Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ebert's Best: 1970


1. Five Easy Pieces
2. M*A*S*H
3. The Revolutionary
4. Patton
5. Woodstock
6. My Night at Maud's
7. Adalen 31
8. The Passion of Anna
9. The Wild Child
10. Fellini Satyricon

Five Easy Pieces -- a cringe-inducing movie, but not a "bad" movie. The way Nicholson's character tries to take everyone down a peg can be simultaneously grating and entertaining, the classic example being his request for toast from an embittered old waitress who doesn't have it on her menu. He's too clever to be doing what he does, and he's too stupid to adopt a little compassion. Playing piano in a traffic jam is indicative of his mindset: pent-up frustration is the only impetus that gets him to explore wiggle-room. I like the film, but I dislike its ripple effect. I've heard the diner scene described as "the triumph of an Everyman". It's certainly an emotionally rewarding scene, but I consider it anything but a moral triumph. I'd say if the Fast & Furious movies are indirectly responsible for an increase in deaths from reckless driving, Five Easy Pieces is indirectly responsible for college kids mouthing off to weary waitresses at the IHOP. Another ripple: a risible Coke commercial that ripped off FEP's traffic scene and ended on a triumphant note with everyone drinking high-fructose corn syrup.

M*A*S*H -- an early example of Altman's ability to sell cynicism and cruelty as the weapons of choice for the secular saint. I first saw it when I was 18, and even at an age when testosterone and hormones overrode any instinct toward political correctness (a term that hadn't yet been coined) the shower-room exposure of Hot Lips struck me as unforgivable. But that's Altman for you. He neither excuses nor apologizes for his characters' behavior. Twenty years later he got Huey Lewis to piss on a woman's corpse. A real subtle "message" there, for you moviegoers who weren't happy with Raymond Carver's brand of understatement.

Patton -- I'd like to see this on the big screen. On any size of TV screen, it feels as if it should be an Off-Broadway one-man monologue. I'd like to see that, too.

Woodstock -- a terrific movie that fully captivates the first time around. But I defy anyone to give it a second viewing and not hit the "next scene" button.

Fellini Satyricon -- saw it, but I don't remember it. So maybe I didn't see it.


DarkoV said...

CP, I'm with you on all counts, especially the permenancy of "Patton" and the "Porky's" style mentality of Altman's "M*A*S*H". I write the latter off not as a movie for the ages, but simply a necessary movie for that specific time. If I wanted to explain how a government and its constituents were on opposite sides of a chasm, M*A*S*H would be it. Otherwise, the movie along with the diluted tv series (how odd and ridiculous does Alan Alda come off now with his constant shrieking/howling?) were good for the decade they were created in and that's about it for their effect on future movies.

"Patton", however, is simply a great movie and George C. Scott acts as if divinely possessed.

Whisky Prajer said...

"Divinely possessed" - yes!

Reel Fanatic said...

Maybe I just don't have as strong a critical eye as I should, but I just find M*A*S*H to be extremely entertaining, and I don't ask for much more from a flick than that

Whisky Prajer said...

ou're hardly alone in your appreciation of M*A*S*H - or Altman, for that matter. Hey, if you've got Ebert in your corner, Altman must be doing something right.

It's not very often that Altman does it right for me, however. I find him preachy and nihilistic, and while those two qualities sometimes merge to make wonderfully furious art (e.g., The Wild Bunch), I rarely see Altman taking the care to lure me in and sell me his vision. In fact, if Altman has a common weakness, it's impatience. How best to wrap up all those loose-ended story-lines? Well, how about a football game, or an earthquake? Contrast M*A*S*H and Short Cuts with Vincent & Theo, and I think you'll see the difference between a guy who's getting his actors to do something provocative in front of the camera for the sake of his message, and a man who is paying close attention to his craft.

DarkoV said...

Reel Fanatic, I seriously doubt that the strength of your critical eye is lacking based on your blog's postings. Would you agree that with some movies, regardless of the supposed genius of the director, cast, etc., a movie watcher's opinion is occassionally based strictly on their age, their patience, and their personal experience with the subject matter. I've watched M*A*S*H on a few occassions, including (here I go dating myself) its initial release in a theatre, and each viewing makes me like the movie less and less. Make that considerably less and less. I think it's held up poorly with age somewhat like the best-looking football god from your high school days who's aged ungracefully and lived a downward spiralling life since he threw that last spiral in high school.

Andrew said...

Patton on the big screen IS a sight to behold. I was 10 when my dad, a WWII vet, took me to see it. It's the first time I'd ever heard anyone say "shit" in a movie, that I can recall. George C. Scott's acting was superb in playing a larger-than-life character. It's still among my all-time favorite war movies.