Mike’s Top Ten of 1975
If 1973 isn’t the strongest year of the decade, then 1975 for sure is. This top ten list, though. Holy shit. When the weakest one in the bunch is something that you disagree with because it’s not your cup of tea, that’s a strong year. You can’t argue with the cultural impact or strength of any of these films. Kubrick, Lumet, Spielberg, Gilliam, Altman, Forman, Pollack, Russell. That’s just 8 of the top 10. That’s nuts.
I will admit, it’s somewhat top heavy a year, as the lower films aren’t as strong as the ones in some other years. But still, when you have a top ten as strong as this one, you don’t need much else.
Mike’s Top Ten of 1975
Dog Day Afternoon
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Sunshine Boys
Three Days of the Condor
11-20: A Boy and His Dog, Death Race 2000, The Eiger Sanction, Farewell My Lovely, The Man in the Glass Booth, The Man Who Would Be King, Night Moves, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Seven Beauties, Shampoo
Tier two: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The Day of the Locust, The Fortune, French Connection II, Give ‘Em Hell Harry!, Hard Times, Hester Street, The Hindenburg, Inserts, Love and Death, Mahogany, Mandingo, The Mirror, Overlord, The Passenger, Rollerball, Rooster Cogburn, Smile, The Stepford Wives, The Story of Adele H.
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“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
In hindsight, it’s kind of amazing this film has achieved the reputation it does. It’s a movie about shark attacks. Just about every other movie about shark attacks is, at best, a cult classic. And this is widely regarded as one of the best thrillers ever made. Plus, given the fact that they had such a difficult shoot (see: The Shark Is Not Working), it’s really surprising the film turned out as well as it did. There’s no way all the people involved thought, going in, that this would be what it’s become. Which is what makes it so great. Elevated genre material.
The film stars Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw. Scheider is the head of the police force in Amity, a beach town. A series of shark attacks puts everyone on alert, especially since beach tourism is the town’s main source of income. However, when the attacks become more frequent, Scheider sets out with Dreyfuss, a marine biologist, and Shaw, a fisherman with a knowledge of sharks, to get the fucker. But what makes the film work (much like we said with The Exorcist two years ago) is the fact that they set up the situation and the characters. The first half (plus) of this movie is set up for the shark attacks. That’s the key to a good horror/monster movie. Set up the monster and the people who are gonna confront the monster and save the confrontations til later on.
There are so many iconic moments and images from this film, all boosted by John Williams’ iconic score (which rightly won the Oscar this year). This movie was so good it was nominated for Best Picture! (But not Best Director, as seen in this classic video.) It was also the film that began the era of blockbusters. They didn’t necessarily coin the phrase from it, but it was the one that started it all, before Star Wars and everything else.
It’s also a movie that I find myself going back to time and time again and finding eminently watchable. Each time I watch it I find something different to focus on, and I love it more and more. Pound for pound, this is my favorite movie of 1975.
2. Dog Day Afternoon
“ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA!”
Sidney Lumet and Al Pacino. Those two in this decade, man. First Serpico, now this. This movie is perfect.
It’s about a (real) bank robbery in Brooklyn, where two men go in and hold it up. It quickly escalates into a hostage situation that lasts the entire day. Pacino is at his best, John Cazale is great, Charles Durning is great as the cop/negotiator, and Chris Sarandon is incredible in a cameo later on in the film. The Sarandon part is what makes this movie so great. When you start to learn more about Pacino and why he’s actually robbing this bank.
This is one of those movies I don’t need to tell you that you need to see, because you’ve already come across it and have probably seen it already. This is one of those movies I revisit too infrequently and still get a rush from every time I watch it.
3. Barry Lyndon
“Barry’s father had been bred, like many other young sons of a genteel family, to the profession of the law. And there is no doubt he would’ve made an eminent figure in his profession, had he not been killed in a duel, which arose over the purchase of some horses.”
