Monthly Archives: March 2012

(0052X) Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)August 13, 1972 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? A sketch movie by and with Woody Allen, with varying results.

What did I get? Comedy depends on surprise, so comedy tends to date. The problem is actually worse than that — since comedy has the effect of discombobulating our pompous, complacent selves, really potent comedies often make themselves obsolete. If a comedy does its job too well, it renders widely held pieties ridiculous and unimaginable, unfortunately denying to posterity the possibility of understanding why a given gag once possessed the spring mechanism needed to achieve its effects. As a buffet of morsels, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) hasn’t aged particularly well, but it was once a satisfying smorgasbord.
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(0051X) Deliverance

DeliveranceAugust 6, 1972 | 7 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? A harrowing drama about a boating trip gone awry.

What did I get? The only canonical man-rape movie, Deliverance is also the ultimate men’s masterpiece. Women might be exempt from its charms — I’d love to hear some female perspectives on this — but for the Y chromosome set at least, it cuts so deep and is so economical about its subject matter that it almost plays unfair, targeting an emotional place most movies won’t go. On their own merits, the core events of the movie flirt with exploitation or even slander; the overarching theme of man’s wanton destruction of the river valley transforms Deliverance into a penetrating (sorry) and wise work of art.
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(0050X) Fat City

Fat CityJuly 30, 1972 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? I had no clue what this movie is about.

What did I get? I’d heard Fat City touted before; in the context of John Huston’s long and illustrious career, it seemed a curio, an outlier. It is startling how thoroughly Huston, an old master of the studio system, was able to absorb the bracing, risky tenets of the New Cinema emerging at that very moment. Set in unglamorous Stockton, California, Fat City is an exquisitely undemonstrative and unsentimental character study of two semipro boxers as low in the rankings as they are on the social scale. It feels even more finely observed and “true-to-life” than, say, Five Easy Pieces; indeed, had someone insisted to me that Bob Rafelson had directed it, I would’ve bought it in a heartbeat.
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(0049X) Joe Kidd

Joe KiddJuly 16, 1972 | 2 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? A Clint Eastwood western, of the more serious kind.

What did I get? Written by Elmore Leonard and directed by John Sturges, Joe Kidd testifies to the undying effectiveness of storytelling skill. There’s nothing fancy about the movie, but the narrative tug kicks in from the get-go. It’s not especially serious, as I had thought — something about the poster suggested a slower burn — but it is quite good. It isn’t much different from Eastwood’s earlier Two Mules for Sister Sara and John Wayne’s Big Jake, but maybe a bit more rewardingly focused.
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(0048X) Butterflies Are Free

Butterflies Are FreeJuly 9, 1972 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect?  A stagey stage play originally written for the stage.

What did I get? Strictly in terms of success of adaptation from stage to screen (not including musicals), Butterflies Are Free might be the most felicitous we’ve yet encountered (the others being The Boys in the Band, The Owl and the Pussycat, and Play It Again, Sam). That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its problems. Butterflies Are Free is a movie about what happens when a young blind man and a young sighted airhead forge a serious relationship in the space of a couple of days. Nothing about the story has the remotest plausibility, but the story is diverting enough on its own terms.
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(0047X) Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

Conquest of the Planet of the ApesJuly 2, 1972 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? Another Apes movie — not sure whether to trust my perception of an upward trend as the series goes on.

What did I get? After three shaky successes (at least in my eyes), Conquest is the Apes movie in which the incoherencies of the previous three movies begin to undermine the proceedings in a serious way. I preferred Escape to Beneath and Beneath to the original, but in truth the first one is probably the best one, and they’ve all got their problems. In Conquest, those problems finally take center stage.
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(0046X) Shaft’s Big Score

Shaft's Big ScoreJune 11, 1972 | 3 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? A pretty routine blaxploitation movie.

What did I get? What makes sequels so interesting is that they’re money grabs almost as a matter of definition. It makes no difference if the first movie in a series was a calculated can’t-miss or a surprise sleeper — when the principals convene to tell story #2 about a given character, they do so confident of their audience — and of their payday. The telltale antsiness of a wholly original story is invariably replaced by a sense of routine — if you’re lucky, you get relaxed narrative assurance too. Something of the sort is the case with Shaft’s Big Score.

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(0045X) Play It Again, Sam

Play It Again, SamMay 7, 1972 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? A stagy, early Woody Allen movie.

What did I get? I saw Play It Again, Sam when I was a teenager, and the experience did not leave me with a strong desire to see it another time. It seemed pretty stiff, and also just in purely visual terms it didn’t look very good, it was kind of hazy. I often wondered if my lack of enthusiasm was partly a product of my youthful status, a movie all about a man’s attempt to find a romantic partner not being likely to appeal to a young fan of the daffier Bananas or Love and Death. A second viewing establishes that my age was not the issue; it’s the same movie I remember.

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