Gritty, not glossy: 70s films
December 5, 2014 6:29 PM   Subscribe

"Why were American movies so much better in the 1970s than in the decades since — and most of the decades before? Simple. Our movies then were not as inhibited by censorship (self-imposed) as they were prior to the '60s.

"And they were not as obsessed with huge box office grosses and commercial values as they became afterward — following the stunning financial success of those two '70s superhits, 'Jaws' (1975) and 'Star Wars' (1977). Instead, during most of the '60s and '70s — liberated both by the collapse of the old studio system strictures and by the greater acceptance of film as art from critics and audiences — American filmmakers of all generations, from Martin Scorsese ('Mean Streets') and Hal Ashby ('Harold and Maude') to Sidney Lumet ('Dog Day Afternoon') and Mike Nichols ('Carnal Knowledge') to Alfred Hitchcock ('Frenzy') and Billy Wilder ('Avanti'), tried things they wouldn't have dared in the decades past. More often than not, they succeeded." (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune)

That so-called ‘Golden Era’ of the ’70s, Hollywood and Fine, By Marshall Fine:
"Were the 1970s a golden era of cinema? Sure, but they also produced a lot of dross. If you were a critic in the 1970s, you weren’t just reviewing the “Animal House”s and “Days of Heaven”s. You were also reviewing the endless films of Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood (in his more antic mode with those monkey movies) and all those awful Roger Moore/James Bond films.

"I could just as easily make the case for the 1990s as a golden era. Or the 1960s. Because there were lots of great films. And, as in the 1970s, they were scattered among the chaff that hit theater screens every single week."
The 25 Greatest Movies of the 70s (gallery format) – ShortList.com

AMC Film Site, by Tim Dirks:

The History of Film: the 1970s: Part 1
The History of Film: the 1970s: Part 2
The History of Film: the 1970s: Part 3
The History of Film: the 1970s: Part 4
The History of Film: the 1970s: Part 5
The History of Film: the 1970s: Part 6

10 Great Overlooked Films From The 1970sThe Playlist

Ah, the Good Old Bad Old 70's – A.O. Scott, New York Times, Oct. 2000:
"One of my clearest memories of adolescence is of a T-shirt, worn by a fellow eighth-grader whose name I don't remember, but on whom I seem to recall having a crush. It was black, with hot-pink French-cut sleeves, and across the front was a precis of recent American history: '50's were grease/60's were grass/70's are gross.' At the time, this account seemed irrefutable. By nearly universal agreement, there had never been a worse time to be alive, and to be young was especially miserable. We were growing up in the aftermath of a vaguely heroic, splendidly tumultuous age – 'the Sixties, man' – whose life-changing intensity we could never hope to know. The landscape around us was dull, ugly and decadent, and we seemed condemned to drag into adulthood the crippling sense of having been born too late."
Forum discussion: Why are 70's movies soooo depressing? (Steve Hoffman Music Forums, May 7, 2012.) – Snippet from discussion: "Perhaps I am a somewhat cynical product of those times, but I'll take 70s grit over the glossy and politically correct tone that became nearly inescapable sometime in the mid-80s any day.

Best American Films of the 70s – a mosaic of '70s movie stills, Mubi

10 Great '70s Movies Streaming on Netflix InstantPaste Magazine
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (285 comments total) 104 users marked this as a favorite
 


So the best movies came out when the writer was a young man?

Funny how that's always the case, no matter when the critic in question was born.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:45 PM on December 5, 2014 [68 favorites]


"Why were the movies that came out when I was in my late 20s and early 30s better than the movies we have these days?" --Michael Wilmington, approximate age 57 at time of writing, and also every other film critic in their late 50s, ever.

edit: DirtyOldTown knows what I'm talking about.
posted by belarius at 6:46 PM on December 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


There remain, however, qualities differences in the kind of movies that were made in the 70s and now.
posted by Artw at 6:49 PM on December 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


The 70s was America's angry late teens. Later we cut and/or inflated our hair and became obsessed with our jobs.
posted by bleep at 6:51 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Damn straight.
posted by oluckyman at 6:51 PM on December 5, 2014


So the best movies came out when the writer was a young man?

Funny how that's always the case, no matter when the critic in question was born.


I don't know if that's going to be true for every generation. While I do think there are a lot of good movies coming out these days, The 70s is very strong, and I think critics my age will agree. If we count foreign films, I think the 60s could give them a run for their money. I also think that the current zeitgeist has echoes of the 70s, our paranoias have just changed, and that makes the movies of the 70s seem relevant or even prescient. Don't worry, the 80s are coming! Oh wait...

Aside from that, you should all watch Night Moves (1975), it's one of the most pitch black 70s grit films of all, and I love it.
posted by JauntyFedora at 6:53 PM on December 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


I don't accept the premise. 70's is one of my least favorite movie decades (yes, there's some great ones in there). There's a boatload of great movies from the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
posted by ecorrocio at 6:54 PM on December 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think in part it depends on what kind of movies you like- I'd say the 80's were probably the best decade for SF action flicks.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:58 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


The 80s had The Goonies, The Terminator and Conan.

Also, Robocop, The Empire Strikes Back, and Indiana Jones.

The 70s were OK, I guess, but really they should lose points because Escape from Witch Mountain and Pete's Dragon.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:58 PM on December 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


I'd say the 80s invented the action flick, or at least refined it into it's recignisable shape.

Which was of course bad news for the thriller.
posted by Artw at 7:00 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Don't forget Aliens and Predator, Pogo!
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:03 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Alien versus Aliens is actually a pretty great 70s versus 80s point of comparison.
posted by Artw at 7:05 PM on December 5, 2014 [30 favorites]


I think of them as different genres, really.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:05 PM on December 5, 2014


Mel Brooks kicked ass in the 70s.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:06 PM on December 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't know about best, but I think a good argument can be made that the 70s was a period of time when the movie business exhibited an unusually inventive and ballsy creative streak, for better and worse. Even today, I sometimes rewatch some movies from the 70s and think something like that could never be made today with such earnestness and quality, except in some ironic nod to that era.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:10 PM on December 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


1974 was a banner year for American film, compared to the awful dreck of 20 years later. The former offered The Godfather Part II, Blazing Saddles, Badlands, The Conversation, Chinatown, and A Woman Under the Influence, while the latter year brought on such execrable "hits" as The Flintstones, Beverly Hills Cop III, and Junior.

1994 was a banner year for American film, compared to the awful dreck of 20 years before. The later year offered Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Hoop Dreams, the Trois Couleurs trilogy, and Leon: The Professional, while twenty years before brought on such execrable "hits" as Earthquake, The Trial of Billy Jack, and Herbie Rides Again.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:16 PM on December 5, 2014 [122 favorites]


1970s movies seem to do well in top movies lists, just as 1970s albums do well in top music lists. I think it was a creative time for the U.S. and the U.K. Once upon a time here I added up critics' recommendations for four decades of movies, and found lower recommendations for movies from the 1980s and 2000s, while movies from the 1970s and 1990s were neck and neck.

Boomer cultural chauvinism is a palpable and often irritating phenomenon, but I'm not bold enough to say it is wholly without foundation. Time will tell if 1960s/1970s culture will be remembered quite as fondly by people who didn't grow up with it (or by people who didn't grow up under the strident cultural thumb of people who grew up with it).
posted by dgaicun at 7:19 PM on December 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


The way I think of it is like this: Cinematic movies of today are a lot like cartoons the the truly old-timey era. Back in the day, the medium was designed for adult entertainment. As time moved on, people who grew up remember the medium through the rose-colored glasses of their youth and feel compelled to protect their "turf". They take actions to make sure their favorite art form is protected by the law against so-called modern sensibilities, and that ends up mutating into "think of the children" rhetoric after enough time has passed.

I'm of the opinion that big-box movie theaters will go the way of the classic dive-thrus sometime in the next 20-40 years. I'm honestly surprised large theater complexes have managed to survive this long. If things continue the way they have been, soon the only thing you'll be able to watch at the local MegaPlex will be Family Entertainment tripe.
posted by surazal at 7:19 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Harold and Maude is great, but my favorite Ashby is The Landlord. Such a bold film about race and class that would be shredded immediately today. The problem isn't really "censorship," but audiences aren't allowed to be uncomfortable anymore unless it's from a torture or rape scene followed by a patriotic resolution.
posted by gorbweaver at 7:20 PM on December 5, 2014 [15 favorites]


I don't think the acting was better, nor the visuals: the combination of fashionable verité and the hideous clothes, vehicles and hairstyles makes them almost painful to watch. What was better was the writing. The screenwriter got a lot of love in the 1960s and 70s and the pacing wasn't so metronomically precise. Nowadays it's all process and work-for-hire assembly-line rewrites, and something gets lost along the way, like a reason to watch it other than to just have your senses stimulated.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:20 PM on December 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


It's hard to imagine Taxi Driver or Apocalypse Now being made in the same way today, and they definitely wouldn't have been made in the 1960s. There was money for big, challenging, and complex movies made for adults. There are plenty of good movies being made now, but they are swamped in a sea of comic book franchise films and worse.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:21 PM on December 5, 2014 [17 favorites]


The 70s were OK, I guess, but really they should lose points because Escape from Witch Mountain and Pete's Dragon.

Excuse me, but that's Escape TO Witch Mountain, and also, your opinions are wrong.
posted by webmutant at 7:23 PM on December 5, 2014 [26 favorites]


So the best movies came out when the writer was a young man?

Funny how that's always the case, no matter when the critic in question was born.


I was eleven in 1971 when I started with "the best movies". Little Big Man was my first. By the time I was fourteen or fifteen, I also had The Godfather, Chinatown, The French Connection and various others under my belt. Problem is, short of the odd chase or bit of bloody mayhem, I didn't really rate them that high (except maybe Little Big Man), preferring stellar stuff like The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno. No, it took making it into my twenties (the 1980s and the ubiquity of options offered by video rentals) for me to really get a handle on how GREAT the 70s were. Which isn't to say that everything has sucked since. Just that for a chunk of time, we had us a golden age going.

So, no. In my case at least, it was not a question of when I was born.
posted by philip-random at 7:29 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hey, Escape to Witch Mountain is on Netflix. I'm tempted to watch it; I'm pretty sure I never have. But I've a pretty good sense of what it's like and am prepared to bet that, as magical family films go, Hugo knocks it completely on its ass.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:32 PM on December 5, 2014


Not everyone may see it as a plus, but one of the net effects of the migration of budget dollars and high end filmmaking talent to genres that once were relegated to matinees and drive-ins is that the quality of fx/action blockbusters and family films is arguably much, much better than thirty five to forty five years ago.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:38 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I watched Network (1976) the first time this year. Wow! The acting blew me away. The famous "I'm mad as hell" scene is absolutely chilling when watched in context.
When I think of what this movie would be like if they remade it now I shudder...
posted by koakuma at 7:40 PM on December 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


So the best movies came out when the writer was a young man?

I wouldn't say that movies in the 70s were "the best" -- tastes will always differ and it depends on what kinds of movies you like. For a fan of not maximally stupid SF movies, things started to heat up with Soderbergh's _Solaris_ and haven't cooled off yet.

But there is a broad stripe of movies from the 70s that have a clear and distinct enough voice and style that it's easy to identify "70s movies" that happened to be made in other decades. 1998's _Ronin_, for example, is absolutely a 70s movie.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:41 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


My wife always complains that 70s movies are too slow because she's so used to the non-stop action and constant plot movement of modern movies.
posted by rocket88 at 7:42 PM on December 5, 2014


If anyone but Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky had made Network in 1976, it probably would have sucked. The era is probably not as magical for that specific film as the writer/director pairing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:43 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ooooo! Don't forget Bedknobs and Broomsticks! There's your 70's awesomeness :)
posted by triage_lazarus at 7:44 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


George_Spiggott: "But I've a pretty good sense of what it's like and am prepared to bet that, as magical family films go, Hugo knocks it completely on its ass."

Eh, Hugo was fine, if mannered, until it turned into a didactic Discovery Channel documentary on Georges Méliès for no fucking reason.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:44 PM on December 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


So the best movies came out when the writer was a young man?

Doesn't work for me. I was a young man in the '80 and hate 99% of movies from that horrible decade. '70s movies on the other hand are awesome more often than not.
posted by octothorpe at 7:45 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


We weren't as afraid of the nude female form in the 70's like we are today.
posted by Renoroc at 7:45 PM on December 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Is this really even up for debate? Metafilter, I feel like I don't even know you anymore.
posted by cazoo at 7:46 PM on December 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


The Godfather Part II, Blazing Saddles, Badlands, The Conversation, Chinatown, and A Woman Under the Influence (vs) Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Hoop Dreams, the Trois Couleurs trilogy, and Leon: The Professional

Are you really arguing that those movies from 1994 stack up against those films from 1974, though? I mean, those are some very good 1994 movies... but vs. Chinatown?

I'd argue that the 1980s were a freaking golden age for fantasy and sci-fi filmmaking. I mean, Blade Runner and The Thing came out on the same day in 1982. That period is often denigrated compared to the 70s and it was definitely a huge shift in tone, but I'd argue that the best movies of the 1980s are just as good, in their own way, as the best of the 70s. The best of the 1990s, meanwhile, was pretty darn good, but generally it wasn't mind blowing.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:46 PM on December 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


70s movies seem like the first time filmmakers could really start telling stories as they wanted without the studios controlling everything. Then the 80s came along as the studios regained control and all the ideas of 1970s cinema went into independent film.
posted by downtohisturtles at 7:49 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Breaking Bad is an entertainment concept that could have been plausibly written as a movie in the 70's (dying professor goes broke and gets involved in drugs and gangs, shootings ensue, grimdark, etc.) and it could have worked, but it couldn't work nowadays as a single movie.

Our understanding of movies has changed dramatically since then -- away from story-telling and towards a much more fast-paced sensory overload concept.

Now a-days our long-form storytelling is done on cable TV for the most part. In 20 years, it will all be online.
posted by Avenger at 7:54 PM on December 5, 2014 [15 favorites]


The thing is, Leon: The Professional is pretty unrepresentative, rather like Ronin as ROU_Xenophobe points out above. Besson made Leon practically on his lunch hour while waiting for the green light on The Fifth Element, and it really is a 1970s film in all but, um, fact. As for Ronin, it might be because Frankenheimer is old-school, or it might be that Mamet was specifically aiming for that style.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:56 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Excuse me, but that's Escape TO Witch Mountain, and also, your opinions are wrong.

They were conflating Escape to Witch Mountain (1974) and Return from Witch Mountain (1978). But come now, the Golden Era for crap live action Disney movies was the 60's and let's not pretend otherwise.
posted by davros42 at 7:57 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


If you think that the '70s weren't a special time in filmmaking, try to imagine Don't Look Know being made now. Or Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Or Medium Cool. Or Altered States.

Or imagine a rambling, disjointed, mostly plotless movie about a stand-up comic and his girlfriend winning the Oscar for best picture today.
posted by octothorpe at 7:58 PM on December 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is worth a read on this subject. (It's also great for driving home the point that basically every good young director working in America at the time was an utter sleazeball.)
posted by asterix at 7:58 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


I dunno, DirtyOldTown, but moviegoers in 1974 sure seemed to have more diverse and original tastes than those in 2014, at least as far as where they'll spend their money. You have to go to #15 in this year's box office chart to find a movie that's not a recycled 60s/70s/80s property or is not kid/YA targeted.

Not that box office gross is the end-all be-all, but I can't imagine studio bean-counters in 2034 will be eager to fund an original screenplay about California aquifers. But hey, maybe it could be a Netflix Original Series.

Plus, Herbie Rides Again had Stefanie Powers. Rrrrrawr.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:00 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Blade Runner and The Thing came out on the same day in 1982.

TBH I'd probably lump them in with the films of a few years earlier.
posted by Artw at 8:00 PM on December 5, 2014


Blade Runner and The Thing came out on the same day in 1982.

June 25, 1982: an amazing day for film.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:09 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


A big part of why I like movies from the seventies is that they have human beings in them playing human beings.
posted by srboisvert at 8:10 PM on December 5, 2014 [37 favorites]


And don't forget Megaforce. It came out on June 25, 1982, too!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:11 PM on December 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


We weren't as afraid of the nude female form in the 70's like we are today.

We just recently watched the new Wicker Man, and I was surprised that there was no way-too-long gyrating pagan lady

there was just a lot of screaming about bees

which was titillating in a different way I suppose
posted by Greg Nog at 8:11 PM on December 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Lately I've been catching up on the classics I've missed because even though I came of age in the 1970's, my parents had somewhat puritanical tastes. So I saw Star Wars and E.T. in theatres, but nothing starring Clint Eastwood at all until I was in my own middle age.

I finally got around to seeing Chinatown about a year ago and was fucking blown away. Modern technical virtuosity is wonderful, but it isn't storycraft and it's an easy crutch to lean on when you are too lazy to craft a story.

