When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked at 1971, it gave its Best Picture award to The French Connection, a thriller that I enjoyed but whose exalted reputation has always mystified me. I like these movies better:
1. The Last Picture Show Directed by Peter Bogdanovich Written by Bogdanovich and Larry McMurtry, from a novel by McMurtry
I'm not sure if this counts as a "modern western," but if it does, it's my favorite modern western.
2. A Clockwork Orange Directed by Stanley Kubrick Written by Kubrick, from a novel by Anthony Burgess
Note to people who would reduce every story to a simple political message: A film can present two ugly alternatives without advocating either of them.
3. Mon Oncle Antoine Directed by Claude Jutra Written by Jutra and Clément Perron
One of the darkest Christmas movies this side of Pandora's Box, but with some fleeting moments of genuine joy in it too.
4. McCabe & Mrs. Miller Directed by Robert Altman Written by Altman and Brian McKay, from a novel by Edmund Naughton
Altman does to the western what he did a year earlier to the war movie and would do over the following few years to the private eye film, the gangster picture, and the musical.
5. Bananas Directed by Woody Allen Written by Allen and Mickey Rose
"All children under 16 years old are now: 16 years old."
6. They Might Be Giants Directed by Anthony Harvey Written by James Goldman, from his play
My favorite Sherlock Holmes movie, though strictly speaking Sherlock Holmes isn't in it.
7. Walkabout Directed by Nicholas Roeg Written by Edward Bond
An enigmatic film about desire, communication breakdown, and the beautiful, treacherous Australian landscape.
8. Trafic Directed by Jacques Tati Written by Tati, Jacques Lagrange, and Bert Haanstra
Tati's semi-silent satire is a worthy follow-up to Play Time. If it isn't as good as the previous picture...well, not every movie needs to be a masterpiece.
9. The Hospital Directed by Arthur Hiller Written by Paddy Chayefsky
This one is overwritten in the usual Chayefsky manner, but I like it anyway. It's one of those anti-authoritarian black comedies that proliferated in the late '60s and early '70s. On the surface, it's about a city hospital, but it's really about any institution that has outgrown the human scale.
10. Dirty Harry Directed by Don Siegel Written by Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims
A peeping-tom cop is driven to sadism by the horrors of street crime and his department's inability to contain it. In the sequels he becomes an almost cuddly character, but here Harry Callahan is easy to empathize with but hard to like: an antihero in a movie with more nuances than many critics will admit.
11. The Hired Hand (Peter Fonda) 12. Duck, You Sucker (Sergio Leone) 13. W.R.—Mysteries of the Organism (Dušan Makavejev) 14. Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman) 15. Klute (Alan J. Pakula) 16. A New Leaf (Elaine May) 17. Jabberwocky (Jan Švankmajer) 18. Basic Training (Frederic Wiseman) 19. Play Misty for Me (Clint Eastwood) 20. 10 Rillington Place (Richard Fleischer)
Best monologue: Elliott Gould on writing letters to the spy reading his mail, in Little Murders.
Of the films of 1971 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Glen and Randa.