The MediaLog Movies 100: The 70s

This installment of "The MediaLog Movies 100" takes the countdown through the 70s, that is, the films ranked #71-80. The "Movies 100" is not a film by film ranking in precise order, though, but rather groupings of ten films which have no additional breakdown within each group.

The films are listed in alphabetical order, with the year of release, and in the case of foreign films, the country of origin (and English translation where applicable), in parentheses after the title, with the film's director listed after that. This is followed by a brief annotation on the film.

These are not my favorite movies (necessarily) or what I think are the "greatest" movies of all time. They are movies that made an impact on me and my cinematic sensibilities, tempered by considerations of the traditional film "canon" and the conventional wisdom regarding what are the all-time "best" movies.

Keep checking back with the MediaLog for the remainder of the countdown, which will be forthcoming over the next couple of weeks, in additional ten film installments, right up to the Top Ten. Feel free (please!) to make comments on the countdown and the films in it.


The MediaLog Movies 100: The 70s

Almost Famous (2000) Cameron Crowe. This movie is a bit of autobiographical storytelling on Crowe's part. The main character, William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit), becomes a teenage correspondent for "Rolling Stone" magazine (which is real) as he tours with the band Stillwater (which is not real) to research and write a profile piece; Crowe did the same thing when he was a teen, also for "Rolling Stone" but for actual rather than imaginary bands. A superb supporting cast populates William's rock and roll world, including Kate Hudson as the Stillwater groupie that he falls in love with, Billy Crudup and Jason Lee as members of Stillwater (who are not real), Frances McDormand as William's mother (who is not real, although Crowe's mother was), and Philip Seymour Hoffman as rock critic Lester Bangs (who was real but is dead now).

Dazed and Confused (1993) Richard Linklater. This is a fun film enjoyable in repeat viewings due to its infectious soundtrack from the mid-1970s, solid ensemble performances, and meandering narrative that portrays the day and night of the last day of school in 1976 in a Texas small-town high school. The story centers on Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins), a newly-anointed high school freshman who with his friends has to suffer the slings and arrows of initiation into adolescence at the hands of the newly-anointed seniors. The whole gang goofs off in the last hours of the school year, hangs out at the local pool hall teen hangout, and parties under the artificial illumination of the Moon Tower. Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck appear in early film roles as a couple of the older kids.

Fight Club (1999) David Fincher. This is another of the fractured-narrative movies with a twist that appeared in the 1990s. Nothing is as it seems as Brad Pitt and Edward Norton rebel against the materialistic mainstream culture by beating the hell out of each other and forming "fight clubs" in which otherwise respectable, also rebelling middle-class guys can do the same thing. Helena Bonham-Carter co-stars as the chain smoking moll that serves as the hypotenuse of their more-bizarre-than-you-realize love triangle. IKEA and designer soap both also take a beating in this film that messes with your mind just as much as the fight clubbers mess with each other's dental work.

The Maltese Falcon (1941) John Huston. Besides being the masterful Huston's first film as a director, this is widely considered to be the first film noir. It's also the source of the famous movie quote (describing the title bejeweled statuette) "the stuff that dreams are made of." In addition to these marks of distinction, it is the role that catapulted Humphrey Bogart to superstardom (not to mention ultimate status as a cultural icon) and remained his prototypical performance. Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre fill out the double-crossing, duplicitous cast.

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) Tim Burton. Burton's first film as a director was this quirky little drama/comedy about a boy and his bike. Pee-Wee Herman (a.k.a. Paul Reubens) was the man-child who later went on to TV kids' show fame (and exhibitionist humiliation), but before all that he starred in this inventive story. When I saw this film in the theatre upon release (at age 13) I almost literally rolled in the aisle with laughter at the opening sequence in which Pee-Wee wakes up, gets dressed, and eats breakfast all with the aid of a series of Rube Goldberg-ian contraptions. Although its not quite as hilarious now when I watch it, I think it's nonetheless an amusing treat. And when I visited the Alamo a couple of years after this film came out, I too was disappointed to learn that it had no basement.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Steven Spielberg. Raiders was a seminal moviegoing experience for me (just like it was for millions of young lads of my age). From the opening slight of hand with the gold statue and the bag of sand, through the pit of snakes and the guy who is decapitated by the airplane propeller (cool!), all the way to the climactic scene in which the Ark is opened and the Nazis' faces are melted off (way cool!), Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones makes the film not just a classic homage to the adventure films and serials of the 1930s and 1940s, but a true classic in its own right.

Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run) (1998-German) Tom Tykwer. A foreign entry in the fractured-narrative movement of the 1990s, Run Lola Run is innovative in that it is a movie inspired not by a particular video game, but by the form of a video game. Lola is a young woman (with striking candy-apple red hair) who has 20 minutes to reach her boyfriend on the other side of a large German city before he is killed by the thugs whose sack of money he has lost. The first time she tries, she arrives a moment too late and watches him die. But, as in a video game, she has three "lives" and so returns to her starting point to try again, this time a little wiser as to the route to take and the obstacles on the way. Although she fails the second time as well, by the third and final try, she has mastered the "game" well enough to dodge the obstacles at will, take the shortcuts she has discovered, and arrive in time to save her man in this inverted damsel-in-distress story.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996) Jonathan Frakes. Yup, I'm a Star Trek fan, so this is the first of a few Trek films in the MediaLog Movies 100. For Trekkers or Trekkies or whatever they want to call themselves (it's never mattered to me), First Contact is a great story that involves landmark events in the backstory of the United Federation of Planets and the Star Fleet: Earth's "first contact" with an alien species (Spock's race, the Vulcans) and the first use (by Earthlings) of warp speed by space travel pioneer Zefram Cochrane (obstinately played by James Cromwell). As a result (and maybe also because it is directed by Trek insider and actor Frakes), this is the best of the "Next Generation" Trek films.

The Truman Show (1998) Peter Weir. One man's life as a television show taking place in a contained world that he thinks is real but viewers and the special world's inhabitants (including his wife) know is contrived is the premise of this film. Prefiguring the reality TV trend by a couple of years, The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey in his first "serious" role, plays with the conventions not only of television but also of American daily life in the 1990s.

Vertigo (1958) Alfred Hitchcock. Sort of a Pygmalion story, in this Hitchcock thriller Jimmy Stewart watches his lover (played by Kim Novak) meet her death and finds another lover who he makes over in the first lover's image (and who is also played, of course, by Kim Novak). Stewart's character suffers from vertigo, so naturally he has to climb a lot of towers and leap from rooftop to rooftop throughout the film. It's a haunting story about lost love and loss in general, and how some things in life cannot ever truly be replaced.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Better. And man did I spell Spielberg wrong in my last comment. Damn typos!