This is a thing Plinkett touches on in the Red Letter Media Star Wars reviews; one of the things that made the original Star Wars work so well was the adversity Lucas faced on the set, things breaking down and not working or looking right, forcing adaptations and improvisations. Nowadays it can all be modeled in 3-D before the sets are built and so bad ideas, like Lucas' original concept for Han Solo to be an alien, don't get second-thought, they just get done to spec. It's a very noticeable thing when you start to look for it.
posted by localroger at 8:15 PM on December 5, 2014 [13 favorites]


Metafilter: there was no way-too-long gyrating pagan lady
posted by localroger at 8:16 PM on December 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


Greg Nog: "there was just a lot of screaming about bees"

And screaming about how it got burned. Don't forget that.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:19 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Two things I recall from the 1970s (being a kid and all)

1) Popular movies played in theatres forever. I recall being able to see Star Wars a full year after it came out. And then it came back again!

2) The general public didn't know or give two shits about what a movie earned at the box office, including the opening weekend. Now it's common news. Everyone's swinging for the home run now and oh, boy, are you a LOSER for seeing that movie that only earned $40MM on it's opening wide release.

And yeah, theatres vs VCRs vs the rush-to-DVD and VOD and get off my lawn etc. But it sure seems like we were a lot more patient in the 1970s (or at least the studios were).
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:19 PM on December 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


E.T. played for over a year in one theatre in Metairie (suburb of New Orleans). I think it set a record. I knew people who watched it dozens of times during its initial run.
posted by localroger at 8:22 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Apart from the hits, weren't most 70's movies just thrillers set in a poorly lit hospital or office building or something?
posted by delicious-luncheon at 8:22 PM on December 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


Not that box office gross is the end-all be-all, but I can't imagine studio bean-counters in 2034 will be eager to fund an original screenplay about California aquifers. But hey, maybe it could be a Netflix Original Series.

Well, there's more money to go around today than there were in the 70s. There's a lot MORE movies out as a result, and thus a lot more dreck to wade through. But if you look and are willing to drive to little indie theaters in the hip parts of town or theaters located next to colleges, you'll find a much larger variety of movies.
posted by FJT at 8:24 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


octothorpe: "If you think that the '70s weren't a special time in filmmaking, try to imagine Don't Look Know being made now. Or Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Or Medium Cool. Or Altered States."

There are as strange or daring movies being made now. They might not be as widely shown in multiplexes (although multiplexes really were an 80s thing), but they're there. There are psychedelic sci-fi movies like Beyond the Black Rainbow, there's a whole bunch of Latin American filmmakers doing their best to emulate Tarkovsky, there are weird, wonderful, and distressing documentaries like The Act of Killing, immaculate and controversial stylists like Nicolas Winding Refn...

Seriously, there are great films from the 70s, but if you think that particular decade was somehow unique, you need to look beyond mainstream, big-budget Hollywood a little. Cinema is more diverse and creative today than it ever was.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:26 PM on December 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


I continue to not get the Shawshank Redemption love. Manipulative schmaltz. /one guy's very strongly held opinion
posted by Lyme Drop at 8:29 PM on December 5, 2014 [22 favorites]


Those talking smack about Pete's Dragon better seen me in the parking lot.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:30 PM on December 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


Lyme Drop: "I continue to not get the Shawshank Redemption love. Manipulative schmaltz. /one guy's very strongly held opinion"

I tend to agree. It's not a bad movie, it's very competently written, realized, and acted, but I think it's vastly overrated.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:32 PM on December 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


delicious-luncheon: "Apart from the hits, weren't most 70's movies just thrillers set in a poorly lit hospital or office building or something?"

Even the hits were.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:32 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I continue to not get the Shawshank Redemption love.

Same here. Bullshit movie that would have been unwatchable without Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. And of course Clancy Brown.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:32 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not that box office gross is the end-all be-all, but I can't imagine studio bean-counters in 2034 will be eager to fund an original screenplay about California aquifers. But hey, maybe it could be a Netflix Original Series.

Indeed. Outside of the odd Oscar movie non-network TV is where that kind of storytelling happens now.
posted by Artw at 8:35 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


you need to look beyond mainstream, big-budget Hollywood a little

But that's the thing isn't it? Forty years ago you didn't have to look beyond mainstream Hollywood to see films like 3 Women or Bound for Glory or Last Picture Show. You could just go to the theater at the mall and see weird art flicks put out by major studios. I do my best to seek out good films but if they do play in my city, it's for a single week in a tiny theater with uncomfortable seats. You can't find them at the AMC 16 Plex.
posted by octothorpe at 8:36 PM on December 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


Why we can never go back.
posted by Artw at 8:38 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


E.T. played for over a year in one theatre in Metairie (suburb of New Orleans). I think it set a record.

The Aladdin screened Deep Throat (another classic of 1970s cinema) continuously until about 1991.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:41 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


This entire 70s Golden Age rant--which was tired when I was in school 20 years ago--proceeds from a variety of bad faith starting points. There's cherry picking, certainly. Then there's the matter of how the comparison to current films is usually made: [critically acclaimed serious drama] is far superior to [popcorn movie].

The starting point for this entire comparison begins with an insistence on two points: first, that only the films that top the box office can really enter the conversation; and two, that only "serious" films can merit high esteem. It shows a laughable ignorance of how the marketplace has changed in the last half century.

First, you're asked to pretend the preponderance of popcorn movies topping the box office somehow precludes the very existence of more serious, reflective films, as though the fact that such films may not play on five screens at the multiplex in the suburbs means they simply do not exist. Those films are still out there, even if the movies being used to sell Twizzlers and nachos, the buildings they're being sold in, and the nature of movie marketing have all changed.

The second--and even worse--piece of idiocy you have to swallow to go along with this rant is that you have to pretend that the migration of budget dollars and high end talent to popcorn movies and family films somehow didn't produce a massive improvement in the quality of said films. Best-of lists in our age routinely include films about superheroes or animated films. But if you want to go along with the 70s Golden Age paradigm, you're asked to pretend that the first decade or so of Pixar somehow isn't ridiculously, amazingly, forehead-slappingly better than the work of 60s and 70s work of Disney or Don Bluth. You're asked to pretend that because Christopher Nolan has so often worked in genre entertainment, his films aren't serious enough to stand as quality bearers for their era. The Dark Knight may have made a lot of top 10 lists, but it doesn't count when you're comparing the era to the 1970s. Curiously, though, reviled, awful scifi and superhero films do count against this era. Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, blah blah blah. But, you know... let's nobody talk about how some of the Marvel films seem sure to be enduring classics.

What this all amounts to is a kind of film criticism gerrymandering. If we limit ourselves to discussing only films within a specific range of genres, budget ranges, breadth of release, and attaining a prescribed measure of box office success, 70's films were "better." If that's how you want to rig the game, go ahead. But if we take a few steps back, we see that there are still plenty of good movies being made... and that this argument probably sounds remarkably like the old coots who'd talk your ear off about the golden age of the studio system and how it was much better than stuff like Smokey and the Bandit. Or the rant from before that about how wide screens, technicolor, and bigger budgets couldn't hide how sorely directors of the sound era came up against the giants of silent cinema. And on and on.

And god forbid you even mention how nakedly obvious it is that multiple individual television networks have catalogs several orders of magnitude better than the cumulative best tv of the 60s and 70s.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:41 PM on December 5, 2014 [26 favorites]


DirtyOldTown: “1994 was a banner year for American film, compared to the awful dreck of 20 years before. The later year offered... the Trois Couleurs trilogy”

The great realization American filmmakers made in the 1990s was that it was just so much easier to hire Polish directors to make our films for us in France. It's the filmic equivalent of offshoring, really.
posted by koeselitz at 8:42 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Those talking smack about Pete's Dragon better seen me in the parking lot.

Dude. It has the line "plus a bottle of my medicine guaranteed to bring on puberty two years ahead of time, and that's better than a dragon, hmm?"

In a Disney Movie.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:42 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


octothorpe: "You could just go to the theater at the mall and see weird art flicks put out by major studios."

Is that really true? In some cases, maybe, but there weren't really many multiplexes back in 1974. I'm not sure if those theaters were at the mall either. So, at your local theater, you'd get one or two screens showing whatever made the most money. That might have been a "weird art flick" some times, but other times, it was just all Burt Reynolds all the way, as the OP mentions.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:43 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I continue to not get the Shawshank Redemption love.

It kind entered into the cultural consciousness through repetition. It got a little bit of resurgence when it hit VHS, but then it really started getting popular by being played over and over again on television/cable.

And, since it was competently made, there was no reason not to finish watching it when it came on. I still like it, but I admit part of the reason is because I felt Forrest Gump, the Academy Award winner in 1994, is much more overrated than Shawshank will ever be.
posted by FJT at 8:43 PM on December 5, 2014


Not to mention that the multiplex is becoming irrelevant very quickly. Home entertainment is going to be where it's at even for film in not too long. Day-and-date releasing has already been discussed, although theater and studio resistance is high, it will happen, and then you get to decide if you want to go see the movie in a theater or at home, and if you choose to do it at home, all movies will be equally available.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:46 PM on December 5, 2014


Dude. It has the line "plus a bottle of my medicine guaranteed to bring on puberty two years ahead of time, and that's better than a dragon, hmm?"

Stop trying to ruin my childhood.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:50 PM on December 5, 2014


So the best movies came out when the writer was a young man?

My favourite decades for film, in order:

1970s
1930s
1960s
1940s
1990s
1920s
1950s
1980s
2000s

Although one could look at me and look at a list of my favourites and see that they were all released before I was born, because of reincarnation, I actually saw them when I was a young man.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:52 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's also because the Hays Code collapsed in 1968.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:57 PM on December 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


Ok I'm a little buzzed and maybe this is more of a Meta comment but jcifa is frigging killing it with these posts lately.

Or imagine a rambling, disjointed, mostly plotless movie about a stand-up comic and his girlfriend winning the Oscar for best picture today.

Well - this calibre of work exists and is getting accolades today, it's just on TV (Louie season 4), right?
posted by en forme de poire at 9:03 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


let's nobody talk about how some of the Marvel films seem sure to be enduring classics.

Which ones? I mean, I've enjoyed most of the Marvel films I've seen, but they all fall solidly into the "better than that had any right to be" category more than anything else.
posted by asterix at 9:05 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Enduring favorites" if you prefer. I'd feel pretty good betting that the Marvel films will still be a certified Big Deal with young'ns in twenty years, much as Star Wars and only a comparative handful of other popcorn films of that kind of age have ever managed.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:11 PM on December 5, 2014


I kinda doubt it, if for no other reason than that it's obvious just how assembly-line production of them is. It's a really high-quality assembly line, but they just all feel so same-y I can't see anyone going back 20 years from now and saying "oh man, I really need to see The Avengers again!"

But I could certainly be wrong.
posted by asterix at 9:16 PM on December 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Civilization peaked with the release of Blazing Saddles. It's all been downhill since then."
posted by mikelieman at 9:20 PM on December 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


Among the movies watched recently are Five Easy Pieces, Scarecrow, The Last Detail. Thank you, TCM. The environment is so much different in these films. People are living such harsh lives. Authorities crush the little people with fervour and potential downfall is everywhere. Downtowns are still active places, their bars and the diners filling not with the pretty young hip but with grizzled old faces of the hard working and drinking, decay is setting in everywhere. The promise of the 50s and 60s is dying, but the sex and the easy hookups, the bitter realities and tough language are out in the open now. I was about to enter adolescence, my friends and I were more about trying to get into Enter the Dragon, and my experience of the adult films of the time, of Nicolson, Pacino, Hoffman, Dunaway, was through the Mad Magazine parodies. But I watch them with fondness now. Other periods have their successes, but the late 60s - early 70s does seem to have its unique perspective of changing society. I'm glad we have it captured in the way it was.
posted by TimTypeZed at 9:24 PM on December 5, 2014 [16 favorites]


It's also because the Hays Code collapsed in 1968.

This is it. The start of the modern MPAA rating system, flawed as it is, was the real turning point for American movies.

I think there were also some improvements to film stocks that made it easier to shoot in something approaching natural light.
posted by The Lamplighter at 9:33 PM on December 5, 2014


So the best movies came out when the writer was a young man?

Funny how that's always the case, no matter when the critic in question was born.


I grew up in the 80s, it's been a discovery how awesome 70s films are generally by comparison.

90s are another great decade, but like with music, something bad happened in the 80s. Ronald Wilson Reagan has something to do with it, but I've never worked out the exact connection.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 9:41 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Funnily enough The Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel film because before the obligatory CGI-fest ending it has a very 70s feel.
posted by Artw at 9:42 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's probably worth noting that there were plenty of execrably bad movies made in the 1970s. And it seems like half of them starred Clint Eastwood.
posted by koeselitz at 9:54 PM on December 5, 2014


Yeah, sorry, Marshall Fine, I hadn't gotten to your article yet. But I agree with you.
posted by koeselitz at 9:55 PM on December 5, 2014


I'm pretty damn far from a movie expert, but I've always understood the 70s cinema exceptionalism argument to be thus: In the 70s, due to a confluence of historical forces, a certain kind of arty, serious drama enjoyed frequent wide release and (relative) commercial success. This does seem to me to be an historical anomaly. I don't think it precludes the notion that such arty, serious drama still gets made, and can even be found by the average person if they know where to look; nor does it preclude the notion that other forms of movies, including Marvel movies, family movies, or studio-era movies, can be of equal quality. Now, the arty, serious drama is kind of the default setting for good film, at least among many critics, but I've always thought of the argument for 70s cinema as being more about a particular type of film than about film overall.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:00 PM on December 5, 2014


Another thing that would have helped 70s filmmakers is that Robert McKee didn't start hawking his formulaic bullshit until 1983.
posted by Artw at 10:00 PM on December 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


I continue to not get the Shawshank Redemption love.

I agree. I avoided accepting dates with guys who claim it is their favorite movie. Chances are when I admitted I didn't care for it, they wouldn't shut up about it and would try to force you to rewatch it with them.
posted by discopolo at 10:01 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dude. It has the line "plus a bottle of my medicine guaranteed to bring on puberty two years ahead of time, and that's better than a dragon, hmm?"

In a Disney Movie.


Disney has a number of subversive moments. Go ride "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" at Disneyland, or as I call it, "Mr. Toad Goes To HELL!"

But if you want to go along with the 70s Golden Age paradigm, you're asked to pretend that the first decade or so of Pixar somehow isn't ridiculously, amazingly, forehead-slappingly better than the work of 60s and 70s work of Disney or Don Bluth.

There are parts of the 60's work of Walt Disney Animation Studios that was quite good - 101 Dalmatians, and the The Jungle Book leap to mind. But the late '60s through '80s was a horror show for Disney, which is why we talk about the Disney Renaissance, which started in late 1989 with The Little Mermaid.

And right now, let's compare the last four films from WDAS and Pixar.

Pixar: Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Brave, Monsters University. Three sequels, but TS3 is arguably the best film they ever made. Cars 2, however, is very much the worst they made, and Brave and MU didn't do nearly as well as the movies before TS3.

WDAS: Winnie the Pooh, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6. Winnie the Pooh was a critical hit (but too short), Wreck-It Ralph was acclaimed, and Big Hero 6 has gotten both acclaim and dollars, making back the budget in one week. Then there's that other movie, which, well, I'll just let it go. Oh: One remake, otherwise, three new properties in a row, and the next three (Zootopia, Moana, Giants) are also new properties. WDAS, historically, avoids sequels. (DisneyToon, however, will do a dozen direct to DVD to keep your kids happy.)

Pixar has two new movies in the pipe (Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur) and two sequels (Finding Dory and Toy Story 4. Ghu help us all if they fuck up Toy Story.) Brad Bird has said there will be an Incredibles 2, and apparently, Cars 3 is out there somewhere as well.

So, both have epic hits ($1 Billion plus) in the last four but I think, right now, WDAS is running the better animation studio. Funny, it's almost as if Ed Catmull and John Lasseter were running it....
posted by eriko at 10:02 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


IMDb profile pages tell you your average rating for every year where you've watched more than 10 movies. I summed my yearly averages by decade and this is how my preferences rank:

90s
00s
80s
40s
50s
70s
60s

I most prefer what was new during my mid-teens to mid-20s (A pattern that I think is absolutely typical for cultural tastes). Next what I liked during my childhood. Next Golden Age. My lowest average ratings are for movies from the 1960s and 1970s. (20s and 30s actually ranked above 80s, but I didn't rate enough movies in those decades for my profile page to report data for every year, so I didn't include them. Also I've watched a lot of typical movies from the 80s, but I've watched pretty much nothing but the most acclaimed movies from the 20s.) The 2010s are young, but appear to be close to the 00s in my ratings.
posted by dgaicun at 10:03 PM on December 5, 2014


Oh, and this, quoted in the post:
I'll take 70s grit over the glossy and politically correct tone that became nearly inescapable sometime in the mid-80s any day.
A "politically correct tone" "became nearly inescapable" in mid-80s film? Seriously? Endless Rocky and Rambo sequels? Top Gun?

