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Tim Wilson
Re: 1970's Cinema
on Dec 5, 2013 at 7:41:33 am

[Kylee Wall] " not just in a Citizen Kane-y kind of way where you respect it regardless of if you actually like it. These are actually bomb-ass films. "

Perfectly said.


And Mike, ha! Great movie. Great user name too!

Yeah, I hesitated to bring up Lucas, Spielberg and Coppola...but the fact is that a lot of their work SHOULD be recognized as indie, but isn't, and somebody who only knows their biggest commercial hits may have missed some great stuff.

For Lucas, the winner is his 1971 debut, THX 1138, which he co-wrote with Walter Murch, starring Robert Duvall and the great, underrated Donald Pleasance, score by Lalo Schifirin. (Look him, listen to his stuff. Greatest hit: TV theme for Mission: Impossible.)

We've talked about Spielberg's 1971 TV movie Duel, so compelling that it was released theatrically later. It's pretty crazy, and you can see why it launched his career.

His THEATRICAL debut is Sugarland Express, in which Goldie Hawn convinces her husband to escape from prison so that they can "kidnap" their baby, currently in foster care. The dad is played with sensitivity, and complete sympathy, by William Atherton, who later played some memorable a-holes, as the newscaster in Die Hard, and the bureaucratic lackey who tries to shut down the Ghostbusters. He combined these two sides of his range in the TV show Life, but I still feel warmly toward him every time I see him. A terrific, terrific movie with a great tagline: "Every cop in the state was after her. Everybody else was behind her."

This was also one of Goldie's first roles not playing a variation of ditzy, and writing about this now, I'm reminded how wonderful she really was, and her run as Hollywood's top female draw. I really, really miss her. Anyway, still one of my Spielberg faves.

It's hard to call The Conversation overlooked, but it's right behind Apocalypse Now as my favorite Coppola piece.

--- Hey, did you know Francis wrote Patton and The Great Gatsby? Check out his writing credits at IMDb. You'll be shocked.

If you know it at all, you know The Conversation as a fantastic Gene Hackman, sort of an amoral guy who sees an opportunity to do the right thing...but it isn't exactly the right thing after all. Harrison Ford as an utter creep, and Cindy Williams in her first feature since she worked with Ford in American Graffiti. This really is a masterpiece, definitely on a required viewing list for the 70s.

Gene had a phenomenal decade -- 3 major pictures EACH in 74 and 75 alone. Mike mentioned The French Connection, from 1971. I'll add The Hunting Party (great western: Kris Kristofferson, Karen Black, Harry Dean Stanton), Night Moves, A Bridge Too Far...it's a long freaking list.

Oh yeah, and The Poseidon Adventure (still the best disaster epic, imo, as a hip priest!) and Young Frankenstein! (Also with Madeline Kahn of course.)

A famous-er movie that you need to watch again is Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid...okay, 1969, but still, a VERY 70s picture. Absolutely flawless screenplay by William Goldman, regarded by his peers as maybe the only perfect screenplay of the era. Endlessly charismatic leads, playing entirely against type (then) -- they were originally slated to play the opposite roles, a revelation that really opens up the enjoyment of it...but seriously, watch and listen to Goldman's script.

He's another guy you can hardly go wrong with. Notably, screenplay for Marathon Man AND THE PRINCESS BRIDE...and get this, BOTH FROM HIS NOVELS....and All The President's Men...which if you haven't seen, AMAZING. One of the decade's absolute, tippity-toppity best, and imo, one of the best ever.


I just noticed that we've mentioned a ton of 1971 movies - Dirty Harry, French Connection, THX 1138, Duel, Willy Wonka, Last Picture Show. Here are some others.

Clockwork Orange was the #8 grosser that year!!! The top ten also included Fiddler On The Roof (still enthralling) and French Connection at 1 and 2, Dirty Harry at 4, Last Picture Show at 6, and at #10: Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. TRULY badass -- hardcore indie from Melvin Van Peebles, raising a bunch of questions about race and gender that still don't have satisfactory answers...even in the context of this one movie. Was it exposing stereotypes, or indulging them?

So, part of the craziness of this year (and this era) is that these fringe-y movies were dead center in the mainstream.

Just to give you an idea of how crazy 1971 was, at #9, right between Clockwork Orange and Sweet Sweetback: Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks!!!

Other 1971 faves that should wind up on your list:

The Barefoot Executive, starring my favorite movie star of the time, Kurt Russell! In which Kurt accidentally finds himself as a network programming chief...because his pet chimp is choosing the programs!

Classic Disney ensemble: Joe Flynn, Wally Cox, Harry Morgan, and the debut of John Ritter. I LOVE THIS MOVIE...even though it was kind of sucky even at the time. LOL Still worth finding if you're in that kind of mood.

