Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekly Top Ten- My Favorite Films of the Seventies

Weekly Top Ten- #19

Celebration of the Decades- #4

My Special Top 20 of the 1970's

Oh man, it's finally here.

There was something going on in Hollywood during the '70's. Something I that do not think really happens much anymore. The studios have become greedy in their old age, unwilling to give advice, encouragement or anything of the sort. All the studios care about nowadays is the American dollar, I can't argue over that, but I do think it wouldn't be bad to be civil about it. None of that existed during the '70's. I have read that filmmakers used to get together to discuss their ideas with other filmmakers. Compare notes, get ideas, bounce suggestions off of each other. It didn't matter if somebody was involved in a particular film or not, it was just a kind gesture. It was so refreshing to read about, that friends in the industry cared about each other art. It is something that is drastically missing today.

I bring all of that up because I feel that is the reason why the 1970's was the best decade for American movies. Each film had a cast and crew full of people driven to do their best. There was hunger to send out the best product every weekend. It wasn't a competitive hunger per se, just a need to do the finest at any given moment. Every single weekend, the audience was the winner, and I am sad I wasn't alive to be apart of it.

So because the '70's were so good, I do not think a top ten would due justice, so today you get a top 20. As I stared at a list of roughly 50 1970's films all week, I realized something. This is the only decade so far where I feel bad about leaving someone off. So in order to feel better, I made a list of 20 films, and stopped there. After you read the list, I think you'll have a great idea why the length had to be as large as it was.

20. Grease (1978)
This look at an entire senior year of high school in the 50's is essential because it showcases how John Travolta became a movie star. Travolta's and Olivia Newton-John's chemistry is perfect example of actors bouncing off of each other well. Add in great music and costumes and you've got a classic.

19. The 36th Chamber of Shoalin (1978)
The 1970's was the decade in which karate movies really proved their longevity. This is by far one of the best reminders to why it was such a hot, daring genre in the first place.

18. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Sharply witty yet shockingly haunting, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a perfect of example of how astounding Jack Nicholson could be. Not only that but Louise Fletcher proved how cringing she can be. This movie is full of memorable characters, scenes and dialogue and is a prime example of why the '70's were so glorious to begin with.

17. Alien (1979)
This quiet, slow-burning horror film featured one of the most iconic designs for an alien ever. (Memorable for all the right reasons, I assure you.) A great ensemble and plenty even a few action beats for the rowdy crowd. This may not have been alike any other alien movie to come out this decade, but it is definitely the one that left the biggest scar on me.

16. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Easily one of the best R-rated comedies ever created, "Blazing Saddles" is Mel Brooks' Opus Magnum. What appears at first to be a clever spoof on the western, turns into one of the craziest, most delirious motion pictures imaginable. It works so well because Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder throw themselves at the material, oh and there's MONGO!

15. Jaws (1975)
Steven Spielberg successfully tapped into the fear of the ocean, and was also able to create a monster hit out of a horror movie. That was something that had not really been done prior, and re-watching this on blu-ray really shows why audiences had such a reaction to it so many years ago. With a great cast and a great fake shark take only so far. But what Spielberg did best was that he became grimly relentless, and I think it worked well.

14. Network (1976)
Peter Finch gave a stand-out performance in a movie that I feel has become a eerie omen. The story about a fictional television network that is struggling with ratings, it is almost bewildering to see certain parallels with television today. Throw in a great cast and you've got something to think about.

13. Manhattan (1979)
Woody Allen had a  great decade in the 1970's, but nothing can compare to his luminous, delightful "Manhattan." This is a normal Allen film, but what makes it stand out from his work is the true conviction of his character performances and his script. Plus the black-and-white coloring gives the film a rich style that is hard to resist.

12. Patton (1970)
What's crazy about "Patton" is that I feel this movie would earn this high of a spot just based on its opening monologue alone. George C. Scott has never been this believable, this charming, this determined. It is a rich performance, and fortunately the rest of the movie lives up to it.

11. The Godfather Part II (1974)
I may prefer "Goodfellas" over Francis Ford Coppola's epic masterpiece, but there is no denying Coppola's vision and its power. The opening of young Vito Corleone being processed as an American citizen is as unforgettable as the moment Michael Corleone has his older brother killed. This may not be my overall favorite gangster movie, but it surely punches me in the gut every time I view it.

10. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
This one stuck with me throughout childhood, and I find myself still watching it quite a bit as I get older. The set design is flawless, as if pulled from someone's imagination. Great performances, great songs and some wonderful costumes and make-up all add to a great dream of a movie.

9. Star Wars (1977)
There is no denying that the Force will be with me. Always.

8. The Sting (1973)
Robert Redford and Paul Newman are great here, featured in a story that earns all of its twists and turns. I always love a good crime caper, but this isn't exactly what one may think of when you ponder the genre. It's got a real since of humor, but never dumbs itself down to a lower standard. 

7. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
No other film haunted me more from the '70s, no other film featured images that startled me beyond belief. And this was the decade of "Halloween," "The Exorcist" and "Carrie." But the images do not compare to the manic performance by Malcolm McDowell as Alexander De Large, a monstrous creation given life to one of Britain's legendary talents. 

6. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Proof to why "Eastbound and Down" is such a wonderful song.

5. Chinatown (1974)
If the biggest compliment I can give to this mystery is that Hitchcock would have loved it, I think that is proof enough to why "Chinatown" matters. Nicholson is charming yet tense in this, and he never resorts to his "Crazy Jack" persona. It also features an ending that gives new meaning to blowing your mind.

4. Apocalypse Now (1979)
As "The End" by The Doors echoes every scene, Marlon Brando throws himself at the macabre that is Kurtz. One of the best casts from this decade creates a piercing portrait of life in Vietnam and just off the rocker some soldiers got. The horror...indeed.

3. Taxi Driver (1976)
Even Martin Scorsese was tearing it up in the 1970s. For me, this was the performance that defined Robert De Niro's career. It's a crazy performance and only gives some of the flavor that made this movie so memorable. Throw in some surprising action and you've got a winner.

2. The Godfather (1972)
You see the picture above? That's Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, if you haven't seen "The Godfather" yet, he thinks you need to ASAP. Otherwise, you will make you an offer you can't refuse.

1. Young Frankenstein (1974)
So how is it that a movie that spoofs nearly all of Universal's old horror films make the top spot of arguably the best decade of film ever? Because it absolutely shouldn't have. "Young Frankenstein" is possibly the least important film on this list, but it is definitely the most entertaining. Not saying the movie is immature, but it hits my pleasure spot in ways the other nineteen movies can't. This is the best comedy of all time, bar none. Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle and Marty Feldman are unforgettable. And Madeline Kahn...hilarious!

So that is my list. Thank you for reading. Interesting as always gang!

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