Please, someone tell me about this vaunted era when political correctness ran amok in the movies. I'd really like to watch some of those shows. Back here in the world I live in, James Cameron was still playing a rape scene for laughs in 1994.
posted by koeselitz at 10:05 PM on December 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'd be curious to know the gender breakdown of the folks who think the 1970s were the shit vs those who don't. I have a hard watching that much misogyny and machismo.

We weren't as afraid of the nude female form in the 70's like we are today. Yeah. What a plus. Also, I don't think it's true, though the gratuitous soft core scenes seem to be fewer.

They were so busy being "gritty" that a lot of it ended up feeling like a reddit thread populated entirely by young white guys.

They were creative, for sure, and there are 1970s movies that I love, also I really like chest hair on guys, but for the most part I find the human interactions eye-rollingly tedious in a way that I don't find even in the over-the-top macho movies of the 1980s or the more stylized movies that came earlier.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:07 PM on December 5, 2014 [22 favorites]


Where is Michael Bay's Zabriskie Point buddy-cop remake, starring Will Smith as "Zabriskie"?
posted by Auden at 10:08 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


something bad happened in the 80s.

Blue Velvet, Brazil, Buckaroo Bonzai, Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China -- and that's just the Bs.

I've just finished reading Andy Warhol's 60s memoir Popism. He makes a big deal of Bonny + Clyde being a turning point in 1967, certainly for American film making. It just broke so many of the accepted rules. And it was quickly followed by stuff like 2001, Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider, and so on. So to my mind, the 70s thing really starts there -- a pile of movies that just didn't play to expectations, that really pushed the accepted boundaries and slapped audience expectations around big time.

Those 80s "B" movies I just mentioned -- none of them would have happened without what erupted through the 70s. And the same sort of adventurous intensity carries through the 90s and 00s, maybe not always in the obvious mainstream, but there nevertheless, working the shadows. So yeah, we've had a pretty fierce American cinema ever since 1967 ... but I think you've got to look pretty hard to find much before then.
posted by philip-random at 10:15 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I do still like 1970s porn, though.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:16 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


small_ruminant: “They were so busy being ‘gritty’ that a lot of it ended up feeling like a reddit thread populated entirely by young white guys.”

No kidding. I mentioned Clint Eastwood up above mostly because he is so guilty of this – I mean, that most famous of his films, Dirty Harry, is about a guy who literally and explicitly says the rule of law doesn't matter and that he's proud to just slaughter criminals in the streets, and people stood up and cheered for that crap. But even aside from that there's little gems of his like the trend-setting Play Misty For Me, a movie about a poor guy who gets stalked by a crazy woman and ends up having to kick her ass. It's like whole film is sitting there shrugging the entire time and insisting "but dude, he has to kill her! She's a crazy bitch!" And of course that ended up being a plot for dozens of other wonderful movies about valiant men who have to kill crazy women.
posted by koeselitz at 10:18 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


I recommend A Decade Under the Influence. Great doc on the creativity and inventiveness that came out of the 70s.

I won't get into the Golden Age argument, but I think it's less divisive to say that what was coming out of the era was highly original and influential.

Thwn came Jaws and Blockbusters and on down to Baby Geniuses 2.

A recent story in the new yorker on Robert Altman's The Player talks about how that movie was intended as a partial insulting caricature of shallow Hollywood, but that era now seems like a creative beacon compared to today.
posted by destro at 10:20 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Artw: "Funnily enough The Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel film because before the obligatory CGI-fest ending it has a very 70s feel."

That whole movie wants to be a 70s conspiracy thriller, specifically, I think, Three Days of the Condor. It does a pretty great job of it, too, although as you say, the ending changes the tone a lot (though not completely, it reminded me a bit of the running around at the end of The Parallax View and Blow Out).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:21 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Artw: "Another thing that would have helped 70s filmmakers is that Robert McKee didn't start hawking his formulaic bullshit until 1983."

I don't mind McKee so much, actually, he's a lot less formulaic than people think, and he's pretty clear about "here's one way to do it, that happens to be the way a lot of successful mainstream films work", and also acknowledges and talks in brief about alternatives. I'm a lot more down on Syd Field, whose Screenplay was published in 1979, and established the whole "strict three-act structure" with certain beats having to fall on certain pages of the script and so on. McKee is a non-narrative art film advocate compared to him.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:25 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Auden: "Where is Michael Bay's Zabriskie Point buddy-cop remake, starring Will Smith as "Zabriskie""

Also Zabriskie is a crime-fighting beagle. Call me, Hollywood.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:28 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think limiting ourselves to only "American movies" also misses out on a lot of cultural and economic forces that have been in effect, especially for the last 20-30 years. From one direction, some so-called "American" movies are more and more aimed at global markets, thus the funding, locations, cultural references, and movie stars have been more globalized.

From the other direction, the development of overseas movie industries in Hong Kong, in South Korea, in the UK, etc. have produced movies that have not only been released American market, but have had actors, directors, or the movies themselves be embraced by the American public and enter into American popular culture. One example mentioned upthread was Leon: The Professional. Another huge example would be Jackie Chan, who was a major part of the 80s. And in the last few years there was Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive and Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer.
posted by FJT at 10:40 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


No kidding. I mentioned Clint Eastwood up above mostly because he is so guilty of this – I mean, that most famous of his films, Dirty Harry, is about a guy who literally and explicitly says the rule of law doesn't matter and that he's proud to just slaughter criminals in the streets, and people stood up and cheered for that crap.

It's comments like this that make we want to kill myself. You seriously do not understand Clint Eastwood. You don't understand the westerns he made, you don't understand the "solitary hero" actors that preceded him, you've probably never heard of the "outsider theory," and you willfully ignore and the impact that the Vietnam War had on American film at the time.
posted by phaedon at 10:52 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


FJT: "Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive and Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer"

Drive is a very American movie, I'd say, except for the director. Both those movies are also massively overrated, especially Snowpiercer, if you ask me, but I agree with what you're getting at. I'd add Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to that list too, although it's a bit older.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:53 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


And let's face it, Snowpiercer is shit. If you're making a movie outside of America and it's embraced by the American public, more likely than not, you've essentially failed by making something excessively stupid. There are far better movies being made all over the world, consistently. The mere act of grasping at Crouching Tiger and Leon after all these years is really indicative of how much of a disconnect there is in terms of what your typical American moviegoer knows about international cinema and what is actually going on.
posted by phaedon at 10:57 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


And let's face it, Snowpiercer is shit.

Hate that movie all you like if you want. But if the point you are attempting to make requires you to insist your minority opinion on a subjective matter is a self-evident fact, you may not be making quite the argument you imagine you are.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:09 PM on December 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'd argue that the 1980s were a freaking golden age for fantasy and sci-fi filmmaking. I mean, Blade Runner and The Thing came out on the same day in 1982.

I'd disagree with that. Here's my list of at least solidly noncrap Hollywood SF/F movies from the 80s, where I'm trying to be generous about it (ie, I think Altered States is more crap than noncrap but I'll include it anyway, but I won't include Battle Beyond the Stars or Star Trek 3). No doubt it will miss some movies it should not.

Altered States, Empire Strikes Back, Outland, Scanners, Blade Runner, Wrath of Khan, The Thing, Brainstorm, Scanners, Videodrome, 2010, Dune , ET, Jedi, Starman, Terminator, Aliens, Predator, The Abyss, Star Trek 4, Saturn 3, Mad Max 2, Tron, Firestarter,

It's a good list, sure. With a couple of absolute giants (Blade Runner, Terminator, maybe the Abyss, Aliens is too contentious)

In the past 10 years, we've had -- using a standard of "at least as noncrap as Jedi or ET or Altered States" --

Alien v Predator, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Primer, Sky Captain, Serenity, War of the Worlds, A Scanner Darkly, Children of Men, the Fountain, Slither, V For Vendetta, 28 Weeks Later, The Invasion, Sunshine, Iron Man, Wall-E, Avatar, District 9, Moon, Pandorum, Push, Splice, Watchmen, Daybreakers, Despicable Me, Monsters, Adjustment Bureau, Another Earth, Attack the Block, Captain America, Contagion, Hanna, Limitless, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Source Code, Super 8, Avengers, Cloud Atlas, Dredd, Looper, Prometheus, Safety Not Guaranteed, After Earth, Despicable Me 2, Elysium, Europa Report, Ender's Game, Gravity, Her, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Avengers 2, Man of Steel, Oblivion, Pacific Rim, Snowpiercer, Star Trek, Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, Predestination, Lucy, Transcendence, Under the Skin...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:24 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


ROU, I think you're being extremely generous in your quality assessment of this decade.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:29 PM on December 5, 2014 [25 favorites]


Hate that movie all you like if you want. But if the point you are attempting to make requires you to insist your minority opinion on a subjective matter is a self-evident fact, you may not be making quite the argument you imagine you are.

There's always a slippage in definitions of "good" in threads like this. Some people are saying "this is a good/bad" film to mean "this film is / isn't an important work of art for film as a medium" while others are saying "this is a good/bad film" to mean "this is a film I did/didn't enjoy". The two categories don't overlap -- I enjoyed the experience of watching the recent Star Trek remake, but it's not "good" in the sense of having any broader importance to artistic endeavor or the medium as a whole; contrariwise, something like Alphaville is a movie that is important but it isn't one I necessarily enjoy watching. And while enjoyment is a "subjective matter," the other sense isn't.
posted by junco at 11:30 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hate that movie all you like if you want. But if the point you are attempting to make requires you to insist your minority opinion on a subjective matter is a self-evident fact, you may not be making quite the argument you imagine you are.

Well aside from that being one of the most vapid internet responses I've read in a long time, let me expand on my point by saying that just because a foreign movie catches American buzz (like Snowpiercer did, what with it's American lead? Post-apocalyptic CGI? Hunger Games theme? Crazy limited release and Radius/VOD controversy?) doesn't make it a quality movie, nor does it make it the best movie that came out of that country, in that year, or the years surrounding it. There's a lot of great cinema with unusual subject matter reminiscent of what Hollywood was perhaps willing to tackle in previous decades, coming out of a lot of countries, like Korea, Iran and Italy. The problem is quite simply you haven't seen those movies. And on top of that, you defer to the machine as a measure of quality.

People love Twilight. What the fuck ever.
posted by phaedon at 11:33 PM on December 5, 2014


ROU, I think you're being extremely generous in your quality assessment of this decade.

"At least as good as Jedi" is a really low bar to clear.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:35 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Star Trek 4

how long will it take for everyone else to realize that 3 is actually waaaayyy better than 4
posted by junco at 11:38 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


METAFILTER: Hate that movie all you like if you want
posted by philip-random at 11:40 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


There's a lot more good 80s sci-fi:

Back to the Future
Ghostbusters
Escape from New York
Robocop
The Fly
The Running Man
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Batteries not Included
SpaceBalls
Brazil
WarGames
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Weird Science
The Brother from Another Planet
Buckaroo Banzai
posted by FJT at 11:44 PM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm a lot more down on Syd Field

Historically people are going to look back at anything pre-Save the Cat as a golden age of variety in cinema.
posted by Artw at 11:50 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was born in '82. My dad was a young man in the '70s. He dreamed of becoming a filmmaker. He loved Westerns, especially Clint Eastwood's oeuvre at the time. To this day he still talks about seeing Star Wars 26 times.

My dad never made it to Hollywood, he joined the Army instead. His love of movies, however, only increased. I remember being the envy of the neighborhood because of my dad's amazing collection of movies. As I recall we had something like 300 VHS tapes which was pretty damned impressive at the time. Most people just didn't have that many movies. My dad's tastes were generally not too adventurous...he definitely had a type. He loved movies about heroes: westerns, war flicks, vigilante flicks, etc...though we did have a well-worn copy of Time Bandits.

So by the time I was in my late 'teens I had already seen a lot of movies and was starting to get a little bored of the mainstream. I started venturing out to the video store and the library on my own, picking up tapes (and eventually DVDs) and watching foreign flicks that nobody else in my family (or among my friends) had any interest in. I remember the first time I watched Tarkovsky's Stalker...it was so LONG and BORING and QUIET and --wait

wait

What is this? What kind of movie is this? It's like nothing else I've ever seen before. There's something here that I don't understand. It's scratching at the edges of my perception. Shit, I've got to watch this again and figure out what's going here.


Stalker released in 1979. So I guess that supports the idea of '70s-as-Golden-Age. But I think DirtyOldTown has it right in the final analysis. I can't even properly judge this, I'd wager, since I only have the benefit of experiencing films from the 1970s completely outside of the time itself. I've never had to put up with the dross, time took care of most of that for me.

Also in my most recent experience, and reflecting on my current tastes and interests, it seems to me that right now is a perfectly fine golden age of cinema...possibly even surpassing that of all decades that came before. Hollywood is no longer the epicenter, though. We have a truly global movie scene, and all the really interesting stuff is being done everywhere except Hollywood.

Also also I really need to know more about these "Latino filmmakers attempting to resurrect Tarkovsky". That sounds pretty cool.

Needless to say I watched a shit-ton of movies as a kid. Being a movie buff in the Creature family is just par for the course. I had a girlfriend in college who didn't like/get my intense movie-watching habits and somehow thought she could "break" me buy renting out the whole local video store and forcing me to watch them all weekend without stopping .I suppose she thought this would be like when the wise uncle in the movies catches the youngster smoking and he makes him drain a whole cigar as punishment in order to make the whole experience so unpleasant that he'll never want to smoke again. While you can experience the awful symptoms of nicotine poisoning I've yet to experience any equivalent when binging on films. Reader, she did not marry me.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:51 PM on December 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


phaedon: "It's comments like this that make we want to kill myself. You seriously do not understand Clint Eastwood. You don't understand the westerns he made, you don't understand the 'solitary hero' actors that preceded him, you've probably never heard of the 'outsider theory,' and you willfully ignore and the impact that the Vietnam War had on American film at the time."

Yikes.

Look, I appreciate that some people might think that Eastwood was awesome during this period, but it's pretty clear he's spent most of his career since distancing himself from Dirty Harry - starting with the next three movies in the series! - so apparently even he doesn't believe in the enduring timelessness of the role. His later films clearly have themes that are intentionally counter to the themes in Dirty Harry.

And I'm not the only one to criticize it, either. Roger Ebert: "The movie's moral position is fascist. No doubt about it." He's right on the money there.
posted by koeselitz at 11:54 PM on December 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


There's a lot more good 80s sci-fi:

Okay, but a list of more recent stuff clearing a bar of "At least as good as The Running Man or Spaceballs" is going to be REALLY long.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:55 PM on December 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Back to the Future
Ghostbusters
Escape from New York
Robocop
The Fly
The Running Man
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Batteries not Included
SpaceBalls
Brazil
WarGames
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Weird Science
The Brother from Another Planet
Buckaroo Banzai


I lived the 80s. I'd remove a bunch from this list, assuming we're talking about a genuinely relevant sci-fi that isn't A. getting lost in really bad pop music, B. starring Michael J. Fox, C. just not that good, or D. all of the above.

My edit:

Escape from New York
Robocop
The Fly
Brazil
WarGames (* barely made the cut, but I appreciate the politix)
The Brother from Another Planet
Buckaroo Banzai

And of course, I would add Return of the Living Dead. Yeah it's a zombie flick, but it also includes nerve gas experiments gone horribly wrong and intercontinental ballistic missiles. And Roky Erickson.
posted by philip-random at 12:02 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Artw: "Historically people are going to look back at anything pre-Save the Cat as a golden age of variety in cinema."

That's one I haven't read. I don't think I will.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:02 AM on December 6, 2014


doesn't make it a quality movie, nor does it make it the best movie that came out of that country, in that year, or the years surrounding it. There's a lot of great cinema with unusual subject matter reminiscent of what Hollywood was perhaps willing to tackle in previous decades, coming out of a lot of countries, like Korea, Iran and Italy.

I didn't say anything about the absolute quality of those movies as completely representative of the diversity or the quality of international movies. I thought it's a given that everyone knows we in the US are receiving a very very small sample of movies from overseas. My original point was for a lot Hollywood history, including the 70s, most filmmakers and actors were American and some British. The world's relation to Hollywood was a one-way street where Hollywood made movies for America and everyone else watched them. It was relatively recent that things started to change and Hollywood starts thinking about how to make money from the rest of the world as a market and the rest of the world actually can contribute to Hollywood and America, that goes beyond just having their ideas remade (stolen) by Hollywood directors.
posted by FJT at 12:03 AM on December 6, 2014


I'm 31. I generally love '70s films (though Chinatown left me oddly cold). Films like Three Days of the Condor, The Conversation, Serpico, The Sting, Network, All the President's Men, etc are fantastic.

The French Connection is too much of a product of its time sociologically. With today's eyes, Hackman's character is a bit of a sexist, racist dick. It might be realistic, but today it just grates, much in the way old-timey racism does.

