Friday, June 27, 2014

Movie Guy: AFI Countdown 95 to 91

Continuing from yesterday's blog, I'm going to briefly look at 5 more films from the AFI 100 list, starting today with number 95.

The Last Picture Show (1971)
Color technology has been around in films almost since the beginning of film, in some version or another. Early on, it was an expensive and time-consuming process to use color, and sometimes it didn't look entirely natural. In 1939, both The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind were produced in color, but for decades to come studios would still produce many films in black and white. By the late 50s and early 60s, the choice to use black and white was less a concern of budget and more simply a matter of artistic choice. However, by the1970s - when even low-budget films and television had been in color for years, the choice to use black and white ran the risk of looking unnecessarily audacious. There are some exceptions to this, however, and I think that this film is one of those. Larry McMurtry's bleak coming of age tale about teenagers in a small Texas town in the 1950s is brought to the screen by director Peter Bogdanovich, and there are some really incredible performances here. This is another movie that I think should be higher on the list.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
This film was a game-changer. A campy, noir comedy thriller that was simultaneously an homage to many genres of film and very much unlike anything that we had seen before. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then this may be the most beloved film of the last thirty years. Personally, Jackie Brown is my favorite film in the Tarantino oeuvre - probably owing to it being based on an Elmore Leonard novel - but it is difficult to deny the artistry and influence of Pulp Fiction

The French Connection (1971)
This film also shook things up a bit. We'd seen rogue cops before, but few quite as rogue as Gene Hackman's Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle. His dogged, by-any-means-necessary pursuit of heroin dealers culminates in one of the most memorable car chases in cinema history. This is another one of those oft-imitated movies - and with good reason.

Goodfellas (1990)
This is the quintessential gangster film. The Godfather films was an exposé of the American mob, but we still arguably viewed from a casual distance. Ray Liotta's first-person narrative as mobster/drug dealer/stool pigeon Henry Hill takes us unapologetically inside the inner workings of organized crime. The influence of this film can be felt by how many of your friends can recite Tommy DeVito's "How am I funny" speech in their best Joe Pesci impression. 

Sophie's Choice (1982)
Oh, this film. Just thinking about it rattles me a little bit. Meryl Streep is so beautiful in this film - in every sense of the word. I'm actually finding it difficult to write about it, because I am so moved by remembering the performances in this film - the damaged characters finding moments of something approaching joy despite the absolutely shattering realities of their lives. This is a very good film, and - like the four others in today's blog entry - probably deserves better than to be ranked in the 90s. 

Marvin Hamlisch's theme for Sophie's Choice truly captures the beauty of this film: joy with underpinning sorrow.

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