Sunday, January 8, 2017

10 Best Movies of the 1970's

The 1970's were arguably one of the greatest decades in Hollywood, and since I'm at work and have way too much time on my hands, I thought this would be a good opportunity to breakdown what my favorite movies of the 1970's are. Remember, I am a fan of movies first and a reviewer second, so this is not a "best of" list, this is a "my favorites" list. Now that the introductions have been intrdouced and the disclaimer has been disclaimed: Here are my ten favorite movies from the 1970's!

 10. Alien

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The tag line for this claustrophobic horror movie perfectly sums up the anxiety-inducing tension this movie creates: In space, no one can here you scream. Ridley Scott established himself as a force to be reckoned with when he crafted this science fiction epic. Scott takes advantage of the small environment of a space ship, and just like all suspense masterminds, utilizes what you don't see to scare you. That isn't to say the chest bursting scene isn't just as scary as anything else in the movie.

Fun Fact: The actors had no idea the iconic chest burst scene was going to happen, all the script said was "alien appears." The horrified reactions of the cast were real.

9. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest

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Though veering considerably from the novel, this Hollywood classic is still one of the greatest movies ever made. Jack Nicholson turns in what could be argued as his best performance as  Randall P. McMurphy, while Louse Fletcher delivers a chilling performance as the tyrannical Nurse Ratched. Director Milos Foreman does considerable work building the increasing sense of tension to the point of the films tragic climax. 

Fun Fact: Louse Fletcher felt so bad about having to be such a "stone cold bitch" for all of the production, that on the last day of filming she showed up to set in only her underwear and pretended to be ready to film.

8. Network

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This tale of a failing network that feeds on the mental breakdown of one of its anchors, cannibalising itself for ratings, feels as savagely relevant now as it did when it was released over 40 years ago. Every aspect of this movie is as quality as you could ever imagine. With this iconic and scathingly satirical script, the troop of veteran actors do tremendous work playing up the operatic moments and hitting all the right notes during the tender moments. Anyone who considers themselves a movie buff needs to watch this movie.

Fun Fact: One of two movies to win three acting Oscars. It one for Lead Actor: Peter Finch (posthumously), Lead Actress: Faye Dunaway, and Supporting Actress: Beatrice Straight (who only had 5 minutes and 2 seconds of screen time!) The other movie was Streetcar Named Desire.

7. Jaws

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The first "Blockbuster" in movie history has more than earned its place as a legendary piece of work. Steven Spielberg takes Alfred Hitchcock's tactic: Making the audience fear what you don't see. At forty years later, this movie is still terrifying.

Fun Fact: Several decades after the films release, Lee Fiero who played Mrs. Kintner, walked into a seafood restaurant and noticed that the menu had an "Alex Kintner Sandwich." She commented that she had played his mother so many years ago; the owner of the restaurant ran out to meet her, and he was none other than Jeffery Vorhees, who had played her son. They had not seen each other since the original movie shoot.

6. Star Wars: A New Hope

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The most iconic incarnation of a "heroes journey" of our time. Star Wars redefined the sci-fi genre forever. With this movie George Lucas exponentially expanded the scope of blockbuster film making, and the world has never been the same since. 

Fun Fact: George Lucas was so sure this film would flop that instead of attending the premier he went on vacation to Hawaii with good friend Steven Spielberg, where they came up with idea for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

5. Taxi Driver

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Proving the brilliance of Mean Streets was no fluke, this psychodrama could be considered the first of many towering achievements by Martin Scorsese. Robert DeNiro gives what is quite possibly the best performance of his illustrious career, and Jodie Foster gives a stunning early performance. I think Josh Cabrita said it best when he said: "Taxi Driver is grounded in its sociopolitical context, yet it also touches on something more universal... how one finds purpose and identity in a collapsing capitalistic society."

Fun Fact: Robert DeNiro  worked fifteen hour days for a month driving cabs as preparation for this role. He also studied mental illness.

4. Apocalypse Now

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This movie completely de-romantizes war. This project took director Francis Ford Coppola four years to complete, and the result is a brilliant and bizarre, and aesthetically perfect, movie. Critic Andrew Johnson said of the movie: "The word "apocalypse" derives from the Greek for "revelation," so in effect the title of Coppola's masterpiece is a call for us to wake up and stop lying to ourselves about who we are and what we did and what we still have the power to do."

Fun Fact: The scene at the beginning with Captain Willard alone in his hotel room was completely unscripted. Martin Sheen told the shooting crew to just let the cameras roll. Sheen was actually drunk in the scene and punched the mirror, which was real glass, cutting his thumb. Sheen also began sobbing and tried to attack director Francis Ford Coppola. The crew was so disturbed that they wanted to stop shooting, but Coppola wanted to keep the cameras going. Sheen was fighting a drinking problem and his own issues. He got so caught up in the scene and his personal internal struggles that he hit the mirror.

3. The Godfather

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This legendary and hypnotic epic about organized crime in America was a risky and barrier breaking achievement in American cinema. Iconic in almost every way, perfectly acted and shot to perfection by cinematographer Gordon Willis, who uses the dark and shadowy lighting as a metaphor to the shady dealings happening throughout the movie.

Fun Fact: The cat in the now iconic opening scene in Vito Corleone's office was a stray Marlon Brando found and insisted on using during the film.

2. The Deer Hunter

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I'm a fan of movies first and a reviewer second. While Apocalypse Now is undoubtedly the most iconic, and most popular, movie to show us firsthand that "war is hell," it is The Deer Hunter that hit me where I live. Ending this movie was like leaving a really good church service, I was overwhelmed with the sensation that I just had a significant experience. I like to tell my friends and family The Deer Hunter is Stand By Me if they were grown up, and destroyed (physically and emotionally) by the Vietnam War. This is not a fun movie, but it is beautiful, marvelously acted, and plays out like one of the great pieces of art for its time. And it's worth noting that this was the last movie by would be legend John Cazale. The man is only in five movies, but every one of them received a best picture nomination.

Fun Fact: Robert DeNiro, being the psychotic method actor he was, insisted a live round be put in the gun during the Russian Roulette scenes to add to the intensity. The director agreed, but obsessively rechecked the gun after each take.

Honorable Mentions

All the Presidents Men

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The Exorcist

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Kramer vs. Kramer

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Dog Day Afternoon

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Don't Look Now

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1. Godfather Part II.

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Anybody surprised by this? This crime epic set new standards for film making, and is, in my opinion, the best movie I've ever seen (not my favorite, the best.) This movie is packed with a bevvy of stunning performances: Al Pacino has literally never been better, Robert DeNiro's breakout role, Talia Shyre's heartbreaking monologue, but I always leave thinking about John Cazale and how he acted the hell out of his character. Where Pacino's Michael is the "protagonist" he is never asks for the audience's sympathy, Cazale delivers on the impossible task of taking Fredo, a bumbling man-child, and he absolutely tugs on our heart strings in one of his final moments. The movie is filled to the rim with so many "moments," Also proving to have more social consciousnesses than its predecessor through some powerful metaphors on the men who pervert capitalism, Francis Ford Coppola's magnum opus is absolutely unbeatable.

Fun Fact: Marlon Brando and Robert deNiro are the only two actors to ever win separate Oscars for playing the same character.

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