Monthly Archives: April 2013

(0082X) The Great Gatsby

The Great GatsbyMarch 31, 1974 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? A droopy adaptation of the Fitzgerald masterpiece.

What did I get? Jack Clayton’s version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel evinces much earnest endeavor by a great many talented and well-meaning people, but it’s foredoomed by its unaccountably guileless approach. Robert Evans hit on the idea of adapting Gatsby as a means of flattering his then-wife Ali MacGraw and, indirectly, of celebrating the new class of nouveaux riches residing in Malibu — didn’t anyone notice the irony? Pitched at an erudite audience that would probably prefer not to countenance it in the first place, the movie’s main achievement is to remind us how fantastic the book is — and how elusive.
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(0081X) Blazing Saddles

Blazing SaddlesFebruary 17, 1974 | 7 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? An utterly hilarious and tasteless western parody.

What did I get? Rude, sunny, and not what you’d call ironic, Blazing Saddles ripples with a restless comedic energy that frequently feels something close to musical (it’s also got a lot of good music in it). Arguably the most enjoyable movie of the entire Boffo project, it’s seldom a jot less than fully realized and blazingly memorable. Gleefully, scurrilously anachronistic, Blazing Saddles is properly scattershot and quite sedate in its hilarity. The secret to its hold on us, however, is elusive, as all really great movies must somehow be.
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(0080X) The Exorcist

The ExorcistJanuary 6, 1974 | 6 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? An unpleasant, terrifying movie.

What did I get? The strategies employed in The Exorcist are probably unique in Hollywood history — and uniquely successful. Tasked with adapting William Peter Blatty’s relatively sincere (I’m told) novel into the upper middlebrow wigout of the century, William Friedkin left no strategy unconsidered; this constitutes both the movie’s primary strength and its primary weakness. After one viewing, The Exorcist seemed a classic; after three, a disgrace. The truth lies somewhere in between.
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Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

Roger Ebert died today.

I was never a big Ebert guy; I always preferred Pauline Kael and, later, J. Hoberman. But Ebert easily won my respect, especially in the last few years. Since this site is about reviewing movies, Ebert is relevant to me by definition.

I can remember watching Sneak Previews on PBS starting when I was about 11 — it was the only TV show around that actually reviewed movies, and that was always very enthralling to me. For some reason I always remember Siskel and Ebert reviewing this talky Jon Voight movie Table for Five as the kind of thing nobody else on TV was interested in doing. I think I preferred Siskel somewhat, but I liked them both. I liked it when they agreed, and I liked it when they disagreed. I appreciated that you could watch, on TV, two men who were clearly experts in their field engaging in an impassioned debate about their area of expertise. The ratio of substance to bullshit was always pleasingly high — and not always easy to find on TV, then or now.

Ebert’s reviews have the great virtue of being to the point, unfussy, clear, and engaging. Ebert understood his own preferences so deeply that Continue reading