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

Monday, December 28, 2015

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1975, it gave its Best Picture award to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. That only made it to #3 on my list, but there's no shame in that—any of my top seven here are better than my #1 picks for '85 and '05.

1. Nashville
Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Joan Tewkesbury

Some of my friends dismiss Nashville as a smug left-coaster giving a raspberry to flyover country. To them I point out that the least sympathetic characters in the whole vast cast are the rocker from L.A. and the reporter from the U.K. Altman's scorn is nothing if not universal.

2. Welfare
Directed by Fredric Wiseman

The great epic of American bureaucracy.

3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Directed by Milos Forman
Written by Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben, from a novel by Ken Kesey

Beneath this scathing attack on the nanny state you'll find an invisible fissure in the counterculture. Imagine some young hipster watching All in the Family one night in 1975 and then heading out for a late screening of this movie, never dreaming that Rob Reiner would turn out to have more in common with Nurse Ratched than with McMurphy.

4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
Written by Gilliam, Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin

Years of inept quotation by teenage geeks with bad English accents can't smother the comic genius of this movie.

5. Love and Death
Written and directed by Woody Allen

"Boris, you're a coward!" "Yes, but I'm a militant coward."

6. Dog Day Afternoon
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Frank Pierson

Best bank-robbery movie ever.

7. Night Moves
Directed by Arthur Penn
Written by Alan Sharp

"Do you ask these questions because you want to know the answer or is it just something you think a detective should do?"

8. Picnic at Hanging Rock
Directed by Peter Weir
Written by Cliff Green, from a novel by Joan Lindsay

To understand the mass media's fixation on disappearing white girls, start here.

9. Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer
Directed by Thom Andersen

The prehistory of the movies.

10. Jaws
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, from Benchley's novel

There's a handful of Spielberg movies that I like, but if all his pictures were to disappear tomorrow this is the only one I'd miss.

Honorable mentions:

11. Fox and His Friends (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
12. Grey Gardens (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer)
13. Organism (Hilary Harris)
14. The Man Who Would Be King (John Huston)
15. Shivers (David Cronenberg)
16. Posse (Kirk Douglas)
17. Monsieur Pointu (André Leduc, Bernard Longpré)
18. Three Days of the Condor (Sydney Pollack)
19. The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman)
20. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick)

How good a year for movies was 1975? That top 10 list features the best Wiseman film I've seen, the best Forman film I've seen, the best Gilliam (as director, at least), the best Lumet, the best Penn, the best Weir, the best Spielberg. And while I don't think that's Woody Allen's best movie, I do think it's his funniest.

(Regular readers may be feeling a bit of déjà vu, because Monty Python and the Holy Grail appeared in my 1974 list too. Sorry: I was misinformed about when it had its premiere. If you want to beef the '74 list back up to 20 movies, now that Holy Grail has been taken away from it, you can add Ali: Fear Eat the Soul to the honorable mentions.)

Of the films of 1975 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Dersu Uzala.

posted by Jesse 10:41 AM
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