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Mike’s Top Ten of 1976

1976 is a year that a lot of people gravitate to because it’s got some of the most memorable films of the 70s in it. The Best Picture list of this year includes All the President’s Men, Network, Rocky and Taxi Driver. That alone means it’s gonna have a lot of eyeballs on it. And then there’s some other really iconic films from this year too. You could pinpoint a lot of really pivotal moments for film that all happened in this year. John Wayne’s last film, the last great western before the genre died out, and, oh yeah… those four films previously mentioned.

The other great thing about this year, as is the case with most 70s years, is that there are so many great films below the top ten that are just great, most of which are true hidden gems that are largely forgotten nowadays.

Also take a look out for one of my absolute favorite comedies of all time.

Mike’s Top Ten of 1976

All the President’s Men

The Bad News Bears

Carrie

Marathon Man

Murder by Death

Network

The Outlaw Josey Wales

Rocky

The Shootist

Taxi Driver

11-20: Assault on Precinct 13, Bugsy Malone, Freaky Friday, Harry and Walter Go to New York, Logan’s Run, Mikey and Nicky, Nickelodeon, The Ritz, Silent Movie, Silver Streak

Tier two: Bound for Glory, Buffalo Bill and the Indians or: Sitting Bull’s History Lesson, Car Wash, Family Plot, The Front, Gator, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, King Kong, The Last Tycoon, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Missouri Breaks, Mother Jugs and Speed, Obsession, The Omen, Robin and Marian, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, The Song Remains the Same, A Star Is Born, The Tenant, Two-Minute Warning

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1. Rocky

“Why do you wanna fight?”
“Because I can’t sing or dance.”

You wanna pretend like the #1 is one of the more serious films on the list, about Watergate or the downfall of American television, but when you get down to it, this is the film I love the most. It’s the one I go back to the most, and the one that has the most resonance with me time and time again. So I’m not gonna try to hide it. This is my favorite movie of 1976.

It’s a perfect film. It spawned a franchise that is still going. The training montage is truly one of the most thrilling sequences ever put to film. The romance is beautiful. What else is there to say?

Tell me you don’t immediately have a visceral reaction when you hear these notes:

2. All the President’s Men

“You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up… 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad. “

You’re gonna hear the phrase ‘perfect film’ a lot in this article. Because there are a lot of perfect films from 1976.

This is Alan Pakula’s masterpiece, the culmination of his ‘paranoia’ trilogy, which began with Klute and The Parallax View. It’s about Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation into Watergate, which led to the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon. The way in which this movie is note perfect are too much to state. The one I will point to right now, because it’s my favorite part of the movie — Jason Robards. He is absolutely astounding as Ben Bradlee. Quite possibly my favorite Best Supporting Actor-winning performance of all time. From what little I know about Bradlee (namely from the documentary and second-hand accounts), he really nailed it. And it’s the highlight of the film.

If you have not seen this movie, you should go out and see it right away. This should be required viewing of every American citizen.

3. Taxi Driver

“You talkin’ to me?”

I could write “It’s Taxi Driver, ’nuff said,” and end it there. But I won’t.

We all know how great this movie is. We’ve all seen it like five times. It’s one of the first 100 movies we all get into when we start getting into movies for real. At this point, I don’t even watch the movie to watch the movie. I watch it for specific things each time. How Scorsese stages scenes, where he puts the camera, the little nuances De Niro puts into the performance. It’s a film that keeps on giving. And what’s best is that you could take this script and put it in almost any other director’s hands in any other year, and I don’t know if you’d get the perfect combination that this movie is. I don’t think any other director other than Martin Scorsese in this year could give us that shot of the hallway as the camera pans away from him on the phone.

Scorsese as a director has a couple of benchmark films throughout his career. This is one of them. And it would be his definitive film until… probably four years after this. Most directors would hang an entire career on a movie like this. He eclipsed it within five years.

4. The Outlaw Josey Wales

“You’re wanted, Wales.”
“Reckon I’m right popular. You a bounty hunter?”
“A man’s got to do something for a living these days.”
“Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy.”

