Films viewed in 2011

Posts Tagged ‘70s’

489. Two-Lane Blacktop

In Drama on February 24, 2012 at 4:52 PM

Dir. Monte Hellman

Story of two men drag racing across the USA in a primer grey 55 chevy.

MY TAKE

Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider may have gotten all the praise and cultural cache, but Monte Hellman’s thematically similar rebel road trip movie Two-Lane Blacktop from a few years later certainly holds up as a better film. Starring folk hero James Taylor in one of his only ever film roles, and Dennis Wilson (of The Beach Boys) as his mechanic, we follow the hard-luck gear heads as they “race” across the country. Warren Oats, however, easily gives the most compelling and memorable performance as their competition. The film is directed with incredibly calm confidence and provides just enough misdirected discontent to still connect with audiences 40 years later. The story in fact feels more influenced by films like The Hustler, and would certainly have inspired modern movie like Drive before anything like The Fast and The Furious.

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453. Nashville

In Drama on January 25, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Dir. Robert Altman

Numerous interrelated individuals prepare for a political convention as secrets and lies are surfaced and revealed.

MY TAKE

Robert Altman’s Nashville is a fast-talkin’, honky tonkin’, boot knockin’ delight that strums through a whole chorus of characters without ever losing its soul, energy or satire. With so many narratives and personalities, it would have been easy for the film to play through a set list of clichéd cameos and southern stereotypes. Instead, every angle feels fleshed out with enough care and comedy that we would be happy to see the film rattle on even longer.  Altman set the gold standard for managing huge casts and multiple storylines, and Nashville might be his hit single for the genre.

450. Les ordres

In Canadian on January 25, 2012 at 9:55 AM

Dir. Michel Brault

A fact-based account of ordinary citizens who found themselves arrested and imprisoned without charge during the October Crisis in 1970 Quebec.

MY TAKE

When I asked my Quebec Cinema professor in university his favourite films from la belle province, he said “Number one, Les ordres. Number two, Les ordres.” I finally know why. Although extremely hard to find, I got a DVD copy of Les ordres through a set called Michel Brault: Ouevres 1958-1974, packaged along side the pioneering director’s (and cinematographer’s) short films, documentaries and other rare features. The unique style of each actor introducing themselves to the camera is just one way this important account of the October Crisis brings fresh perspective and poignancy to the complicated national event. Rich black and white cinematography, smooth and steady camera work, and a sympathetic eye recreate a film that should use the tagline “just watch me.”

412. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

In Action on December 5, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Dir. Sam Peckinpaw

A man and his prostitute girlfriend go on a road trip through the Mexican underworld to collect a $1 million bounty.

MY TAKE

The title Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia sets up an expectation for a typically violent 70s exploitation genre film. Instead, Sam Peckinpaw creates an unorthodox and even challenging psychological odyssey that reluctantly gives us the shootouts we crave after tormenting the characters and audience alike. Warren Oates wears his sunglasses at night as the cold and hard luck anti-hero with only money on his mind. A strange love story also develops with the sultry Isela Vega, and the film becomes an action movie by necessity and love story by accident. The director, however, has stated many times that this is the only film he feels he had full control over, which only makes the ambiguity all the more exciting and frustrating.

358. 1941

In Comedy on October 28, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Dir. Steven Spielberg

Hysterical Californians prepare for a Japanese invasion in the days after Pearl Harbor.

MY TAKE

As I read through the sorted history of 1941, it appears that Steve Spielberg’s much maligned and quickly forgotten foray into World War II was actually a profitable venture. That’s impressive not only because the film is remembered as a flop, but because the set-pieces are so grand and elaborate, that you can’t help but think of the tremendous production involved. From a brawling dance sequence with hundreds of people, to planes landing in city streets, to houses collapsing off cliffs, no expense was sparred – at the unfortunate expense of story and character. John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd et al. turn the silly up to 11 trying to compete with the wild theatrics around them. As a result, the film is all at once nauseating, fascinating and astonishing.

337. Badlands

In Drama on October 18, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Dir. Terrence Malick

A teenage girl and her twenty-something boyfriend go on a killing spree in the Dakota badlands of the 1950’s.

MY TAKE

Terrence Malick’s first feature film Badlands is a rare creature that blends sensationalism and art into a signature treatment that’s hard not to love.  Sissy Spacek has the face of a haunted angel who’s effortlessly persuaded into romantic purgatory by Martin Sheen’s charming but trigger-happy performance. Malick eschews the obvious opportunity to blend Bonnie and Clyde’s adrenaline with Robinson Crusoe’s minimalist ideals. Instead, the portrayal of violence is cold and narrow-minded, in stark contrast to the beautiful and wide-open landscapes, and the conflicted nature of Spacek’s character is allowed to exist as naïve and unchallenged.

335. Gimme Shelter

In Documentary on October 18, 2011 at 3:02 PM

Dir. Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin

A harrowing documentary of the Stones’ 1969 tour, with much of the focus on the tragic concert at Altamont.

MY TAKE

Free love paid a heavy price at the Altamont concert just a few short months after Woodstock. Gimme Shelter was a seminal documentary not just for music fans, but also for the cinema vérité movement, of which the Maysles Brothers are stars in their own right. The transitions from stage footage to the editing room are particularly fun. The whole film is layered with ethical questions implicitly posed on both the band and the filmmakers, but ultimately left to the viewer to debate and decide. The only thing made abundantly clear is Mick Jagger’s onstage swagger, which is beyond reproach.

326. Days of Heaven

In Drama on October 12, 2011 at 9:06 PM

Dir. Terrence Malick

A hot-tempered farm laborer convinces the woman he loves to marry their rich but dying boss so that they can have a claim to his fortune.

MY TAKE

The stunning sunsets in Days of Heaven don’t just make for pretty pictures. The radiating colours painted across wheat fields and the sky give us a fleeting beauty that can only be followed by darkness. We also get this at a character level, as Richard Gere and Brooke Adams play an attractive couple who are hard on their luck, but also a bit foolish about their options. Sam Sheppard, only ever referred to as The Farmer, gives his part commendable depth and raises the tension. When the outside world finally comes apart, there’s a climactic scene with fire and locusts that will be permanently burned into my memory.

319. Rollerball

In Sci-Fi on October 7, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Dir. Norman Jewison

In the future, a powerful athlete in the ultra-violent sport known as Rollerball is out to defy those who want him out of the game.

MY TAKE

The funny thing about Norman Jewison’s Rollerball is that there’s almost too much time spent playing rollerball. The sport “designed to illustrate the futility of individual effort” in a corporate society often overwhelms the underdeveloped subtext of the film. Riding around in circles has moments of excitement for sure, but James Caan and co. never get the chance to really battle it out with the cynical overlords running the game. But considering the film is 35 years old, I was surprised how well the visuals and sensibilities of a proposed future held up.

297. Kramer vs. Kramer

In Drama on October 2, 2011 at 2:14 PM

Dir. Robert Benton

A just divorced man must learn to care for his son on his own, and then must fight in court to keep custody of him.

MY TAKE

Custody battles aren’t exactly fodder for sexy storytelling, but Dustin Hoffman bleeds empathy in his fight to be a father. Eventually, we also slowly understand Meryl Streep’s regretful return to reclaim her position as a mother. And there’s nothing too clever or cutely adult in Justin Henry’s fearlessly natural performance, for which he’s still the youngest person to ever receive an Oscar nomination. I expected melodrama, and was impressed by the restraint and responsibility on display. Because in the end, the moral of this divorce story isn’t about winning or losing (as they say); it’s about how you play the game.