This is the film that solidified to me just how much of a genius Stanley Kubrick was. I saw this my sophomore year of college for the first time. I had no real desire to do so, for whatever reason, but a bunch of my friends were going (weird that they were the ones who jumped all over seeing this and not me, but 2007 was a long time ago) and I figured a print is a print, so why not. And I sat down to watch this, thinking about all the other stuff I could have been doing (it was a Saturday night), and before I knew it, the intermission of the film hit… or rather, the print burned just before the intermission and there was like a 45 minute delay, and I realized, “Oh shit, it’s been like, 100 minutes and I had no idea.” I stayed all during the delay and until the very end, and I was riveted the entire time.
This is a movie that you can’t explain why it’s so great. You can’t even really explain what it’s about. Ryan O’Neal is a ne’er-do-well who just kind of goes around, getting into shit, and basically scheming his way into nobility. But so much stuff happens along the way and it’s just all so great. It takes a filmmaker of Kubrick’s caliber to make a movie like this as good as it is. When Phantom Thread came out, all I did was compare it to this movie… because in both cases, there’s no reason the film should be as good as it is. None. But a master filmmaker puts you firmly within the film’s universe and gives you greatness.
This isn’t a movie I rewatch a ton (it requires time and effort), but truly, I rank it above everything else below it in the top ten because it’s just that great.
4. Three Days of the Condor
“Oh, you… you poor dumb son of a bitch. You’ve done more damage than you know.”
“I hope so.”
Another movie I saw for the first time my sophomore year of college. It was within the first month of fall semester starting. I had just befriended all the people on my hall (which included Colin, co-creator of Fun with Franchises), and Colin saw I was into movies and one day came in talking about Redford and Three Days of the Condor. And I hadn’t seen it yet, so I made sure to rent it from Netflix pretty quickly and watch it. And man, am I glad I didn’t wait.
The film stars Redford as a CIA data analyst who works in a small field office. One day, he goes out for lunch and returns to find everyone in the office dead. And the rest of the film is him out on the run, trying to figure out why everyone was killed and uncovering a conspiracy. It’s great.
Wonderfully directed by Sidney Pollack, Faye Dunaway is amazing as a woman he forces to take him in who ends up helping him out, as are Max von Sydow as an assassin (who carried out the hit on his office) and Cliff Robertson, the deputy director. This is one of those movies that, if you haven’t seen it, you should go put it on right now. There hasn’t been a CIA thriller that’s been a quarter of what this movie is in probably 20 years.
5. The Sunshine Boys
One of the greatest comedies ever made. Neil Simon, whose plays and films were huge at the time, most of which are basically forgotten now. Outside of this and The Odd Couple, everything else, if you tried to make it today, would end up on Lifetime or something.
This film is about Walter Matthau and George Burns, a Vaudeville team who have been broken up for decades because they hate each other, who are brought together by Matthau’s nephew to do their famous “Doctor” sketch on a Vaudeville special that’s gonna air on TV. So they have to overcome the fact that they hate each other in order to do this. Matthau is just bitter and acerbic the whole time, and Burns is happily retired (possibly a bit senile?) and happy to still be alive. And their comic chemistry and timing is absolutely perfect. Do yourself a favor and watch what is truly one of the funniest movies of all time.
6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
“I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this.”
Your Best Picture winner for 1975. This is one of those rare years where all the Best Picture nominees are in my top ten. Because they’re all incredible films, and this was one of the strongest Oscar years of all time.
This film is one where, you see it pretty early on, and you love it. Everyone loves this movie. Though over time, my love for it just kind of stays the same. Whereas the other films nominated, the three above it… I discovered much more fevant love for them as time went on. So this is a respectful #6 for me for the year. It’s just always consistently great.
The film is based on the Ken Kesey novel, and stars Jack Nicholson as Randle P. McMurphy, a man imprisoned for statutory rape, who gets himself committed to a psych ward so he won’t have to serve the time in general population. He figures it’ll be easier that way. Only when he gets to the ward, he sees just what he’s really in for. The head nurse, Nurse Ratched, runs the ward with an iron fist, and uses fear and manipulation of the patients to keep them under her wing. The patients include Brad Dourif (nominated for his performance), Will Sampson (as “Chief”), Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito and Vincent Schiavelli. Pretty soon he and Nurse Ratched are at war with one another, as Nicholson refuses to give in to authority.