This is the end of the western genre. It had been a staple of cinema for almost 75 years. This movie is where the western died. And then, fifteen years later, Eastwood would give the genre a eulogy with Unforgiven. Between those two films, there has not been a western that can hold a candle to them in the past 40 years.

Eastwood plays a man whose family gets murdered during the Civil War, which drives him to revenge. After the war, he refuses to surrender, and is eventually being hunted by the very soldiers who murdered his family. He gains some companions along the way, like Chief Dan George, who absolutely steals every scene he’s in, and an old woman and her granddaughter (Sondra Locke). Eventually he makes a bargain with the Comanche and settles down on a farm, looking for peace. Only the Union soldiers finally make their way into town, looking to kill him…

It’s so good. The ending of this movie is absolutely perfect. It’s perfect for the genre, and perfect as a response to Vietnam. This is Eastwood’s finest hour. This and Unforgiven are the two greatest films he’s directed. And it shows you something that whenever he directed a straight western, they’re all great and they’re all classics, because he respected the genre and only made something worth making.

5. Network

“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

That line just about says it all. That line defined a lot of feelings from this era. This film also, in its biggest stroke of genius, predicted what would happen to the TV business about thirty-to-forty years early.

The film is about Peter Finch, a network news anchor, who is told he’s going to be fired because his ratings are going down. He then goes on the air and says he’s going to kill himself, on air, in a week. Naturally, ratings go way up. He’s in the middle of a psychotic break and begins ranting and raving and saying whatever he wants on the air. But the network, now run by ambitious Faye Dunaway, who comes from the new era of ratings and “shock value” (she’s developing a reality show that follows real terrorists around), lets him stay on the air. William Holden plays the news division president who has been Finch’s longtime friend, who thinks they’re exploiting Finch and believes they should get him help. Though he soon starts sleeping with Dunaway and lets everything happen. It’s so fucking good.

It’s a perfect movie. Quite possibly Sidney Lumet’s best film. Paddy Chayefsky’s best script, for sure. William Holden, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Ned Beatty and Beatrice Straight all got nominated for Oscars for this (with Finch, Dunaway and Straight winning, Finch posthumously). This is required viewing for anyone who is into movies and, quite honestly, anyone who wants to get into news journalism and TV. The irony is that the film was intended as a comedy, but Chayefsky was so upset at the state of TV that the film turned into what it is. Sometimes when you really have something to say, brilliance happens.

6. Murder by Death

“Everything here has been rented for tonight. The butler, the cook, the food, the dining room chairs, everything!”
“You mean…”
“Yes. This entire murder has been… catered.”

This is one of my all-time favorite comedies. It’s so funny.

Okay, the set up… written for the screen by Neil Simon (not based on one of his plays), the film is a parody of all the famous mystery characters of fiction. Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Nick and Nora Charles, Sam Spade and Charlie Chan. Here, James Coco plays Milo Perrier, Elsa Lanchester plays Miss Marbles, David Niven and Maggie Smith play Dick and Dora Charleston, Peter Falk plays Sam Diamond, and Peter Sellers plays Sidney Wang. Also in the movie are James Cromwell as Poirot’s chauffeur, Richard Narita as Wang’s adopted Japanese son Willie, Eileen Brennan as Diamond’s long-suffering secretary, Estelle Winwood as Marples’ nurse (the irony being that she, the nurse, is much older and confined to a wheelchair), Nancy Walker as a deaf-mute cook, and Alec Guinness as a blind butler named Jamessir Bensonmum. Got all that? Okay, cool.

So the plot of the movie is that a mysterious Lionel Twain invites all the characters to a his house for “dinner and murder.” Twain is then revealed to be played by Truman Capote (yes, the Truman Capote), and says that he is the greatest detective in the world and is going to prove it to all of them by challenging them to solve a murder… his. He is then promptly found dead, and the rest of the detectives are left to figure it out.

