When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1970, it gave its Best Picture award to Patton, a military biopic co-written by a kid named Francis Ford Coppola, who would go on to make The Godfather, and directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, who had just helmed Planet of the Apes. And isn't Patton ultimately a cross between The Godfather and Planet of the Apes? (What's that you say? It isn't? Damn, you're right. But it sounded good for a couple of seconds.)
Anyway, Patton is a good movie, and it made it onto my honorable mentions list. But it isn't in my top ten:
1. Five Easy Pieces Directed by Bob Rafelson Written by Carole Eastman, from a story by Rafelson and Eastman
Jack Nicholson gets a chance to play lead, and he doesn't waste it. From here through Cuckoo's Nest, he'll be one of the two or three most essential actors working in Hollywood.
2. MASH Directed by Robert Altman Written by Ring Lardner, Jr., from a novel by H. Richard Hornberger and W.C. Heinz
This is, among other things, the greatest football movie ever made.
3. Gimme Shelter Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin
Yes, I'm rating the Altamont movie higher than the Woodstock movie.
4. Hospital Directed by Frederick Wiseman
One of several searing documentaries Wiseman has made about life under different bureaucracies, in this case a chaotic urban hospital.
5. Bed and Board Directed by François Truffaut Written by Truffaut, Claude de Givray, and Bernard Revon
400 Blows 4: The Voyage Home.
6. La Rupture Directed by Claude Chabrol Written by Chabrol, from a novel by Charlotte Armstrong
They say Chabrol was Hitchcock's greatest student. And they're right.
7. The Conformist Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci Written by Bertolucci, from a novel by Alberto Moravia
It's hard to take Bertolucci seriously as a critic of totalitarianism, given his Communist sympathies. Still, this look into the mind of a fascist is thoughtful, enthralling, and probably the best item on the director's c.v.
8. Le Cercle Rouge Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
"All men are guilty. They're born innocent, but it doesn't last."
9. Claire's Knee Written and directed by Eric Rohmer
The year's finest fetish film.
10. Woodstock Directed by Michael Wadleigh
If you actually went to Woodstock, you had to sit in a lot of mud and you probably got really hungry and there's a small chance that you died. If you waited to watch the movie, by contrast, the only thing that really tested your endurance was that endless Ten Years After song.
11. Chicken Real (Les Blank) 12. Donkey Skin (Jacques Demy) 13. Wanda (Barbara Loden) 14. Deep End (Jerzy Skolimowski) 15. Tristana (Luis Buñuel) 16. Dad, Can I Borrow the Car? (Ward Kimball) 17. Little Big Man (Arthur Penn) 18. Patton (Franklin J. Schaffner) 19. Hi, Mom! (Brian De Palma) 20. Husbands (John Cassavetes)
Of the films of 1970 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, and The Little Theater of Jean Renoir.