Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Favorite Films Before My Lifetime: 1974

I'll begin this one with a crazy confession.  I've seen all but one of these Best Picture nominees from 1974.  The one I haven't?  The Conversation.  I know, I know.  I've been meaning to see that film for probably the better part of 2 decades now, and its just always somehow left my mind or escaped me when it came down to it.  After I finish writing this, I'm going to go ahead and pre-order the Blu-ray and finally get this done.  

Oscar? Never even met her

WINNER - The Godfather, Part II
The Conversation
The Towering Inferno

Now for me.

Black Christmas

I once wrote about Bob Clark's other Holiday classic HERE during my Halloween retrospective.  Its the ultimate proto-slasher for what we would see from Halloween onward through the 80s.  Everything you see here feels pretty "ahead of its time" when it comes to the genre.  The film features some nice turns from John Saxon, Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder.  In fact, Kidder is an absolute delight in this movie as she steals every frame she's a part of.  This is mandatory holiday viewing for me every December, and I think this film really captured that sort of "magic" that great horror films do.


Not only my pick for the best film noir film ever made, but also one of my Top 5 favorite films of all time.  Not only does it feature an outstanding mystery to follow, it has one of my favorite end of first act twists I've ever seen.  It truly pulls the rug right out from under you and you're hooked and you're on the edge of your seat trying to figure this movie out.  The film features a wealth of characters, headlined by the fantastic Jack Nicholson as PI Jake Gettis.  He and Fay Dunaway share a tremendous amount of partnership and chemistry that add an extra dynamic to the film.  Roman Polanski also does some great period filmmaking that really should be appreciated as it never "feels" of a film being made in the 70s taking place in 1937.  Chinatown was the first of what was supposed to be a trilogy, yet only The Two Jakes ever got off the ground 16 years later.  Its not a bad film, pretty entertaining, but nothing close to this.  The third film had Jake Gettis uncovering corruption in the transportation system in Los Angeles.  We're likely never to see it, making it one of the greater "What ifs" in Hollywood history.

Foxy Brown

A sort of "spiritual sequel" to Coffy.  The screenplay actually was the sequel to Coffy called Burn, Coffy, Burn! For some reason, the studio interfered and said "No Coffy sequel" despite Coffy being a big success.  But, really folks, this is Coffy II, she just has a different name.  If anything this sequel, while still feature plenty of Grindhouse flare, actually runs a bit smoother and is a tad more commercially appealing than Coffy.  I will give Foxy Brown that this film is a little better with its pacing than Coffy.  This one-two punch of Foxy Brown and Coffy was the best of Pam Grier's run in the 70s.  The rest of her stuff isn't bad, its just that these two films feel like they're on a bit of a different plain than the others.  Foxy Brown is a rocking, blasting good time, and Pam Grier here in this role is fashionably iconic, while also being an independent badass.

The Godfather, Part II

One of the few times in motion pictures where absolute perfection has been captured on the big screen twice.  This half sequel/half prequel show us the rise of the father and the decline of the son through power.  Coppola has talked about how this was called Part II because it was indeed the second part of the first movie.  And it absolutely is.  Its one of the few times in film history where second film truly is a "Part II" (For the record, Coppola was against the third film using "Part III" as a part of the title).  This second film reaches some exciting bits and stoops to some darker areas in its storytelling and keeps a great mystery at the center of it.  De Niro is wonderful as the young Vito Corleone and Al Pacino continues his excellence as Michael.  This film seems to have forever tied the two actors together, yet they never share a scene.  The film has been called the greatest sequel of all time and its hard to see why not.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Another film that help shape and redefine horror for this decade came from Tobe Hooper's dirty little Texas tale.  We all tire of the term "gritty" being thrown out so loosely nowadays, but the original Chain Saw truly is that and I'm sure laughs at all those who claim to be.  Something about this film still spooks me to this day and gives me the feeling of unease.  Maybe its how real and natural everything feels.  And I want to give credit to Daniel Pearl for capturing it in such away that you feels sticky, sweaty and almost can feel and smell the environments in the film.  This film, like the rest on this list, turned 40 last year, yet still manages to be more effective than most of the output horror has put out since 1974 which is outstanding.  If you want more on me and the TCM series, look no further than to your right as I covered all of Bubba's exploits last year.

Young Frankenstein

If you're Naptown Nerd and you don't know where to go, why don't you go before your lifetime, puttin' on the list.  Sorry, cheesey, bad joke, but I did it anyway.  I and many others will agree that this is Mel Brooks' finest hour.  When I discussed Holy Grail, I praise the Pythons for how well researched their film was and that its even funnier for those who research their topic too.  Well, again, Mel Brooks has not only done a fantastic job with his knowledge and tribute to the Universal horror films of the 1930s and 1940s, but he's also gone a step further and reflected it in his actual filmmaking to enhance the experience.  This looks every bit and feels every tingle of one of those films that I almost wish it was boxed up in the sets with Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman and company.  Gene Wilder is always dandy, Terri Garr is adorable and there's never enough words to describe the brilliance and greatness of Madeline Kahn.  Young Frankenstein is one of the greatest comedies of all time.

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