Sydney Lumet's The Anderson Tapes (1971) is a great example of a thriller/caper just starting to come to grips with how to present technology and surveillance on the big screen. It mostly fails, but does so in hilarious and instructive ways; oddly, his Fail-Safe (1964) is much better in that respect, though it does have a much more philosophical bent.
posted by flippant at 12:05 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think the acting was better,

"Better" is subjective, of course, but in the 70s you have Lee Strasberg and peak Method with actors like Pacino and Hoffman and Jack and so many others and a type (and maybe intensity?) of acting I don't think we really saw before. Or maybe it was a marrying of the school with the scripts of the time. But I do think the acting played a part even if it wasn't objectively better.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:06 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


FJT: "My original point was for a lot Hollywood history, including the 70s, most filmmakers and actors were American and some British. The world's relation to Hollywood was a one-way street where Hollywood made movies for America and everyone else watched them. It was relatively recent that things started to change and Hollywood starts thinking about how to make money from the rest of the world as a market and the rest of the world actually can contribute to Hollywood and America, that goes beyond just having their ideas remade (stolen) by Hollywood directors."

That's not really true. What Hollywood always did was import (lure with lots of money) the best directors and other talent (mostly behind the camera, after sound film made foreign-accented actors less attractive) from all over the world, and put them to work making Hollywood movies. It started before WWII, with a bunch of German expressionists fleeing the worsening cultural and political situation there. European Jews came to Hollywood both before and after WWII, of course, then they got a bunch of East Europeans when things got harder there (Czechs after 1968), and so on. The main commonality was that they were not allowed to make non-Hollywood movies in Hollywood, but the money was very good, and many of them managed to do excellent work within that system.

(Oh, and remakes are very specifically not "stealing". You can say what you want about remakes, but basically all remakes are authorized by the original creators, and those people are very handsomely rewarded for their trouble.)
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:17 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


With today's eyes, Hackman's character is a bit of a sexist, racist dick. It might be realistic, but

honestly, what do want? Unrealistic.
posted by philip-random at 12:18 AM on December 6, 2014


Okay, but a list of more recent stuff clearing a bar of "At least as good as The Running Man or Spaceballs" is going to be REALLY long.

You should be one to talk, with movies like After Earth, Iron Man 2, Adjustment Bureau, Ender's Game, Push, Hanna, Alien v. Predator, Watchmen, Daybreakers, Man of Steel, War of the Worlds, Cloud Atlas... and Avengers 2 isn't even out yet!

And I don't think V for Vendetta is science fiction.

I lived the 80s. I'd remove a bunch from this list, assuming we're talking about a genuinely relevant sci-fi that isn't A. getting lost in really bad pop music, B. starring Michael J. Fox, C. just not that good, or D. all of the above.

ROU produced a long list, and there's two ways to counter it. One is to try to boost the 80s list. And the other is to chip away at the 00's list (which I did above). I'm not going to remove any of those movies, ESPECIALLY Back to the Future.
posted by FJT at 12:19 AM on December 6, 2014


(Oh, and remakes are very specifically not "stealing". You can say what you want about remakes, but basically all remakes are authorized by the original creators, and those people are very handsomely rewarded for their trouble.)

So, did Akira Kurosawa make money from Magnificent Seven and Star Wars? I know he got money for Fistful of Dollars (but had to sue Leone), but I don't know about any of the other instances where his work was "remade".
posted by FJT at 12:24 AM on December 6, 2014


Look, I appreciate that some people might think that Eastwood was awesome during this period, but it's pretty clear he's spent most of his career since distancing himself from Dirty Harry - starting with the next three movies in the series! - so apparently even he doesn't believe in the enduring timelessness of the role. His later films clearly have themes that are intentionally counter to the themes in Dirty Harry.

Look I'll explain it to you. Clint Eastwood plays a guy on screen who doesn't fit into the norms of his society, but at the end of the day he alone will do the Right Thing, and he will have to do something that breaks the social norms in order to do it. (Side note: you can disagree with the Right Thing forty years later, but that's not really the point. Set it aside.)

When you put this guy in a cop uniform, he becomes willing to break the law to capture Scorpio. This makes Roger Ebert calls him a fascist. When you put this guy in a boxing ring as a mentor, and his prized fighter succumbs to a massive injury, he alone is the one to perform euthanasia. Conservatives call this having a "right-to-die" liberal agenda and freak out.

So no, I don't agree with you. Million Dollar Baby and Dirty Harry are essentially the same movie. And the problem lies in you thinking that Eastwood has a particular political agenda. Or in thinking that Dirty Harry was just a really stupid movie. Or in thinking that in the 70's people were obsessed with "machismo" and "misogyny," which was not your comment, and that's what drove them to like the movie, but again that's a mischaracterization, even though that's what the movies may look like to us now.

Eastwood may have distanced himself from particular expressions of the Outsider, but he has been pretty consistent. So for example one could say that Dirty Harry doesn't square off with recent events in Ferguson or New York and therefore that movie is dated "crap." But that's not the point. He would not have played an off-kilter cop in a dramatization of that situation. That's the point.
posted by phaedon at 12:24 AM on December 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


ESPECIALLY Back to the Future.

starring the only man who had no Elvis in him. I rest my case.
posted by philip-random at 12:25 AM on December 6, 2014


My single criterion for any movie: if it features a car similar to this one, I will love it.
posted by Captain Fetid at 12:34 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


The French Connection is too much of a product of its time sociologically. With today's eyes, Hackman's character is a bit of a sexist, racist dick. It might be realistic, but today it just grates, much in the way old-timey racism does.

FC is a bit dated, but yearning for a world where films are all based around some decency approved character (2014 standard) seems like a massive step backwards in making films that say something about the world.
posted by biffa at 12:50 AM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


phaedon: "So no, I don't agree with you. Million Dollar Baby and Dirty Harry are essentially the same movie."

I don't know about that, but - when I mentioned Eastwood's later films contradicting the themes of Dirty Harry, I was talking mostly about Unforgiven. And you may believe the mission of the man alone is the only thing that matters in these movies - but Eastwood himself clearly came to disagree. The Right Thing is not The Right Thing unless it's right. Dirty Harry is an unabashedly political movie, for all your desire to see it in the abstract; Harry Callahan acts politically, in public, to stop a public threat to the safety of the people in his society. He makes specific and explicit statements about how he feels about the laws of the United States; this is not symbolism or euphemism, it is explicit and literal. And worst of all is the movie's antagonist, who is the most hideous pastiche of torture porn villains, made as awful as possible to make Harry seem all the more good and to justify his crusade and give him a reason to come unhinged. Eastwood's later antagonists make some sense, or at least aren't a cartoonish attempt to make him look good.

The political cannot be abandoned so easily. I don't think Million Dollar Baby is a morality play about how everyone ought to be a nice liberal and allow euthanasia; but I also don't agree with the idea that we need The Man Alone, aloof of politics and unconcerned with justice, caring only about his Right Thing which probably is no good for anyone else. I think that's a damaging and corrosive ideal, and that's why I call it fascist: because it justifies too much brutality.
posted by koeselitz at 12:50 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


When you put this guy in a cop uniform, he becomes willing to break the law to capture Scorpio. This makes Roger Ebert calls him a fascist. When you put this guy in a boxing ring as a mentor, and his prized fighter succumbs to a massive injury, he alone is the one to perform euthanasia. Conservatives call this having a "right-to-die" liberal agenda and freak out.

So no, I don't agree with you. Million Dollar Baby and Dirty Harry are essentially the same movie. And the problem lies in you thinking that Eastwood has a particular political agenda. Or in thinking that Dirty Harry was just a really stupid movie. Or in thinking that in the 70's people were obsessed with "machismo" and "misogyny," which was not your comment, and that's what drove them to like the movie, but again that's a mischaracterization, even though that's what the movies may look like to us now.


When you put him in a truck with an orangutan, he alone will have sexy time with said ape. (Subtextually obviously, as the 70s wasn't that liberal).
posted by biffa at 12:53 AM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


Just thinking a little latterly here, but I was puzzled a bit why I liked 1998's "Out of Sight"so much, and I came to a sort of conclusion that it had that 60s-70s human scale quality.
I just don't see many movies like that, unironically warm, romantic, mature. Sure, sure,
Clooney blah blah J-Lo blah blah Elmore Leonard blah blah, but still, it had the backbone
to be what it is.
posted by Chitownfats at 1:21 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


FJT: "So, did Akira Kurosawa make money from Magnificent Seven and Star Wars? I know he got money for Fistful of Dollars (but had to sue Leone), but I don't know about any of the other instances where his work was "remade"."

This page says:

Producer Lou Morheim purchased the remake rights from Toho for $US250. This sum was ridiculously low, even by 1950s standards; perhaps Toho did not believe a successful film re-make was possible, especially one by a gaijin1 studio. Several years later, though, a Tokyo court ruled the sale illegal (see below for details).

Then:

As mentioned earlier, a Tokyo court ruled in 1978 that the original sale of Seven Samurai's remake rights was illegal. This was the answer to a lawsuit by Kurosawa and his screenwriters Hideo Oguni and Shinobu Hashimoto, who had never been paid royalties for Toho's subsequent re-releases of the film. One of the ramifications of this decision was the statement that United Artists (which by now had merged with MGM) never had the right to make the three Magnificent Seven sequels, and thus owed Kurosawa more money.

MGM counter-sued Toho Studios and Kurosawa Production in 1991. Two years later, in an out-of-court settlement, Toho paid MGM $50,000 to settle the original error, and MGM gained from Kurosawa Production the remake rights to Seven Samurai - but only if the re-make took place in the Western genre.


So the answer is yes for The Magnificent Seven (although it got complicated), and, I'm pretty sure, no for Star Wars, but that borrowed from a lot of sources, and although I'm open to Kurosawa maybe having a moral claim, calling it a remake is a bit ridiculous.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:28 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Right Thing is not The Right Thing unless it's right.

Look dude, you're crossing the line. This comment you make, this is not an Eastwood problem, this is what the late 60's and early 70's were all about. This is the Vietnam War. This is exactly the issue that a lot of the greatest movies from that era were struggling with. You're right, Eastwood is not as introspective as Coppola. Eastwood is the manifestation of what Nixon had called "the silent majority" - with a .44 Magnum. He's fed up with the idealism and the flowery demonstrations of the time - and by extension, the rights offered to criminals that, to a seasoned detective, appear to be slowing down justice in a city rife with corruption. So yes, it's totally political. And it's unabashedly violent and conclusive. And it had a place in the public imagination. And by the way, Eastwood is never "unhinged," as you claim; he is calculated. He doesn't, for example, struggle with a drug problem or kill the innocent. You often can't read him. And yes, all of this is cartoonish.

I don't want to argue about whether or not the character was moral, because I already addressed that. I said he is going to have to do something immoral. In Unforgiven, Eastwood, literally the "former outlaw farmer" Outsider, breaks a promise to his wife that he would never pick up his gun again. This is a "big deal" in the movie, as he should have minded his own business. He gets his friend killed. He finally shoots up an entire saloon full of people. Your comments on how these movies are categorically different are for the most part ridiculous.

But you're right, Dirty Harry is not a man torn up about shooting a guy in the middle of a San Francisco street. And Eastwood moves away from this and altogether abandons violence in many movies. In Unforgiven, he's far more contemplative and reluctant. In my opinion then, I would say Gran Torino - not Unforgiven - is Eastwood's apology for Dirty Harry. All indications are he's about to kill everybody at the end of the movie, but instead, he willingly walks into a trap and sacrifices himself. Because you're right, violence is optional.

Let's not forget Eastwood has an extremely long - if not, the longest - film career. The point I'm trying to make is Dirty Harry is both not crap, and indicative of an archetype that he would employ consistently in his movies, and therefore not a movie to be written off as a failure. It's also slightly ridiculous to discuss "The Right Thing" outside of the mechanics of the movie, but generally speaking, yes, I suppose there is always going to be something to disagree about with regards to the means employed and even the ends of social justice portrayed in his movies. I certainly can't imagine in this day and age pushing someone off a political position. We're simply talking about how compelling movies are structured.
posted by phaedon at 1:54 AM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


I can't help feeling you're reading way too much of Eastwood as auteur into Dirty Harry, a movie he neither wrote, nor directed. I mean, yeah, he picked it up, but he picked up a lot of movies back then that I feel you would not be so confident casting as statements of identity and as Eastwood's read on society (Any Which Way But Loose?).

Certainly, the role and the statement became an iconic one, but that was retrospective; I've seen no evidence Eastwood set out to do that with this film.
posted by smoke at 2:34 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


There were a shit-ton of fascinating fantasy, horror and sci-fi pictures made in the 1980s that probably couldn't have happened in other decades. (I'm not saying they were all great, but they were weird in a truly worthwhile way.) A really strange, dark, big budget movie like Quest for Fire, performed entirely in some made-up caveman language, could have only happened in 1980-something. (1981 actually featured two mainstream releases about cavemen that were performed in made-up languages, this and the campy Ringo Starr comedy Caveman.) Dark Crystal and Labyrinth came out in the 1980s, and wouldn't have been at home in any other decade. (And both are perfect. Shut up.) Look at Dragonslayer, a movie that takes sword and sorcery tropes and mixes them with a critique of religion and a gritty take on medieval society and some twisty gender stuff. (Seriously. Look at it. It's still awesome!) The 1980s were full of genre stuff that was smart or groundbreaking or just terrifically weird. I mean, 1980s Terry Gilliam was on fire.

A movie like Little Shop of Horrors works in such a perfectly 1986 way. I can't really imagine a 1970s version. A 1990s version probably would have been a lot more loud and crass and dumb, full of bad CGI. (Even if Frank Oz had directed it, we would have had 1990s Frank Oz, who somehow seemed to be a whole different dude.) But because it came out exactly when it did, it's truly dark and odd and full of SCTV and SNL people back when that really meant something. I don't even like musicals generally, and that movie never leaves my ass unkicked.

If you're bringing in indies and stuff at the margins, or stuff from other countries, you can probably make a fair argument that any decade was just as interesting as other decade. But if we're talking about the stuff Americans could see on a Friday night at the local theater, the stuff that had an impact on the culture at large, I think the 1970s and 1980s have it all over every decade since. (Although again, when we're talking about the 1980s I'm mostly confining myself to the weird genre stuff. There were some amazing, dark dramas like Raging Bull in the 1980s, but the 1970s were definitely the golden age for gritty, realistic cinema.)

B. starring Michael J. Fox,

That's a weird way to knock Back to the Future off the list. For what it is, it's a masterpiece. Super-clever and exciting plot, great action, funny dialogue, lovable characters. That script is like a jewel, with little gags that pay off in huge, intricate action scenes later, and clever little details and connections you don't notice until you've seen the damn movie 9 times. Yeah, it's got the Huey Lewis songs and a few elements that are awkward to the modern eye, but it's about as good as popcorn movies have ever gotten. Also, Fox is beloved for a reason. The guy's been in some crappy movies, but come on. Michael J. Fox!

Also, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Robert Zemeckis was killing it back in the 1980s.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:49 AM on December 6, 2014 [17 favorites]


It was mostly in the 90's, but Zemeckis was also a producer on one of the best TV horror anthologies of all time, Tales From the Crypt, which started in '89.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:53 AM on December 6, 2014


It seems like Altman's movies are fading out of sort of general familiarity the way Cassavetes has. Sad. I'm one who generally subscribes to the convention that '70s and '90s were sort of peaks of American cinema around the trough of the '80s and the mindless superhero shitbucket of the past decade or so. But, I'm really interested in watching more stuff from the '80s that doesn't have the corporate patina I tend to associate with the decade, if people have suggestions (Please and Thank You!). Brother From Another Planet (which is on netflix now) is an example of a really fine '80s film, imo...
posted by batfish at 3:59 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sure, there have ever been terrible movies. But Joseph Farrell perfected and standardized the business of marketing directly to the lowest common denominator. His company, "NRG, pioneered the idea of demographic quadrants, dividing the potential audience for a film into four parts: men and women under and over 25. A movie with the broadest appeal became known as a “four-quadrant film.” (Source: his NYT obit)
When did he found NRG? Not for nothing but 1978.
posted by Lisitasan at 4:21 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


David O. Russell. Paul Thomas Anderson. Wes Anderson. Steven Soderbergh. To me, these guys (and a few others I've forgotten about ) are STILL making 70's movies.

And yeah, Eastwood didn't write or direct Dirty Harry, but he was working with his mentor there, Mr. Don Siegel. To see Eastwood's own complete vision of the anti-hero start to coalesce, we'd have to screen High Plains Drifter. Followed by The Outlaw Josey Wales.

I think sometimes post Man With No Name Eastwood fell into the same trap as Sam Peckinpah. He was trying to show violence as a brutal, ugly, inescapable horror that only causes people pain, and yet, audience ate it up and glamorized it for all the wrong reasons. It's true he didn't really perfect the message until he made Unforgiven.
posted by valkane at 4:26 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, The Coen brothers. They make 70's movies as well.
posted by valkane at 4:31 AM on December 6, 2014


I watched The Parallax View recently for the first time in about forty years and holy heck is that movie brutal. After the end I just sat and stared at the screen in a depressed funk.
posted by octothorpe at 4:35 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't say the Coens are making 1970s movies. They're making Coen Bros. movies.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:03 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


The Coens have soaked up film styles from the last hundred years. I don't know this for fact but they must be Scorsese-like in their film history knowledge because their stuff has influences from all over the place.
posted by octothorpe at 5:08 AM on December 6, 2014


Oh and a recent film that has some serious '70s vibe is Blue Ruin.
posted by octothorpe at 5:11 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I really enjoy how, early in the thread, a lot of examples were dismissed because they were 70s movies themselves. Leon? Ronin? The duo of awesomeness from 1982? Basically 70s movies, don't count.
posted by graventy at 5:42 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


The 70s were a golden age for studio-made art movies, and a nadir for studio-made commercial entertainment. The 80s were the other way around.
I'm not sure why, though.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:24 AM on December 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


People love Twilight. What the fuck ever.

