Friday, July 18, 2008

A Film For Every Year (Part 1)

Hey folks. Had some sudden and unexpected business crop up out of town, so I've been out of the blogging loop for a while. But I'm back here in Austin and ready to try to get back to my usual posting schedule. You know, the one you've all become accustomed to: irregular.

There's a meme going around, which is basically just a long list, and you know how I love long lists. You pick your favorite movie released during each year you've been alive. That's it. Simple, eh?

I've seen it on various sites now, but the first place I saw it was at The A.V. Club. I steal so many ideas from that site, I really should be paying them a percentage. (Which wouldn't be too much of a hardship; as Billy Preston said: "Nothing from nothing leaves nothing.") Or they should just make it official and start paying me. Someone get working on that.

There are a lot of tough choices to be made, and a lot of obvious ones. And a lot of weird ones, too, I'm sure. Remember, this is a list of personal preferences, not an objective judgment of quality.

Wikipedia, let's get this going!

Favorite: Patton
Runners-up: Catch-22, M*A*S*H
Great films of that year I have yet to see: Brewster McCloud, Five Easy Pieces
Worst film of that year I have seen: Myra Breckinridge

Wow, there were two Robert Altman films released the year of my birth? And I've only seen one? Need to fix that. Catch-22 was my father's favorite book, and one of his favorite movies, so I've always had an extra bit of affection for both. But regardless of that, it really is an incredibly great movie. It was also the 10th highest grossing movie of 1970. What a wonderful era of filmmaking, and of discerning film viewers. Can you imagine a film as offbeat as that being as popular in today's market? It wouldn't crack the top ten in its first week of release, let alone for the entire year.

Favorite: McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Amazing list of runners-up: A Clockwork Orange, Dirty Harry, Harold and Maude, Straw Dogs, Support Your Local Gunfighter, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Other generally accepted great (or cult favorite) films which aren't quite personal favorites: The French Connection, The Last Picture Show, Shaft, THX 1138
Other generally accepted great (or cult favorite) films I have yet to see: Fiddler on the Roof, Klute, Roman Polanski's Macbeth, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, They Call Me Trinity, Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point
Worst film I have seen: Gamera Vs. Zigra (via MST3K)

Other films I have yet to mention include And Now For Something Completely Different, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Brian's Song, Carnal Knowledge, Diamonds Are Forever, Duel, Mon oncle Antoine (supposedly Canada's greatest film), Walkabout, and B-grade horror classic Willard. 1971: greatest film year ever?

Favorite: The Godfather -- or, as currently depicted on Wikipedia:
The Godfather (Greatest movie ever) (Way to editorialize, asshole)
Runners-up: Deliverance, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
Great films I have yet to see: Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Slaughterhouse-Five
Worst film I have seen: Deep Throat

The Godfather is pretty much a slamdunk. I don't think there are many people who would pick instead, say, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

Favorite: Jesus Christ Superstar
Runners-up: The Exorcist, High Plains Drifter, The Last Detail, Magnum Force, Mean Streets, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Serpico, The Sting
Great films I have yet to see: American Graffiti, Badlands, Papillon, Paper Moon
Worst film I have seen: Westworld

It's pretty obvious I'm throwing all valid considerations but personal preference out the window when you look at the runners-up list, and then consider what I picked as my favorite. What can I say? I dig those dirty hippies singing those crazy Jeebus songs!

Favorite: Chinatown
Runners-up: Blazing Saddles, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Young Frankenstein
Great films I have yet to see: Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, California Split, Thieves Like Us, A Woman Under the Influence
Worst film I have seen: Zardoz

Wow, what a year for double greatness! Two of the very best from Francis Ford Coppola and Mel Brooks in this year alone, plus two Robert Altman films I haven't even seen yet! Picking my favorite wasn't even close, but it would be a tough call picking my second; I think I might have to go with Blazing Saddles, despite the sheer brilliance of both of those Coppola entries.

Favorite: The Man Who Would Be King
Runners-up: Death Race 2000, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Nashville
Great films I have yet to see: Barry Lyndon, Farewell, My Lovely, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Shampoo
Worst film I have seen: maybe The Stepford Wives, even though that wasn't really all that bad

This was a very tough choice for favorite. I actually had Cuckoo's Nest up first, and in all honesty I was seriously considering Death Race 2000, which is certainly the 1975 film I have watched most often. Yes, more often even than Holy Grail, by gar! But John Huston's epic has to win out for me. It includes one of my favorite exchanges of dialogue in any movie ever, between Sean Connery (Daniel) and Michael Caine (Peachy):

Daniel Dravot: Peachy, I'm heartily ashamed for gettin' you killed instead of going home rich like you deserved to, on account of me bein' so bleedin' high and bloody mighty. Can you forgive me?
Peachy Carnehan: That I can and that I do, Danny, free and full and without let or hindrance.
Daniel Dravot: Everything's all right then.
Man, that's great stuff.

Favorite: Taxi Driver
Runners-up: Carrie, Network, The Omen, Rocky
Great films I have yet to see: All the President's Men, Assault on Precinct 13, Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (another dang '70s Altman film I haven't seen yet!)
Worst film I have seen: probably Bugsy Malone, even though I loved it when I was a child

Very strange that my picks for best and worst feature the same co-star, Jodie Foster. You can't get much more different than those two films. Freaky Friday was also released in 1976. What a weird year that must have been for her!

