My Take by Jim Carl - September 6, 2012
My career in the film business has basically been one amazing story after another. So when my clingy editors begged me to blog about some of those adventures, I naturally assumed they meant for me to write about the movies that inspired the brilliance for which I'm internationally known-for today. And about movies that suck. Also, to be frank, I get a little jealous every time Roger Ebert publishes a book of his reviews and nobody at St. Martin's Press contacts me to publish a book of my own. I'm pretty confident that anything I write will become a national bestseller, get turned into a movie with amazing franchise potential, wind up winning about a hundred Academy Awards, and get seen by literally billions of people from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. I bet this blog won't be on-line for more than half an hour before some young, adoring (yet somewhat stalkery) kid gets inspired to pick up a movie camera and become the next Spielberg. So just to make sure that this aforementioned kid doesn't end up whoring himself on some producer's couch with a six-foot hula hoop (don't ask), or worse, making a direct-to-video sequel to Machete, I'm gonna spend the next few weeks writing about movies this kid should watch before sending off that application to the NYU film school. And about movies that suck.
I'm gonna go with five-year increments, starting with 1970. Why 1970? Because I have this thing called a life, you nerd. If you're interested in anything made before 1970, go buy one of Roger's books. He's old and actually remembers Zsa Zsa Gabor, Russ Meyers, Otto Preminger, and all that military stuff you only saw in Saving Private Ryan. Plus, I hear his sales have been circling the plughole for the past decade and he could use the support.
Now please allow me to share an uncomfortable truth: you should be watching my recommendations on honest-to-God 35mm and in a real movie theatre. I don't care that you just bought the BluRay. I'm talking about the 35mm film stock that was either framed in a 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 aspect ratio by the director or cinematographer, then processed into a work print at a lab at Technicolor that was then hand-delivered to a editing studio; and then cut into a thousand pieces which was then, after numerous color corrections, effects work, sound adjustments and re-editing, transformed into an actual 35mm answer print that resides in an archive at a temperature-controlled warehouse at Universal, Warner Brothers, Paramount or Disney. If you're not watching movies on 35mm in a cinema (like at the Carolina Theatre, I'm only saying), then you might as well by watching your bullshit on iTunes.
And while I don't have the time nor the inclination to thoroughly dissect more than a century of American film theory and criticism for you, here are a few movies to get you started on that path toward making your own Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Empire Strikes Back. (If your dream is to become the next Tim Burton or Quentin Tarantino, you're reading the wrong blog. Start searching the Internet, freak.)
Watch these movies and post your glowing acknowledgments in the comments section below.
Jim's 10 Favorite American Movies of 1970-1974
THE EXORCIST (1973)
The scariest American movie ever made, period. If you don't agree, you're an idiot. It's been ripped-off about a thousand times, but the original is still the best. It taught an entire generation of mothers what to expect if they should end up in hell. Altogether now, "Your mother sucks..."
WHAT'S UP DOC? (1972)
My favorite screwball comedy stars Barbra Streisand (rightly proving why she was so popular at the time) and Ryan O'Neal (no ham sandwich himself). Look closely at that first half-hour. The timing is pitch-perfect. Dialogue is everything. ("There's a person named Eunice!?") I've seen this movie about a gajillion times. The closest modern screwball comedy might be My Cousin Vinny.
THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972)
The best of the 70's disaster flicks. God, I loved these movies. Shelly Winters takes a swan dive...and supporting characters everywhere have been making self-sacrifices ever since in hope of getting an Academy Award nomination. Along with The Towering Inferno, I watch this every Christmas to get myself into the mood. It's tradition. The remake with Kurt Russell capsized.
SNOOPY, COME HOME (1972)
The first animated film that made me cry. Forget Band of Brothers. Snoopy and Woodstock taught me everything I ever needed to know about loyalty and brotherhood. I can whistle every song.
THE LONGEST YARD (1974)
I'm pretty sure that Charlie's Angels episode, "Angels in Chains" was inspired by this Burt Reynolds prisoners vs. guards football movie. And thank God for it. Burt was the man.
TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970)
Clint Eastwood is back in the saddle. Watch the scene where Shirley MacLaine (as a nun!) has to help Clint blow up a bridge with an actual train crossing it Favorite throwaway line: "Holy Mary, mother of God, help this no-good atheist shoot straight.". I normally don't like Westerns, but this is one of the better ones. And yes, that's a real train, bonehead.
THE PARALLAX VIEW (1974)
Warren Beatty learns all about paranoia, conspiracy theories, government cover-ups and political intrigue. That final scene is still a shocker. They would never make this in 2012. That remake of The Manchurian Candidate was godawful and neutered in a sucky politically-correct way.
SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE (1972)
Everything from Kurt Vonnegut's book including the kitchen sink and Drano. Here's a so-called unfilmable novel that actually makes for an entertaining movie. The "unstuck in time" plot has been used in everything from Quantum Leap to Stephen King's Dark Tower series. It makes me want to get abducted by aliens and become a well-cared-for resident of a zoo on the planet Tralfamadore.
DARK STAR (1974)
Low-budget student filmmaking at its best. John Carpenter would make better genre movies like Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York, but this is his most-inspired. It also has one of the best closing speeches in sci-fi movie history. Plus, the computer has a better-and-funnier personality than HAL.
HANNIE CAULDER (1971)
Racquel Welch goes all Dirty Harry on the men who killed her husband, burned down her ranch, and tore up her pretty dress. Rape-revenge flicks aren't usually set in the West, but this one has scenes that wouldn't feel right anywhere else. Besides, the rapists are Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, and Strother Martin. Terrifyingly perfect casting, if you ask me.
Blazing Saddles, Murder on the Orient Express, Magnum Force, Tales from the Crypt, Diamonds are Forever, Shaft, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Legend of Hell House, The Towering Inferno, The Sting, Little Big Man, Charlotte's Web, Earthquake, Airport 1975, Papillon, Deliverance, Coffy
POPULAR AMERICAN MOVIES I HAVE NEVER SEEN, DIDN'T LIKE, DON'T CARE ABOUT, OR DIDN'T FLOAT MY BOAT (Sue me):
The Godfather Part 1 and II (I don't like Mafia movies, period.), The Conversation, The French Connection, MASH, Chinatown, The Getaway, A Clockwork Orange, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, Young Frankenstein, Jeremiah Johnson, Love Story, Patton, The Last Picture Show, The Great Gatsby, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, Harold and Maude, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Five Easy Pieces.