You are missing my point here by a pretty wide margin. I'm not making a "popular=good!" argument. I'm not even saying that "critical acclaim=good."

But you're trying to cavalierly insist that "Snowpiercer is shit" is a self-evident point. And this is a movie with a 95% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes (95% top critics), 84% Metacritic. Really, by just about metric, the overwhelmingly majority of people disagree with you. I'm not even saying this necessarily makes you wrong. But it does preclude you treating their contrary opinion as a given.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:29 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I can't stand most 70s movies because of all the misogyny and rape. Why is there so much goddamned rape in 70s movies? I mean, most movies from all decades are sexist because it's Hollywood, but the 70s seemed to have a particularly nasty sexist streak.
posted by Librarypt at 6:41 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Just watched The Long Goodbye last night for the first time. Best movie about a cat I've ever seen. (I really enjoyed it).

Possibly some of the most gratuitous nudity I've ever seen, but for some reason it doesn't seem creepy (perhaps because the main character just doesn't care that his neighbors are always prancing around nude).
posted by el io at 7:05 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


My personal theory is that all the directors saw Le Samouraï, were jealous, and then tried to make a film as good as it was.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:13 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I continue to not get the Shawshank Redemption love.

Hated it. Felt so phoney and manipulative. Also, that stupid poster would have been blowing around like a curtain all those years.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:25 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or in thinking that in the 70's people were obsessed with "machismo" and "misogyny," ..., and that's what drove them to like the movie,

Is misogyny what drives people to like Grand Theft Auto? No, but it doesn't hurt, and adds to the "bad-assed"-ness and "grittiness" of it. It was targeting a pretty specific audience, which did not include people like my mom or pretty much any other woman I grew up under. And yeah- the gratuitous rapes... ugh. Even The Outlaw Josey Wales, which I mostly like, had egregious sexism played for laughs.

It's like Andy Rooney's "Chinese" guy, which I'm sure was hilarious at the time. Sure, getting offended at that might be "mischaracterization" but it ruins the movie for a lot of us now.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:36 AM on December 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


And I also hated The Shawshank Redemption. Wait, what were we talking about?
posted by small_ruminant at 7:37 AM on December 6, 2014


"Funnily enough The Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel film because before the obligatory CGI-fest ending it has a very 70s feel."

When I finally saw it, I was deeply annoyed by that film as it was so clearly imitating 70s conspiracy films, but it was ultimately deeply reactionary and conservative: "Oh, yes," it was saying, "we've done bad things, but that was because we were infiltrated by The Bad Guys. It was the bad guys who did the bad things." The films it was aping were attempts at dealing with what was now clear about the U.S. and its status and behaviour, saying "We are the bad guys." It's not even a question of left and right - 70s films that are unquestionably right wing, such as Heaven's Gate or Apocalypse Now are still capable of that moral complexity. Of recent films, De Niro's The Good Shepherd, though at times a bit like watching paint dry and deeply flawed in many ways, was at least honest about that.

What The Winter Soldier most resembles in political terms is Rambo: First Blood Part II's contention that the reason the U.S. lost in Vietnam was because The Liberals Didn't Let Them Win. The Winter Soldier is possibly an attempt to do the same thing for Guantanamo and the NSA revelations. Oh, no, we didn't do those things, we couldn't, we're the good guys. Hydra made us do those things.

Pfft. Probably better if they stick to cosmic pantomime villains in the future.
posted by Grangousier at 7:44 AM on December 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


I can't believe I forgot to mention last night that the best film ever made about the technological singularity was 1974's Colossus: The Forbin Project, a film so far ahead of its time that the producers couldn't afford real computers to use as production props.
posted by localroger at 7:49 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I suppose this is as good a place as any to admit that while I love a lot of movies from the 70's, I pretty much hate every Robert Altman movie I've ever seen.
posted by freakazoid at 7:53 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Perhaps my favorite period of American film-making, other than the classic studio era, was the late 80s and early 90s. I give you:

* Prizzi's Honor
* The Rapture
* Hairspray
* Goodfellas
* Matewan
* Enemies: A Love Story
* Many different Parker Posey vehicles

There are so many others. But even this era would probably not have been as brilliant if the filmmakers of the 60s and 70s hadn't paved the way.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:54 AM on December 6, 2014


Harold and Maude is great, but my favorite Ashby is The Landlord.

Hal Ashby is on my list of "things I'd love to make an FPP about but can't seem to make one worthy enough."
posted by Room 641-A at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why is there so much goddamned rape in 70s movies? I mean, most movies from all decades are sexist because it's Hollywood, but the 70s seemed to have a particularly nasty sexist streak.

I think I know what you're pointing at, and I agree that there's often a kind of "played for thrills" quality to depictions of rape/violence against women in '70s cinema. That there's more garden variety sexism in movies of that decade, I am skeptical... On the other hand, Altman consistently had more substantial cinematic women than any major director since maybe Ingmar Bergman (check out 3 Women if you haven't), and it's also the decade of mainstream movies like Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Stepford Wives, etc. which were parodied and scoffed at by the '80s. In turn, the '80s gave us jokey little rapes a la Revenge of the Nerds or 16 Candles that were apparently absolutely unconscious of what they even were.
posted by batfish at 8:12 AM on December 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


i can't scan all 159 of the previous comments without my reading glasses so this might have been brought up before.

the reason American movies were so great in the 70's is because this was the first generation of film makers to go to film school and to consider non-American films for inspiration. just as the French, Italian and Japanese filmmakers of the 60's had ingested American movies and turned these genres on their heads, American filmmakers of the 70's were responding to and adopting the forms of Neo-Realism etc. and applying these to their own efforts. the 70's was also the ascendent point of the working class in American culture. the fruits of the New Deal were coming to full flower and people who would have normally been locked out of cultural representation were now lauded as subjects worthy of respect. there was also a burgeoning social conscious that grew out of the social turmoil of the late 60's as well as a rise in urban crime. all of this came together in American filmmaking before the studios had become corporatized juggernauts of profit. i should probably throw in a nod to liberal use of drugs across the board and a more permissible culture in general.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 8:16 AM on December 6, 2014 [14 favorites]


I'm not making a "popular=good!" argument. I'm not even saying that "critical acclaim=good."

What stands out for the 1970s, compared to decades before and after, is that there are a bunch of hugely popular movies that were also important critically, some to the point of being what we would now think of as complex art-house pieces. Now those categories have separated; there are no shortage of great and complex movies being made, but the popular films are largely comic book trash, animated stuff, and occasional movies like Snowpiercer that get good reviews but aren't going to have any lasting importance because of their central vapidity. (Yes, I was disappointed by how empty Snowpiercer was compared to the attention it got.)

The last couple of decades have certainly had a few movies that were both complex and popular and will have lasting cinematic value, but that list is not going to be anything like the list from the 1970s for a whole host of commercial, technological, and cultural reasons.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:20 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


People suggesting random indie or foreign films from the last 20 years have really missed the point. Hollywood is dead as far as important intelligent films for adults, and has been since the era of the Player.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:22 AM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


You should be one to talk, with movies like After Earth, Iron Man 2, Adjustment Bureau, Ender's Game, Push, Hanna, Alien v. Predator, Watchmen, Daybreakers, Man of Steel, War of the Worlds, Cloud Atlas... and Avengers 2 isn't even out yet!

Sorry about Avengers 2... I keep mentally linking Captain America 2 and Avengers 2 for some reason.

But anyway, I wouldn't say that the movies you listed were particularly good, and there were several in my longer list that I disliked. I'd only say that they were at least as good as Jedi, which was not a very good film at all, and will stand by that. I mean, Jedi has a few moments, but... ewoks and puke-inducing glurge. The Running Man doesn't even have any aspirations to quality.

I can't believe I forgot to mention last night that the best film ever made about the technological singularity was 1974's Colossus: The Forbin Project, a film so far ahead of its time that the producers couldn't afford real computers to use as production props.

Colossus is indeedy a great movie, but the best movie about the singularity is also-1974's Zardoz. Seriously! For reals! You have to get past the silly hippy-dippy trappings of the movie, but underneath that it's a movie about posthumans who've become trapped by their own support technology and the only way around it was to take a few centuries or millennia to breed a (Scottish, mantie-clad) superman to attack their own technological base. If you can get past the trappings, the basic plotline could come from Charlie Stross's accelerando timeline.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:30 AM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


There is also a book! And naturally a snarky podcast episode about the book.

(It seems to very much support the singularity theory)
posted by Artw at 8:38 AM on December 6, 2014


Alexander Payne might make some 70s movie. Downcast locations, nasty characters failing in ways we all fail, unhappy endings. In the 80s we had Lynch and Alex Cox and others, but the small tough working class movies were coming from Britian, like My Beautiful Laundrette and No Surrender. By that time the interesting movies had to be sought out, they were arthouse, alternative, 99 cents rep cinema.
posted by TimTypeZed at 8:40 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


(I am not usre Zardoz supports the notion of the 70s as a great decade in film, but it certainly supports the notion of it as a very distinctive decade.)
posted by Artw at 8:40 AM on December 6, 2014


Boorman was operating outside Hollywood, though - he has a lot more in common with the other giants of insane 70s British cinema, Ken Russell and Nic Roeg (the big three in a pantheon that also, arguably, contained Robert Fuest (for The Final Programme) and Robin Hardy (for The Wicker Man)).
posted by Grangousier at 8:45 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Gran Torino left me feeling torn. Whether it was the fault of the movie's delivery or my own confusion, the film seemed to be conveying two possible messages:

A) bitter old racist, despite his faults, must bear the White Man's Burden and straighten out those unruly Hmong neighbors, or
B) bitter old racist, confronted with the humanity of the minorities he has all his life dehumanized, wakes up and sacrifices himself for their benefit.

I still haven't decided which of these it is, but to be honest I barely made it through Eastwood literally growling at the sight of a navel ring - such an eye-rolly, predictable complaint of a bitter old man - so I probably won't be giving it a fair shake if I watched it again anyway. But I welcome other interpretations of this film.

I went to the cinema from the 70s onwards, and have never considered the broader implications of what defines the decades in film. The defining qualities I associate with these films has up to this point been (accounting for overlap of course):

70s films: Troubling existential crises, longish dialogue, seeing Star Wars at the drive-in.
80s films: The beginning of "[Verb]ing [Noun]" titles, sequels, action films.
90s films: Some great independent stuff! And Luc Besson.
00s films: Superheroes, Pixar, and Disney.

Bear in mind this is strictly off-the-top-of-my-head stuff. I haven't tried to rank these decades in order of quality. But I agree that anyone disparaging the Witch Mountain series is way out of line.

*closes eyes, holds fingertips to temples to initiate telekinesis*
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:46 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Maybe this is too simplistic, but as someone who came of age in the 70s I don't remember there being the complete glut of teen and 'tween or even kids movies. Not that every movie was great or good or serious, but they were made for adults without the censorship restrictions of the past so it's possible that this is partly a numbers game.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:48 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Gran Torino left me feeling torn. Whether it was the fault of the movie's delivery or my own confusion, the film seemed to be conveying two possible messages:

Gran Torino was a great movie right up until near the end when it switched to a groaner of a Jesus reenactment, complete with the outstretched arms. Eastwood is a great actor, but I wasn't buying the Jesus thing, and it's a movie I'll never bother to rewatch. He's used the self-sacrificial motif in plenty of his films and that's fine for what it is, but Gran Torino took it a step too far into eye rolling territory.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:48 AM on December 6, 2014


Also, having Eastwood actually say "Get off of my lawn". I mean seriously.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:49 AM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


He then went on to menace an empty chair.
posted by Artw at 8:52 AM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Enduring favorites" if you prefer. I'd feel pretty good betting that the Marvel films will still be a certified Big Deal with young'ns in twenty years

That may well be true, but young'ns aren't noted for their deep critical consciousness, precisely.
posted by kenko at 8:57 AM on December 6, 2014


So, did Akira Kurosawa make money from Magnificent Seven and Star Wars? I know he got money for Fistful of Dollars (but had to sue Leone)

Slightly weird since Yojimbo was based on Hammett!
posted by kenko at 9:02 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I basically think DirtyOldTown's comment is itself an exercise in point-missing. It doesn't matter (to me) that Pixar's first decade is better than Disney's stuff of the 60s and 70s, because … well, who cares about either of them? (Not me!) Maybe the quality of dreck has gone up; it's still dreck. If Christopher Nolan's films are standard-bearers for quality in their era, that reflects pretty poorly on their era, I think; his films just aren't that interesting. (Maybe David Fincher would've been a better pick.) I mean, really, The Dark Knight? It may have made a lot of top ten lists, but as far as I can tell that just means that either it had even less distinguished competition or the critics assembling them have not particularly discerning taste.

I don't even think the fact that interesting films continue to be made (of course they do) is all that relevant—part of the point is that now you really have to seek them out, and they aren't as many. (Even the cherry-picking argument isn't that compelling to me, because you'd expect there to be failed experiments too in a period of increased freedom and experimentalism.)

this argument probably sounds remarkably like the old coots who'd talk your ear off about the golden age of the studio system and how it was much better than stuff like Smokey and the Bandit.

The thing is, though, it's not just people who were young men/women in the 70s who make this claim, or have lots of praise for the 70s in general even if they don't say it was the/a golden age (or manage to avoid explicitly putting down other eras of filmmaking). To paraphrase a different comment also by DirtyOldTown, an awful lot of informed people disagree with you.
posted by kenko at 9:11 AM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


A friend and I, both 50 years old, just discovered that neither of us cares for the X-Files for completely opposite reasons.

She thinks acknowledge the nostalgia factor and all, but when I was young, there were art houses I could go to. Near the beginning of the month, they would release their schedules--long, cluttered fold out sheets laid out like a calendar. They'd have new releases, old releases, director retrospectives, and themed double and triple features all crammed in there, every single month.

Some of those theaters have been converted to something else now, and some are kind of still there as Landmark theaters (I'm not sure if they were Landmark branded at the time), but the only older movie I see playing at any one of them right now is Gremlins. The rest are mostly mainstream movies, if not blockbusters. And most importantly, I can't find anything I'd want to see at those places anymore.

The changes haven't all been bad. I can stream my own director's retrospectives and little film festivals right to my living room, and watch them whenever I feel like it, but sometimes it'd be nice to see things in a theater again, and maybe be able to trust someone else to do the curating.

But it's made me crotchety and mean. I don't remember it being normal for grownups to watch children's movies to the extent that it is now. I cannot even fathom anyone hectoring my parents for not going to see a Disney movie of their own volition, but when I first saw Stewart Lee talking about Harry Potter, I felt vindicated. I don't want to watch children's movies and weird bombastic crap that beats you over the head with formula. Someone basically blackmailed me to watch The Avengers not too long ago, and it was just one long series of background scenes where characters explain their motivations at a third grade level and big loud action scenes, punctuated by snippets of bathos to break the tension, and emphasized with super-obvious manipulative music in case you're not sure what you're supposed to be feeling right now. And that picked my pocket and broke my leg.

I love movies and I love to talk about movies, but it's been a long time since I've been able to with any but a handful of people I know.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:15 AM on December 6, 2014 [13 favorites]


I like the Pixar movies quite a lot. In fact they're one of the few films I look forward to seeing in an actual theater.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:18 AM on December 6, 2014


Eh, I like at least one of them ok, but pretty much exclusively in a thoughtless entertainment way.
posted by kenko at 9:22 AM on December 6, 2014


But I agree that anyone disparaging the Witch Mountain series is way out of line.

So I'm watching Escape to Witch Mountain now and while I'm impressed that it predicts the Mac Mini I'm not sure I understand why the girl is carrying it around.

Actually it reminds me a bit of The People, an ABC Movie of the Week based on the Zenna Henderson stories and starring Kim Darby and William Shatner, despite which he never once yells "No bla bla bla!"
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:26 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


That's a weird way to knock Back to the Future off the list. For what it is, it's a masterpiece. Super-clever and exciting plot, great action, funny dialogue, lovable characters. That script is like a jewel, with little gags that pay off in huge, intricate action scenes later, and clever little details and connections you don't notice until you've seen the damn movie 9 times. Yeah, it's got the Huey Lewis songs and a few elements that are awkward to the modern eye, but it's about as good as popcorn movies have ever gotten. Also, Fox is beloved for a reason. The guy's been in some crappy movies, but come on. Michael J. Fox!
Goddamn yes this, all of this. BTTF is a superb movie, with a script built like fine clockwork, and if you're crossing it off your list "because Michael J. Fox" then you are really, really missing out.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:27 AM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


Holy cats, I deleted a fairly major point and didn't notice before the edit window closed. I meant to say:

She thinks it's slow and boring, and I think it's silly and over the top.