It’s hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. Forget the fact that it makes fun of all the mannerisms of the characters, it’s fucking funny. Also, if the plot sounds familiar… they ripped it off for Clue. Clue uses the exact same plot as this movie, blatantly so. But that doesn’t even matter. Both movies are hilarious. Peter Falk absolutely steals the show here doing a Bogart impression, and was so good in doing so that Simon wrote a followup movie based solely around him doing that! I cannot recommend this movie highly enough, and I show it to just about everyone I can.

7. Carrie

“They’re all gonna laugh at you!”

Brian De Palma’s comeback after the financial disaster that was Phantom of the Paradise. (He also had Obsession this year, which is also really good.) This is the first of the Stephen King adaptations. First ever. It was this, then Salem’s Lot, then The Shining.

De Palma’s direction is what makes the film work as well as it does (see the subpar 2013 remake with Chloe Moretz). He shoots the first 2/3 of the film like a fairy tale. He also immediately aligns you to the character from the opening scene, of her in the shower. But the first 2/3 of the movie is this girl, living with her evil mother, discovering her abilities, and then having things start to work out for her after years of being ostracized. Of course, it all builds up to the prom scene, which is where things go horribly wrong. But the way De Palma sets up the first half of the film, it makes the ending work as well as it does. And that final scene… damn.

Wanna hear something crazy? Piper Laurie, who is incredible as Carrie’s mother, did not make a movie between The Hustler (for which she was nominated for Best Actress in 1961) and this. She did some TV, but she followed up that movie, with this one. Hell of a one-two punch. This movie also completely launched the career of Sissy Spacek. She had been in Badlands, but this is the one. She’d win an Oscar four years after this.

I don’t think this is a movie that anyone expected to be as good or as successful as it was. And I feel like a lot of that credit is owed to De Palma and how he chose to portray the characters.

8. The Bad News Bears

“There was nothing easy about those fly balls, Ahmad. They were tough chances! The sun was in your eyes!”
“Don’t give me none of your honky bullshit, Buttermaker. I know they were easy.”
“Let’s not bring race into this, Ahmad. We got enough problems as it is.”

One of the great sports comedies of all time.

After a lawsuit against a little league for leaving out the bad players, the league agrees to add an additional team. Which means all the worst players end up on it. They hire Walter Matthau to manage it. He’s a former minor leaguer who is now a drunk, cleaning swimming pools for a living. So he starts managing this ragtag group of kids, who are all terrible, and basically half the movie is him drinking and cursing around children. And who doesn’t like that? Of course he also brings on his estranged daughter (Tatum O’Neal) to be the pitcher of the team, which mends their relationship and also helps the team, since she’s great.

This movie is just hilarious. Matthau’s character is a scumbag, and he acts like one for much of the movie. Which is what gives it its charm.

9. The Shootist

“You told me I was strong as an ox!”
“Well, even an ox dies.”

Fitting that in the year the western genre died, John Wayne would star in his final film. Of course it wasn’t meant to be his final film, but it is and it’s fitting. The culmination of 50 years on the screen, and a role that feels so befitting of a man so defined by a particular genre.

This film plays as a loose remake of The Gunfighter. Wayne is a famous gunman who arrives in town — Nevada… because the Old West no longer exists — to meet Jimmy Stewart, a doctor, who tells him that he’s got terminal cancer. He takes in a room from Lauren Bacall and her teenage son, Ron Howard, preparing to live out the rest of his life in the town. Of course, now that he’s there, all the young guns come out of the woodwork, trying to make their names by killing the famous gunfighter.

This movie is so good. It is, along with Josey Wales, the death of the western. You watch the western hero old, in pain, and trying to die a good death. These are the things you never saw in the 30s, and it’s a beautiful sendoff for both Wayne and the genre.

10. Marathon Man

“Is it safe?”

One of the great thrillers of all time. Perfect for the era. Written by William Goldman (and based on his own novel), John Schlesinger directs. It stars Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider, William Devane and Marthe Keller.

Hoffman is a history student whose brother is a secret agent. He comes into town, suspecting that a Nazi doctor will soon arrive. And pretty soon, he does, and he kills the brother and comes after Hoffman. It’s… so good. Very famous for the terrifying dental sequence pictured above, but that’s not even the start of all the pleasures this film has to offer.

