One Week Til Classics

I’m going out of town for a week, but I’ll be back in time for the first night of the latest Metro Classics series next Wednesday. We’re starting with a double feature of German Expressionist films: Robert Weine’s The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and FW Murnau’s The Last Laugh.

Movies Of The Year: Best Of The 80s

Here’s an extremely rough decade for film, not helped by the fact that I grew up in the 80s and watched a whole lot of really bad movies. For the decade there are more Movies Of Seen than any thus far (though that number’s about to be dwarfed by the 1990s) , but the total number of films I’d consider great is probably even lower than the 70s. It’s just that I watched so many as a kid that there’s an appearance of depth to these years that the 70s was lacking. The quality at the top is there, the top 20 films from this decade are probably as good as most other decades, but it tends to be a lot more focused on Hollywood films and comedies than it is for any other. Part of that is circumstantial, I think that since the heyday of the screwball genre, comedies have become much more generationally focused: the ones from the 60s and 70s, for the most part, don’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but I still love the classics from the 80s and 90s. I imagine a baby boomer would have the opposite experience. As for the Hollywood bias, I think that’s an institutional problem: the foreign film market in the US seemed to die-off in the blockbuster boom of the 80s, while the kinds of critics who worked as a corrective to those market forces remain focused on the foreign films they grew up admiring in the 50s and 60s. Thus a company like Criterion (an essential educational force for those of us who came of age in smaller towns after the art theatre gold rush) releases innumerable classics from the post-WW2-pre-Watergate years, but leaves the Reagan-era relatively untapped.

As always, the years are ranked by peak (how good the best films are) and depth (how many great films there are). Of course, all of this is limited to what I’ve seen.


1983 – The weakest peak of the decade, with only a fair amount of depth, the year is led by a couple of truly great films: Chris Marker’s Sans soleil and Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff, along with one of Woody Allen’s more underrated gems, the great Zelig. After that there isn’t much. Trading Places is a fine comedy, Return Of The Jedi marks the beginning of the end for George Lucas, Scarface and The King Of Comedy have their defenders, though I’m not one of them, and Strange Brew is Canadian. Best: Sans soleil. Most Underrated: The Right Stuff. Most Overrated: Scarface.


1986 – Another pretty weak peak, though with slightly better depth, 1986 features what is probably my least favorite #1 Movie Of The Year for the decade, Roland Joffe’s The Mission, a great film, just not as great as the competition. Also this year is one of Woody Allen’s best, Hannah And Her Sisters, a pair of great Oliver Stone films (Platoon and Salvador) and James Cameron’s great sci-fi action film Aliens. Otherwise, this year features campy 80s classics like Top Gun, The Karate Kid Part II, and The Name Of the Rose, a fine Jim Jarmusch film (Down By Law), John Woo’s breakthrough A Better Tomorrow, and the best basketball movie ever, Daavid Anspaugh’s Hoosiers. Many will argue that David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is one of, if not the #1 best film of the decade. I’m not one of them. Best: The Mission. Most Underrated: The Mission. Most Overrated: Blue Velvet.


1985 – The peak isn’t much of an improvement, but there’s more depth here than any year thus far. Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, my pick as the second-best film of the decade helps a lot, as does the second place film, Woody Allen’s classic The Purple Rose Of Cairo, but the rest of the best films aren’t as good as the next years on this list. Sydney Pollack’s Out Of Africa isn’t an especially cool film to like, but I’ve always loved it and Jackie Chan’s Police Story and Lawrence Kasdan’s Silverado are terrific genre films. After Hours, Fletch, Clue, The Breakfast Club, The Goonies and Back To The Future are classic 80s comedies, Brazil and Come And See have a lot of fans and there are a few films I might feel a bit guilty about liking, if I felt guilty about liking films: Ladyhawke, A Room With A View and Rocky IV. Best: Ran. Most Underrated: Silverado. Most Overrated: Witness.


