Sunday, August 05, 2012

1977 in film

If Jaws set the stage for the era of the summer blockbuster, Star Wars kicked the door completely in.  There's a lot of great movies out there, including a whole host that in the grand scheme of things are far better than the original Star Wars.  But very few become a complete cultural phenomenon, and maybe none moreso than our introduction to Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and (especially) Harrison Ford did.  After 1977, everything had changed in a way that continues through today.

#5 - Jesus Of Nazarth: There's obviously quite a few high-quality works on the life of Christ.  Of the more comprehensive efforts, this is the one I always hearken back to in my mind.  The piercing eyes and effortless calm that Robert Powell brought to the role made him the standard going forward.

#4 - Slap Shot: How fun must this have been for Paul Newman to do?  All the great movies he's been in, all the fantastic roles that he was able to sink his teeth into and be honored for...and then there's this foul-mouthed bit of trash that has no hesitation whatsoever to get down and roll in the mud.  Speaking of vulgarities, be forewarned that the granddaddy of them all gets used (to great effect) in this clip.

#3 - Oh God!: Morgan Freeman gave it a good turn in Bruce Almighty, but I still have to give the slight edge to George Burns in this one.  Just love the way the entire courtroom has that look on their faces of complete enjoyment at watching Burns giving his speech.

#2 - Pumping Iron: This documentary could have derailed many other prospective actors/politicians with the coarse discussions and open drug use.  Instead, it served as an effective introduction to the awesome charisma of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  I've always gotten a rush out of seeing Lou Ferrigno screaming Arnold's name in this workout to provide motivation to push himself through the pain.  Whatever PEDs may have been used, it's still staggering to see the amount of weight these guys are training with and the lengths they pushed themselves.

#1 - Star Wars: Not sure what more really needs to be said.  The most impressive opening scene in movie history.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

1976 in film

1976 was a vast improvement over the preceding year in terms of quality up at the top.  There's still controversy that rages to this day over Rocky being voted Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  Frankly, in the aftermath of all the high profile assassinations in the 60's, Vietnam, and Watergate, this country needed a pick-me-up.  Taxi Driver was ultimately too damn depressing and Rocky (for whatever you might think of its sequels) was a feel-good story that had a great plot and some fantastic supporting characters that made it feel real.

#5 - King Kong: Guilt pleasure, I must confess.  It's terribly over the top, and it tries too hard to be relevant about the role of oil set against the backdrop of the OPEC crisis in the 70's.  Jeff Bridges was definitely on the path to bigger and better things.  It's also the motion picture debut of Jessica Lange, who is substantially less annoying than Fay Wray in the original.  Gotta love Jeff's beard...good campy fun!

#4 Carrie: It's amazing how all over the place the adaptations of Stephen King's stuff are.  For every Green Mile, The Shining, or Shawshank Redemption there filler like Pet Sematary, Thinner, and Dreamcatcher.  Carrie goes back and forth between the two for me.  Slow in some places, a little goofy in others...and then sometimes downright creepy as hell.  Interestingly, Piper Laurie was nominated for an Academy Award in 1961 for her role in The Hustler, then didn't do another film until this one fifteen years later.  The result: another Oscar nomination.

#3 - Taxi Driver: Look, I won't debate it's greatness.  Definitely earns a spot among the top hundred American films of all-time.  But this list is of my favorites.  And this is just a downer of a flick.  Violent as hell for the mid-70's as well.  It's cliched to call it an iconic performance from DeNiro because, frankly, he's had at least seven of them.  Also the first of two iconic roles for Jodie Foster and the first of her four Academy Award nominations.

#2 - All The President's Men: I am nothing if not my mother's son.  She's a history junkie and instilled enough of that in me that I wound up earning a degree in history as a college undergraduate.  This movie does a fantastic job of taking what could otherwise be a mundane story about an investigative reporting gig and turning it into a taut thriller.  Bob Woodward only wishes he looked half as good as Redford did playing him.  No Jason Robards in this scene but he was dynamite in his role as Ben Bradlee.

