Category: 1975


BadCompany1

Real talk time. As much as I can be a super-duper hipster about my taste in music, I love cheesy 70s classic rock more than I can possibly describe. Like, it’s a bit of a problem. On some level, I think I know that these bands are all sort of terrible and corporate. But, I like them. And I have to blame my dad (in the best possible way) for this shit because I know I wouldn’t listen to these groups if it weren’t for him. And one of those cheesy 70s rock bands that I can’t help but love is Bad Company. Like, yeah, it’s not good, but I love Bad Company and I especially love their song “Shooting Star.” That speaks as much to my love of 70s power ballads as it does to my love of cheesy 70s rock in general. Anyways, this is, for reasons I can’t really explain, one of my favorite rock songs of the 1970s. Enjoy but don’t expect to understand why I do. This is from my vinyl collection off of Bad Company’s 1975 hit Straight Shooter.

 

NightMoves1

Some times, you know love a movie ten minutes in. From the opening shots of J.J. Gittes’s well-maintained (but somehow seedy and desperate) office in Chinatown, I knew I was going to love that movie. From the first bit of dialogue between Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer in Pulp Fiction in the diner, I knew I loved that movie. That’s not always the case. Sometimes, I may not even realize I loved a film until a day after I watched it. That’s what happened with Werner Herzog’s Stroszek. Arthur Penn’s now seminal neo-noir classic Night Moves is the definition of a slow burning film but when you reach its explosive pay-off, it’s all worth it.

Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) is a hell of a private detective but not much of a man in his private life. The same sure-eyed obsession that helps him always solve his cases isolates him from his wife (who’s having an affair) and any thing resembling a social life. So, all he has to look forward to is the thrill of the chase and basking in the glory days of his short-lived professional football career. When Harry gets a job trying to find the missing daughter (Melanie Griffiths) of a faded movie starlet, he finds himself thrown into a case that not only threatens to destroy the last strands of his relationship with his life but could pose a threat to his very life when it turns out that nothing is remotely what it seems.

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Along with Roman Polanski/Robert Towne’s Chinatown, this was one of the most important film noir movies that established character development as key to the success of the genre. Although the Sam Spades and Phillip Marlowe’s of the world were archetypes of honor in seedy worlds, they were almost devoid actual character and depth. More time is spent exploring what makes Harry Moseby tick in this film than is spent on the actual criminal investigation in the case. In fact, the case seems almost so secondary to this film that I couldn’t put my finger on what the point was of the whole film until all of the pieces gelled together for the film’s spectacular finale.

And carrying the weight of the film’s psychological complexity is the masterful turn from Gene Hackman as the schmuck of a detective. He thinks he’s the type of honorable man that Sam Spade and Phil Marlowe turned out to be, but in reality, he’s in it for reasons as personal and self-centered as those he despises. And Hackman, who was reaching the crest of middle age, finds the world-weariness and tired edge that defines Harry as much as his marital woes and his professional tenacity. And throw in great turns from Melanie Griffiths, James Wood, and Jennifer Warren, and you have a delightfully acted film.

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The film is as dark and brooding as they get, and if one thinks about the era where the film was made, the jaded cynicism and pessimism that lies at the core of the film is the perfect summation of post-Watergate angst and paranoia. The world of Night Moves is one of corruption, despair, and greed, and even the characters least touched by vice aren’t spared by the costs of the inequities of others. No one is innocent and everyone suffers. The suffering just catches up to some characters sooner or later.

I didn’t actually think I was enjoying Night Moves that much until well past the hour mark in the film. The plot meanders at a snail-like pace for a while until you realize just how perfectly the screenwriter was setting up the pieces for its denouement. But when it all comes together, you get a feel for how structurally sound a film this was and you almost get mad at yourself for questioning what has come before. Still, on a first watch, you may find yourself turned off by the film’s initial tepid pace. Let me promise you that if you invest the time in this movie, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best mystery films of the 1970s.