1988 – Slightly better peak-wise is this year, topped by Stephen Frears’s Dangerous Liaisons and also featuring two of the best baseball movies ever, Bull Durham and Eight Men Out. There’s also Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation Of Christ, John McTiernan’s Die Hard, Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, Robert Zemekis’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Wong Kar-wai’s debut film, As Tears Go By. On the comedy front, we have The Naked Gun, A Fish Called Wanda and The Milagro Beanfield War. There are also a couple of very good, genre-defining films that other people like a lot more than I do: Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. Best: Dangerous Liaisons. Most Underrated: The Last Temptation Of Christ. Most Overrated: Rain Man.


1987 – Very comparable to the previous year on the list, with a decent, but unspectacular peak and decent, but unspectacular depth. Comedies top the lis his year, with Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride, James L. Brooks’s Broadcast News and the Coen Brothers’s Raising Arizona. There are some very good dramas as well: Steven Spielberg’s Empire Of The Sun, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, Wim Wenders’s Wings Of Desire and Stanley Kubrick’s unrelenting Full Metal Jacket. There are good action films like Evil Dead II, Predator, Lethal Weapon, and RoboCop, and a film that few people who aren’t related to me actually like, Elaine May’s much-maligned Ishtar. Best: the Princess Bride. Most Underrated: Ishtar. Most Overrated: The Untouchables.


1982 – The peak is close, but this year isn’t quite as deep a year as the next year on the list. Werner Herzog’s lunatic epic Fiztcarraldo leads off the year, followed by the only post-Maoism Jean-Luc Godard I’ve seen, Passion. Great films from this year also include The Verdict, Blade Runner, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, Conan The Barbarian and one of my favorite animated films ever, The Secret Of NIMH. There’s a fine documentary on the making of the #1 film from this year, Les Blank’s Burden Of Dreams, decent prestige films like Gandhi, Sophie’s Choice and An Officer And A Gentleman and some very good comedies: Tootsie, Airplane II: The Sequel and Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Best: Fitzcarraldo. Most Underrated: The Secret Of NIMH. Most Overrated: Tootsie.


1984 – The highest peak and most depth thus far, this year is led by Jim Jarmusch’s second film, the minimalist comedy Stranger Than Paradise, followed by Milos Forman’s multi-Oscar winning biopic Amadeus. Next are two of the most perfect comedies ever: Ghostbusters and This Is Spinal Tap, along with Sergio Leone’s final epic Once Upon A Time In America, the Coens’s debut Blood Simple, the baseball-as-myth classic The Natural and underrated 80s standouts The Karate Kid, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Footloose, and Sixteen Candles. Best: Stranger Than Paradise. Most Underrated: Temple Of Doom. Most Overrated: Splash.


1980 – This year has the fewest Films I’ve Seen of the decade, and not-unrelated, its case rests almost entirely on it’s tremendous peak as the depth is merely decent. The Empire Strikes Back heads the list, followed by The Shining, The Big Red One, Heaven’s Gate, Raging Bull, Stardust Memories and Kagemusha. There’s also a trio of comedy masterpieces: Airplane!, Caddyshack and The Blues Brothers and a few campy favorites in Flash Gordon, The Gods Must Be Crazy and Superman II. With nine films I consider truly great, 1980 has the second-best extended peak of any year of the decade. Best: The Empire Strikes Back. Most Underrated: Heaven’s Gate. Most Overrated: Raging Bull.


1981 – Close behind 1980 on peak, but with a few more good films rounding out the depth is this year, led by three of the greatest action films of all-time: Steven Spielberg’s Raiders Of The Lost Ark, George Miller’s The Road Warrior, and Wolfgang Peterson’s Das Boot. Warren Beatty’s great epic Reds, Herbert Ross’s near-forgotten Pennies From Heaven, John Carpenter’s classic Escape From New York and Peter Weir’s very fine Gallipoli round out a great collection of dramas, while Stripes, The Evil Dead, An American Werewolf In London and Time Bandits add some great comedies to the mix. There’s even some historical fun of varying degrees of campiness with John Boorman’s Excalibur, John Huston’s Victory and Desmond Davis and Ray Harryhausen’s Clash Of The Titans. Best: Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Most Underrated: Pennies From Heaven. Most Overrated: Chariots Of Fire.


