Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ebert's Best: 1967

Yahmdallah has taken on the entire 33 years of Roger Ebert's Ten Best Movies Of The Year (here) and weighed in on each of the films he's seen. Go on and click on the link: it's not as intimidating a prospect to read as you might think, given how several movies (including Magnolia -- one of my favourites) don't rate much more than a "meh". Responding to it, on the other hand, is a little more daunting. But I'm up for it, so long as I go through it year by year.


Ah, how well do I remember the turbulence of that year! I was in Philadelphia at the time. The zeitgeist blew with such strength, there was no denying the emotions that frayed as the individual strove desperately against the totalitarian boot of authority, the whipsaw of confusion that came with instant gratification or denial of same, the gentle touch of warm flannel on my bare buttocks before I soiled my nappy yet again (to my mother's everlasting frustration)....

These were the movies so cruelly denied to my two-year-old self (bold print connoting the ones I caught up with some 20 years later):

1. Bonnie & Clyde
2. Ulysses
3. Blow-up
4. The Graduate
5. A Man for All Seasons
6. The War Game
7. Reflections in a Golden Eye
8. Cool Hand Luke
9. Elvira Madigan
10. In the Heat of the Night

I've seen Bonnie & Clyde a couple of times. It's engaging enough to merit re-visiting, but overall it doesn't have nearly the effect on me it apparently had on Roger Ebert or Pauline Kael or any of the other opinion pedlars of the day. Neither Beatty nor Dunaway have ever appealed to me as actors, so a large part of the charm equation is missing right from the get go. Ebert and Kael viewed the movie as ground-breaking stuff, and I'll give them that. But my interest in these lost youths who would be dapper scoundrels isn't strong enough to generate that feeling of violation that seems to come with the movie's violent conclusion.

There's probably no better time for me to confess that I viewed most of these movies many years after I'd internalized (and often memorized) their send-ups in the pages of my uncle's MAD magazines. Ah, Balmy & Clod -- does humour in a bellicose vein get any better than that? Sigh!

The Graduate -- Ebert's later analysis of this flick is right on the money: Mrs. Robinson is the one character who keeps this movie interesting 30 years later. Thank you, Anne Bancroft.

A Man For All Seasons -- I'm a little surprised to see it here, but I suspect it's still a staple for high schoolers who can't be bothered to read the play. Orson Welles has a brief bit where he does his patented "I'd rather look at another wall than at another actor" shtick.

In The Heat Of The Night -- had to read the book in grade nine. When I finally saw Norman Jewison's movie adaptation of it, I was disappointed in the maudlin "bonding moment" between Tibbs (Poitier) and the Chief (Steiger). The book is better (but that's almost always the case).

Next: 1968 ... or as I shall forever remember it, The Year of the Toilet.


Andrew said...

I remember my mother taking us to see "Bonnie & Clyde" at the drive-in. I was seven at the time, and I totally got into the shockingly violent ending. My mother, of course, freaked.

Later in life, I caught The Graduate.


Cowtown Pattie said...

Geez, two years old?


I saw The Graduate in 1967, at the very naive and tender age of 13. A girl friend had invited me to go spend a few days with her grandmother who lived in Ardmore, Oklahoma. The grandmother was more than happy to have us head out for a couple of hours to the local movie. She never asked what we were going to see, and we were not denied entry to this, for those times, a very adult film. We giggled and blushed at the brief scene of a stripper with tassles in appropriate places, you know the one where she makes them twirl in opposite directions...

For weeks we were in love the with theme song, Sounds of Silence. I cannot hear it today without the memory of that long ago afternoon.

How many people can claim to have seen The Graduate in Ardmore, Oklahoma?

Reel Fanatic said...

I highly recommend "Cool Hand Luke" .. Newman is just amzing in it, and it's easily one of the most quotable movies of all time

DarkoV said...

The only two that hold up for me from that list are "A Man for All Seasons" and "Cool Hand Luke", the latter being an especially fecund movie of images and quotes (as Reel Fanatic already mentioned). The other moives, I think, have their moments but their entire package leaves me with an Unhhh? feeling.

"The Russians Are COming! The Russians Are Coming!" is more watchable, if only to see Alan Arkin tearing it up on screen ("Emergency! Please to get away from street.")

Whisky Prajer said...

AC - seven years old strikes me as juuuuust a little young for B&C. I was probably 13 or so when I finally saw it on TV. The only thing I remember from that viewing was the surprise at seeing the freaky dude from an old Star Trek episode.

CP - "You're missing some great effects, here!"

rf and DV - "What we have here is a failure to communicate" - is that Cool Hand Luke?

Andrew said...

That "failure to communicate" line is indeed from Cool Hand Luke. It's one of the most memorable movie quotes ever. I believe even the AFI will vouch for that. It's No. 11 on the AFI list of great movie quotes.