Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ebert's Best: 1979

It's a shame this year doesn't have any entries by Robert Altman (God rest his soul). Or maybe not. When it comes to Altman, I think the films that work (Vincent & Theo, The Player) are breath-taking; the ones that don't (pretty much the rest of them -- though I still need to see McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Nashville, and a few other uncontested "greats") are indulgent, odious and usually both. In the end, he was a big man and a rascal, who didn't seem the least concerned with the negative opinions of pissants like myself. I'm sorry he's gone.


1. Apocalypse Now
2. Breaking Away
3. The Deer Hunter
4. The Marriage of Maria Braun
5. Hair
6. Saint Jack
7. Kramer vs. Kramer
8. The China Syndrome
9. Nosferatu
10. 10

Apocalypse Now -- my experience(s) of this film are on record here.

Breaking Away -- You won't often hear me moaning, "They don't make movies like this anymore." But in this case they really don't, and I wish they did.

The Deer Hunter -- I thought it was brilliant the first three times I saw it. Then I read Goldman's Bambi comparison. Then I saw it again when I was 21. Now I'm not so sure. But it's worth pointing out that this is effectively the first year American movies tried to go back to Vietnam.

Hair -- I had a grade nine classmate who saw this movie more times than I saw Star Wars. She grew her hair out and stopped bathing; the most embarrassing thing I did was jump around my back yard, waving a large stick. But this is indeed an infectious movie.

Kramer vs. Kramer -- Saw this movie only once, back when. I remember thinking Streep was impossibly mean and confused; Hoffman was impossibly quick to adapt; and the kid was impossibly cute. I might think differently if I were inclined to seek it out.

Nosferatu -- this is the Herzog version. A local TV station once ran this movie, then the original, back to back. There are some differences, to be sure. But I expected substantially more. I'm not sure why Ebert is so fond of this particular exercise in homage.

Update: "It seemed as though there would always be another Altman film to look forward to." Michael Blowhard suggests he might be the prototypical Altman loon "profiled" by The Onion, and gives a stirring farewell consideration to the man and his unique ouevre.


ジョエル said...

I rented "Hair" a few years ago. I was looking forward to it, because I liked the CD so much, but I thought the movie was awful. I never saw the stage musical so I can't compare, but I thought the movie was way too many 60s cliches crammed into 2 hours. And that ending was absolutely awful

Andrew said...

This was a good year for movies, and a great year for Vietnam War movies. Can't wait til you do 1980 -- a banner year for comedies (and -- spoiler alert! -- one of my favorite melodramas).


Jim said...

Wait, I've forgotten the code. Do the bold titles indicate movies you've seen or movies you've liked?

The China Syndrome is great (or, it's great in my memory). No musical score at all and your taut like a fishing line with a lunker on the hook from beginning to end.

And omigosh, I forgot about Breaking Away. What a tremendous movie! You're right, they don't make 'em like that any more.

Jim said...

Uh, I mean, "you're taut". But you knew that.

Scott said...

Ooh, see? Now it's my turn.

I have never seen Breaking Away.

And that's shameful!

DarkoV said...

Kramer vs. Kramer: On seeeing this again a few years ago, all I can say is Streep is simply amazin'. Again. As an actress, not a pretty face or tabloid special, can any American actress, now or maybe ever, hold up against her tons of varied roles? You've got Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, et al but they are all lokked at nowadays as "types". I can't think of a single American actress from the '60's through now, with the exception of Streep & Bates & Spacek (on occassion), that impresses with their sheer acting skills. I know this may sound silly, but Kathy Bates is the only other current actress that is effective and different in her roles. She and Streep are hard to typecast and isn't that quality the main one to judge an effective actor. Across the pond, I'd say Emma Thompson gives Streep a run fo the money.

In this movie, Streep has a tiny role (Damn! Damn!), but she's a jewel. I don't even mind Hoffman; some righteous anger and an empathetic figure. This movie launched a slew of divorce pictures, none so effective. I believe it had some long repercussions on folks, especially those men who thought all I have to do is to be a nice guy and my marriage will always be there.

Yahmdallah said...

I saw "Apocalypse Now" initially with a bunch of the buddies, too. What an experience. We were buzzed for days. And, "The horror ... the horror" entered our permanent lexicon.

Whisky Prajer said...

JS - yes, but cramming those two hours with ten years' worth of cliches is the whole point of the exercise!

AC - who'd have thought the 80s would start so promsingly, eh?

jim - I could stand to see The China Syndrome. I'm thinking I probably gave it a TV viewing, one night when I should have been doing homework instead, so I just don't remember it all that clearly.

dv - I don't believe Ms. Streep is capable of a simplistic or inept performance, so my memory of this movie must be flawed. It's been a long time since I saw it. And the comparison to Ms. Thompson (a favourite of mine) holds up, I think.