This is only the second film to make use of the newly-invented Steadicam, after Bound for Glory. This is also the film that gave us that great exchange between Olivier and Hoffman, where Hoffman (a method actor) stayed up all night to properly portray his character, who stayed up all night. Olivier saw him and asked what was up, and when Hoffman told him, Olivier said, “Try acting, dear boy.” The story’s probably apocryphal, but it’s still quite good.

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11-20:

Assault on Precinct 13 — John Carpenter’s second film and the really the first one that put him on the map. This is heavily influenced by Rio Bravo (hell, he edited the movie under the pseudonym of John Wayne’s character from that movie), and it’s about a police precinct under siege by a gang looking to break one of their men out, and a cop and convicted murderer who have to help defend it. It’s great. It’s a B movie masterpiece. Carpenter had a run of like five great movies during this period, and this is one of the best ones. He scored the picture too, and it has a great theme song. Also, one of the more memorable openings in film history… with the ice cream truck. Definitely makes you sit up in your seat and pay attention, that’s for sure.

Bugsy Malone — There’s something so wonderful about this movie. One of the most singularly unique works in film history. I have no idea who thought this up and whose idea this was, but the way in which this got made, the way it got made, is one of the most interesting stories in film history. So the film is a gangster movie. You know how Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy is shot to look like it’s 1930, but it’s obviously done on soundstages on old school backlot sets? This is that. Only, there’s another little twist to it… all the actors are children. And when people get murdered? No bullets. Pie splatter. So you have a gangster movie, where people talk like 30s gangster, but they’re all children. Right? How nuts is that? Oh, and it’s a musical. I should mention that part. But the best part about that… because there’s a best part about everything in this movie… Paul Williams wrote all the songs. Only through some form of miscommunication, he ended up singing half the songs, and had other adults singing with him. So when the kids sing in this movie, they sound like adults. It’s so fucking bizarre, and only makes the movie even better. Alan Parker directed this, and it was his debut (his next movie was a little film called Midnight Express, and his followup to that was Fame… and then Pink Floyd’s The Wall). And Scott Baio is Bugsy Malone, and Jodie Foster is the gangster’s moll and singer at the speakeasy where a lot of the action takes place. The kid who plays Fat Sam is great. Trust me when I say you need to see this movie. Though it’s kinda like Rocky Horror… not everyone is gonna get it. But if you do get it… you’re gonna love it.

Freaky Friday — This is the original. Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster as mother and daughter who switch places for the day. It’s great. Most young people only know the 2004 version, but this is the OG one. It’s just as good, if not better. Same deal, so it’s not like you’re missing out on anything between the two versions. Just a matter of what era you’d rather see. For me, that’s the 70s.

Harry and Walter Go to New York — A forgotten comedy that’s a lot of fun. It’s also the kind of movie that I can sell you on very easily. Ready? It stars Elliott Gould, James Caan, Michael Caine and Diane Keaton. Gould and Caan are vaudevillians who get thrown in prison for robbing audience members. There, they meet Caine, a master bank robber. They quickly become his lackeys in order to stay safe. And while there, they hear about his plan to commit a heist once he gets out. Only they break out and plan to commit the heist before he can… only to have him get paroled the same day. So now it’s a race to see which of them can rob the bank first. It’s a lot of fun.

Logan’s Run — One of the classic sci fi films. They were gonna remake it a few times. It’s about a futuristic society that seems like a paradise, only underneath the surface, all the people are killed once they reach the age of 30. (So it’s kinda like Hollywood.) They don’t know this, but that’s what it is. There are cops that are there to catch people trying to run away. Ryan O’Neal is one of these cops… who eventually has to become one of the guys he usually chases once they come for him. So it’s Minority Report, Looper… the classic sci fi plot. It’s good. Kind of essential as far as the genre goes.