It’s a near-perfect movie. It’s so good. It’s one of only three films to win the Big Five: Best Picture, Best Director (for Milos Forman), Best Actor (for Nicholson), Best Actress (for Louise Fletcher) and Best Screenplay. Also fun fact: Michael Douglas won an Oscar for producing this movie, thirteen years before his Best Actor win. His father Kirk bought the rights, intending to play McMurphy, but couldn’t get it made, so he gave the film to his son to try to make. In the end, Kirk was too old to play the part and they got Nicholson instead. This is one of the greats of all time and probably one of the 100 or 150 most essential American films of all time.
“Ever since I was a young boy,
I’ve played the silver ball
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all
But I ain’t seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall
That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball!”
Rock operas, baby. There’s only what, three films like it? Two by The Who and one by Floyd? Either way, this is, to me, the benchmark. It’s so great.
“Tommy” is The Who’s most famous album (even if it might not be their best — that’s probably “Who’s Next”). A pure concept album about a “deaf, dumb and blind” kid and his family and experiences. This is an example of music being so good and directors being such risk takers that you get an enduring piece of work all around. A Hard Day’s Night was the first one. It was a combination of the Beatles’ timeless music as well as Richard Lester’s energetic direction. This movie is as good as it is because of Ken Russell’s visuals. He really got the most out of this.
And they got a cast! Ann-Margret as Tommy’s mother, Oliver Reed as Tommy’s father, cameos by Eric Clapton, Jack Nicholson, Tina Turner (as the Acid Queen) and of course, Elton John, as the Pinball Wizard. (This may be apocryphal, but apparently Elton’s only request for doing the cameo was that he got to keep the boots, which is amazing.) There are such famous moments in this film, like Ann-Margret’s bean and soap number. It’s incredible.
This is one of those movies… you need to see it. If you like The Who, then you have even more of a reason to. If not, you just need to see it because it’s such a referenced film and album that it just needs to be done. It’s one of the most important films of all time. Plus, how often do you go into a film knowing the music is gonna be great?
8. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
“Science fiction double feature
Doctor X will build a creature
See androids fighting Brad and Janet
Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet
Woah oh, oh oh oh
At the late night double feature picture show”
Our second musical in a row. This one is the cult classic of all time. This is the one. It’s still playing midnight showings all around the world at just about any given time. I’m sure everyone who gets residuals from this is still getting paid ten times over because of how successful it’s been over the past forty-plus years.
This is one of those movies you just need to experience. Sure, not everyone’s gonna love it, but you just gotta experience it. The best way to experience it is at one of those midnight showings. It’s like The Room. You don’t fully understand it until you’re around all the people who are nuts for it. That said, just watching it at home is fine, but you might not get the full experience that way. This is a movie that’s all about the experience more than anything.
The plot is pure insanity. Brad, Janet, car trouble, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, transexual transvestite from Transylvania, the Time Warp, Meat Loaf… it’s just crazy. But the songs are great. You don’t get this kind of music in most Broadway shows. (This is based on a stage show, but it wasn’t particularly successful.) The less you know, probably the better. Because it’s all about the experience of watching it. Maybe you’ll get it, maybe you won’t. Still, this is a movie everyone needs to see. If only to be able to reference it and catch all the references to it in popular culture.
“Y’all take it easy now. This isn’t Dallas, it’s Nashville! They can’t do this to us here in Nashville! Let’s show them what we’re made of. Come on everybody, sing! Somebody, sing!”
Robert Altman’s masterpiece. He made a lot of great films, but none of them are as perfect as this one. This is the one for him.
The film is a giant ensemble of people in and around the Nashville music scene on the weekend of a political convention. And we weave in and out of the different storylines, some of which interweave, and it’s just amazing. The cast includes Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley (nominated for it), Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Shelley Duval, Allen Garfield, Henry Gibson, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, Barbara Harris, Lily Tomlin (nominated for it) and Keenan Wynn.