#1 - Rocky: Spoiler alert!  He doesn't win the fight at the end.  I think one of the most underrated moments in films, and because of that possibly my favorite acting moments, are when they give a "look" that communicates everything without saying a word.  Carl Weathers has just that type of moment in this clip at the 1:43 mark.  He knows that to win he's going to have to literally kill this opponent that just refuses to go down as he should have ages ago.  And yet he knows that he's given it everything that he has and there's no guarantee that he won't be the one going to his doom when this resumes.

Friday, August 03, 2012

1975 in film

Wow, after the first couple of movies, it tails off in a hurry.  Evidently I haven't seen too many flicks from when I was a year old, at least not any that could be considered "quality."

#5 - Escape From Witch Mountain: I only have the slightest memory of watching this one as a child.  Can remember laying on the floor in my grandparent's living room on Taggert Avenue watching it on a Saturday afternoon.  Aside from having the evil warden from the original Longest Yard, there's not much else I can tell you about this.  Definitely doesn't crack the top 25 among my favorite Disney efforts.

#4 - Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown: Let's face it, there's the Christmas and Halloween specials and everything else by the Peanuts gang was just trying to ensure that all the other holidays got equal representation.  It's been ages since I've seen it but I'm recalling a premise that involves Charlie Brown not getting any Valentine's Day cards.  Am I close?

#3 - Rocky Horror Picture Show: Not a huge fan, but got sucked into it as a junior in high school.  My girlfriend that year had a fondness for the soundtrack, so it got listened to on several occasions and I consented to sitting down to watch the movie.  The things we do for love.  Hey, two thumbs up for any film that casts Meatloaf!

#2 - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: Now we're talking.  I apologize for the music that got overlaid on this clip.  Brad Dourif was absolutely magnificent in this scene, Nicholson wisely stayed in the background and didn't take anything away from the moment, and Louise Fletcher is at her icy worst as one of the most evil screen villains of all-time.

#1 - Jaws: The modern movie landscape of emphasis on summer blockbusters can be traced directly back to Steven Spielberg's first masterpiece.  The fact that you see so little of the shark until the very end lends to the suspense and dread.  And this scene by Robert Shaw belongs in the absolute pantheon of dramatic monologues.  I have two books on the bookshelf at home pertaining to the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis that I bought entirely based on the description of events in this clip.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

1974 in film

948 movies.  As best I can tell from doing film rankings on Flickchart, that's how many movies I have seen in my lifetime.  At approximately two hours a movie, that's 79 days of 24/7 viewing that I've done in my lifetime.  And that's assuming that I only saw each movie one time which, frankly, we all know isn't the case.  Therefore, the theme of the blog today and for the next month is counting down my favorite movies.  One daily entry for each year I've been around, my five favorite movies of each year counted down and with clips.

#5 - The Man With The Golden Gun: In general, I find most of the Roger Moore 007 movies to be silly with too much of an emphasis on gadgets.  However, Christopher Lee as Scaramanga is one of the best Bond villians and Britt Ekland is certainly easy on the eyes.  

#4 - Young Frankenstein: 1974 was a pretty solid year for Mel Brooks, with both this and Blazing Saddle coming out within ten months of each other.  I have two favorite bits of trivia regarding this film.  The first is that most of the laboratory equipment seen in the movie is the exact same equipment used in the famous Boris Karloff version of Frankenstein.  Second is that Aerosmith went to see the film and got the idea to name their iconic song "Walk This Way" from a gag in the movie.

#3 - Monty Python and The Holy Grail: There's two types of people in this world, I'm convinced.  Those who get Monty Python's dry British humor, and those who don't.  So absurd, but so damn funny.

#2 - Blazing Saddles: Maybe the most politically incorrect movie in history and one I'm not sure could even get made today.  Clevon Little did a great job as the sheriff but there's still a part of me that wishes Mel Brooks had gotten his first choice--Richard Pryor.  This might be my single favorite delivery of a comic line ever.

#1 - The Godfather Part II: It seems ridiculous in hindsight, but this film wasn't supposed to work.  Sequels were extremely rare and almost always flops before this masterpiece.  Jumping around in time from 1901 to 1958 to 1917 and carrying on multiple story lines was going to be too confusing for the audience.  The story had been told in epic fashion and anything else was going to be a redundancy.  Well, so much for conventional wisdom.