1989 – The best year of the decade is led by the best film of the decade, Spike Lee’s classic Do The Right Thing. There are nine other great films this year (Henry V, Crimes And Misdemeanors, The Killer, The Decalogue, Heathers, When Harry Met Sally, Glory, Mystery Train, Drugstore Cowboy) easily giving it the best peak. Solid depth is provided by the likes of Field Of Dreams, The Abyss, Batman, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Lonesome Dove and The Fabulous Baker Boys. I’ve seen more films from 1989 than any other year of the decade (a whopping 57), more great films and more good films. It’s an easy #1 choice. Best: Do The Right Thing. Most Underrated: Glory. Most Overrated: Cinema Paradiso.

Director Roundup:

Every director with at least two films in my Top Tens for each year of the 1980s.

Steven Spielberg: 4
Martin Scorsese: 4
Woody Allen: 4
Rob Reiner: 3
Jim Jarmusch: 3
John Landis: 3
Oliver Stone: 2
Robert Zemeckis: 2
James Cameron: 2
John G. Avildsen: 2
The Coen Brothers: 2
Tony Scott: 2
Sam Raimi: 2
Terry Gilliam: 2
Ivan Reitman: 2
Akira Kurosawa: 2
Harold Ramis: 2
David Zucker: 2
Stanley Kubrick: 2

Movies Of The Year Awards: 1967

Best Picture:

The End: Playtime
Oscar: In The Heat Of The Night

Best Director:

The End: Jacques Tati, Playtime
Oscar: Mike Nichols, The Graduate

Actor:

The End: Lee Marvin, Point Blank and The Dirty Dozen
Oscar: Rod Steiger, In The Heat Of The Night

Actress:

The End: Catherine Deneuve, Belle de jour and The Young Girls Of Rochefort
Oscar: Katherine Hepburn, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

Supporting Actor:

The End: John Cassavetes, The Dirty Dozen
Oscar: George Kennedy, Cool Hand Luke

Supporting Actress:

The End: Françoise Dorléac, The Young Girls Of Rochefort
Oscar: Estelle Parsons, Bonnie And Clyde

Original Screenplay:

The End: Jean-Luc Godard, Week End and 2 Or 3 Things I Know About Her
Oscar: William Rose, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Adapted Screenplay:

The End: Alexander Jacobs, David Newhouse, Rafe Newhouse, Point Blank
Oscar: Stirling Silliphant, In The Heat Of The Night

Foreign Language Film:

The End: Playtime
Oscar: Closely Watched Trains

Documentary Feature:

The End: Don’t Look Back
Oscar: The Anderson Platoon

Film Editing:

The End: DA Pennebaker, Don’t Look Back
Oscar: Hal Ashby, In The Heat Of The Night

Cinematography:

The End: Jean Badal and Andréas Winding, Playtime
Oscar: Burnett Guffey, Bonnie And Clyde

Art Direction:

The End: Eugène Roman, Playtime
Oscar: John Truscott, Edward Carrere and John Brown, Camelot

Costume Design:

The End: Theadora Van Runkle, Bonnie And Clyde
Oscar: John Truscott, Camelot

Sound:

The End: Playtime
Oscar: In the Heat Of the Night

Original Score:

The End: Michel Legrand, The Young Girls Of Rochefort
Oscar: Elmer bernstein, Thoroughly Modern Millie

Special Effects:

The End: The One-Armed Swordsman
Oscar: Doctor Doolittle

Non-Oscar Categories:

