Monday, December 30, 2013

The Nixon Era

Jesse Walker has now gotten back to 1973, when Hollywood was still in the middle (or is it at the end?) of a revolution, with new filmmakers, new stars and new techniques challenging the old ways.

Here's his top ten:

1. F for Fake
2. The Long Goodbye
3. Badlands
4. The Last Detail
5. Charley Varrick
6. The Friends of Eddie Coyle
7. Mean Streets
8. Paper Moon
9. Day for Night
10. Sleeper

Must have been quite a year, because this is quite a list.

Orson Welles thought F For Fake might save his career, and he could go on making more film essays, building them in the editing suite out of variegated material.  Instead, it was a complete financial failure and he never finished another feature.  But time has been kind to the film, and many--like Jesse--now rate it highly.  I don't know if I'd go that far, but it would probably make my top twenty, and maybe top ten.

Jesse notes Jack Nicholson was on a streak in the early 70s, but so was Robert Altman, and The Long Goodbye is one of his more fascinating works.  Badlands starts Terrence Malick's amazing career and is as beautiful today as it was then.

Charley Varrick is one of my favorite action pictures of the 70s. Or should I say "action" pictures, since action in those days could be as discursive as My Dinner With Andre.  And knowing Walter Matthau stars in a role intended for Clint Eastwood only makes it better.  Meanwhile, The Last Detail has what may be Robert Towne's best script.  (Maybe someone should do a sequel with a couple of officials extraditing Randy Quaid from Canada.)

I've never seen The Friends Of Eddie Coyle all the way through. (What I saw didn't impress me, but I missed the first half so I really can't judge.)  The one film on this list I think shouldn't be here is Mean Streets. Many consider it a modern classic, but while I recognize there's some intriguing acting and memorable moments, overall I find it a bit of a mess.

Paper Moon is a lot of fun (and, little did Bogdanovich know, the end of a run--it'd be followed by three high-profile flops).  Day For Night is about a subject Truffaut loves--film itself--and in doing so creating one of his best works.  I wish the title has been translated American Night, even though it would have confused everyone over here.  Sleeper is Woody Allen at his funniest, which is always top ten.

Here are Jesse's honorable mentions:

11. Scenes from a Marriage
12. Don't Look Now
13. Serpico
14. Juvenile Court
15. Frank Film
16. High Plains Drifter
17. The Sting
18. My Name is Nobody
19. Hell Up in Harlem
20. The Marcus-Nelson Murders

Jesse also tips his hat to O Lucky Man!.

I don't consider 11 top-notch Bergman, but I can see it on a top twenty list.  I'm not always warm to Roeg films, but 12 is still pretty interesting.  13 has a good central performance but I've always found it a bit slow.

Jesse likes Frederick Wiseman, and so do I, but I've never seen 14. Haven't seen 15 eithers.  It's a sign of how strong the year is, I guess, that the Eastwood film of the year didn't make the top ten.  I think it's good for a Clint film of the time, but I don't exactly love it.

17 would make my top ten.  It's a great example of what commercial Hollywood was capable of (though, looking back, ragtime to score a Depression film is weird).  Haven't seen 18 or 19.  20 is a made-for-TV movie that led to Kojak.

And the surrealist romp O Lucky Man! would probably make my top twenty.

Jesse chose just about all the films that would have made my top ten.  In fact, there's only one that he missed, but it's a big one--might even be #1 for the year:  American Graffiti.

