Wednesday, December 24, 2014

In The Middle Of Our National Nightmare

It's 1974, and Hollywood still is in an age of discovery--new directors and new techniques still promise adventure at the cinema.  But the big discovery that hasn't quite taken yet is the blockbuster--one picture can make unimaginable amounts of money.  After Jaws and Star Wars, the studios will once again understand what they're put on earth for, but for now, it's still up for grabs.

Let's see what Jesse Walker's top ten for the year are:

1. Chinatown
2. Monty Python And The Holy Grail
3. The Conversation
4. Lenny
5. California Split
6. The Godfather Part 2
7. Swept an unusual destiny in the blue sea in August
8.  A Woman Under The Influence
9.  Phantom Of The Paradise
10. Young Frankenstein

Good or bad, every one of these is a major title.  Makes you realize it was quite a time.  That said, Jesse's #1 pick, Chinatown, has never done it for me.  I recognize (as with the entire list) there are some fascinating things here, but overall the story leaves me cold.  Monty Python And The Holy Grail is the team's best film--a bit ragged (due to budget constraints) but closest to the anarchic spirit that made them great.  The Conversation should be on this list--though, as great as it is, I question its placement above Coppola's Godfather 2 (which, as great as that is, is not as good as the original).  Lenny is another film that fascinates--the design, the cinematography, the performance--which I don't believe works overall.  When you think about it, it's amazing California Split was even made--it's not a very commercial film (like most Altman of the time), but the director was at his most creative in this period and Split is one of my favorites.  I'm not a big fan of Lina Wertmuller, but Swept Away may be her best film.  A Woman Under The Influence features a great lead performance, but, as with so many Cassavetes films, it has a (very long) self-indulgent story that goes this way and that and doesn't amount to much.  I'm not sure what to say about Phantom Of The Paradise--I don't think I like it, and yet I've seen it many times, so it must do something for me.  Perhaps I'd go for it more if it didn't have such an awful score. (It's also dated in that whatever outrageousness the musical acts had would soon be surpassed by the reality of punk music.) Then there's Young Frankenstein.  You might think I'd be a huge fan of Mel Brooks, but I much prefer Woody Allen from the era.  I find Brooks' comedies patchily funny, and even at his best (which was definitely this year), falling short of classic status.  Still, I like Young Frankenstein--especially Marty Feldman.  However, I think Brooks' other film this year was maybe better.

Which brings us to Jesse's honorable mentions:

11.  Thieves Like Us
12.  Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia
13.  The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three
14.  Alice In The Cities
15.  Blazing Saddles
16.  The Parallax View
17.  Celine And Julie Go Boating
18.  The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser (Jesse uses the original title, but does he refer to Wings Of Desire as The Sky Over Berlin?)
19.  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
20.  Space Is The Place

What do you know, another director with two films, and I agree with Jesse's placement--Thieves Like Us is weaker Altman--probably wouldn't make my top twenty.  Bring Me The Head was a major flop in its day but has since achieved a certain reputation, due to, I think, the director's name, and one of the greatest titles ever, but not much more.  The Taking Of Pelham would probably make my top ten--it's fun to watch 70s thrillers before the Joel Silver rule of an explosion every ten minutes took over.  Haven't seen #14.  I first thought Blazing Saddles was too crude, but I've gotten over it--and today I can see it's fairly witty.  The Parallax View may be the ultimate paranoid thriller, even more than The Conversation--tremendously uneven, but memorable.  I like Celine And Julie, but did Rivette have to make it over three hours?  Kaspar Hauser is pretty good Herzog.  Texas Chain Saw is monumentally influential, and memorably rough, but I consider it kind of silly (like many films of the genre).  Never saw #20.

Film that would have made my top ten:

The Phantom Of Liberty (part of the late flowering of Bunuel)

Other films I like:

Ali: Fear Eats The Soul, The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz (I have relatives in the background), Bread And Chocolate, The Cars That Ate Paris, Female Trouble, Five Shaolin Masters, Going Places, Juggernaut, Lacombe, Lucien, The Longest Yard, That's Entertainment! (though I don't approve of the concept), We All Loved Each Other So Much,

Other films of note:

11 Harrowhouse, 99 and 44/100% Dead, Adventures Of Sinbad The Sailor, Airport 1975, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, And Then There Were None, Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, Arabian Nights, Benji, Big Bad Mama, Black Christmas, Bruce Lee: A Dragon Story, Buster And Billie, Butley, Caged Heat, Claudine, The Clockmaker, Conrack, Crazy Joe, Daisy Miller, Dark Star, Death Wish, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, Emmanuelle, Flesh Gordon, For Pete's Sake, The Four Musketeers (not bad, but a weaker sequel to The Three Musketeers), Foxy Brown, Freebie And The Bean, The Front Page, The Gambler (the remake will be out tomorrow), Ghost Story, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad, Gone In 60 Seconds, The Great Gatsby, The Groove Tube, The Harrad Experiment, Harry And Tonto, Hearts And Minds, Herbie Rides Again, Huckleberry Finn, I Dismember Mama, I Spit On Your Corpse, If You Don't Stop It...You'll Go Blind, It's Alive, Killer Bees, The Korean Connection, Ladies And Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, Lancelot du Lac, The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams, The Little Prince, The Lords Of Flatbush, Macon County Line, The Man With The Golden Gun (the low point of the series?), McQ, Mr. Majestyk, Murder On The Orient Express, The Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat, The Odessa File, The Return Of The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe, Rhinoceros, Son Of Dracula, S*P*Y*S, Stardust, Stavisky, Sugar Hill, The Sugarland Express, The Super Cops, Sweet Movie, T.N.T. Jackson, The Tamarind Seed, The Terminal Man, Three The Hard Way, Thunderbolt And Lightfoot, The Towering Inferno, The Trial Of Billy Jack, Truck Turner, Uptown Saturday Night, Vampira, Willie Dynamite, Winnie The Pooh And Tigger Too, The Yakuza, Zardoz


Blogger Jesse said...

Jesse uses the original title, but does he refer to Wings Of Desire as The Sky Over Berlin?

No, but the video I saw actually had "Every Man for Himself..." on the cover and I guess that stuck with me.

6:02 AM, December 24, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

The original is a better title--maybe it deserves to take over.

10:05 AM, December 24, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original The Longest Yard may not be top ten, but it's a hundred times better than the Adam Sandler remake.

11:12 AM, December 24, 2014  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Don't be trashing Sandler. He's our peeps.

9:00 PM, December 24, 2014  

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