Breakthrough Performance:

Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate

Soundtrack:

Don’t Look Back

Movies Of The Year Awards: 1966

Best Picture:

The End: Au hasard Balthazar
Oscar: A Man For All Seasons

Best Director:

The End: Robert Bresson, Au hasard Balthazar
Oscar: Fred Zinneman, A Man For All Seasons

Actor:

The End: Tatsuya Nakadai, The Sword Of Doom
Oscar: Paul Scofield, A Man For All Seasons

Actress:

The End: Anne Bancroft, 7 Women
Oscar: Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Supporting Actor:

The End: Eli Wallach, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Oscar: Walter Matthau, The Fortune Cookie

Supporting Actress:

The End: Margaret Leighton, 7 Women
Oscar: Sandy Dennis, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Original Screenplay:

The End: Robert Bresson, Au hasard Balthazar
Oscar: Claude Lelouch and Pierre Uytterhoeven, A Man And A Woman

Adapted Screenplay:

The End: Michelangelo Antonioni. Blow-Up
Oscar: Robert Bolt, A Man For All Seasons

Foreign Language Film:

The End: Au hasard Balthazar
Oscar: A Man And A Woman

Film Editing:

The End: Raymond Lamy, Au hasard Balthazar
Oscar: Fredric Steinkamp, Henry Berman, Stu Linder and Frank Santillo, Grand Prix

Black And White Cinematography:

The End: Marcello Gatti, The Battle Of Algiers
Oscar: Haskelll Wexler, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Color Cinematography:

The End: Tonino Delli Colli, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Oscar: Ted Moore, A Man For All Seasons

Black And White Art Direction:

The End: Sergio Canevari, The Battle Of Algiers
Oscar: Richard Sylbert and George James Hopkins, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Color Art Direction:

The End: Takeo Kimura, Tokyo Drifter
Oscar: Jack Martin Smith, Dale Hennesy, Walter M. Scott and Stuart A. Reiss, Fantastic Voyage

Black And White Costume Design:

The End: Masculin féminin
Oscar: Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Color Costume Design:

The End: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Oscar: A Man For All Seasons

Sound:

The End: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Oscar: Grand Prix

Original Score:

The End: Ennio Morricone, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Oscar: John Barry, Born Free

Soundtrack:

The End: Blow-Up
Oscar: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Special Effects:

The End: Come Drink With Me
Oscar: Fantastic Voyage

Non-Oscar Categories:

Breakthrough Performance:

King Hu, Come Drink With Me

Villain:

Tatsuya Nakadai, The Sword Of Doom

Metro Classics Returns

We’re back with another nine week repertory series, this time with six foreign films representing the opposing factions of World War II and three weeks of World War II movies starring the always surly Lee Marvin. Here’s the schedule:

Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, Japan):

July 30 – German Expressionism Double Feature: The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (Weine) & The Last Laugh (Murnau)

August 6 – La Strada (Fellini)

August 13 – Ikiru (Kurosawa)

Allies (Britain, France, USSR):

August 20 – Black Narcissus (Powell & Pressburger)

August 27 – Pickpocket (Bresson)

September 3 – I Am Cuba (Kalatozov)

Lee Marvin:

September 10 – The Dirty Dozen (Aldrich)

September 17 – Hell In The Pacific (Boorman)

September 24 – The Big Red One (Fuller)

Movies Of The Year Awards: 1965


Best Picture:

The End: Pierrot le fou
Oscar: The Sound Of Music

Best Director:

The End: Jean-Luc Godard, Pierrot le fou
Oscar: Robert Wise, The Sound Of Music

Actor:

The End: Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Oscar: Lee Marvin, Cat Ballou

Actress:

The End: Anna Karina, Pierrot le fou and Alphaville
Oscar: Julie Christie, Darling

Supporting Actor:

The End: Oskar Werner, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Oscar: Martin Balsam, A Thousand Clowns