Final Score: A-

 

I don’t have very many steadfast rules in life that people have to pass in order to be my friend. The list is about as short as 1) Don’t be racist or homophobic. 2) You have to love Annie Hall. and 3) you’d better fucking appreciate David Bowie. There are bands/artists that I think are better (Dylan, Radiohead, the Beatles) but they’re so popular and hyped that I can at least understand not getting the hype. David Bowie is just the most under-appreciated performer of all time. He charted the course of so many different genres of music and outside of serious music fan circles, he never gets the credit he deserves. On Low, he was at the forefront of electronic and ambient music as well as the burgeoning ideas of “noise” rock. Not to mention that he had about a million superb classic rock hits that still get play today. However, most of these songs have a subversive and experimental bent, and let’s face it, he was the first Lady Gaga (but way more talented. although I do love me some Gaga). Today’s song is the title track off his Young Americans album which is Bowie (a Brit) exploring American R&B and soul. Of course, it’s a success. Enjoy.

Love and Death

(Quick aside before my actual review. I told you all that I was on a hot streak. This movie was simply amazing and I’ve basically been bouncing around between “A”s and “B+”s for two or three weeks now. The selection of films that I currently have at home say this trend could possibly continue. Got to love it.)

Like many great artists, Woody Allen’s film career can be divided not-so-neatly into periods. His career started out with his screwball, slapstick comedies such as Take the Money and Run or Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex. Then, there was the transitional period between his more comedic films and his later, more serious work such as his magnum opus Annie Hall and Manhattan. Of course, there’s the serious period of Interiors, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Hannah and Her Sisters. And finally, you have Woody’s wonderful current renaissance where he’s back to bridging the gap between the comedic and the serious (i.e. Vicki Cristina Barcelona, Match Point, or Midnight in Paris). 1975’s Love and Death is often considered the last of Woody’s slapstick films, but it seems instead to be a great merger of his raunchy sensibilities of his early days with the more philosophical bent of his later films.

This is the Woody Allen film for the person in your life who knows his way around the works of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky better than the average American knows reality TV. With allusions abound to War and Peace, Crime and Punishment (whose title would later be the source of the pun of the title of Crimes and Misdemeanors) and The Brothers Karamazov (as well as weirdly enough, the films of Ingmar Bergman, particularly Persona ), Love and Death is simultaneously a spoof of classic Russian literature (and silly philosophical/ethical debates) while celebrating some of the elements that make those particular novels so beloved in the first place. That Woody Allen manages to tell an epic tale of love, war, silliness, and morality in only an hour and a half is astounding.

At the onset of the Napoleonic wars between Russia and France, Woody Allen plays Boris, a nebbish Woody Allen stand-in living as a peasant in rural Russia. He yearns for the heart of his cousin Sonia (Diane Keaton), but she is in love with Boris’ brother, Ivan. Boris is a lover and an intellectual (or at least he thinks so), and when war breaks out between Russia and France, he wants no part of the battle. Yet, he’s branded a coward by his family and sent off to fight anyways. I don’t want to ruin much more of the plot because in typical early Allen fashion, it snowballs in brilliant slapstick fashion but let’s just say there are plots against Napoleon, classic pistol duels, and bawdy sexual hijinks.

This is one of those classic comedies that is operating on just a million different levels and modes of humor. You have direct spoofs of classic Russian works such as a dialogue that name drops most of the major characters of Russian fiction (especially the works of Dostoyevsky). You have some sight gags, whether they’re direct film shout-outs such as the famous perpendicular faces from Persona or Cries and Whisper. You’ve got endless classic Woody monologues and dialogues having characters butcher formal logic (intentionally) or Woody just riffing on the ostentatious verbiage of classic Russian literature. There’s great awkward situational humor such as Boris’ attempts to seduce a beautiful (and busty) Countess. And then of course, there’s absolutely silly (but rhythmically perfect) slapstick abound. The jokes never stop in Love and Death.

Woody is never going to be the world’s greatest actor (although he does have some great performances, Manhattan and Crimes and Misdemeanors spring immediately to mind), and he’s essentially playing himself in this film. Except instead of a nebbish, Jewish Manhattanite, he’s a nebbish, Russian orthodox Moscovian (is that the proper term). As great of a writer and director Woody is, it’s easy to forget how great he was at physical humor in these early films. He would have made Chaplin and Keaton proud. Diane Keaton was the real scene-stealer (as she was in Annie Hall). She is simply one of the most talented comedic actresses of all time. She manages to be a deliciously sexual concoction as Sonia as well as (at specific points in the film) a great doppleganger for Bergman regulars like Liv Ullmann.