I
acknowledge the nostalgia factor [...]


I will try to stop sucking from now on.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:27 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, something about issues playing out across social media and 500 tv channels and buzzfeed today rather than being channelled through motion pictures with a certain kind of urgency or intensity. Plus, William Goldman, probably, somehow.

On preview, thanks for clearing that up ernielundquist!
posted by Room 641-A at 9:33 AM on December 6, 2014


Re Back To The Future, yes to all that, but I have to say I'm a little weirded out that the timespan between 1955 and 1985 is just about the same as between 1985 and right now. 1985 does not seem anything like as culturally remote as 1955 did when the film came out and I only have a vague notion of why that is.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:34 AM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


This whole decade as measuring-stick debate is absurd. Sure, there were tons of quality movies in the 70s, for reasons that have been brilliantly covered by writers like Mark Harris (although his argument is that the "revolution" started in 1967 or thereabouts, not 1970). But there are plenty of godawful movies in every decade, in fact way more than there are great ones (that's just a matter of math), and the 1970s had a shit-ton of them, not to mention the bloated, overrated ones that don't stand the test of time at all, and the ones that were recognized as crap even in the 1970s. And as for amazing, creative, mind-blowing films in the decades since -- too many to count. If you think the end of the high point of cinema is the year that brought us Kramer vs. Kramer, The Muppet Movie, and The Warriors, you have a problem that's much larger than thinking the 1970s was the apotheosis of everything creative in filmmaking. And part of that may be the explanation why no one under the age of 50 ever pays much attention anymore to movie critics who came of age when Jaws and Star Wars (Episode IV) were released and who, for whatever reason, still dominate most newspaper arts and/or "lifestyle" sections (which is the place almost all movie reviewers have been folded into now).
posted by blucevalo at 9:38 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


1985 does not seem anything like as culturally remote as 1955 did when the film came out and I only have a vague notion of why that is.

Because in 1985 the '50s were ye olde times, known through stories from my father, whereas today I can remember 1985 and it is culturally continuous with my life.

Goddamn yes this, all of this. BTTF is a superb movie, with a script built like fine clockwork, and if you're crossing it off your list "because Michael J. Fox" then you are really, really missing out.

It was a fun movie to see when it came out and I can understand why people enjoy it in a nostalgic kind of way, but the gulf between Back to the Future and, say, Apocalypse Now is almost indescribably vast. It was a well-done popcorn movie and remains a classic, without at all aspiring to be better than that. It's not a movie that would have been made in the 70s, I think, or if it was it would have been darker and less hokey, and definitely MJ Fox would not have been the star.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:43 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


B. starring Michael J. Fox,

That's a weird way to knock Back to the Future off the list.


One day, I'll finally get down to writing my Why-Back-To-The-Future-is-Evil screed. Notice I didn't say bad, because there's no disputing it's a very well mounted piece of POP engagement. And when I say evil, yeah, I'm intending to provoke. My three key points would be:

1. the music. It's from hell. And that joke toward the end about Michael J (channeling Huey Lewis) effectively schooling Chuck Berry -- that really is evil.

2. Michael J. Fox. You can't get just how annoying a presence he was in the 80s unless you lived them from a mostly non-mainstream young adult position. He was the epitome of uncool and yet presented as cool. He was that guy in high school who thought he could have it both ways. Live in accord with the strict directives of the authorities and yet still be somehow edgy, basically by pretending to be. I hated that guy.

3. The hype. I probably saw Back to the Future in its third or fourth week in the theaters by which point I'd heard NOTHING but unrestrained gushing about it. So it was bound to disappoint. Put this together with a cinema year that really was overloaded with overwhelming vacant stuff* and yeah, it stepped directly into my sights.

* Brazil being pretty much the only exception.
posted by philip-random at 9:51 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


The book of Witch Mountain is kind of a shocker, BTW - much more grim and paranoid than the Disney movie.
posted by Artw at 9:51 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Running Man doesn't even have any aspirations to quality.

Hmm, you start using the term "like" and "dislike" in your last response and I think both our lists are based heavily on personal preferences. I admit Running Man is pretty much a middle of the pack as an Schwarzenegger movie. But I still think it is entertaining, mostly because it's unmistakably an "Arnold" movie and it's well paced. A movie like Man of Steel, even though it has huge starpower and had a huge budget spent on screen, just doesn't come together. Too many characters introduced, and they're all kind of dull and lifeless, and a lot of special effects that don't do anything except look great.
posted by FJT at 9:59 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Goddamn yes this, all of this. BTTF is a superb movie, with a script built like fine clockwork, and if you're crossing it off your list "because Michael J. Fox" then you are really, really missing out.

What can drive me crazy about post 1980 movies is exactly that clockwork aspect to the scripts. They're all so carefully and precisely written that nothing is left for interpretation. '80s and '90s movies made by people like Zemeckis or Cameron take Chekhov's Gun to the n'th level where no scene is just there for itself, every single thing in the first act is there because it sets up some plot development in the last act. So when Ripley learns to use the loader in the beginning of Aliens, you can be sure that she'll need that knowledge at the end. And I do love Aliens (and BttF a little less) but more for the performances and action and much less for the clunky literal plotting and clumsy foreshadowing.
posted by octothorpe at 10:08 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: What the fuck ever.
posted by eriko at 10:24 AM on December 6, 2014


1985 does not seem anything like as culturally remote as 1955 did when the film came out and I only have a vague notion of why that is.

Maybe something to do with how it's sometimes easier to think you can roll with people 15 years younger as peers than with those senior citizens 15 years older. They want to say age is a state of mind but my framework can seem so different from those who are now ascendent in the culture that I'm often feeling old. Everything in black and white is closer to my life than living without connection to Facebook and Wikipedia at arm's reach is to those in school today. World War II and Buddy Holly is closer to my time than the Cold War and Kurt Cobain is to today's youth, but in my mind the former is a remote untouchable world and the latter part of the culture that we all breath. It may have been a golden age but these movies are going to resonate differently with people under 35-40 than with those older, so that watching The Godfather is like watching Citizen Kane once was, part of the film canon, something good for you.

(Carnal Knowledge and The Graduate are on TCM tonight - Mike Nichols retrospective.)
posted by TimTypeZed at 10:32 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I'd be curious to know the gender breakdown of the folks who think the 1970s were the shit vs those who don't. I have a hard watching that much misogyny and machismo.

I've definitely thought that assessments of the 1970s as the Golden Age of American moviemaking are highly gendered. As always, the Onion's insight into this matter was prescient (Area Girlfriend Still Hasn't Seen Apocalypse Now). There's definitely some validity to the criticism that the 1970s Golden Age was heavily boyzone, with auteurs living in an extended manchild adolescence. After all, they were called the "Movie Brats." You had Bogdanovich dumping his first wife for blonde shiksa goddess Cybill Shepherd. You had Scorsese of the sickly childhood with his envy for the hoods he grew up with in Little Italy. You had Lucas with his fondness for B-movie serials and his shallow Joseph Campbell philosophizing. You had Spielberg, who had an auteurist focus on children and working out of childhood wonders & traumas (e.g., snakes, UFOs, monsters etc.). It was also a pretty heteronormative, if not homophobic, bunch. Gay directors like George Cukor and James Whale fit in more during the bad old days of the classic studio era than they would have if they had come of age during the 70s Movie Brat era.
posted by jonp72 at 10:42 AM on December 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


I can't stand most 70s movies because of all the misogyny and rape. Why is there so much goddamned rape in 70s movies? I mean, most movies from all decades are sexist because it's Hollywood, but the 70s seemed to have a particularly nasty sexist streak.

This is the premise of Molly Haskell's From Reverence to Rape, which argues that the 1970s were actually a step backward for women, when compared to the classic studio era of the 1920s through the 1950s. For example, in the silent era, it used to be that the majority of screenwriters were women.
posted by jonp72 at 10:51 AM on December 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


extended manchild adolescence

Manchild adolescence is unlikely to produce The Conversation, I think. (Likelier to produce Two-Lane Blacktop but well done in that case.)
posted by kenko at 10:52 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


For example, in the silent era, it used to be that the majority of screenwriters were women.

Lots of female characters more than holding their own on screen in the 30s through 50s, too.
posted by kenko at 10:52 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man this is reminding me that I have all these movies on my computer (several from this decade even!!!) that I haven't watched yet! Maybe I should watch some movies!
posted by kenko at 10:53 AM on December 6, 2014


Manchild adolescence is unlikely to produce The Conversation, I think.

Point taken. Coppola has his flaws, but he was much less of a man-boy than the other movie brats.
posted by jonp72 at 10:57 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


1985 does not seem anything like as culturally remote as 1955 did when the film came out and I only have a vague notion of why that is.

Well, think about it this way. Let’s imagine a 2015 remake of BTTF, whose 17 year old Marty McFly was therefore born in 1998. The internet has existed basically for as long as he’s been conscious of such things. He was three when 9/11 happened. The war in Afghanistan has basically been ongoing for as long as he’s ever paid attention to the news. Facebook went mainstream before he turned 8. MySpace was over as a social network before he turned 10. Twitter and Tumblr have been standard vehicles for self-expression since about the same time.

Remember the scene in the original film, in which 1955 Doc hooks up Marty’s JVC camcorder to his TV, and is also astounded that Ronald Reagan – “the actor!” – is president? Imagine a remake-Marty in the equivalent scene: 1985 Doc somehow manages to take the output from an iPhone and hook it up to a big CRT screen. He’s watching Obama’s second inaugural address from January 2013. “A black guy is President???? For the second time?”

The remake-Marty isn’t a budding guitarist; instead he’s a DJ and a hip hop fan. Some forward-thinking Hill Valley High booker back in 1985 decided screw booking bands for the dance, let’s have a DJ, since it’s cheaper. Maybe he books Grandmaster Flash’s lesser-known cousin. Out back, having a joint with the crew, he injures his hand, therfore no scratching. Remake-Marty steps in, and dazzles with the kind of cut and paste set that DJ Shadow or Cut Chemist was pioneering back in the late ‘90s. A stunned dancefloor stares at him, jaws slack. Maybe, remake-Marty says, they’re not ready for this, but their kids will love it.
posted by Len at 11:04 AM on December 6, 2014 [12 favorites]


Hmm, you start using the term "like" and "dislike" in your last response and I think both our lists are based heavily on personal preferences.

They could never be anything else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:14 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Marty is with Lorraine's family at dinner. They're watching the an episode of Friends. Marty, remarks. "Hey, I love this episode, this is the one where Chandler tells Monica he loves her. This is a classic!"

Lorraine's younger brother says, "What do you mean a classic, this is a new episode!"

"Yeah, well it was on...Netflix."

"What's Netflix?"

"You'll find out."

In all seriousness, Zemeckis has come out repeatedly against making a sequel or a reboot. And he's still a prominent director in Hollywood, so I don't know if the studios would go against him and make a reboot anyways.
posted by FJT at 11:16 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


More fodder for my long-standing belief that everyone should be required to read, if not the third critique, at least Cavell's "Music Discomposed".
posted by kenko at 11:17 AM on December 6, 2014


By now, it's sort of a well-worn trope that pay-cable serials have supplanted film as a showcase for quality storytelling in modern American culture. While I think this is only partially true -- there's never been a better time to be an indie filmmaker -- I think that, in the larger pop-cultural sense, this observation has merit. But I think that's largely because the experience of going to the cinema has changed, and also because the economics of filmmaking have changed.

When people go to the cinema now, I think it's more of a social event than anything else. Either they go with friends as part of a group activity, or they go with their spouse and kids because it's a relatively easy family activity. Going to the cinema is more about the experience than it is about the art itself. And you can see this in the types of movies that are popular now -- big-budget, effects-heavy numbers. There used to be a certain category of movies that "you just had to see in the theater", with the understanding that smaller screens (and less-powerful speakers) wouldn't do justice to the grand spectacle being offered. Well, now, it seems that all the movies on offer are the type "you just have to see in the theater".

Compare that to some of the most revered "new golden age" TV shows : Mad Men, Breaking Bad, True Detective, Game of Thrones, Deadwood, and The Wire. People watch these shows because they want to dig into them. Like, just look at the amount of fan navelgazing that goes into just one episode of Mad Men. The fans of these shows are passionate -- as passionate, I would argue, as many fans of the cinema used to be. These shows reward long attention spans in the way that contemporary cinema largely doesn't.

I think another thing that's changed is the economics of filmmaking. Movies, especially big-budget blockbuster types, are often expected to make at least half their money internationally. If you're targeting an international market, are you going to build in a lot of cultural nuance that'll probably get lost in the translation anyway? Or are you going to stick to things you can understand without language : explosions, boobs, and gunfights? I mean, half these movies you could watch with the sound off and get about the same thing out of them. Who knows, maybe that'd actually make them better.

My only complaint is that so many of the "new golden age" TV shows are so dark and centered around antiheroes. I'm pretty sick of antiheroes these days. Antiheroes are to long-form TV what dystopias are to contemporary film. It'll be interesting to see what happens to both media in the coming years.
posted by evil otto at 11:38 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


The remake-Marty isn’t a budding guitarist; instead he’s a DJ and a hip hop fan. Some forward-thinking Hill Valley High booker back in 1985 decided screw booking bands for the dance, let’s have a DJ, since it’s cheaper. Maybe he books Grandmaster Flash’s lesser-known cousin

please, can we just drop the preppy-white-kid-from-the-burbs-invents-the-breakthrough-BLACK-music-of-the-past gag? It's not funny. It never was funny.
posted by philip-random at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Marty McFly was therefore born in 1998

Oops, I assumed it was 1998. Dammit, I ruined the joke.
posted by FJT at 11:50 AM on December 6, 2014


What can drive me crazy about post 1980 movies is exactly that clockwork aspect to the scripts. They're all so carefully and precisely written that nothing is left for interpretation.

Yes, that is my problem exactly, too.

This is probably shoehorning a little bit because I'm getting pretty far out of the 70s or even 80s now, but this Twin Peaks thing pretty much exemplifies the distinction for me. I have a deep and abiding affection for David Lynch, and a longstanding beef with people who interpret his work as just being weird for weird's sake, so this really stuck in my craw. Seeing people talk about Twin Peaks since the announcement, I feel like so many of them are missing the nuance and the subtlety entirely, and just seeing it as a series of explicit, easily summarized events that can be outdone by having a weirder murderer or more convoluted problem solving.

I'll admit that I haven't seen everything referenced in that video, and I don't hate the ones I've seen--I especially love Fargo--but I'm really annoyed by the characterization of it as a weirdness genre that has subsequently been won by other shows that bit the formula but largely if not entirely missed the mood and character building. As though it's all just a simple storyline tied up in a neat little package.

I like things you rewatch not just to pick up missed plot points but missed insights and subtle touches, and stories I have to knock around in my head for a while before I feel like I get them. Especially when there's not just one interpretation to get.

I know that that sort of media still exists, but it seems like it's getting increasingly more difficult find it, as though everything outside of a small subset of readily recognizable, formulaic genres is almost impossible to see in a theater.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:14 PM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Colossus is indeedy a great movie, but the best movie about the singularity is also-1974's Zardoz.

They don't usually get sequels out so quickly, but Zardoz's Tabernacle is obviously what Colossus matured into.
posted by localroger at 12:15 PM on December 6, 2014


please, can we just drop the preppy-white-kid-from-the-burbs-invents-the-breakthrough-BLACK-music-of-the-past gag? It's not funny. It never was funny.

It is an element of the original, though, which is presumably the reason for its reiteration here.
posted by kenko at 12:24 PM on December 6, 2014


Movies, especially big-budget blockbuster types, are often expected to make at least half their money internationally. If you're targeting an international market, are you going to build in a lot of cultural nuance that'll probably get lost in the translation anyway? Or are you going to stick to things you can understand without language : explosions, boobs, and gunfights?

Well, I think this does explain part of the big-budget blockbuster trend, but not entirely. Because even if you're working with a limited palette of action films, there's still a lot of ways to depict action, shoot it economically, and mix it with other genres for some variety.

I mean, action movies don't have to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. 1994's Speed, which we would all probably agree has lots of explosions, gunfights, and having two attractive actors in it, costs $30 million. And this was already the beginning of the big blockbuster era. One of the top grossing movies of that year, True Lies, had a $100 million budget. There's no reason why studios can't take mid-tier actors, a decent script, and make an action movie out of it that cost a fraction of a Transformers of Guardians of the Galaxy.

But they don't. I've read it's because they're risk averse. So they spend all their money on big tent movies with ultra expensive actors, established properties and franchises, and lots of expensive CGI. Thus putting their eggs in a few baskets. As an outsider, I don't see how that strategy is superior, but maybe I'm missing something.
posted by FJT at 12:32 PM on December 6, 2014


Why is there so much goddamned rape in 70s movies? I mean, most movies from all decades are sexist because it's Hollywood, but the 70s seemed to have a particularly nasty sexist streak.