Supporting Actress:

The End: Claire Bloom, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Oscar: Shelly Winters, A Patch Of Blue

Original Screenplay:

The End: Charles Schultz, A Charlie Brown Christmas
Oscar: Frederic Raphael, Darling

Adapted Screenplay:

The End: Orson Welles, Chimes At Midnight
Oscar: Robert Bolt, Dr. Zhivago

Foreign Language Film:

The End: Pierrot le fou
Oscar: The Shop On Main Street

Film Editing:

The End: Françoise Collin, Pirrot le fou
Oscar: William Reynolds, The Sound Of Music

Black And White Cinematography:

The End: Oswald Morris, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Oscar: Ernest Laszlo, Ship Of Fools

Color Cinematography:

The End: Raoul Coutard, Pierrot le fou
Oscar: Freddie Young, Dr. Zhivago

Black And White Art Direction:

The End: Alphaville
Oscar: Ship Of Fools

Color Art Direction:

The End: The Cincinnati Kid
Oscar: Dr. Zhivago

Black And White Costume Design:

The End: Chimes At Midnight
Oscar: Darling

Color Costume Design:

The End: Pierrot le fou
Oscar: Dr. Zhivago

Sound:

The End: Thunderball
Oscar: The Sound Of Music

Original Score:

The End: Vince Guaraldi, A Charlie Brown Christmas
Oscar: Maurice Jarre, Dr. Zhivago

Soundtrack:

The End: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Oscar: The Sound Of Music

Special Effects:

The End: Thunderball
Oscar: Thunderball

Non-Oscar Categories:

Breakthrough Performance:

Jane Fonda, Cat Ballou

Villain:

Anna Karina, Pierrot le fou

Movies Of The Year Awards: 1964


Best Picture:

The End: Dr. Strangelove
Oscar: My Fair Lady

Best Director:

The End: Mikhail Kalatozov, I Am Cuba
Oscar: George Cukor, My Fair Lady

Actor:

The End: Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove
Oscar: Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady

Actress:

The End: Nina Pens Rode, Gertrud
Oscar: Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins

Supporting Actor:

The End: Alec Guinness, The Fall Of The Roman Empire
Oscar: Peter Ustinov, Topkapi

Supporting Actress:

The End: Jeanne Moreau, The Train
Oscar: Lila Kedrova, Zorba The Greek

Original Screenplay:

The End: Jacques Demy, The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
Oscar: Peter Stone and Frank Tarloff, Father Goose

Adapted Screenplay:

The End: Stanley Kubrick, Peter George and Terry Southern, Dr. Strangelove
Oscar: Edward Anhalt, Becket

Foreign Language Film:

The End: The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
Oscar: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Film Editing:

The End: Nina Glagoleva, I Am Cuba
Oscar: Cotton Warburton, Mary Poppins

Black And White Cinematography:

The End: Sergei Urusevsky, I Am Cuba
Oscar: Walter Lassally, Zorba The Greek

Color Cinematography:

The End: Jean Rabier, The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
Oscar: Harry Sradling, My Fair Lady

Black And White Art Direction:

The End: Dr. Strangelove
Oscar: Zorba The Greek

Color Art Direction:

The End: Zulu
Oscar: My Fair Lady

Black And White Costume Design:

The End: I Am Cuba
Oscar: Night Of The Iguana

Color Costume Design:

The End: The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
Oscar: My Fair Lady

Sound:

The End: Zulu
Oscar: My Fair Lady

Original Score:

The End: Michel Legrand, The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
Oscar: Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman, Mary Poppins

Soundtrack:

The End: The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
Oscar: My Fair Lady

Special Effects:

The End: Mary Poppins
Oscar: Mary Poppins

Non-Oscar Categories:

Breakthrough Performance:

Catherine Deneuve, The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg

Villain:

Sterling Hayden, Dr. Strangelove