The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Friday, January 01, 2010
HAPPY NEW YEAR, HAPPY OLD YEAR: I've listed my favorite films of
1999 and 1989. Time now for one of the most impressive years in movie history.

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1979, it gave its Best Picture award to Kramer vs. Kramer. That isn't a bad movie, but it's a tad too earnest for me. I prefer these:

1. Being There
Directed by Hal Ashby
Written by Jerzy Kosinski and Robert C. Jones, from a novel by Kosinski

Hal Ashby may be the most undersung American filmmaker of the '70s, and this satire, released in the final year of the decade, is his crowning achievement. After this the hammer came down, the New Hollywood era ended, and he spent the last few years of his life snorting cocaine and directing crap like Let's Spend the Night Together and 8 million ways to die. RIP.

2. Manhattan
Directed by Woody Allen
Written by Allen and Marshall Brickman

Watching this today, the Allen character's romantic entanglement with a teen might seem too uncomfortably close to the auteur's later life. If you can get past that, though, you'll find the best effort in his C.V.

3. Life of Brian
Directed by Terry Jones
Written by Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin

"Yes, we're all individuals!"

4. Apocalypse Now
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Written by Coppola, John Miluis, and Michael Herr, from a novel by Joseph Conrad

When the New Hollywood died, Coppola did a better job of surviving than Ashby did. But as with Being There, there's a line separating the movies he directed up through this one from all the pictures that came afterwards.

5. Wise Blood
Directed by John Huston
Written by Benedict and Michael Fitzgerald, from a novel by Flannery O'Connor

The book is too good for any adaptation to equal it, but this one comes much closer than anyone had a right to expect.

6. The Third Generation
Written and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Experiments with overlapping sound, a large cast with no clear protagonist, withering satire that doesn't spare anyone -- if Robert Altman made a movie about German terrorists, it would look like this.

7. Winter Kills
Directed by William Richert
Written by Richert, from a novel by Richard Condon

JFK with a sense of humor.

8. Escape from Alcatraz
Directed by Don Siegel
Written by Richard Tuggle

Number Six is the new Number Two.

9. Murder by Decree
Directed by Bob Clark
Written by John Hopkins

The Sherlock Holmes adventure as '70s conspiracy thriller.

10. All That Jazz
Directed by Bob Fosse
Written by Fosse and Robert Alan Aurthur

I've seen artists attack themselves before, but I had no idea a musical could be so self-lacerating.

Honorable mentions:

11. The Great Santini (Lewis John Carlino)
12. The Tin Drum (Volker Schlöndorff)
13. Alien (Ridley Scott)
14. Bye Bye Brazil (Carlos Diegues)
15. The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
16. The Brood (David Cronenberg)
17. Scum (Alan Clarke)
18. Going in Style (Martin Brent)
19. A Perfect Couple (Robert Altman)
20. The Muppet Movie (James Frawley)

Of the films of 1979 that I haven't seen, the two that interest me the most are Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre and Joan Micklin Silver's Chilly Scenes of Winter.

posted by Jesse 12:03 PM
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