Others have touched on this, but (as I said before) it's in large part because the new crowd back then were, on the whole, sexist, misogynist shitheels.
posted by asterix at 12:33 PM on December 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


1985 does not seem anything like as culturally remote as 1955 did when the film came out and I only have a vague notion of why that is.

As much as I'd like to avoid the trap of assuming my generation is full of special snowflakes, I'd contend there's far more cultural distance between 1955 and 1985 than 1984 and 2014.
posted by evil otto at 12:43 PM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


That Onion article is awesome. I'm so very tired of the meme that movies are praiseworthy only if they're miserable and upsetting.
posted by chaiminda at 12:53 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Morpheus: "Take this green pill and you'll discover that poorly lit, poorly shot, mysogynistic bullshit on cheap film stock from the '70's is really high art. Or you could take this red pill and go back to your Big budget superhero fantasies currently being made."
Neo: "Is there maybe a yellow pill or something, where I can pick and choose movies of various genre's and time periods?"
Morpheus:"What are you, some kind of an asshole or something?"
posted by evilDoug at 1:42 PM on December 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


please, can we just drop the preppy-white-kid-from-the-burbs-invents-the-breakthrough-BLACK-music-of-the-past gag? It's not funny. It never was funny.

You have to be unwholesomely race-obsessed and crotchety to be offended by BttF. The amusing strangeness of the scene is in the novel chicken-egg time travel paradox: Marty did not create the song, he learned it from Chuck Berry, but then Chuck Berry (presumably) learns it from Marty. So where did the song/style come from?

If your answer is Marty then you need to recheck your work.
posted by dgaicun at 2:06 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Remake-Marty steps in, and dazzles with the kind of cut and paste set that DJ Shadow or Cut Chemist was pioneering back in the late ‘90s.

Oh, oh, and since it's 1985 Marty has no sampler, but can borrow a neighborhood kid's brand new Casio SK-1 to do the sampling (preferably more than one, since they only did one sample at a time, but since it's getting close to Christmas time he can raid a toy store or something)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:09 PM on December 6, 2014


So where did the song/style come from?

It's always been there due to Narrative Causality. Or Quantum. Or maybe a little from column A and a little from column B.
posted by mikelieman at 2:51 PM on December 6, 2014


Terminators wrote the song.
posted by localroger at 2:58 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why are we assuming Marty has to be white?
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on December 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


/starts on "Jaden Smith teaches white people about Coldplay" script.
posted by Artw at 3:05 PM on December 6, 2014 [14 favorites]


The book of Witch Mountain is kind of a shocker, BTW - much more grim and paranoid than the Disney movie.

The book by Alexander Key was one of my favorites as a kid. Relevant, because seeing the movie version was one of my first huge disappointments in movies, and the realization that a movie adaptation of a book may not be a good thing. Thank God Disney never got hold of Key's "The Forgotten Door".

Personally though, I think that in this era, would be the best chance for actually seeing a good serious adaptation of some of my youthful favorites, because some filmmakers at least have realized that one CAN do good work off of a YA novel, without turning it camp. In fact its interesting that these days the disappointment works the other way- I can see Avengers or Winter soldier, but then i go to the comics, and um, well...
posted by happyroach at 3:06 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Seeing people talk about Twin Peaks since the announcement, I feel like so many of them are missing the nuance and the subtlety entirely, and just seeing it as a series of explicit, easily summarized events that can be outdone by having a weirder murderer or more convoluted problem solving.

The prototypical Lynch movie is in fact a puzzle, with a front story that is obvious and mostly plausible but with odd inconsistencies, and eventually -- it is almost never possible to do this with just one or two watchings -- you can determine that there is an alternate story which eliminates the discordances, but which turns everything upside down so that what seemed good was really evil, what seemed like triumph was tragedy, and so on. Blue Velvet is the template for this but it also works for pretty much everything he's made -- even The Straight Story had the understory where Straight was really kind of a selfish asshole.

I think the really weird Lynch movies like Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire, and Lost Highway came from a frustration on Lynch's part that people were just settling for the front story and not penetrating to the underlying real meaning, so for those films he just made the front story incomprehensible.
posted by localroger at 3:08 PM on December 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


I think what makes the 70's different is that people were truly shocked by the movies that were coming out. I remember being really disturbed when I first saw Soldier Blue. It was like my eyes were being opened to a reality I was completely innocent of. Nowadays it wouldn't raise an eyebrow. It's hard to imagine a recent movie that could really shock people like that.
posted by night_train at 3:10 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Morpheus: "Take this green pill and you'll discover that poorly lit, poorly shot, mysogynistic bullshit on cheap film stock from the '70's is really high art.
localroger takes the green pill...
localroger: PORN REALLY IS BETTER SHOT ON ACTUAL FILM!
posted by localroger at 3:26 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Jaden Smith finishes his song about unicorns and bacon, puts down his ukulele. The crowd stares at him open mouthed.

"Your kids are going to love it!"
posted by Artw at 3:38 PM on December 6, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm really not sure why folks like Dirty Old Town are so offended by the notion that there was a particular period of especially fertile creative film-making. It's not like this is something unique to film. Architectural styles come and go, but Frank Lloyd Wright will never be equalled as a talent. Musical styles change all the time, but somehow certain periods like early rock and roll or new wave remain fascinating and relevant. We speak of Picasso's Blue Period; we speak of periods of provocative, affecting art. Raise your hand if you know the time when a gallery show of paintings caused a fuckin' riot. Yet none of this presupposes that there is a real change in the number of creative individuals in society (perhaps economic forces that allow, or disallow, their pursuit). Is it a slight to modern playwrights to point to Shakespeare? To composers, to herald Beethoven? What a weird thing to get in high dudgeon about, if you ask me.

Sure, there are still fantastic movies being made today, and there will be for many years to come, but that doesn't change the fact that social and economic and political factors came together in the 1970s, from the tidal wave of the 1960s, the era of riots and assassinations, the disillusion of Vietnam and Watergate, all of which shattered so many assumptions about ourselves and about America. (And to make an aside: I don't know why, for example, Russian cinema of the 1970s is particularly relevant to any of this. Completely different ball of wax there. We're talking 1970s Hollywood.) Look at Westerns, which as the once-dubbed "oaters" were a staple of American studio output, reliably profitable at any scale. Revisionism had long since crept into the genre, from Ride the High Country (which seems hopelessly conventional now) to deliberately self-critical entries like Soldier Blue or Little Big Man. But the genre had been exploded and deconstructed as an entertainment exercise thanks to Leone, and by the time Blazing Saddles hit, there was really no way at all to go back and handle that genre as it had been before.

In fact, I think this underlies the recreation of the action hero in the 1980s, characters often divorced from realism in ways that both jacked up the humor quotient (Beverly Hills Cop, say) and insulated them from criticism (Rambo, etc.). It was impossible to have your Henry Fonda everyman handle the situation facing the characters in a fair, decent process with as little violence as possible (a gun fires a bullet into the floor, say). This trend, too, ran its course, which is why in an amped up way we have the superhero genre menacing our box office week after week. The unreality of the stories is part of the appeal. We no longer believe in civic society in the same way, so we need the übermenschen to deal with threats. Some of the few recent films to attempt a different dialectic (e.g. Elysium) fall flat at the box office, or even just creatively. I can't count the number of films that use a sort of singularity effect to create a human with an everyman interior life and a superman set of skills, from Taken to Lucy.

And we have so much ahppening in society right now, but there doesn't seem to be anything in these huge, empty films about -- well, about the Eric Garners and Mike Browns and the ordinary folks in Ferguson. Hollywood today is so distant from everyday lives that its hard to imagine a film taht both appeals to the masses and speaks to them in a way that isn't just bread and circuses.

So yes, I believe that the 1970s (and I'm happy with measuring the decade beginning with Bonnie and Clyde and ending with Apocalypse Now, for example) had some uniquely creative and vital films, and I don't apologize for that. It doesn't diminish what was made before or after, but there was something in the air or the water those years.

I do have to respond to this specific:
films that are unquestionably right wing, such as ... Apocalypse Now

What the hell? The right objectively hates that film, although it's certainly the case that there are young'uns with no historical context watching it as glorification of war. Sure, Milius had some involvement, but it was Coppola's baby, and look at it this way: the reason some critics dislike the Redux "director's cut" version is that it gets so explicit in its messaging with the speech at the rubber plantation, in which a Frenchman laughs off Willard's (by now already jaded, but rote) defense of the American Empire as a project. A right-wing film wouldn't depict a My Lai-esque search of a boat, or have Brando show up and displaying his thesis about the inherent corruption and failure of the war effort, ending with a Strangelovian suggestion that the way to win the war would be to treat the Vietnamese nation as subhuman brutes (pace the Belgian Congo, of course). So, I ask again, what?
posted by dhartung at 3:42 PM on December 6, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm really not sure why folks like Dirty Old Town are so offended by the notion that there was a particular period of especially fertile creative film-making.

I think DOT and people who have favorited his post are more bristling at the first linked statement: "Why were American movies so much better in the 1970s than in the decades since — and most of the decades before?". Which is pretty much saying that films before the 70s and after the 70s are inferior. That sort of statement is going to generate some lively discussion, and it's meant to. When you're dealing with something as slippery as trying to define the "greatest decade of film", there's not going to be a single answer. Even if the 70s was tumultous and an era of great change, I don't even think people would necessarily agree on your point that somehow the 70s is unique in experiencing the GREATEST amount of social/economic/and political change in comparison to any other modern decade of American history.
posted by FJT at 4:13 PM on December 6, 2014


the preppy-white-kid-from-the-burbs-invents-the-breakthrough-BLACK-music-of-the-past

Marty McFly did not invent that music, and BTTF doesn't suggest that he did. He was playing Chuck Berry's old music, and 1955 Chuck Berry heard it and that inspired his music, which Marty McFly heard decades later and then brought back to 1955. So Berry stole the music from his alternate timeline self, but any way you look at it Chuck Berry still created that music.

It's a clever little tossed-off joke, you see, based on a time travel paradox.

Also, it's a real stretch to call Marty a preppy. He lives in the suburbs, but when the movie begins his family is kind of scuzzy and sad. I had the feeling they were lower middle class, surviving on George McFly's miserable job working for Biff.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:16 PM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ursula Hitler: "A really strange, dark, big budget movie like Quest for Fire, performed entirely in some made-up caveman language, could have only happened in 1980-something."

This was a mainly a France-Canada production in coproduction with the US. I'll totally buy that the French would still finance something like this, with the possible exception that they'd not be so hot on the made-up caveman language, since it's not French.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:18 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


This was a mainly a France-Canada production in coproduction with the US.

I didn't know that, but it was a mainstream release in the US and that shit sure wouldn't happen now.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:20 PM on December 6, 2014


So yes, I believe that the 1970s (and I'm happy with measuring the decade beginning with Bonnie and Clyde and ending with Apocalypse Now, for example) had some uniquely creative and vital films, and I don't apologize for that. It doesn't diminish what was made before or after, but there was something in the air or the water those years.

I think one of the great advantages of lookng at films from 4 decades ago is one can cherry pick the best of the decade. But let[s say, look at teh TRUE folsm of the 70s, the films that REALLY made the decade:

Sargent Pepper's Loney Hearts Club Band, Mitchell, The Wiz, Barbarella, The Poseidon Adventure, Night of the Lepus, Blackula, Mother Jugs and Speed, The Domino Principle, Lovers and Liars, The White Buffalo, Logan's Run, The Swarm, Tommy, Herbie Rides Again, Boxcar Bertha, Skateboard, Airport '76,The Cat from Outer Space, King Kong, Damnation Alley, The Strongest Man in the World, The Rose, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Meatballs, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, The Other Side of the Mountain, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Godspell, Escape t0 Witch Mountain, The Brain Wore Tennis shoes, The Day of the Dolphin, XANADU!

Yeah. Films were SO much better then.
posted by happyroach at 4:38 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Poseidon Adventure, Airport '76

Surely you can't be serious....
posted by Room 641-A at 5:08 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


but there doesn't seem to be anything in these huge, empty films about -- well, about the Eric Garners and Mike Browns and the ordinary folks in Ferguson.

I know this thread and your comment are focused on big studio movies, and you're probably already aware of it, but check out Fruitvale Station.
posted by edeezy at 5:09 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


happyroach, you see a list of 70s dreck, I see a list of musicals waiting to be made.

(Where's my Logan's Run musical already? "Fish and sea greens, plankton and protein from the sea... for you and me!")
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:12 PM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


> Meatballs

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:21 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Chorus (whispering): Run, runner! Run, runner! Run, runner! Run, runner!
Logan: SssssssAAAAAANCtuary!
posted by Room 641-A at 5:22 PM on December 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


The remake-Marty isn’t a budding guitarist; instead he’s a DJ and a hip hop fan. Some forward-thinking Hill Valley High booker back in 1985 decided screw booking bands for the dance, let’s have a DJ, since it’s cheaper. Maybe he books Grandmaster Flash’s lesser-known cousin.

Grandmaster Flash was already established on the New York club scene way before 1985. This is how the reboot really happens, son.

The Student Council at Hill Valley High circa 1985 is probably quite lily white. So, they book a black DJ, because in a bit of reverse racial stereotyping, they think if the DJ's black, he must be really cool. Instead, the DJ is this black nerd, a real Steve Urkel type, who not only doesn't "scratch"; he plays nothing but 1970s progressive rock nobody can dance to. The reboot version of Marty McFly has to save the day before the students at Hill Valley High start tearing up the school cafeteria, so he starts flipping through the nerdy DJ's crates of records. McFly discovers a copy of Aerosmith's Toys in the Attic. He flips over to the back cover and realizes that this is the Aerosmith album with "Walk This Way" on it. Marty says, "I think I'm going to have to play this old school." as he puts "Walk This Way" on the turntable and starts scratching. The scratching has some effect on the crowd, but to keep his momentum with the crowd, he raps Run-DMC's "Walk This Way" holding the mike with one hand, while scratching with the other hand. Eventually, as he gets his groove going, he will back & forth, scratching with left hand, scratching with the right hand, switching the mike to the opposite hand flawlessly. The kids go wild.

The nerdy black DJ steps out to a payphone to call his cousin:

"Hey Russell, it's your cousin, Marvin. Marvin Simmons. I think I found that sound for your new record label. Maybe you can get your brother in that Run-DMC band to try it."

Marty gets overconfident. He starts doing some serious avant-garde turntablism. Eventually, he manipulates the soundboard so that he can create this really loud, massive dubstep-style "drop." The kids from 1985 all respond by wincing and jamming their fingers into their ears. Marty replies, "You're not ready for that yet, but your kids are going to love it."
posted by jonp72 at 5:25 PM on December 6, 2014 [24 favorites]


Brewster McCloud.

I mean—just…look at it. The phrase "What the fucking fuck did I just fucking watch?" was invented specifically for this movie. At least Altman didn't feel compelled to stick in that M*A*S*H groove.

Mind you, Joe Gage's Working Man trilogy is the Star Wars original trilogy of gay porn. SOOO perfect.
posted by sonascope at 6:39 PM on December 6, 2014


I'm really not sure why folks like Dirty Old Town are so offended by the notion that there was a particular period of especially fertile creative film-making.

I would not disagree with the notion that there were a large number of well-financed studio-produced films in the 1970s of serious artistic quality that were able to enjoy commercial success. Had the article been framed in quite as specific and narrow a way, it wouldn't have rankled me. But the argument as it is presented is "Why was 70s filmmaking better?" And that's really a tired game many of us are sick of hearing the boomers play.

Fer chrissakes, when I was in my rock-loving teen years, boomers had so taken over the discussion of popular entertainment that rock from before their era was dubbed "oldies," and rock that came after wasn't even rock at all, it was "alternative."

The 70s were a terrific era for quality studio films of serious intent. The 80s were a fine decade for popcorn movies that actually showed sophistication and craft. The 90s were a terrific era for independent film. This decade has produced television that can stand up to some of the finest cinematic filmmaking. I'm always open to a discussion about why a particular era was good in a particular area. But that game that people play where they insist the thing their generation excelled at is actually the only thing that matters, so really, they were the best... it's tiresome. And these days, it's usually the same goddamned generation beating that drum.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:46 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm actually of the far less magical opinion that the music and films of the Baby Boomer generation aren't actually superlative wonders made possible by "something in the air or water," rather they're the net result of the first truly self-aware youth generation and the attendant commercial revolution that spawned. (And I don't credit the self-aware part as some kind of wondrous achievement by a generation of figurative giants... they were just the first generation targeted specifically as a target market by corporations and marketers.)

I consider my generation (X) to be the first generation for whom artistic endeavors fragmented into a million idiosyncratic styles. While this necessarily meant that, for instance, there were fewer rock bands who could dominate the charts, I feel pretty confident from my perch that terrific quality work was produced and in fifty years, the fact that [whichever band you like for this exercise from Generation X] sold a fraction of the records sold by [whichever classic rock band you like for this exercise] will be understood as a quirk of era and market more than an indictment of the younger band's merit.

