Sunday, March 27, 2011

Paul's Film Chronology: The 1970s

What I’ve Seen

The Aristocats
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Dirty Harry
A Clockwork Orange
The Godfather
The Exorcist
Robin Hood
Charlotte’s Web
Young Frankenstein
The Godfather: Part II
Blazing Saddles
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Apple Dumpling Gang
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Barry Lyndon
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Taxi Driver
All the President’s Men
The Rescuers
Star Wars: A New Hope
Saturday Night Fever
Cross of Iron
The Star Wars Holiday Special
Animal House
Life of Brian
Apocalypse Now
32 Total

The Best of What I’ve Seen

5. Young Frankenstein (top 100)—Mel Brooks’ brilliant and hilarious sendup of Mary Shelley’s classic, Young Frankenstein is to parody what Dr. Strangelove is to satire. It simultaneously highlights some of the absurdity of the source material (in this case the 1931 movie more than the book), but also clearly has a fondness for it. It has a coherent and interesting plot (I’m looking at you, Seltzer and Friedberg), and is very, very funny (this time looking at…the same guys, actually). This is how you do a parody

4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (top 100)—While I suppose I could argue this film’s merits on some sort of subtextual level—the Pythons were some of the first tv or film comedians to really understand meta humour, for example, and nowhere better than here—but the truth is that stuff is just rationalization. Why is this one of my favorite movies? Because it’s really, really, really funny. And that’s good enough.

3. The Godfather Part II (top 100)—One of the five or so movies that is regularly argued to be the best of all time, and it isn’t hard to see why. Part II features both Robert de Niro and Al Pacino at their very best, playing two of the most iconic characters in movie history. The story, which moves back and forth between two timelines, is superlatively written, both engaging and complicated. It’s a gangster opera crossed with a Greek tragedy, and the fact that it’s only number three on this list speaks to the number of great movies from the decade.

2. Patton (top 100)—General George S. Patton was a fascinating man, and he is stunningly realized here in all his complexity by George C. Scott. It’s the best acting portrayal of a real historical figure that I’ve ever and, unlike some other biopics featuring one great performance in an otherwise mediocre movie (The Queen, for example), Scott is well assisted. Francis Ford Coppola of The Godfather fame wrote a screenplay that does justice to the man and to his story, and has some of the best World War II cinematography this side of Saving Private Ryan. But the best part of the whole movie might be the final couple of minutes, as the film ends on an absolutely perfect note. And I don’t throw around words like “perfect” lightly.

1. The Godfather (top 100)—The debate over whether this or Part II is best has been going on since the mid-70s and doesn’t look likely to stop any time soon. But I take the first by a hair, mostly because of Marlon Brando. With all due respect to De Niro, Brando’s Vito Corleone is one of the iconic movie performances, and probably my single favorite film portrayal. Of course, even aside from Brando the rest of movie comes about as close to perfection as we’re ever going to see. The climax in particular just couldn’t be executed (pun intended) any better.

What I Haven’t Seen:

Aguirre the Wrath of God, American Grafitti, Serpico, Jaws, Dog Day Afternoon, Annie Hall, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Cries and Whispers, Nashville, Swept Away, The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs. Kramer, Grease.

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