Saturday, March 16, 2013
Favorite Movies: The 1970's
Moving into the 1970's, my list begins with "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" (1971). Entering the edible Wonka Wonderland is akin to Dorothy opening the door of her farmhouse and stepping into the Technicolor world of Oz. It's still a breathtaking moment. Gene Wilder is perfect as the slightly crazed chocolatier.
I saw "The Sting" (1973) when it was first released and thought it was one of the best movies then, and still feel that way today. I fell in love with the title art as it flashed on the screen and my fingers longed to play the ragtime of Scott Joplin that populated the soundtrack.
Redford and Newman made a perfect pair, outshining just about any other "bromance" duo that has come after them.
"Paper Moon" (1973) captures the depressing flavor of the Depression-heavy 1930's, but thanks to a bright script and amazing comic performances by Tatum O'Neal and Madeline Kahn, it still manages to put a smile on your face.
"Blazing Saddles" (1974) is Mel Brooks at his most brilliantly irreverent. Again, Madeline Kahn steals the show, out Dietrich-ing Dietrich with "I'm So Tired." Cleavon Little makes all the bigots look like the fools that they are, and does so with style.
Harvey Korman is deliciously evil as State Attorney General Hedley (not Hedy) Lamarr. I love 90% of the movie, but it drones on just about ten minutes too long with the final battle that takes place on a Hollywood soundstage.
I was in love with "Chinatown" (1974) from the moment I saw the title design.
Roman Polanski's film does a wonderful job of evoking Los Angeles in the 1930's. Nicholson and Dunaway give compelling performances, but cannot compare to John Huston's chilling characterization of a man who is completely devoid of any morals.
"The Towering Inferno" (1974) was one of the many all-star disaster movies created by Irwin Allen; personally, I think it's his best. Huge in scope but full of tender poignant moments, especially the romance between Jennifer Jones and Fred Astaire.
"Young Frankenstein" (1974) is Mel Brooks' loving homage to the classic Universal "Frankenstein" movies. This one will keep you laughing from start to finish; no extraneous moments here.
"The Turning Point" (1977) is a story of "what ifs" and how the two lead characters (Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine) long to know what their fates would have been if they had chosen different paths. Viewers get a glimpse into the world of ballet, as some of the real stars of dance (Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leslie Browne, and Alexandra Danilova) play roles in this movie. Just like the athletic world, those who dance must make a difficult choice of retiring young before their bodies give out, but after the opportunity to live a "normal life" has passed them by. The fight between Bancroft and MacLaine puts Alexis and Krystal's to shame!
"High Anxiety" (1977) is Brooks at his silliest. The number one reason to watch this satire of Hitchcock is Cloris Leachman. Her characterization of the sadistic Nurse Diesel is unbelievable.
To enjoy "Grease," you first need to:
1. get past the idea of a 34-year old Stockard Channing, 30-year-old Olivia Newton John, and a 24-year-old John Travolta playing high school students
2. like musicals
3. have no problem that the moral of the story is that you need to become a slut to get the man you want.
If you can accept those three things, then the movie "Grease" (1978) is for you. Memorable songs, lovable characters, and plenty of great choreography by Patricia Birch.
"Animal House" (1978) is one of National Lampoon's best movies, thanks to the comic talents of its cast, including John Belushi, John Vernon, and Verna Bloom. If you were an underdog in college, this movie is your ultimate revenge fantasy.
I have written often about "Breaking Away," (1979) filmed entirely in Bloomington, Indiana and on the campus of Indiana University, so I won't waste my time touting again that this is one of my very favorite films. It is as genuine as they come without the forced artifice of so many of today's films.
"Time After Time" (1979) deals with one of my favorite themes: time travel. Malcolm McDowell plays science fiction author H.G. Wells, whose time machine is stolen by none other than Jack the Ripper. Wells must travel into the future (modern day San Francisco) to bring the Ripper back for justice. Along the way he falls in love with a bank teller (Mary Steenburgen). Clocking in under two hours, it is a tightly made film, with just the right balance of comedy, romance, and action.
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