Mikey and Nicky — This is Elaine May making a John Cassavetes film, starring John Cassavetes and Peter Falk. This movie was so improvised that at one point Cassavetes and Falk walked off the set and May kept filming for so long that after like five minutes someone said, “They left!,” and May said, “But they might come back!” It’s so good. This is my favorite of Elaine May’s four films. It’s about the relationship between the two men, Falk, the family man, and Cassavetes, the fuck up. Cassavetes calls Falk late at night to say he fucked up and needs help. So Falk leaves home and rushes over. And the rest of the film is them over the course of the night. It’s so good. Honestly, had this top ten not been so loaded with stuff, this might have made it. That’s how much I liked it. This is a beautiful movie that is criminally underrated. Do yourself a favor and see this immediately.

Nickelodeon — Our first of two films to deal with the silent era in Hollywood. This is a Peter Bogdanovich film about Ryan O’Neal as a lawyer who gets into the movies, eventually becoming a director. This is all set during the era where everyone was making one or two reel shorts, all based around anecdotes people told Bogdanovich about their early days in Hollywood. The cast includes Burt Reynolds, Tatum O’Neal, Brian Keith, Brion James and M. Emmet Walsh. It’s no Paper Moon, but it’s fun.

The Ritz — This is a screwball farce set in a gay bath house. Right, though? How often do you hear that setup? Richard Lester directs, and it’s about a mobster’s brother who is hiding out at the bath house to lay low after his brother puts a hit on him. And he meets a various assortment of colorful characters, and hilarity ensues. Jack Weston stars, along with Rita Moreno, Jerry Stiller, Treat Williams, Bessie Love and F. Murray Abraham. It’s forgotten, but very funny. One of the underrated comedy gems of the 70s.

Silent Movie — Mel Brooks’ followup to Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Here, he creates a spoof of… well, the title gives it away. It’s not a true silent movie… but it’s basically a silent movie. Like The Artist… some sound effects and brief dialogue. Though here, there’s only one word of spoken dialogue (the joke being that the only line of dialogue in the film is spoken by Marcel Marceau). The movie is basically about Mel Brooks making the first silent film in 40 years. It’s loaded with cameos and sight gags… if you enjoy silent films and like that kind of comedy, this is for you. Here’s a list of all the people that star or cameo in the film, alongside Brooks himself: Dom DeLuise, Marty Feldman, Bernadette Peters, Sid Caesar, Harold Gould, Burt Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, Anne Bancroft and Paul Newman. It’s a lot of fun.

Silver Streak — There’s a great noir from 1952 that I love called The Narrow Margin. This is pretty much that movie redone as a comedy and starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. It’s hilarious. It’s also one of those movies that almost could have been directed by Hitchcock. Wilder is a mild mannered man who witnesses a murder on the train and is now in danger of being the next victim. It’s hilarious. One of the great comedies of the 70s, and you are doing yourself a disservice by not seeing this.

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Tier two:

  • Bound for Glory
  • Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson
  • Car Wash
  • Family Plot
  • The Front
  • Gator
  • The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
  • King Kong
  • The Last Tycoon
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth
  • The Missouri Breaks
  • Mother, Jugs and Speed
  • Obsession
  • The Omen
  • Robin and Marian
  • The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
  • The Song Remains the Same
  • A Star Is Born
  • The Tenant
  • Two-Minute Warning

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a John Cassavetes film. Ben Gazzara is a degenerate gambler who, after finally paying off one debt, incurs a much bigger one. However, he is told that he can get out of the entire debt by doing just one thing. Which, based on the title, you can guess what it is. And the film is about his emotional journey as he has to go do this thing, which he left to figure out how to do on his own. What I like most about it is that it’s ultimately a movie about a dude caught between two sides of a war, who is completely meaningless to them, yet his story is the most intense and personal thing he could possibly have to do. I love that. The outcome of whether or not he succeeds is almost meaningless in the long run to these two warring mobs. So perfectly Cassavetes. Robin and Marian is about an aging Robin Hood and his romance to Maid Marian. Sean Connery is Robin and Audrey Hepburn is Marian. Robert Shaw is the Sheriff of Nottinham, Richard Harris is King Richard, Ian Holm is King John, and Denholm Elliott is Will Scarlett. Oh, and Richard Lester directed it. If you need anything more than that to convince you to see this, I don’t know what more to tell you.