Robert Altman is one of those filmmakers with a very distinct style. It’s not for everyone. Like John Cassavetes or Mike Leigh. However, all film fans must see at least one of their movies (and in Altman’s case, three or four, just because of how many good ones he made). If you’re gonna look to one Altman movie to see, the one that epitomizes him as a filmmaker, this is the one.
10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
“Now stand aside, worthy adversary!”
‘Tis but a scratch!”
“A scratch? Your arm’s off!”
“No, it isn’t.”
“What’s that, then?”
“I’ve had worse.”
“Come on, you pansy!”
An appropriate ending to the top ten. I watch this more than some of the films above it, but this feels like the right place for it on the list (not that the rankings really matter here). This is one of the funniest movies ever made. And on pop culture references alone, everyone needs to have seen it.
I don’t even know how to begin talking about this movie without descending into reference after reference. So all I will do is tell you to go watch this movie immediately if you haven’t already and leave you with the ultimate question: what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
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A Boy and His Dog — This is a film I discovered very recently. There’s a lot of dystopian sci-fi movies from this year (and this decade, really). It’s about a boy and his psychic dog who travel across the Mad Max-style barren wasteland that is America. That’s all you need to know. It’s awesome. It’s really good. It’s also in the public domain, so it’s easily watchable, and very much worth seeing. The kind of movie I feel studios are trying to make today that they could never make properly today.
Death Race 2000 — An awesome cult classic. Also part of the dystopian sci-fi craze. The government has organized a transcontinental race where drivers are free to kill, and even encouraged to. The bloodier the better. It’s like Twisted Metal. The main two stars are David Carradine, as the mysterious Frankenstein, and Sylvester Stallone, as a gangster. Meanwhile, some people are plotting to sabotage the race to overthrow the government. It’s a lot of fun.
The Eiger Sanction — Great thriller directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. He’s an art collector who moonlights as an assassin who is brought out of retirement to avenge a friend’s death. There’s mountain climbing in the movie… it’s dope. Highly recommend this one. This is the kind of movie that’s right up my alley.
Farewell, My Lovely — This is Robert Mitchum playing Philip Marlowe. That’s about all you need, isn’t it? They made this in 1944 with Dick Powell. Same plot. Big guy named Moose hires Marlowe to find his girlfriend, meanwhile he takes a different case, and pretty soon everything is intertwined… it’s a detective story. You know how those go. It’s not the most enlightening movie ever made, but it’s a well-worn genre with a cool star playing the lead. That’s the long and short of it.
The Man in the Glass Booth — This is based on a play by Robert Shaw. Yes, that Robert Shaw. Inspired by the story of Adolf Eichmann, it stars Maximilian Schell as a rich Jewish man who is suddenly kidnapped by Mossad agents and then to Israel, where it is revealed that he may be a Nazi war criminal. The title refers to the glass booth in which he is kept during the trial so no one assassinates him. It’s quite good. Schell is prone to overacting at times, but it’s a really interesting story and well done. Until we get a proper Eichmann movie (which we’re supposed to be getting later this year with Operation Finale), this has sufficed for what is an endlessly fascinating story.
The Man Who Would Be King — This is the one that would appear in most people’s top ten for this year. It almost made mine, outside of the fact that this year is ridiculously stacked at the top. It’s a John Huston film with Sean Connery and Michael Caine, and one of the great adventure films of all time. They’re two ex-soldiers who set off in search of adventure and end up finding an indigenous tribe in Afghanistan who worship Connery as a god. It’s really great. One of those films everyone needs to see. A true classic.
Night Moves — A great neo noir directed by Arthur Penn and starring Gene Hackman. He’s a P.I. who is hired to find a client’s runaway daughter, and stumbles upon a much deeper plot, as detectives are wont to do on cases. It’s very good. One of those hidden gems that not a lot of people remember, but is worth mentioning among the better films of the decade. Don’t miss out on this one.