The film may not carry the emotional weight of Annie Hall or Manhattan, but it’s certainly more laugh-out-loud funny than the latter (not so much the former which is why Annie Hall is so perfect). That doesn’t necessarily make it any less consistently thought-provoking as you can see in this film all of the bits and pieces that would ultimately go into making Annie Hall. Everyone loves to call Annie Hall Woody’s ultimate transition film, but Love and Death is just as deserving of that title. It’s a gut-busting triumph of smart and witty humor, and if you can handle your Woody Allen in almost total comedy mode, this film’s a home-run.

Final Score: A

I might write mostly about modern independent music (I just did the second half of an interview with Ryan Monroe of Band of Horses today), but classic rock will always have my heart. It was where I spent my most formative musical years and ultimately has colored the things I enjoy most about music (strong lyrics, instantly endearing melodies, instrumental virtuoso, soaring harmonies, etc) even if some of my favorite bands are the ones that most shy away from classic rock archetypes (Radiohead, Animal Collective, Sigur Ros). One of my all time favorite performing acts is Simon and Garfunkel. Paul Simon rivals Bob Dylan as one of the greatest lyricists of all time, and the bohemian poetry of his seminal works will never lose its charm. Garfunkel’s okay too I guess (I still have to question how much he really contributed to the group). While my favorite Simon and Garfunkel tune is probably “The Boxer,” the song that’s in my head right now is “My Little Town” which for obvious reasons, seems particularly relevant at the moment. It’s a song about growing up and outgrowing the people around you. It’s about recognizing the flaws of what birthed you while simultaneously recognizing perhaps its simple beauty and innocence. For a song that never ended up on an official Simon and Garfunkel album (instead on their solo works despite still being a dual effort between the pair), it’s still an all-time classic of one of the all-time greats.

Does it seem like I just reviewed a Pink Panther film a couple weeks ago? That’s because I did. The very last I film I reviewed before doing my second “best of” list was the original The Pink Panther from 1963, and boy, did I hate that film. I didn’t laugh for nearly the first hour of the film, and I only elicited light chuckles after that point. When I realized that my master list had me watching two Pink Panther films in such short turn-around, I was understandably distraught. As often as I want fun and enjoyable films for this blog, I am just as often (if not more frequently) exposed to films that I outright dislike and find boring. Well, thankfully, the 1975 sequel, The Return of the Pink Panther, couldn’t be more different from the original film and was legitimately hilarious from start to finish and only suffered from an overly lengthy run time as well as a side-plot that did little to add to the humor of the film.

This is the third film in the franchise and once again, Inspector Clousseau (the comedic tour-de-force of Peter Sellers) is on the trail of the mysterious Phantom who has actually managed to steal the priceless Pink Panther diamond from its secure vault in a museum. Returning in a different actor’s body, Sir Charles Lytton (Christopher Plummer), the actual Phantom from the first two films, did not actually commit this robbery and in order to prove his innocence, he decided to track down the actual jewel thief. As Sir Charles goes off on a globe-trotting expedition to find the actual thief, Inspector Clousseau has the same stated mission but no measure of competency or skill. He simply bumbles his way through mishap after mishap until he stumbles upon the actual case. Hilarity ensues, including random interludes where Inspector Clousseau is attacked by his Asian manservant, Kato, to test his instincts and reflexes.

Peter Sellers was simply hilarious in this film. I don’t know why I found him to be so unfunny in the first film, but here, he had me laughing my ass off the whole movie. Maybe it was the way he simply butchered a French accent (on purpose) and provided plenty of classic one-liners, or perhaps its the way he could single-handedly destroy any set in the picture because of his clumsiness and ineptitude, but he was a literal hurricane of comedy. This was the Peter Sellers that I remembered from Dr. Strangelove and not the flaccid bit of slapstick humor from the original film. Christopher Plummer was not funny as Sir Charles Lytton and I could have honestly done without his portion of the film.

If you’re  a fan of slap stick humor that you can turn your brain off and enjoy, this was a legitimately funny picture. Peter Sellers was simply reaching levels of slapstick nirvana that most comedians would dream of wishing. The picture really dragged at its two hour length and like I said, I could have done without Sir Charles’ substory. However, I actually enjoyed this film as compared to hating the original. I’m now not as concerned that practically every other Pink Panther film in the series still remains to be watched for my blog as they almost all qualified for my master list for this blog in one form or another .This wasn’t a great film, but it was one I definitely enjoyed.

Final Score: B