Bound for Glory is a Hal Ashby film that’s a biopic of Woody Guthrie. It was the fifth film nominated for Best Picture this year, next to All the President’s Men, Network, Rocky and Taxi Driver. Not bad company to be in. It follows Guthrie during the Dust Bowl as he hops boxcars and hitchhikes across America, along the way becoming a celebrated folk singer. It’s a great movie. Somewhat forgotten now, but one of the essential 70s films. Family Plot is Alfred Hitchcock’s last movie. And it’s the closest thing he came to a comedy since The Trouble with Harry. It stars Barbara Harris as a phony psychic who, in trying to make a buck, encounters real kidnappers and puts herself and her boyfriend in danger. It’s a lot of fun. Also contains the perfect final shot for Hitchcock’s film career (I won’t spoil it, but if you know his work well, it’s absolutely perfect for him). Of course, he didn’t intend for this to be his final film, but as such, it’s a nice sendoff. It was also scored by John Williams, which is pretty great. All around a solid Hitchcock movie. He finished strong.

Car Wash is a great ensemble comedy about a bunch of people… working at the car wash. Aww yeah.

Very much a product of the 70s, with a lot of the big comedians in it, like Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Very episodic, and reminiscent of all those other movies you’d have grown up watching. It’s a lot of fun. Definitely a product of its era, but who’s gonna say that something like Empire Records (which is this but in a music store) isn’t the same thing for the 90s? The Missouri Breaks is an Arthur Penn western starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson. Is that something I can interest you in? How about if we also throw in Randy Quaid, Frederic Forest and Harry Dean Stanton? And a score by John Williams. This is Marlon Brando going completely ridiculous. He’s a guy hired to track down and kill some rustlers (led by Nicholson), and the things he does in this movie… the Irish brogue… dressing as a woman… it’s clear that he both was dedicated to the part (since the guy is unorthodox and uses it to his advantage) and also wanted to see what crazy shit he could get away with because he clearly could not give more than two fucks. It’s a really fun movie, though. Definitely worth seeing for all involved.

The Song Remains the Same is a Led Zeppelin concert film. That’s all you need to know. The Omen is your classic “man adopts a child who is secretly the antichrist” story. Richard Donner directs, Gregory Peck and Lee Remick star. It’s awesome. You’ve seen this referenced and remade a bunch. This is the original, and this is the best. Just like no one’s gonna top Rosemary’s Baby, no one’s gonna top this. It’s too good. The Front is a film about the blacklist. A bunch of writers can’t get work because they were accused of being subversive, so they use “fronts” to sell their scripts. Basically, they hire non-writers to put their name on their work in order to get it sold, in exchange for a percentage of the fee. It’s really strong. Zero Mostel is great in this. Woody Allen also stars (rare for him, in a movie he didn’t write or direct) as the dude who is (insert title here) for one of the writers. It’s one of those movies film history buffs need to see. It still holds up.

The Last Tycoon is Elia Kazan’s last film, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final, unfinished novel. It’s all about Hollywood and stars Robert De Niro, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Nicholson, Donald Pleasence, Ray Milland, Dana Andrews and Anjelica Huston. Also with cameos by Jeff Corey and John Carradine. It’s almost a dramatic Hail, Caesar. De Niro is a studio head who has to deal with all sorts of problems from day to day. It’s solid. Definitely shows that it was an unfinished novel, but the film is quite good and there are great actors in it. Gator. Fuck yeah. Burt Reynolds. He’s a dude living in the swamps of Florida and illegally making moonshine. He gets hired by the cops to take down a corrupt politician. This is technically a sequel to White Lightning, but no one really remembers that. It’s Burt Reynolds on a fan boat, kicking ass. What more do you need? King Kong is a remake of the original. They make one of these every couple decades. They’re all fine. This is part of the big disaster craze of the 70s. Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange star. Completely different take on the story… oil company goes to the island… it doesn’t really matter. You know the basics of King Kong. It’s that. It’s 70s that. And it’s fine. It’s fun. You know what you’re getting. Nothing has ever topped the original, now 85 years later, but all the other versions are perfectly acceptable.

