Sunday, October 23, 2011

1976 and final thoughts

Of the eight films remaining, Lynne joined me for Taxi Driver(at the Film Forum), Network, The Omen, and Bound for Glory. The rest were solo efforts. Taxi Driver will always be one of my favorites of all time. I’ve seen it on the big screen at least three times. Director Martin Scorsese may be a little uneven at times, but, unlike Coppola, he’s always maintained at least a glimmer(and often more) of his filmmaking genius. He stumbles from time to time, but his best is evident throughout his career. Was The Departed his crowning achievement? Did it really push him over the top into Oscar territory? Well no, but despite it all, I was happy to see him clutching that statue, despite how often I’ve derided its counterfeit charms. And that’s because Scorsese always brings exciting and interesting work. I honestly do think Taxi Driver is a work of genius and brings together the best of Scorsese’s directing, Paul Schrader’s writing, and one of Robert DeNiro’s best performances of all time. Scorsese and Schrader collaborated several times and this and Raging Bull the best of those collaborations. I’m also always impressed with Bernard Herrmann’s scoring. His work is classic, having been featured in some of Hitchcock’s best including Psycho and Vertigo, as well as Citizen Kane, just to name a few. Scorsese appreciated his work so much that he used Herrmann’s score from the original Cape Fear for his 1991 remake. His work in this film doesn’t seem at all dated, especially the main theme that accompanies DeNiro’s late night drives. Admittedly, I appreciate it so much that it may be a blind spot, as Lynne thought it was occasionally overbearing. I must admit that this is often a pet peeve of mine, so my fondness for this film may cause me to go easier on it. But I still love it.

Much of what you see above this paragraph was written in the earlier part of the month. And now it’s October 23. My self-imposed deadline. I may write more in this space on similar themes. But this entry will be the last specifically about the viewing experiences directly related to the list. So I’ll make my specific comments briefer than they might be otherwise. All the President’s Men is definitely one of the highlights of this list. On a list filled with the gamut of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford performances, these are career highlights for both of them. It’s also the best of director Alan J. Pakula’s “trilogy of paranoia.” No disrespect intended to Klute or The Parallax View, but this one’s the best. I mentioned before that The Bad News Bears is part of a trilogy of sorts by director Michael Ritchie. Though a crowd pleaser that spawned several sequels and a remake, this one was surprisingly subversive. It looks at the whole American obsession with winning and the notion that the ends always justify the means mentality and turns it on its ear. I caught the remake a few months ago. It was adequate, but couldn’t match this one. The Omen was a good film. I didn’t love it, but liked it a lot. Also an example of how something made by the studio system without a lot of directorial nuance can still sneak in some interesting ideas. The Front is a film I’d been meaning to see for a long time and didn’t disappoint. Certainly a compelling look at the whole red scare and a rare chance to see Woody Allen directed by someone other than himself. Marathon Man was certainly watchable, but everyone in the film from director John Schlesinger, to screenwriter William Goldman and, of course, Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier, have more notable credits to their names. Notable, to be sure, but months later, I barely remember it.

Network marks one of the finest works of the now deceased director Sidney Lumet on this list or in his career. All the performances are pitch perfect and the dense screenplay by Paddy Chayevsky is unforgettable. When I saw this film, I couldn’t help think of 2010’s The Social Network as Aaron Sorkin writes in a similar style, where characters are fiercely intelligent and the dialogue never seems to slow down. I’ll be watching this one again. I really liked Bound For Glory, director Hal Ashby’s biopic of Woody Guthrie starring David Carradine in the title role. It’s a little hard to get into as it moves at a leisurely pace, but in that way it moves past the artificial way that many biographies fall victim to. Screenplays are expected to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Few people’s lives can really be broken down that way. I don’t know that I liked it as much as some of his other works, but I may reserve judgment until I give it a few repeat viewings.

So there it is. The end of the project. I’m glad I embarked upon it and saw it to fruition. I think I might return to this space when I see other films that relate in some way. There are a number of films on the list I will want to see again. As well as others I will not. I may want to revisit some other Kubricks. As well as other selections from the oeuvre of Altman, Lumet, Scorsese, Godard, Peckinpah, Polanski, and others. Maybe a few remakes and sequels, successful, ill advised and otherwise. But for now, I’m going to catch up on other films that have fallen by the wayside. Also, I still haven’t seen the fourth season of Mad Men. And I keep hearing how good Breaking Bad is. Yeah, without the rigors of the list, I still think I’ll find entertainment options to keep myself busy. Check back here. I may find it in me to share a few thoughts.

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