The film that won Jane Fonda her first Oscar and one of the great paranoia thrillers of the 70s. Alan Pakula’s second film (after The Sterile Cuckoo), Donald Sutherland stars as a detective searching for a missing man whose only lead is Fonda, a prostitute. It’s so good. So, so good.

Nicholas and Alexandra — An interesting hybrid of a film. It’s a mix of an epic in the vein of Doctor Zhivago and of a British historical drama like Becket or The Lion in Winter. It’s about the last czar of Russia and his family, in the days leading up to the Russian Revolution and that fateful family portrait. Directed by Franklin Schaffner after Patton, it’s a gorgeous looking movie that’s really engaging. I found myself really enjoying the film a lot. Janet Suzman was nominated for her fantastic portrayal of Alexandra, and it’s one of those movies that has fallen under history’s radar but deserves a second look.

Walkabout — A simple film that’s just great. Nicolas Roeg directs Jenny Agutter as a girl who, along with her brother, gets stranded in the Australian outback. And they travel through it to survive, eventually meeting a guy who is on “walkabout” from his people (which is basically like that thing the Amish do. He’s sent out in the wilderness to find himself). It’s fantastic.

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Tier two:

  • $
  • 10 Rillington Place
  • The Andromeda Strain
  • Bananas
  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  • The Beguiled
  • The Boy Friend
  • Carnal Knowledge
  • The Emigrants
  • The Hospital
  • Kotch
  • Le Mans
  • Little Murders
  • A New Leaf
  • The Omega Man
  • Red Sun
  • Shaft
  • THX 1138
  • Two-Lane Blacktop
  • Vanishing Point

Vanishing Point is a great film and one of the best “car” movies ever made. It’s about a delivery driver who on a whim bets that he can get his next car from Colorado to San Francisco within like 14 hours or something. He doesn’t need to get there for almost three days but he says he’ll get there tomorrow. So he sets off. Pretty quickly, the cops come after him for speeding, but he engages them in a high speed chase which soon become an entire pursuit across state lines. It’s really great. A lot of great driving scenes and just one of those movies where, if you like cars and car stunts, this is for you. Similarly, Two-Lane Blacktop is another car film, starring (of all people) Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and James Taylor, along with Warren Oates. This movie led to the creation of the Cannonball Run. Taylor and Wilson drive a souped up car across the country and drag race with just about everyone they meet. Soon, they get into a race with Warren Oates for pink slips. That’s really all you need to know. It’s awesome. One of those cult classics that’s just a lot of fun, and great for people who love car movies.

Staying with the theme of cars, Le Mans is another great car racing movie, in the vein of Grand Prix. Though this one stars Steve McQueen, which makes it infinitely cooler. This movie doesn’t bother with any sort of plot — it’s just straight racing. It’s a 24 Hours of Le Mans race, and we focus on Steve McQueen as an American Porsche driver and Siegfried Rauch as a German Ferrari driver. It’s great. If you like any kind of auto racing or great scenes of cars driving fast, this is for you. $ is a heist movie with Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn, directed by Richard Brooks. It’s fun as shit and completely forgotten now. He’s a security expert who knows the best way to rob banks and she’s a hooker. They plan to rob some safety deposit boxes that belong to criminals. It’s a lot of fun, and features Gert Frobe as the bank manager. Great stuff.

Who’s the cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all about? Shaft. This film helped launch the blaxploitation genre. Shaft is an iconic character. One of those films that seems to be really famous because of the song. Most people don’t even remember what the actual film is about. Shaft is a detective who gets hired by a mobster to rescue his kidnapped daughter from Italian mobsters. Granted, the plot doesn’t really matter, because it’s just a cool movie. Fun fact: the character of Shaft was originally written as white, but the detective, Gordon Parks, cast Richard Roundtree instead, which in its own way, changed the course of cinema. Bananas is one of the most liked of the early Woody Allen comedies. He ends up getting involved with the rebellion of a Latin American country in order to impress his girlfriend. It’s fun. Woody Allen is one of those filmmakers where, a lot of the time I’m either indifferent or only mildly amused, though occasionally there are moments of brilliance in his films that even I can’t deny. Here, it’s showing the coup of the country by having Howard Cosell narrating it like a Wide World of Sports broadcast. So great.