Picnic at Hanging Rock — This movie jump-started Peter Weir’s career and remains a classic, over 40 years later. It’s about a girl’s boarding school that has a picnic for its girls in the mountains of Australia, and during the trip, some of them go missing. The film is beautifully shot, making it very ambiguous about what is going on and what actually happened. It’s quite the experience. It’s one of those movies that both the really high-end, pretentious sort really love and the average film buff really likes too. There’s just something about it that draws you to it.
Seven Beauties — This movie might be forgotten now if not for the fact that Lina Wertmuller became the first female ever nominated for Best Director for this movie, and Gincarlo Giannini (who most people will recognize as Mathis in Casino Royale) being nominated for Best Actor for it in a year that included De Niro for Taxi Driver, Stallone for Rocky and both Peter Finch and William Holden for Network. Those things stand out. The film is like a dark comedy version of Life Is Beautiful. Giannini plays a small time gangster who kills a pimp in order to defend his sister’s honor and ends up going to prison. He connives his way into the army to get out of the sentence and ends up getting captured and put in a concentration camp… where things get… weird. The film takes a dramatic (but oddly funny) turn at that point, and is really quite an interesting watch. I definitely recommend this movie, even though it might not be for all.
Shampoo — A classic comedy, and the film that really speaks to the great talent and taste of Warren Beatty. This is a story that he came up with and tried to get made for years. Eventually he had to agree to do another movie for the studio (more on that below) in order to get this financed. And he wrote it with Robert Towne and got Hal Ashby (possibly the hottest director of the 70s) to direct it, and the result is one of the classics of the decade. The film, like Cabaret, takes place in a carefree America in the days just before Nixon gets elected. Beatty plays a hairdresser who sleeps with just about all of his beautiful clients. He dreams of starting his own salon, and ends up trying to get one of his clients’ husbands to bankroll him. Meanwhile, he, already sleeping with the man’s wife, starts sleeping with the man’s mistress too. And hilarity ensues. Beatty stars with Julie Christie, Jack Warden, Lee Grant, Goldie Hawn and Carie Fisher. Warden and Grant were nominated for Oscars for the film, with Grant winning. This is a movie that’s not as perfect as its representation might suggest, but it’s definitely a great movie that must be seen by all film fans. A great snapshot of a moment in time.
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- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother
- The Day of the Locust
- The Fortune
- French Connection II
- Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!
- Hard Times
- Hester Street
- The Hindenburg
- Love and Death
- The Mirror
- The Passenger
- Rooster Cogburn
- The Stepford Wives
- The Story of Adele H.
Overlord is a movie that feels like it was made a decade earlier. It’s almost timeless. It’s only 80 minutes long, and never tries to be anything more than it is. It’s about a young soldier who has premonitions of his own death, leading to his eventual involvement in D-Day (Operation Overlord). It’s almost a documentary, the way it’s shot. Half the movie is archival footage. It’s a movie that shows you what can be achieved outside the usual bounds of cinema. Highly recommend checking this one out. The Passenger is a Michelangelo Antonioni film starring Jack Nicholson. He’s a documentarian who is on location in Africa. He befriends an Englishman, who dies mysteriously one night. Nicholson, tired of his own life, decides to take the man’s place and make it seem as if he died. Only, shortly after he does this, he comes to realize the guy he’s pretending to be is an arms dealer. Quel dommage. It’s a really good film. I’m overall iffy on Antonioni, he’s very hit or miss for me, but I like this one quite a bit.
