Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Favorite Films Before My Lifetime: 1979

I really dig this Academy Award race for 1979.  All 5 films are both significant and great in their own sort of way.  It also includes a couple of glaring omissions from my list, including Apocalypse Now.  It came down to the fact that I've only seen it a handful of times and don't have too much a personal history with the film even though I recognize its importance and do think its great.  Roy Scheider also had a great year with 2 films that just didn't make the cut that I love (All That Jazz and the underrated Last Embrace).  1979 had a lot of good films filling up theater auditoriums.

Here's how the Oscars fared in '79

WINNER - Kramer Vs Kramer
All That Jazz
Apocalypse Now
Breaking Away 
Norma Rae's what I thought about '79


A complete masterpiece and one of the greatest films of all time.  I know a lot of people prefer the sequel over this one, and they have their sound arguments, but to me in comparison, Aliens rings a little more hollow.  The original is just a complete work of art from start to finish, with characters that dig a little deeper than one-liners and stereotypes (even though, yes it did set that standard for action films.  There is also something to sit an marvel at with the cinematography, sets, costumes, props, effects and the like that just keeps this one interesting even on its billionth viewing.  There's also an ambiguity to the film that has a lot of questions that could be posed on the background, but focuses on telling its own story and letting the imagination run and create its own filling in of the blanks.  This is quite possibly the greatest haunted house in space movie ever captured on celluloid and holds up remarkably well.

The Jerk

When I first saw The Jerk, I thought it was okay but a bit too heavy handed.  As I progressively watched it more and more over the years, I began to dig through and find a lot of the genius in this signature Steve Martin film.  Its just a fun and silly film where we follow a complete on the nose moron through living out life on his own.  For the longest time, I got angry because the only way to get this on DVD was a 4:3 pan and scan cut of the film (WHY??).  But, they've since rectified this stupid error.  This is my personal favorite of all the works of comedic mastermind Steve Martin and continues to make me laugh to this day (Even if I am still slacking and haven't picked up the Blu-ray.)

Life Of Brian

Always look on the bright side of life.  Whether or not this is the best Python film doesn't really matter...the group has made two fantastic comedies that have played well for the past 35-40 years.  Growing up, this film was hard as hell to find to rent (When I didn't have my license), so it wasn't until it premiered on Comedy Central that I got my first dose of the film.  All I had heard is that the movie was some take on Jesus and featured full front male nudity.  As a Python fanatic I ate up every bit of this film.  Like Holy Grail, this one gets much funnier with age and knowledge as the group layered their films with brilliance.  On a list of funniest films ever made, Monty Python's Life Of Brian better have a spot.

 Nosferatu: The Vampyre

There were 3 Dracula films in 1979, but this was clearly the best and maybe a bit ahead of its time.  Its also one of the best "remakes" ever.  Werner Herzog tells the Bram Stoker tale, but uses the Nosferatu aesthetic when it comes to the Count, but instead of Orlock, he gets to use the Dracula name.  I guess this film isn't for everybody, but I love it.  Its a very slow atmospheric terror that you kind just have to let the cinematography and score take you on a journey or "experience".  There are two versions out there, one in English and one in German and they're both different.  Herzog shot different takes for both languages and edited the two films with different angles and approaches to the scenes.  I prefer the German, but the English is just ok if you're one of those people that for some reason find subtitles bothersome.  


For some reason, this is not on f***ing Blu-ray yet.  Don Coscarelli brought forth a weird and spooky horror like none seen before.  The score to Phantasm is also one of the best horror tunes you'll likely ever here.  The movie is very dreamy and you're not quite sure of what's going on, but its got a solid mystery with plenty of suspense and some groovy gore.  Coscarelli apparently shot a TON for this movie that he didn't use, because the 4th film winds up becoming primarily composed of said deleted material.  Its a film with so much iconography, yet I feel its been completely forgotten by modern horror fans and film fans in general.  Phantasm V comes out later this year, and maybe that'll resurrect the love for this classic.

Rocky II

Not as good as the first, but not as far off as many may want you to think.  The whole time you're watching the film you feel like its right there with the original, but something is just slightly "off".  And that's likely because not only did Stallone write the film, he directed it too, and its only his second feature and not as much his forte as a hardened journeyman directed would be.  I really like where this story goes, with Rocky not being smart with his money and having a tough time trying to find a life outside of boxing.  It may not be handled the greatest ("I don't know how to READ!!!"), but its effective and done well enough to be effective.  The cast all turn in strong work and the film does what it needs to to get to the emotional heights to get you right back in the ring again.

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