Red Sun. Not a lot of people know about this one. And I’m gonna sell it to you really easily: it’s a western with Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune. That’s right. Bronson is an outlaw who steals a ceremonial sword from a Japanese ambassador that’s meant as a gift for the president. Mifune is a samurai guard who must retrieve the sword or else lose his honor (and you know what that means). During the robbery, Bronson is left for dead by his gang, so he and Mifune are not both tracking down the gang to retrieve the sword (and vengeance). It’s so good. Directed by Terence Young, coming off three Bond movies and Wait Until Dark. Nice gem. Worth seeing. Kotch is a movie directed by Jack Lemmon (the only movie he directed) starring Walter Matthau as a retired man about to put in an old folks’ home by his kids. Refusing to go down like that, he runs away and goes on a road trip, befriending a pregnant teenager he picks up along the way. It’s similar to Harry and Tonto, except with Juno instead of a cat. Matthau is great here and was nominated for the role. He plays that old guy who just talks to everyone. We all know that person. It’s a nice little movie.

A New Leaf is an Elaine May black comedy starring Walter Matthau and May herself. Matthau is an irresponsible playboy living off an inheritance. He’s like Arthur without the charming alcoholism. He finds out he’s blown through his inheritance and has absolutely no money left. His family refuses to help him and he has only a couple weeks left to repay his debts or else lose all his belongings to his uncle. So, the only plan — marry a rich woman. Only he’s not the marrying type. So it’s marry a rich woman… and murder her. May is the unsuspecting target, a socially inept botanist. Matthau’s attempts to woo her (and the subsequent relationship after he does) are hilarious. It’s a really underrated comedy. May is one of history’s comedic geniuses and anything she’s done is worth seeing. Little Murders is a movie directed by Alan Arkin. And if you thought A New Lead was a dark comedy, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. It’s about all the darker elements of New York in the 70s. A lot of muggings, people shouting on the streets and murder. Characters get murdered for no reason over the course of the film, reflecting the increase of senseless violence of the times. There’s a subtext of race in the film, too. It’s almost a romantic comedy with this undercurrent of darkness throughout the whole thing. Elliott Gould stars with Marcia Rodd, Vincent Gardenia and Elizabeth Wilson. Donald Sutherland and Alan Arkin have cameos. It’s really dark, but really fascinating.

Keeping with the dark comedy vibe, The Hospital is a Paddy Chayefsky-written movie (that earned him his second of three Oscars) about George C. Scott as the chief of medicine at a hospital that’s falling apart, being protested because the administration is tearing down a tenement building next door to build another wing, understaffed and overcrowded, and there’s a murderer stalking the place, killing doctors and nurses. It’s a dark, dark comedy. Very 70s. The Omega Man is baed on the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend, which everyone knows from the more recent film version. This one stars Charlton Heston, and is a very 70s version of the film. Same story: Robert Neville, trying to come up with a serum that will save the remaining population after a virus wipes almost everyone out and turns the rest into, essentially, vampires. Still doesn’t achieve the proper ending of the story, but it’s 1971 and stars Charlton Heston, so that’s not that much of a surprise. This began the sci fi portion of Charlton Heston’s career. I guess Apes started it, but this is where he got heavy into stuff like this. He’d do disaster movies and things like Soylent Green for the next decade.

THX 1138 is George Lucas’s first film, and it’s quite good. It’s a sci fi movie that does a great job of creating a world and drawing the audience into it. What’s best is that it doesn’t waste time on exposition so much and just puts you there and explains only really what you need to know. It’s a futuristic story where all the people are highly controlled by the government. They’re all given drugs to keep them in line, and they’re not allowed to have sex or procreate. Robert Duvall is the main character, who ends up rebelling against the rules, and getting into some shit. You know these movies. It’s good. For what it is, it’s a really solid debut and a really memorable film. The Beguiled is a Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood movie. They just remade it, so if you saw that, then you get the idea. Because they’re both based on a book, and if you’ve seen this version, then the remake is pretty much exactly the same thing. A girls boarding school in the south during the Civil War, comes across Eastwood, a wounded Union soldier. They take him in, and pretty soon he starts charming all the women of the school, one by one. And… then things get out of hand. We’ll leave it at that for those who haven’t seen it. It’s quite good. Not the kind of movie you’d expect out of Eastwood, but that’s part of its charm.