The Mirror seems to be the film for which Andrei Tarkovsky is best remembered. It’s undoubtedly his most personal film, with poems written by his father, allusions to his childhood, and it features actual members of his family. It’s a dreamlike kind of movie, moving like a series of memories that act as both a remembrance of his life as well as a history of Russia during his lifetime. It’s really good, though one of his later, more difficult films. It’s nonlinear, and not the most accessible film for those seeking easy watches. But it is one of Tarkovsky’s best, and for those looking into his stuff, one of his most essential films. Rooster Cogburn is a sequel to True Grit. Because why not? This time, instead of a kid, he’s got Katharine Hepburn. He’s lost his badge and has to help her track down her father’s killers. Not the best movie in the world, but you get Wayne being Wayne and reprising a role that won him an Oscar and Katharine Hepburn, who is never not good. Plus it has shades of The African Queen, which is never a bad thing to try to replicate. It’s fun. Inconsequential, but fun.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother is a forgotten Gene Wilder movie. He wrote, directed and stars, as Sigerson Holmes, Sherlock’s neurotic brother. Sherlock decides he’s gonna give a particular case to his brother. Sigerson, desperate for the acclaim of his brother, sets out to show once and for all that he’s the mastermind in the family. Naturally, because Gene Wilder plays him, he’s not that. Hilariously so. And Sherlock even nudges him in the right direction along the way, as he encounters Madeline Kahn, a ditzy actress. It’s a lot of fun. The usual suspects are here, Dom DeLuise and Marty Feldman. It’s all the people you love from the Mel Brooks movies together again. The Day of the Locust is one of the great Hollywood satirical novels. The movie… is kinda weird. But I like that it’s weird. John Schlesinger directs, and it stars William Atherton, Karen Black, Burgess Meredith (Oscar-nominated for it), Geraldine Page, Jackie Earle Haley and John Hillerman. It’s about all the sad misfits in Hollywood who are trying to make their dreams come true. It’s weird, but I think it’s worth seeing because there are good ideas here that are worth more than what you might think of the finished product.
Mandingo. I mean, what more is there to say about it? Everyone knows what it is and what it’s about, even more so in a post-Django world. Richard Fleischer (yes, the same dude who directed The Vikings and Fantastic Voyage and Doctor Dolittle and Tora! Tora! Tora!) directs, and it stars James Mason and former boxer Ken Norton. It’s… a time capsule. To what, I have no idea. But it’s just one of those infamous movies. You gotta at least check it out to say you did. The Stepford Wives is one of the great cult sci fi movies. A couple move to the suburbs in Connecticut and start to realize there’s something sinister beneath the ‘perfect’ exteriors of all the housewives in the town. Lot of fun, and pretty essential, if you’re into movies. The Story of Adele H. is a Francois Truffaut movie starring Isabelle Adjani (who, at 20, became the youngest Best Actress nominee of all time for this film) as Adele Hugo, daughter of Victor, and her quest to find an officer with whom she’s had an affair. It’s more about her obsession with him and her descent into mental illness, and it’s really well done.
French Connection II is an unnecessary but not wholly unworthy sequel to a masterpiece. No Roy Scheider in this one (he had his follow-up with The Seven-Ups). But it does bring back Fernando Rey as the French drug dealer, setting it up as Hackman finally getting his man, after the events of The French Connection. It’s… fine. Not the best movie. John Frankenheimer directs, and doesn’t bring the energy and inventiveness that William Friedkin brought to the first one. You don’t need to see it, but you’re not gonna be disgusted by it either. Give ‘Em Hell, Harry is one of the oddities of film history. It’s a Broadway one-man show that was filmed and released in theaters. James Whitmore (who most people remember as Brooks in Shawshank) plays Harry S. Truman, and it’s him in his office, deciding whether or not to drop the Atomic Bomb. Whitmore gives a great performance and it’s a fun watch. It barely counts as a film, but if he got nominated for an Oscar, I’m counting it. Technically this is one of the only films to have its entire cast nominated for Oscars. (The other one is Sleuth. If we’re talking credited cast, then I guess we can open it up to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Maybe there’s one more I’m blanking on right now, but it’s not much more than that.)
Hard Times is an awesome movie. Walter Hill’s debut. It stars Charles Bronson and James Coburn. Bronson is a mysterious man who is a great bare-knuckle fighter. Coburn is a hustler who sees Bronson fight and offers to partner up with him and make them both rich. And that’s the movie. Them going on adventures and setting up fights. It’s very good. Definitely one of those movies that’s worth seeing. The Fortune is not the best movie ever made, but the people involved make it worth seeing. It’s a Mike Nichols film starring Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and Stockard Channing. Beatty and Nicholson are con artists, and they scheme to get their hands on the fortune of Stockard Channing, an heiress to a sanitary napkin fortune. It’s a madcap kind of movie, that doesn’t always work, but it’s definitely interesting. Beatty agreed to do the movie only if Columbia would also finance Shampoo. Nichols was coming off a couple of flops (Catch-22 and The Day of the Dolphin), and Nicholson had just found out the woman he thought to be his sister was actually his mother, and that the woman who raised him was actually his grandmother. It all adds up to a curious outlier of a film.