And for film, I pretty much see it the same way.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:56 PM on December 6, 2014


(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Further evidence of film's decline across decades: Meatballs III.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:58 PM on December 6, 2014


Two small comments: Clint peaked with, "We all got it coming, kid." Which seems like an apology for almost everything. And 'Snowpiercer' is even worse, if possible, than 'Pacific Rim'. These are opinions.
posted by umberto at 7:27 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Film is a great way to understand the effect of capitalism on art. I don't mean in some sort of negative way per se, just that you can see how even relatively small changes in economies can produce noticeable changes in the type of films that are produced or not produced.
posted by chaz at 7:45 PM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


The phrase "What the fucking fuck did I just fucking watch?" was invented specifically for this movie.
Four glorious minutes of eighteen-year-old Bud Cort in a banana hammock. Sorry, what was the question?
posted by pxe2000 at 8:02 PM on December 6, 2014


I'm actually of the far less magical opinion that the music and films of the Baby Boomer generation aren't actually superlative wonders made possible by "something in the air or water," rather they're the net result of the first truly self-aware youth generation and the attendant commercial revolution that spawned.

I wouldn't even go that far. As I said, it's easy to cherry pick films from 40 years away and say that they "meant" something on a large scale. Hell, back in the day I knew people who who would cherry pick films from the 30s and 40s to show how superior they were to modern dreck of the 70s and 80s.

The thing is, the theaters in the 70s were clogged with crap. I don't think the "great films" of the 70s were indicative of a generation of films, or a movement, or whatever, but rather they were the exceptions. They were sports. Mutants. We remember them because they were some of the few films that weren't schlock.
posted by happyroach at 10:09 PM on December 6, 2014


rocket88: My wife always complains that 70s movies are too slow because she's so used to the non-stop action and constant plot movement of modern movies.

Urgh, this is totally me. Pre-80s movies are just much more likely to make me frustrated and twitchy. I feel bad about it, and more modern movies can elicit the same reaction if the action is irrelevant or nonsensical when it comes to advancing the plot (Star Trek: Into Darkness, anyone?), but jesus, old movies feel like listening to college radio sometimes. So much random talking. So much dead air.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:21 PM on December 6, 2014


^ But if you think I'm wrong, this thread inspired me to ask a question on the green looking for recommendations of well-paced films from the 1970s and before.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:22 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Marty McFly did not invent that music, and BTTF doesn't suggest that he did. He was playing Chuck Berry's old music, and 1955 Chuck Berry heard it and that inspired his music, which Marty McFly heard decades later and then brought back to 1955. So Berry stole the music from his alternate timeline self, but any way you look at it Chuck Berry still created that music.

Y'know, Ursula Hitler, I have always found this complaint semi-persuasive without ever really thinking it through, but you pretty neatly and decisively dispose of it here, I must say.

I think the "preppy" question is somewhat more complicated. Fox has absolute gobs of "preppy" intertextual aura in virtue of Alex P Keaton (and some other lesser achievements maybe). And I think he is at least channeling some Alex Keaton-ish "preppy aspirant" stuff as Marty McFly, righting and superseding the wimpy father in typical Reagan-era bootstrapping manner, just like Alex in Family Ties.

Regardless, the real issue with this movie is that BTTF must be the squickiest tale of time travel near-incest since David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself.
posted by batfish at 10:57 PM on December 6, 2014


A really strange, dark, big budget movie like Quest for Fire, performed entirely in some made-up caveman language, could have only happened in 1980-something.

But its only 8 years since Apocalypto, a bigger budget film even allowing for inflation, with dialogue entirely in Yucatec. it followed the Passion of the Christ's Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic dialogue.
posted by biffa at 2:49 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


The really dark thing about Back to the Future is hardly ever mentioned. Marty comes back to a major life improvement -- Doc Brown wore a bulletproof vest, his Dad is now cool, there is a pickup truck in the driveway, etc. But that implies that there was a Marty who grew up in this New and Improved environment. What happened to him?

Obviously Improved Marty must have taken a DeLorean ride too, since he's not there when BTTF Marty returns and Doc Brown is there to meet him. The only thing that makes sense to me is that Improved Marty somehow ends up in BTTF Marty's continuing present. Unless someone has a better idea that kind of dampens the story a bit for me.
posted by localroger at 6:38 AM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


The difference between Quest for Fire and Mel Gibson's hobby horses is that Quest for Fire was not one of Mel Gibson's hobby horses.
posted by localroger at 6:43 AM on December 7, 2014


<>BTTF must be the squickiest tale of time travel near-incest since David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself.

There's a movie out on video now that's an adaptation of Heinlein's "All You Zombies," and I think transtemporal self-incest with yourself who is also the child you made with... you... is squickier.

Also it doesn't make any sense, since even if you could somehow have sex with your genetic twin (except opposite sex), you wouldn't get a copy of yourself back as a child*. You'd get a random reshuffling of your chromosomes. Notionally hard SF writers: getting biology massively wrong since forever.

*Unless, I suppose, you were completely and utterly homozygous.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:13 AM on December 7, 2014


on the green looking for recommendations of well-paced films from the 1970s and before.

Godfather and Chinatown have a beautiful, stately pacing. But I bet those are movies you would hold up as examples of your complaint.

I know Robert Towne has said that for Chinatown he wanted to do a real "shoe leather" private eye story. One where you would really see them work the case.
posted by Trochanter at 8:19 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I actually like the old pacing if I'm prepared for it. For instance, Once Upon a Time in the West. When I watch it, I sit down ready for a meditative afternoon (by today's standards.) I have other friends who love older movies but take a toke first. I think it's about setting your expectations. (Another slow one from the 1990s that I like is Down By Law.)
posted by small_ruminant at 8:34 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Could the offspring be just a physiognomic duplicate or is that ruled out? I dunno about that stuff. Anyway, it actually sounds moderately less squicky than the average movie in which Ethan Hawke makes love to himself in a non temporally displaced way.
posted by batfish at 8:49 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I tend to find the pacing of recent movies over-hurried and jerky. I often feel short-changed that I can't spend more time in a certain scene before jumping to the next one (and the next one after that). Older movies let you be more involved as a viewer because you're allowed to spend some time to think about what's happening and what's about to happen rather than being constantly dragged forward into the next thing to look at. I want to yell at the screen, "hey go back a second; I wasn't done looking at that yet!"
posted by octothorpe at 9:42 AM on December 7, 2014


on the green looking for recommendations of well-paced films from the 1970s and before.


Star Wars (the first one) effectively introduced the pacing that many have come to think of as the norm, and even it wasn't that fast-paced, taking its time in the early going to set up a lot of stuff for later pay-off. I think you've got to look to Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Arc to really understand where "modern" pacing came from.

That said, Little Big Man really zooms along for an almost 2.5 hour long movie. It simply has so much ground to cover, and it covers it so well.
posted by philip-random at 10:01 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I see someone recommend Once Upon a Time in the West in that askme about old movies and pacing and think isn't that exactly the opposite of what this person is asking for? You drink that movie in, like a railway worker offered water by a beautiful woman. Guess it's just a difference in expectations. The person asking the questions thinks you can snip away whole sections of slow meditative movies and improve them. While for me it seems that while hyperactive modern action movies could be reshuffled endlessly and it wouldn't matter because they're essentially cartoons anyway, take away or hurry some drifting kitchen table booze-up from a 70s movie and you might lose something telling about the characters' humanity. I sentence anyone wanting to buzz up old movies to watch some Italian/Russian/whatever guy attempt to carry a lit candle across an empty pool.
posted by TimTypeZed at 10:06 AM on December 7, 2014


I think you've got to look to Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Arc to really understand where "modern" pacing came from.

I was under the impression that "modern" pacing was heavily influenced by MTV and music videos.
posted by evil otto at 10:31 AM on December 7, 2014


metafilter: Could the offspring be just a physiognomic duplicate or is that ruled out?
posted by el io at 10:36 AM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


The fast paced! exciting! third acts of many modern movies actually puts me to sleep.
posted by Artw at 10:42 AM on December 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


The really dark thing about Back to the Future is hardly ever mentioned. Marty comes back to a major life improvement -- Doc Brown wore a bulletproof vest, his Dad is now cool, there is a pickup truck in the driveway, etc.

What's really weird is that Jennifer is physically a completely different girl in the revised timeline, indicating that something that Marty did in 1955 maybe caused her mom to have an affair or something, but somehow that particular change didn't propagate forward to the present immediately so at the end of the film she looks the same but by the time they get around to making the second movie she's transformed into her new self and so has the footage from those scenes and even Marty's memories of her, unlike his memories of everything else. Time travel is indeed mysterious.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:45 AM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


The fast paced! exciting! third acts of many modern movies actually puts me to sleep.

Same here. For me, watching Stalker is not boring, even though the pacing is practically glacial by today's standards; but with many modern movies, the conclusions seem so pat and predictable that watching the movie feels like a waste. "Oh, so they had a fight, the city was devastated, then the good guys won. Did I get all of it?"
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:56 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


So Berry stole the music from his alternate timeline self, but any way you look at it Chuck Berry still created that music.

It's a clever little tossed-off joke, you see, based on a time travel paradox.


I don't find it particularly clever, and though I didn't pick up on it when I saw it in the theater in 1985 the odd racial dynamic of that scene definitely jumped out at me when I saw the movie again years later.

The fast paced! exciting! third acts of many modern movies actually puts me to sleep.

It's possible to have fast pacing and still be eminently watchable (the Bourne Identity movies might be an example, or some of Luc Besson's films, say, or the music video-inspired look of films like City of God), but there is definitely a modern action movie jump-around style that is so frantic as to be boring, especially when combined with predictably bad CGI.

There's also a rhythmless, stutter-pacing to a lot of skit-based comedy films these days that is if anything worse. I'm not sure how far back the style goes, but we turned off Anchorman 2 the other night because of that. It was just one semi-funny scene connected to the next by a shot of people walking. You could almost hear the conversation before a given scene: "Ok guys, this time what if you jump on the couch while I riff on the sushi menu, and meanwhile this other unrelated thing happens, and I hope we'll make a joke out of it somehow?" Personally I find a movie like Something About Mary far more watchable simply from the pacing and dramatic arc, whether or not the jokes are particularly funny.

All that said, I can easily understand someone finding the slower pacing of the classic 1970s films incredibly boring. There are big advantages of giving strong directors free rein, but there is a fine line between "deliberate pacing" and "self-indulgent twaddle" and it can go back and forth within a single movie.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:21 PM on December 7, 2014


The fast paced! exciting! third acts of many modern movies actually puts me to sleep.

Oh come on, fistfights between the hero and the big-bad on some sort of elevated catwalk/walkway with some kind of arbitrary last minute count-down to destruction are great. I could watch hundreds of those.
posted by octothorpe at 12:22 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


The fast paced! exciting! third acts of many modern movies actually puts me to sleep.

yup. Back in DVD days, I took to fast-forwarding pretty much all car chases and martial arts showdowns. To add insult to injury, the plotting is generally so f***ing predictable that you know exactly how it's all going to play out anyway. Bad guy dead. Good guy bloody but redeemed. Various orphans and puppy dogs safe.

Give me the nihilistic end of a solid 70s b-movie any day ...

[spoiler alert -- it's an ending]
posted by philip-random at 12:38 PM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


informative spoiler alert: The nihilistic end is the end of "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry".
posted by el io at 12:49 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hereby submitted as evidence in favor of car chases and rescuing puppy dogs. [more spoilers]
posted by mubba at 1:29 PM on December 7, 2014


Hereby submitted as evidence in favor of car chases yt

I was going to go with Vanishing Point as my example, but then Youtube gave me the side offer of Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, which felt even more gratuitous.
posted by philip-random at 1:44 PM on December 7, 2014


car chases spoiler was for 'Vanishing point', and rescuing puppy dogs was spoiler for 'A boy and his dog'.

hey, could we possibly mention what the spoilers are for when posting the videos?
posted by el io at 2:01 PM on December 7, 2014


philip-random: "yup. Back in DVD days, I took to fast-forwarding pretty much all car chases and martial arts showdowns. To add insult to injury, the plotting is generally so f***ing predictable that you know exactly how it's all going to play out anyway. Bad guy dead. Good guy bloody but redeemed. Various orphans and puppy dogs safe.

Give me the nihilistic end of a solid 70s b-movie any day ...
"

Those kinds of endings were, I think, just as predictable and cliché back in the 70s as the ending you mention is today.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:36 PM on December 7, 2014


Doc Brown wore a bulletproof vest

I did not know what a bulletproof vest was when I was a child watching that movie for the first time. So when Doc rose off the ground and revealed the melted metal slugs under his shirt, I nodded with understanding: Of course; Doc is a robot.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:08 PM on December 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


There's a reason that there's a term known as "the Hollywood ending". From the mid-thirties until the late sixties, you rarely saw American movies with a sad or ambiguous ending so endings like those in Bonnie and Clyde or Butch and Sundance were pretty radical and controversial. During the the seventies, you could actually go to a movie and not know at the beginning how it was going to end.

Eventually the studios took control again and started mandating upbeat and clear endings. Bladerunner and Brazil were some of the first victims of that interference but now it's pretty rare to see a film that doesn't have (an often undeserved) upbeat or happy ending.
posted by octothorpe at 3:16 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Actually the ending of a movie like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry was predictable, as were the endings of Bonnie and Clyde and Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, because one of the last remnants of pre-70's censorship was an unwritten but absolute mandate that the bad guy doesn't win, even if he's the nominal protagonist of the story.

There were very few exceptions to this before 1990, and those few very hedged. It really took the 1980's to drive home the idea that sometimes the bad guys just fucking win, and hey that's awesome if you're the bad guy, and I remember being very startled at the ending of The Bonfire of the Vanities because it was such a naked celebration of the triumph of petty evil -- and how perfectly it worked, being a stark comment on the world that had inspired Tom Wolfe to write it.

The 1970's could give us I Spit on Your Grave, but American Psycho would have been completely unthinkable.
posted by localroger at 3:36 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


<>BTTF must be the squickiest tale of time travel near-incest since David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself.

There's a movie out on video now that's an adaptation of Heinlein's "All You Zombies," and I think transtemporal self-incest with yourself who is also the child you made with... you... is squickier.


How can you claim to have a serious discussion of time travel incest movies without mentioning Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann? Wherein, (spoiler alert for 1982's Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann) a motorcycle racer gets sent back to the old west and manages to become his own great-grandfather. He only (even spoilier!) finds out because of a sex-trophy that his great-grandmother kept to remind her of "one incredible night they had together." And her children, and her children's children and her children's children's children kept that beautiful story alive for 105 years.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:14 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


How can you claim to have a serious discussion of time travel incest movies without mentioning Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann?

Metafilter:....
posted by mikelieman at 4:19 AM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster

I can't claim that it's on the same level as Kurosawa or Kubrick... But most of the modern big budget superhero movies can't come close to evoking the pure joy I get from watching a Toho produced Godzilla movie.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:14 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


CTRL-F "Mitchell"

1 of 1

I am truly among my people.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:38 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Doleful Creature: "Also also I really need to know more about these "Latino filmmakers attempting to resurrect Tarkovsky". That sounds pretty cool."

Full disclosure: I've worked on several films by several of these filmmakers, and they're not all doing Tarkovsky exactly, but they're all very influenced by him:

Carlos Reygadas (Mexico): Japón, Silent Light, Post Tenebras Lux.

Amat Escalante (Mexico): Los Bastardos, Heli.

Lisandro Alonso (Argentina): Los Muertos, Fantasma, Liverpool, Jauja.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:11 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]



Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster

I can't claim that it's on the same level as Kurosawa or Kubrick... But most of the modern big budget superhero movies can't come close to evoking the pure joy I get from watching a Toho produced Godzilla movie.


and then there's the music ...
posted by philip-random at 4:17 PM on December 8, 2014


and then there's the music ...

Goldzilla
posted by Room 641-A at 5:42 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I might add my good friend Enrique Rivero's Parque Vía and Mai Morire to that list too, I think they're actually better than some of the others, and are pieces of slow, minimalist cinema that I actually enjoy a lot, which is kind of rare for me.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:43 PM on December 8, 2014


It's like Andy Rooney's "Chinese" guy, which I'm sure was hilarious at the time.

Well, it did get him the gig on 60 Minutes.
posted by malocchio at 11:02 AM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I've worked on several films by several of these filmmakers, and they're not all doing Tarkovsky exactly, but they're all very influenced by him ...

I don't know Escalante and Alonso, but Reygadas is the real fucking deal.
posted by Mothlight at 4:30 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


DirtyOldTown: "So the best movies came out when the writer was a young man?

Funny how that's always the case, no matter when the critic in question was born.
"

It took me a long time to admit that, just possibly, "Back to the Future" was not the best film ever made. I probably saw it when I was 8 or 9.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:29 PM on December 10, 2014


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