10 Rillington Place is a drama bout John Christie, the British serial killer. Richard Attenborough plays him (and it’s one of those quietly menacing performances, kind of like Robin Williams in One Hour Photo), and we follow him as he commits these horrible murders over the course of several years until finally people start to catch on. He’s really good, as is John Hurt as the husband of one of the victims. Highly recommend this one, it’s really strong. Also directed by Richard Fleischer, who continues to have an insanely strong resume full of gems. The Emigrants is a pretty great foreign film that won Best Foreign Language Film in ’71 and was nominated for Best Picture in ’72. Which is the only time that’s ever happened. It’s part of Jan Troell’s “emigration” films, and goes best when paired with The New Land, which was made directly after this. It’s about a Swedish family who decides to emigrate to the U.S. In a way, it’s a Swedish version of America, America. It’s really strong and looks gorgeous. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann star, and Jan Troell not only directed it but also shot and edited it too. It’s a really incredible piece of work.

Carnal Knowledge is a Mike Nichols movie about relationships. Stars Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Ann-Margret, Candice Bergen, Rita Moreno and Carol Kane. The film is really about the changing of sexual politics of the 60s and 70s and was a hugely important film at the time. It still holds up because of the performances. Solid work out of the cast. The Boy Friend is a musical starring Twiggy, directed by Ken Russell. I don’t know how this combination came together, but the result is fascinating. The plot is almost the same as those backstage musicals of the 30s. The leading lady (literally) breaks a leg, so the stage manager has to go on in her place, leading to her becoming a huge star. The film has a lot of fantasy musical sequences interspersed throughout, and it’s really well done. Ken Russell made a lot of visually interesting films, and I like the complete juxtaposition of eras that’s in this movie. You have a genre from 40 years prior mixed with new Hollywood techniques. I’m just fascinated by the whole thing.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a fucking crazy movie when you go back and look at it today. But even when you watch it — it’s pretty great. It’s a Disney movie directed by Robert Stevenson (after Mary Poppins, he was kinda their guy for stuff like this) and stars Angela Lansbury. The movie takes place during the Blitz of London. Three kids are taken away and placed in the care of Lansbury until it’s safe to return (it’s got a very Narnia vibe at the start). Lansbury, they soon find out, is a witch. But like a fun witch. She says she’ll give them a spell if they stay quiet. Which ends up being a spell that can transport their bed to different places. Then her school closes before she can finish the last lesson, and she and the kids set off to figure out the incantation of the final spell. They go to all sorts of foreign and cartoon lands (animated like Mary Poppins, the whole deal), and end up fighting Nazis at the end. How nuts is that plot? A witch travels on a bed with three kids and fights Nazis. Are you in? Because you should be in on that alone. The fact that it’s Angela Lansbury should make you doubly in.

The Andromeda Strain is a classy sci fi movie. It’s before sci fi became modernized, so the whole thing is presented in a very classical format. A satellite comes crashing down in New Mexico, and the entire town dies instantly. Authorities suspect some killer alien germ, so they send a team of scientists to investigate and analyze, while also trying to contain the germ/deaths from spreading. Much of the film takes place in a lab as the scientists test survivors and look for a cure. It’s really watchable, even though it’s so different from how this movie would be made today. The best way to describe it — it was directed by Robert Wise. He also directed the first Star Trek movie in 1979. If you’ve seen that, you sort of know what I’m talking about. Compare the first Star Trek movie to stuff like Wrath of Khan and the later ones to even the ones they make today. It’s good, but it’s way different and a different approach to the genre. I like it as a historical artifact. If I’m showing sci fi over time, this would be a pretty good example of a particular period in time, and that’s why I enjoy it.

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One response

  1. lacourseauxetoiles

    Having Willy Wonka in 2nd seems ridiculous to me. Sure, everything in the factory is great. But that’s only half of the movie. The first half of the movie is extremely forgettable. Also, I am once again going to ask why you keep snubbing foreign-language films in your rankings.

    May 3, 2018 at 11:03 pm

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