Hester Street is a movie that’s black-and-whtie and entirely in Yiddish. So beware of that before going in (or not, as I’m sure I’ve already lost most of you by this point). It’s about Jewish immigrants who come to the Lower East Side. A man shows up to earn money to bring his family over, and quickly assimilates into American culture. He gets a mistress and Americanizes his name. A few years later, his wife shows up. And she quickly becomes insulated within the Jewish community, not wanting to assimilate the way her husband did. Which causes tensions within the marriage. It’s a very good film. And before you dismiss it as just some bullshit film… they added it to the Library of Congress, so it is a significant film in its own way. Also, for those who saw Menashe, which came out recently, this is a forbearer of that. If you liked that, this is something worth seeing.
Inserts is a fucking weird movie. But I enjoy it. It’s a chamber comedy… or drama. Or something. Richard Dreyfuss is an alcoholic film director in the 30s. Once a wunderkind, he’s now yesterday’s news, and because of that (as well as his resistance to move into talkies), he’s retreated into his mansion and become a drunk, supplementing his income by directing pornos. And the film takes place over an afternoon as he shoots his latest… film. It’s… interesting. Not great, but not bad. It’s worth seeing, but it’s definitely a little oddity. But that’s what this section is for. Those weird little movies that you can bring up that not many people know about. The Hindenburg is a disaster movie. It’s a fictionalized account of the Hindenburg disaster, playing up the suspected sabotage theory that people have. So while being something in the vein of Airport and The Towering Inferno, it also has the subplot of the dude trying to take the airship down, and George C. Scott as an officer trying to keep everyone on board safe. Definitely one of the more overdone disaster movies, but decent.
Mahogany is a movie directed by Berry Gordy and starring Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams. This is A-level black cinema in the 70s. I like it. It’s definitely a bit overdone, sort of like Lady Sings the Blues’ campy cousin, but it’s fun. She’s a driven woman who wants to be a fashion designer. And when she finally achieves her dream (due to the help of her Svengali-like boyfriend), she loses sight of what got her there, and who she really is. It’s uneven, but there are parts of it that are very good. And I like how 70s it is. And how awesome Billy Dee Williams is in everything he makes. Love and Death is the last of the Woody Allen comedies, before he made Annie Hall and his career took a different turn. It’s… I don’t know how to explain it. But it’s definitely one of his more liked films and for me, one of the ones I’m okay with and even like a bit. At the time, I think it was considered his funniest movie (even though now I think some people would argue that might be Sleeper or Bananas). It stars Allen and Diane Keaton and is about him trying to assassinate Napoleon. It doesn’t really matter what it’s about, it’s funny. For all the stuff in it that represents the Woody Allen I don’t like, it’s still a very funny movie.
Rollerball is a sci fi classic, which they remade (badly) in 2002. This version is far superior. Directed by Norman Jewison, coming off Fiddler on the Roof and Jesus Christ Superstar (as you do). It’s about a futuristic sport that’s basically the sport, and it’s incredibly dangerous. Now that I think about it… the film is meant to take place in 2018, so go figure. It’s like Roller Derby, but with more fatalities. James Caan is the greatest athlete in the sport, and the big corporation that runs the sport tells him they want him to retire, which he has no intention of doing. Naturally, things get more dangerous for him because of this. It’s an awesome movie. Part of the 70s dystopian sci fi run, many of which have become classics (or cult classics). Smile is like if you took Little Miss Sunshine and put it through the lens of Best in Show. Maybe with a bit of Nashville in there too. It’s a satire of small-town America and beauty pageants. It’s very good. A nice little hidden gem. This is one I won’t talk up too much, but one that you’ll appreciate seeking out, if you choose to do so.
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