Obsession is a Brian De Palma-doing-Hitchcock film. Very much his Vertigo. Cliff Robertson is a real estate guy whose wife and daughter are kidnapped. Both end up dead in a botched ransom exchange, and he feels guilty for their deaths. Some time later, he encounters a woman that looks exactly like his dead wife (Genevieve Bujold plays both roles), and he becomes obsessed with her and, like Vertigo, starts turning her into a mirror image of his wife. It’s… I’ll say this, without giving too much away… because it’s De Palma and because it wasn’t made in the 50s… he’s able to get away with a pretty fucked up ending. There’s a lot of psychological… there’s a lot going on there, I’ll leave it at that. It’s a very good movie, but that ending… Hitchcock could never have gotten away with that. Buffalo Bill and the Indians is a Robert Altman film. Very typical of him — big ensemble cast and loose narrative. It stars Paul Newman as Buffalo Bill, who has Sitting Bull join his Wild West Show, only to find out that he’s not the savage he had heard, but actually a noble man. It’s basically a revisionist western, showing the Native Americans to be noble people and the Americans to be idiots and buffoons. Lot of cool people in this, Burt Lancaster, Kevin McCarthy, Joel Grey, Harvey Keitel, Geraldine Chaplin, Shelley Duvall. Very much a part of the type of Altman film you’re used to seeing. It’s solid.

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is a sort of revisionist Sherlock Holmes story. Robert Duvall plays Watson and Laurence Olivier is Moriarty. Holmes is delusional and addicted to cocaine, and Watson convinces him to go see Sigmund Freud (played by Alan Arkin). So while Freud tries to solve the mystery of Holmes’ psyche, Holmes starts working on his own mystery. Great rest of the cast… Vanessa Redgrave, Charles Grey, Samantha Eggar, Joel Grey. Really solid film. The Man Who Fell to Earth is just a weird movie. Fascinating, but weird. David Bowie plays an alien who crash lands on earth to take water back to his home planet. Though along the way, he becomes really accustomed to earth indulgences, namely alcohol, TV and sex. It’s so utterly fascinating. One of those cult classics you need to see because it’s weirdly influential, even if you don’t think it will be. Directed by Nicolas Roeg, and one of his three most famous films, alongside Don’t Look Now and Performance. It’s really good.

A Star Is Born is the Barbra Streisand remake of the classic, with her and Kris Kristofferson. He’s a rock star and she’s the up and comer. Same story, same deal. 70s excess all around, and focused around their singing talents. This seems to be the version that Bradley Cooper is remaking with Lady Gaga now, that’s gonna come out in a few months. Mother, Jugs & Speed is… well, Mother is Bill Cosby, Jugs is Raquel Welch and Speed is Harvey Keitel. They all work for an ambulance company, trying to win a contract for the city against a rival company. It’s fun. Directed by Peter Yates… just a cool 70s comedy.  The Tenant is part of Roman Polanski’s “Apartment” trilogy, with Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. This one stars him, and it’s real fucked up. I love it. He moves into an apartment where the previous tenant jumped out the window to try to kill herself. And it’s almost like a Kafka movie, where people are just mad at him for shit he didn’t do, and the whole thing is almost surreal, and pretty soon he’s dressing in drag and almost becoming the woman who lived there previously… it’s so strange. And also dark as shit. The ending is one of the most fucked up things you’ll see. It’s really good.

Two-Minute Warning is a thriller about a sniper at the Super Bowl. Kind of a disaster movie, but there’s not really a big disaster so much as the threat of one. So it’s a big ensemble of all sorts of people who are at the game, and the main deal is a guy is perched up on the roof (of the LA Coliseum). So now the cops have to get up there and stop the guy before he starts murdering people. It’s fun. Charlton Heston stars, along with John Cassavetes, Martin Balsam, Beau Bridges, Jack Klugman, Gena Rowlands, Walter Pigeon and Brock Peters. What I like most about it is the ending. Only the 70s would have been able to end a film the way this one does. No other decade would have had the balls to do that.

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