Movies Of The Year: 1971

Not a particularly good year, either for movies I’ve seen or for ones I haven’t seen, as far as I can tell. A couple good ones at the top of the list, though.

10. Bedknobs And Broomsticks – Generic Disney musical starring Angela Lansbury, far away from her role in the Manchurian Candidate. There’s a Mary Poppins-esque mix of live-action and animation, but nothing especially remarkable.

9. Carnal Knowledge – Disappointing Mike Nichols film that I guess is supposed to be a comedy but really isn’t all that funny. It’s three episodes in the life of Jack Nicholson’s character (college with Art Garfunkel and Candace Bergen, mid 20s with Ann-Margaret and middle age, by himself), tracing his descent into annoying misogyny. Bleh.

8. The French Connection – William Friedkin’s ode to the wonderful world of police brutality and fascism. It has something in common with 24 in that it makes an argument that the police should be allowed to do whatever they want, but 24 is nuanced and thoughtful in a way this isn’t (and 24 ain’t that nuanced or thoughtful). Nice car chase though.

7. Diamonds Are Forever – Speaking of misogyny and violence, this is Sean Connery’s last James Bond movie. I honestly don’t remember anything about this movie, but I’m sure I’ve seen it. Someday, I’m going to take a week and watch all of the Bond movies in order. With martinis, of course.

6. The Last Picture Show – Peter Bogdanovich’s first movie, and the only of his I’ve seen (or want to see). There are some nice performances, and some pretty black and white images, but it’s just not as good as other nostalgic films (American Graffiti) or films about Texas (Hud). I like Bogdanovich better as an actor (he’s great in a recurring role on The Sopranos) and film expert (commentaries on DVDs and such).

5. Harold And Maude – Overrated cult classic that’s a fine film, but not the masterpiece it’s often made out to be. Hal Ashby directed the story of a suicidal young man and an elderly woman who fall in love. It’s fairly funny and romantic, but it’s hard to separate it from all the hype.

4. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory – Much better, on the whole, than Tim Burton’s remake, largely because of Gene Wilder’s performance in the lead role. Johnny Depp’s is way too close to Michael Jackson to be enjoyable, whereas Wilder’s Wonka is funny, magical and not a little mean and nasty. That’s part of the fun of the film, watching the bad kids get their comeuppance by that instrument of divine retribution: Wonka candy. The kid who plays Charlie is really bad though, that’s one thing that was really good about Burton’s film.

3. Bananas – Woody Allen heads off to the jungle to fight the revolution in one of his wackier comedies. It’s more hit and miss than his next few comedies, but there’s good stuff here. A famous performance as an extra on a subway by Sylvester Stallone, and a moderately funny performance by Howard Cosell as a commentator on Allen’s life.

2. McCabe & Mrs. Miller – Robert Altman’s great film isn’t really a western in the way the genre is generally thought of. It is the story of how the West was built, which is the subtext of all westerns, sometimes more explicitly (The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, Once Upon A Time In The West, Deadwood) than others (Unforgiven, Rio Bravo, The Searchers). Warren Beatty and Julie Christie star as the brains behind the creation of a mining town in the Northwest, centered, of course, around the tavern and brothel. Rene Auberjonois, Keith Carradine, Shelly Duvall and William Devane co-star. Oh, and the soundtrack’s all by Leonard Cohen, and it’s great.

1. A Clockwork Orange – Might be Stanley Kubrick’s most misanthropic film, and that’s saying something. It’s a classic, of course, something every movie fan has seen, so there isn’t much to say about it that you don’t already know. What I like most about it, and the reason I can watch it again and again is the sound. Namely the narration by Malcolm McDowell with the famous Anthony Burgess dialect and the music, mostly various incarnations of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Off the top of my head, my favorite Stanley Kubrick films: 1. Dr. Strangelove 2. Paths Of Glory 3. 2001 4. The Shining 5. A Clockwork Orange 6. Spartacus 7. Eyes Wide Shut 8. Full Metal Jacket 9. Lolita 10. Barry Lyndon.

Some fine Unseen movies this year, I’m sure, but nothing too spectacular, as far as I know. And yes, while I’ve seen both Shaft sequels, I’ve never made it all the way through the original film, at least not that I can recall.

Straw Dogs
Get Carter
Walkabout
Johnny Got His Gun
Duel
Dirty Harry
Fiddler On The Roof
THX 1138
Shaft
Play Misty For Me
Klute
Vanishing Point
Big Jake
Panic In Needle Park
Two-Lane Blacktop
Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Minnie And Moskowitz

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