Bananas, Woody Allen. I'm resisting the temptation to say "When he was still funny."

Play Misty For Me - Eastwood's other 1971 hit, his directoral debut. Fantastic score by Errol Garner and Dee Barton, a big deal since Clint is playing a disk jockey. One of the all-time great openings.

The Andromeda Strain - the first of the virus thrillers, notable for not being thrilling, in a good way. Plays at a verrry slow pace, which makes it kinda more dreadful as a result. Definitely a must.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller -- WAY underrated: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Robert Altman.

Willard - what? You don't know Willard? Bruce Davison as a loner who befriends a massive army of rats to kill his antagonists, notably Ernest Borgnine. Creepy as all get-out.

Shaft (nothing like its comical title track would lead you to believe) and Billy Jack (huge musical hit with "One Tin Soldier") are two singular accomplishments.

Shaft was a classic of what became known as blaxploitation (Sweet Sweetback is in there too), with a fantastic, iconic performance by Richard Roundtree, stellar direction from Gordon Parks, and Oscar-winning work from Isaac Hayes. (The soundtrack was in fact the first time that a black man released a double album full of his own compositions. It's also gorgeous, highly recommended.)

Billy Jack tied the image of an anti-war vet and native American rights in ways that were just coming together "in real life" at the time.

In a lot of ways, Billy Jack (as a character) is the antecedent for John Rambo (as a character) in First Blood (but not so much for Rambo). Even though it was started in 1967, 1971 was THE year for Vietnam Veterans Against The War (notably, throwing their medals on the steps of the Capital, and surrendering themselves to be tried as war criminals), and started to shift the image of returning vets from "babykillers" to boys who were the only actual domestic victims of the war.

It was also increasingly understood that the draft disproportionally affected minority youths, leading to groups like the Black Panthers to protest using language like "Free The Soldiers."

(I say "boys" and "youths" because the average age of a soldier killed in Vietnam was 19. NINETEEN.)

Dee Brown's Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee had also just come out in 1971, and Billy Jack's description as a "half-breed" Navajo resonated in ways that it wouldn't have before that.

Anyway, Billy Jack was a quiet picture. It was the sequel to the 1967 picture The Born Losers, this one directed and written by its star Tom Laughlin. When he couldn't get a distribution deal, he booked it into theaters himself! One screen at a time. Now THAT's fkking INDIE.

Yet another profoundly difficult movie to watch - racism, violence, repression -- but suffused with a nobility that's quite moving.

Klute - Jane Fonda took home an Oscar for this, plus Donald Sutherland and Roy Scheider. Not the equal of most on this list, but a signature piece of the time.

Walkabout. AND, if you're not familiar with the Australian New Wave, as powerful and distinctive a movement as ever was, this is a great place to start. Add The Last Wave, Picnic At Hanging Rock, and My Brilliant Career, and you've got a 70s taste treat. I'm crazy about all of those.

To wrap this VERY short list from 1971, just for grins, throw in Escape From The Planet of the Apes, because I was insane for these movies. One of the first things I did when I learned French in high school was read the original PotA novel in French. Don't bother. LOL

Last but not least, maybe my favorite from 1971, HAROLD & MAUDE. Holy cow, if you don't know this movie backwards and forwards, SEE IT.

One of the first movies to go all-in on a pop-music soundtrack in a movie not featuring the performers (FANTASTIC stuff from Cat Stevens), and an entirely unexpected twist on anti-war sentiment...WAIT! OR WAS IT? For a hilarious black comedy, quite nuanced, with career-defining performances for Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon, and a peak for Hal Asby.

Hal started as an editor, Oscar-nominated for The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (Alan Arkin - I loved this movie) and winning for In The Heat Of The Night. ("They call me MISTER TIBBS!" Day-yum.)

Harold & Maude was only his second picture as a director, but other of his 70s classics include The Last Detail (another great Nicholson picture), Coming Home (8 Oscar noms, 3 wins), Shampoo (wow, classic look at glamour, gossip and sleaze - VERY entertaining, with a cast that included Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie, Lee Grant -- best supp. actress Oscar -- and a very young Carrie Fisher), and, to end the decade, 1979's Being There.

At the time, people were going nuts about that one. I find that it's a love it or leave it kinda deal. I didn't care for it, but you'll find it on many, many best-of lists.


[Kylee Wall] " not just in a Citizen Kane-y kind of way where you respect it regardless of if you actually like it. These are actually bomb-ass films. "

WOrth repeating, because it's so perfectly said, and because it's been a dog year since I included it in this post!

Hey, and not to sound like 1971 was the only, or even best year for movies in the 70s, check out 1975's top five:

Jaws
Rocky Horror Picture Show (when including re-releases)
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Dog Day Afternoon
Shampoo



Yowza! Bomb-ass is right.


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