Favorite: Smokey and the Bandit
Classics (or cult classics) most normal (or even slightly abnormal) people would probably have picked instead: Annie Hall, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Eraserhead, Saturday Night Fever, Star Wars, Suspiria
Other runners-up: The Gauntlet, Kentucky Fried Movie, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown
Great films I have yet to see: Equus, The Goodbye Girl
Worst film I have seen: Exorcist II: The Heretic

This is probably the oddest of all my choices. Objectively speaking, all the classics I named are better than my pick. I mean, I still almost picked Star Wars as my favorite, despite how many times I've knocked it on this blog. Ah, childhood loyalties. But I've seen Bandit more times than all those other films put together (aside from Star Wars, that would be once each), and I'd still rather rewatch it than any of the others. It may be a cheesy cornball, but it's my cheesy cornball. I'm East bound, just watch ol' Bandit run!

Favorite: Superman: The Movie
Runners-up: Animal House, The Deer Hunter, Halloween
Great films I have yet to see: The Boys from Brazil, La Cage aux Folles, Coming Home, Midnight Express, Pretty Baby, An Unmarried Woman
Worst film I have seen: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (but only because I haven't seen Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)

Favorite: Apocalypse Now
Runners-up: Alien, Being There, The Jerk, Mad Max, Monty Python's Life of Brian, The Muppet Movie
Great films I have yet to see: All That Jazz, Breaking Away, The Great Santini, Kramer vs. Kramer, Norma Rae
Worst film I have seen: I think I have to say Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, even though A) at the time, when I was a kid, I totally loved it; B) I am still, and forever will be, totally in love with Erin Gray; and C) it had a totally sextacular intro.

Favorite: The Empire Strikes Back
Runners-up: Airplane!, The Blues Brothers, Friday the 13th, Smokey and the Bandit II
Great films I have yet to see: American Gigolo, Coal Miner's Daughter, The Elephant Man
Worst film I have seen: The Gods Must Be Crazy (I know everyone else loved it, but I thought it was awful)

Oh, yeah, Raging Bull also came out this year. But as I've recently mentioned, it's a film I respect, but have never loved.

Favorite: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Runners-up: Arthur, Escape From New York, Stripes, Superman II
Great films I have yet to see: The French Lieutenant's Woman, Pennies From Heaven, Reds
Worst film I have seen: The Cannonball Run (loved it as much as Smokey and the Bandit when I was a kid, but a rewatching a few years back was deeply painful)

Very, very close call between Raiders and Arthur. I'll alert the media. This was also a great year for horror: An American Werewolf in London, The Evil Dead, Friday the 13th Part 2, Halloween II, The Howling, Omen III: The Final Conflict, and Wolfen. Holy crap, dude, that's an awesome roster.

Favorite: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Runners-up: Blade Runner, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, First Blood, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Thing
Great films I have yet to see: Fanny and Alexander, Gandhi, Sophie's Choice, Tootsie, The Year of Living Dangerously
Worst film I have seen: Megaforce

Almost picked Blade Runner instead of E.T.; I've sure seen it a lot more (in all its various incarnations). We're getting to the point in my life now (12 years old) when I was really becoming aware of the vast breadth of cinematic greatness, both current and past, and began expanding my cinematic horizons, theatrically and on cable (and soon, on VCR).

Favorite: A Christmas Story
Runners-up: The Dead Zone, The King of Comedy, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, National Lampoon's Vacation, El Norte, Return of the Jedi, Sudden Impact, Trading Places, Videodrome
Great films I have yet to see: Local Hero, The Outsiders, The Right Stuff
Worst film I have seen: D.C. Cab

EDIT: As Nik pointed out in the comments, I published this post originally without picking a favorite film for 1983. So I went ahead and promoted A Christmas Story from the runners-up list. So there.

Favorite: Ghostbusters
Runners-up: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, Beverly Hills Cop, Blood Simple, Body Double, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Terminator, This Is Spinal Tap
Great films I have yet to see: A Soldier's Story, Under the Volcano
Worst film I have seen: Cannibal Holocaust

Favorite: Ran
Runners-up: After Hours, Back to the Future, Better Off Dead, Brazil, Day of the Dead, Fletch, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Return of the Living Dead, Witness
Great films I have yet to see: The Color Purple, Out of Africa, To Live and Die in L.A.
Worst film I have seen: Red Sonja

A quick note on the perils of relying on Wikipedia: Fletch is not listed on their 1985 in film page. (I only became aware of this when I saw Fletch Lives on the 1989 page, and wondered how I had skipped the original.) There are similar omissions on many, if not all, of their yearly lists. I'm hoping I don't accidentally overlook something major on account of this, but I may.

Favorite: The Fly
Runners-up: Aliens, Blue Velvet, Down By Law, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Little Shop of Horrors, Platoon, ¡Three Amigos!
Great films I have yet to see: Children of a Lesser God, Hannah and Her Sisters
Worst film I have seen: Jumpin' Jack Flash (beginning my lifelong hatred of Whoopi Goldberg, and narrowly edging Howard the Duck and Maximum Overdrive)

Favorite: RoboCop
Runners-up: Bagdad Cafe, Evil Dead II, Full Metal Jacket, The Princess Bride, Raising Arizona, The Untouchables
Great films I have yet to see: Ironweed, The Monster Squad,
Moonstruck, Withnail and I
Worst film I have seen: Burglar (Whoopi Goldberg ruins everything. Ruiner!)

Come on. How could this blog have any other movie as its favorite? But surprisingly, I actually had three other titles in that slot first. I saw the top ten box office chart at the top of the Wikipedia page, and said, "Oh, Untouchables, love that movie," and wrote it in. Then I scrolled down to the full alphabetical listings and hit E. Evil Dead II! Wrote that one in instead. Then I scrolled down further... Princess Bride! But of course! Then I got down to R, and realized that the greatest movie in the history of the universe was released this year, and that was that. Also, I don't know if Monster Squad counts as a great movie, but it's certainly one I've been told I have to see often enough.

And here's where I'm going to cut it off for today. Trust me to take a list that should be 39 lines long and turn in into a novel. I'll post the second half by Monday, if not sooner.

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