The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

by Jesse Walker

Monday, January 02, 2012
THE YEAR I GREW MY FIRST TOOTH: So far we've gone through the best films of
2001, 1991, and 1981. Care to guess what comes next?

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.

Honorable mentions:

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.

posted by Jesse 5:57 PM
. . .

. . .

For past entries, click here.

. . .