Other films of the year I liked:

Electra Glide In Blue, Enter The Dragon, Fantastic Planet, Heavy Traffic, Let The Good Times Roll, Love And Anarchy, The Mad Adventures Of Rabbi Jacob, The Paper Chase, That’ll Be The Day, The Three Musketeers

Of films of interest:

40 Carats, Bang The Drum Slowly, Battle For The Planet Of The Apes, Black Caesar, Blume In Love, Cahill U.S. Marshall, Charlotte’s Web, Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, The Day Of The Dolphin, The Devil In Miss Jones, Digby The Biggest Dog In The World, Dillinger, Don’t Play Us Cheap, Emperor Of The North Pole, The Exorcist, Five On The Black Hand Side, Godspell,  Godzilla Vs. Megalon, The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad, The Harrad Experiment, Harry In Your Pocket, The Homecoming, The Iceman Cometh, Jeremy, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Last American Hero, The Last Of Sheila, The Laughing Policeman, Live And Let Die, Lost Horizon, The Mack, Magnum Force, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, Oklahoma Crude, Papillon,  Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, Save The Tiger, Scarecrow, Schlock, The Seven-Ups, Shaft In Africa, Sisters, Soylent Green, Superdad, The Thief Who Came To Dinner, Tom Sawyer, A Touch Of Class, Walking Tall, Wattstax, The Way We Were, Westworld, White Lightning, The Wicker Man, The World’s Greatest Athlete


Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Give yourself a treat and see My Name is Nobody.

3:52 AM, December 30, 2013  
Blogger Jesse said...

For years my take on American Graffiti was that I would have appreciated it more if I hadn't seen so many rip-offs of it before I encountered the original. Then I watched I Vitelloni and realized that American Graffiti wasn't "the original" after all.

5:08 AM, December 30, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charley Varrick, which I enjoyed on AMC or TCM a few years back, seemed more of a TV cop show. Thematically, I thought Eddie Coyle was very similar but much grittier. Maybe I just liked the idea of old dudes in bad fashion

5:49 AM, December 30, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having seen a 35mm print of Charlie Varrick recently with a largish crowd, I can attest that it still plays to an audience really well.

F for Fake was not quite Welles' last film. He did one more essay film, Filming Othello. By the time it screened in 1979 in New York at the Public Theater screening room (on a double bill with an impeccable print of Othello), Welles reputation was at its nadir, and the NYT Times didn't even bother with a review. It's an intriguing little film, but no F for Fake. Welles' daughter pulled it from circulation at the time she authorized the disastrous "restoration" of Othello.

(It's funny how being in NY can skew your impressions. F for Fake played for weeks to good crowds at the DW Griffith, and had a second lengthy run at the Quad Cinema. I didn't realize it got virtually no play anywhere else until years later. Of course, I'm one of the few people in the world who can say they waited in line to see Interiors.)

7:28 AM, December 30, 2013  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I've managed to never see Mean Streets, but I got it for Christmas and was so excited! Now . . . Thanks a lot LA Guy!

8:25 AM, December 30, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fellini is one of the masters, but I don't see much of a comparison between "American Graffiti" and "I Vitelloni" (which I think, and this is widely discussed, "Diner" owes more to than "American Graffiti" does). What "American Graffiti" spawned was the "one night teen adventure" plot.

9:05 AM, December 30, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Technically the title's correct but 1973 was more the Watergate Era.

as 2013 is the Obamacare Rollout Era, 2005 was the Katrina Era and 1997 was the Blowjob Era and 1985(maybe it was 86) was the IranContra Era. Year 5s and 6s are brutal

10:15 AM, December 30, 2013  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I actually thought about mentioning Watergate in the title of the post, except the best paranoid films it would spawn were still to come.

I agree that Graffiti stands on its own, even if you want to call it the American version of Vitelloni (which Jesse can discuss when he goes over 1953).

11:47 AM, December 30, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charley Varrick has humor, and solid characterization, but it's also pretty gritty. Lead characters die in the film. It's also a long-term cat and mouse story. If it reminds you of a TV cop show you must have watched amazingly good TV cop shows. (Not to mention cop shows where none of the main character were cops.)

On top of that, it's where Quentin Tarantino got his line about going after someone with pliers and a blowtorch.

12:06 PM, December 30, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the dull western/California landscape contributed to the cop show feel of Charley V.

As I said I quite liked it. The fact that inspired Quentin T doesn't help though

2:11 PM, December 30, 2013  
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