Monthly Archives: August 2012

(0067X) Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Pat Garrett and Billy the KidJune 3, 1973 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? A violent western? I did not know much about this movie.

What did I get? An odd mix of brutal realism and unabashed poetry, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is an ode to the romantic idea of best friends whom circumstance — well, let us say the realist hand of “society” — has pitted against one another. The movie is slow, stately, and cyclical; Peckinpah wraps himself in the trappings of the western genre and bluffs through the squishiness of the central premise. This anachronistic, cockeyed, soulful movie has scant interest in establishing the reality of its 1881 setting, but it has a patient, off-kilter conviction all its own.
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(0066X) Hitler: The Last Ten Days

Hitler: The Last Ten DaysMay 20, 1973 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? An unimaginably tortuous drama — literally, unimaginable.

What did I get? The subject of Hitler’s bunker is inherently dramatic and interesting. The themes are universal — and yet not at all. What do you do when you find that your vainglorious plans for world domination, predicated upon colossally incorrect assumptions, are on the verge of collapse? Can it be that you will repent, admit error? Not in the world I know. That Hitler is involved makes it different: The epic proportions of the Nazis’ villainy tend to render any attempt to dramatize the historical figures involved farcical, or grossly incommensurate, or both. The ambition of Hitler: The Last Ten Days is scaled to a satisfying television drama, not the greatest conflict of the twentieth century.
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(0065X) Paper Moon

Paper MoonMay 13, 1973 | 3 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? A nostalgic drama of moderate-to-good quality.

What did I get? A glib simulacrum of Steinbeck’s Dust Bowl, Paper Moon is weirdly elusive, all situations and surfaces and sounds, with human motivation and emotion largely sketched in — and yet, fairly affecting for that. For at its core is the roaring need of a neglected child, who, finding herself in a world bereft of love, turns to the grift in order to secure the emotional attention that is every child’s birthright.
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(0064X) Charley and the Angel

Charley and the AngelMarch 25, 1973 | 4 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? Didn’t really know! Something Disney-ish.

What did I get? Charley and the Angel is a carpe diem comedy that isn’t funny, featuring a protagonist who’s impossible to root for. Liberally raiding A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life for thematic material, it’s a wan, plodding farce that gets its “laughs” by obliging its main character, Charley, to interact with an invisible entity, in this case an angel. The movie is studded with thudding double takes and flabby sight gags, reminding us that the 1970s were not a great decade for the old Disney magic.
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(0063X) Tom Sawyer

Tom SawyerMarch 18, 1973 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? An innocuous retelling of the Twain story.

What did I get? I saw this when I was a kid. I vaguely remember young Jodie Foster and a redheaded youngster playing Tom, a mood of easygoing mischief. Easy times on the lazy Mississippi. That’s about it. I’d forgotten it was a musical, but that was also true of our last movie, Charlotte’s Web, so I’m not reliable in such matters. The only real question with this movie was, would it be pleasant and forgettable, or something worse? Well, it isn’t any worse. It does achieve pleasant forgettableness. All the components seem perfectly fine, but it never really coalesces into anything more fun than that.
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The Decline of American Film, 1970-Present?

I strongly recommend reading Tom Shone’s provocative argument about the odd absences and hesitancies that define America’s position in the movie world today. Almost everybody feels that U.S. movies have been in decline since the heady days of the early ’70s — including me — but not too many of the people who make the complaint have a sufficient understanding of what the films, then and now, are and what they might signify. That’s one of the reasons I’m doing this blog, in fact: I wanted to learn more about the American popular movies of my lifetime.

Shone, unlike most, knows his stuff, having written Blockbuster, a book on popular U.S. film that very nearly parallels the Boffo project. Unlike most grousers — he isn’t really that, anyway — Shone is informed, isn’t a snob, has a critical intelligence, and genuinely adores all kinds of popular movies from then and now. In other words, he’s not on the sidelines affecting a pose; he’s in the mix and engaged.

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(0062X) Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's WebMarch 4, 1973 | 5 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? A delightful animated classic.

What did I get? For what it is — a stirring and accessible fable with a bedrock foundation of homespun wisdom — Charlotte’s Web could hardly be better. Leading with its squarely midcentury, middlebrow aspirations, Hanna-Barbera adapted what was purportedly the best-selling children’s paperback of all time into a reliable classic. The songs are adequate, the animation appealing and above all legible; what persist are the friendly cast of characters, the clever dialogue, and the expansive worldview.
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