My Take by Jim Carl - October 1, 2012
Hmmm, I kinda already explained why I'm writing about this in my previous blogs. I'm not really in the mood to explain to you how these lists work. Besides, I'm expanding these lists to 12 movies rather than 10 because I know how much my editor loves searching for images. The additional word count oughta count for something.
JIM'S 12 FAVORITE AMERICAN MOVIES: 1975-1979
1. THE LEGACY (1978)
Basically, Satan asks Katharine Ross, "How would you like absolute power, untold billions, and a countryside mansion filled with embarassingly uptight English servants?" Transforming into a great late-70s feminist, Katharine suffers no moral dilemma and instead goes all Madeleine Albright. "Where do I sign up, Lucy Baby?" she asks before turning Sam Elliott into her man-bitch. Rather sensibly, I'm only saying. Hell, even I'm willing to admit that Sam looked smokin' hot in this movie.
2. STAR WARS (1977)
May the Force be with you. Lightsabers. Darth Vader. R2D2 and C-3PO. Wookies and the Death Star. And that theme music. Basically, I owe my childhood (and childhood allowance) to this movie. If it wasn't for Star Wars, I'd probably be a dentist or a beekeeper or something like that these days.
3. ALL THAT JAZZ (1979)
My 2nd favorite musical number of all time is the 10-minute finale of Bob Fosse's semi-autobiographical movie with Roy Scheider and Ben Vereen singing "Bye, Bye Life."* That the scene is happening in Scheider's head as he draws his last breath makes it even more brilliantly sadistic. That's Jessica Lange as the Angel of Death. See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNcl0L7eJUY
4. THE FURY (1978)
Watch the scene where Amy Irving escapes from the institution in slow motion and in loose-fitting pajamas. Brian De Palma loves putting these dialogue-free action set pieces into all his movies, but this is one of his best. I own the John Williams soundtrack on LP. It took me years to understand why this movie was called The Fury. Any movie that ends with John Cassavettes literally exploding is pretty much a must-see in my book.
5. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978)
"You've got me...but who's got you!?" Hands down, that scene with the helicopter atop the Daily Planet is one of the most-exciting bits of filmmaking ever made. No, I don't care how many James Cameron movies you've seen, when Superman snatches Lois Lane from mid-air, it's still damn exciting. After years of cheap action movies where the camera shook to simulate an earthquake, finally, here was a comic book fantasy that lived-up to its promises. Those of us in 1978 didn't get a couple of phony collapsing bridges and falling styrofoam bricks, we got the San Andreas Fault splitting in goddamn half. I mean, hell.
6. HALLOWEEN (1978)
For years, I worshipped the ground where Jamie Lee Curtis walked. It was as if Rodin sculpted her from flesh-colored steel.
7. JAWS (1975)
It's not the scene where Robert Shaw talks about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis that delivers the gut-punch for me. It's the scene where the guys start singing "Show Me the Way to Go Home." I've hummed that tune a million times throughout my life (usually as I attempt avoiding conversations in elevators), and no matter how bad the day may have seemed, I always felt better afterwards. In the movies, pacing is everything. Here, Spielberg allows the audience a moment of quiet relief before all hell breaks loose. Jaws 2 was a damn fine sequel, too.
8. THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979)
Normally, I cannot stomach cautionary tales with blatantly liberal overtones but this thriller about a potential meltdown at a nuclear power plant is one of the better ones. There's no musical soundtrack to heighten the tension, just the naturalistic sounds of machinery grinding to a deadly stop. Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon prove why they were some of the (deservedly) biggest stars of the 1970s. Whenever I see this movie, I recall Laurence Olivier famously chiding Dustin Hoffman on the set of Marathon Man, "That's why it's called acting, my boy."
9. FOUL PLAY (1978)
From Burgess Meredith's karate-chopping showdown with a dragon lady to Dudley Moore conducting The Mikado to an elderly Japanese couple laughing hysterically in the backseat of a careening limousine, here's a loose comedy remake of Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much that gives every supporting character one great scene (as all smart films ought to do) while keeping Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn at front and center. By the time Barry Manilow sings "Ready to Take a Chance Again" over the closing credits, I'm ready to hug someone. Click here to see Mr. Hennessy's duel against Delia Darrow.
10. A BRIDGE TOO FAR (1977)
This is basically a 70s all-star disaster flick set during WWII's Operation Market Garden. Rarely has any scene in a movie impressed me as much as that five-minute sequence where literally hundreds of paratroopers jump from what seems like a thousand on-screen airplanes. This is pre-CGI, by the way. For years, I used a piece of John Addison's score from this movie during the "Intro Ring" at Retrofantasma. Click here for that scene.
11. WATERSHIP DOWN (1978)
Forget Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. If you grew up watching HBO in the early 80s, this was the whore that soiled your childhood innocence. Grown-ups rightly suspected that something dangerous was going on, but they couldn't quite put their finger on it. After all, it was only a cartoon about bunnies, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. And then some. It's about savage bunnies that declare more bloody vendettas on one another than a Sicilian mountain village. The book was a thousand times better, and much more explicit, but this was enough.
12. HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978)
By the time Julie Christie asks Warren Beatty about that cup of coffee in the closing scene, I'm emotionally spent and ready for some cherry-flavored Thorazine. It wasn't until the series finale of Lost in 2010 that I ever cried harder.
* My single favorite musical number happens in 1982's The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas where the girls dance in the courtyard with the Aggie football players. You cannot top dancing whores. Ever. Trust me.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Rocky, Network, Jaws 2, Magic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Carrie, Death on the Nile, The In-Laws, The Spy Who Loved Me, The Wild Geese, Exorcist II: The Heretic, Same Time Next Year, Ice Castles, The Gauntlet, Escape to Witch Mountain, Grease, The Boys from Brazil, Alien, Moonraker, The Warriors, The Hindenberg, Airport '77, The Concorde: Airport '79, California Suite, Damien: Omen II, The Black Hole, Meteor, Being There, The Omen, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Race for Your Life Charlie Brown, Slap Shot, 1941, King Kong, The Manitou, The Brood, The North Avenue Irregulars, Capricorn One, Marathon Man, The Muppet Movie, The Stepford Wives, Sunburn, Dracula '79, Phantasm, Time after Time, and Prophecy.
American Movies from 1975-1979 that I didn't like:
See my previous blog about my 10 Least-Favorite American Movies of 1975-1979 and then add these: Futureworld, A Little Romance, The Wiz, Hair, Americathon, Ode to Billy Joe, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, ...And Justice For All, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Animal House, and Dawn of the Dead.
Popular American Movies from 1975-1979 that I haven't seen or barely remember:
An Unmarried Woman, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Nashville, Annie Hall, Manhattan, The Electric Horseman, Kramer vs. Kramer, The Deer Hunter, Norma Rae, Taxi Driver, Smokey and the Bandit, Dog Day Afternoon, The Rose, Saturday Night Fever, Coming Home, The Goodbye Girl, Julia, All the President's Men, Breaking Away, Starting Over, Equus, and Mad Max.