Wednesday, July 02, 2008

MY 100 FAVOURITE FILMS (PART EIGHT). As promised, we're going to sail on through the seventies and enter (just barely) the eighties. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
  • The Sunshine Boys (1975) dir. Herbert Ross -- George Burns and Walter Matthau play two old vaudevillians who are hired for a modern day (70's) TV programme celebrating the history of entertainment. There's one snag. They despise each other. Often fall down funny, the comedy is accompanied by sharp characterisations. Burns and Matthau really have the vaudeville comedy routine down pat (not surprising considering George's vast experience on vaudeville).
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) dir. Jim Sharman -- Another of those epoch-making midnight movies, Richard O'Brien's music is superb in this science fiction/horror parody musical. Brad (Asshole) and Janet (slut) find their car breaking down in a rainstorm in front of a spooky old mansion. Inside they meet a bizarre congregations of wackos including servant Riff Raff (O'Brien himself) and their transvestite leader Dr. Frank N. Furter (a career-making performance from Tim Curry). Naturally, there is no substitute for experience the film in a theatre but even watching it on DVD is fun. Don't dream it -- be it!
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978) dir. George A. Romero -- Part Two of Romero's dead series, this one rivals the original while being totally different. Instead of a terrifying film experience, this time we're seeing a more blatant comment on modern society's fixation on consumerism. Equally as funny as it is scary, the film benefits greatly from the lead performance of Ken Foree and the groundbreaking special effects of Tom Savini.
  • Hot Stuff (1979) dir. Dom DeLuise -- Apparently based on true event, this hilarious comedy finds four police detectives taking over a fencing operations and videotaping the crooks as they bring in the stolen goods. Jerry Reed, Suzanne Pleshette and Dom DeLuise are exactly on the same wavelength (not surprising since Dom directed) as they are surrounded by a gaggle of expertly turned character actors performing along with them. Standout scene is when DeLuise is coerced into smoking some pot by some elderly English drug pushers.
  • Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979) dir. Joan Micklin Silver -- Incredibly downbeat film (what a surprise for the 70's, right?) showing in vivid detail what happens when one person toys with another person's feelings. Easy going John Heard falls in love with married woman Mary Beth Hurt and, while she constantly vascillates back and forth whether she's leaving her husband or staying with him, Heard is emotionally raked over the coals for the better part of an two hours. I found the ending to be incredibly cathartic. Pieter Riegert as Heard's best friend and Oscar winner Gloria Grahame as Heard's certifiable mother add greatly to the proceedings. God knows why this film is usually referred to with the title HEAD OVER HEELS (as it is on imdb) since I've never EVER seen a version entitled that, the video copy isn't called that and the imdb entry itself features pictures of the film with the "CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER" title. And this is also the movie which made me really love Janis Joplin's "Get It While You Can" even more!
  • The Ninth Configuration (1980) dir. William Peter Blatty -- Ilsa*'s recommendation was a sound one. What I expected to be a combination between M*A*S*H* and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (and at first it is) turns into something quite surprisingly deep and moving. An endlessly superior cast fills the military mental institution that Stacey Keach is taking over. While the first half of the movie deals with a lot of comedy and impressive performances of mental imbalance, slowly and almost imperceptably Blatty introduces the more serious themes the movie is actually about. Jason Miller gives a fantastic performance, Ed Flanders is phenomenal and Scott Wilson gives an Oscar-worthy performance. Also features the iconic 70s image of the crucifixion on the moon.
  • Fatso (1980) dir. Anne Bancroft -- An incredibly funny and equally moving film featuring Dom DeLuise as an overweight man who tries to lose weight but keeps failing at the attempts. Director Bancroft also plays his sister and proves to be a fantastic director. It's a shame she didn't direct more films. And if you only think of DeLuise as a comedian, you'll certainly be surprised by the acting chops he displays in this film.
  • Invasion (1980) dir. Leslie Woodhead -- This film is probably completely unknown to everyone reading this and, in fact, is apparently impossible to find. In fact, this is the only movie on my top 100 list for which I was completely unable to find a picture! Made for Granada TV, it is a gripping and, at times, terrifying historical drama depicting the events of the "Prague Spring" in which democracy momentarily managed to overthrow the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. I really wish this was made available on DVD because it's a stunning work. Julian Glover stars as Alexander Dubcek and he's surrounding by an accomplished array of character actors.
  • Breaker Morant (1980) dir. Bruce Beresford -- Is the use of the words "Kangaroo Court" too obvious here? Based on true events, this film concerns itself with the courtmartial trial of "Breaker" Morant and two associates during the Boer War. It focusses on very basic questions concerning whether or not one can hold men accountable for peacetime laws during wartime in the field of battle. Edward Woodward is really quite superb as Morant (hey, he even gets to exercise his singing voice). Based on the book "Scapegoats of the Empire".
  • My Dinner With Andre (1981) dir. Louis Malle -- Cinema verite busts into the top 100 list as we watch Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory have dinner. That's the movie. However, the often spellbindingly engrossing conversation between the two men carries the film. It makes one wish that dinner was like this every night! And I can't hear Satie's Gymnopedie without thinking of this film.

Now that we've bid the seventies goodbye and have tiptoed cautiously into the eighties, our next ten films are going to feature a holiday, old books, beer, sorta Shakespeare and an old poop.

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