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McGinty On November - 29 - 2009

movieI see fewer movies than ever in theaters. I’ve come to regard it as showing greater respect for a film to go through the hassle and expense of seeing it at a theater as opposed to seeing it on satellite or DVD.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy seeing films in theaters, I do, I just feel that too often I’m just encouraging McDonald’s to increase the amount of cereal in their “burgers” if I keep buying them at all or at full price.

In the old days, there was a more unified audience for films. Today, audiences are fractured into single-serving demographic packages.

Tyler Perry serves one demographic, Twilight movies serve another demographic, there are the “old guy buddy movies”, the “chick flicks”, Judd Apatow “nerds-get-hot-girls” bro-medies, etc.

Studios are run by corporate execs just as American Pork and Sausage Inc. is. And they both like assembly lines and product that tastes familiar and consistent.

Where are the great films?

There are good films that somehow get made despite the corporate and star obstacle course but great films…not so much anymore.

It shouldn’t be surprising that films that appeal to the lowest common denominator and are the least intellectual and emotionally challenging are the most popular and make the most money.

The biggest moneymaker to date this year?   Transformers 2, the Sarah Palin of movies. Flashy, superficial and wholly empty headed.

In fact, this summer, you had a choice between which movie based on a children’s toy you could choose to see (“Hmm…I did like playing with my Transformers but G.I. Joe’s Kung Fu Grip was cool!).

So, what shall it be this holiday season, movies based on toys, comic books, video games, pop culture books, old tv shows or older and better done movies?

The indie filmmaking community is now the only oasis for truly original and inspired storytelling and they’ve been hammered badly by the economy (scarce equity available now) and the changing film distribution business.

The corporate thinking of better technology being better for business has been smothering the humanity in filmmaking. There are now films, including the top grossing film of the year, which are only made to display animated computer graphics. Storytelling and humans just get in the way of using digital cartoons to cynically separate moviegoers from the money in their wallets.

I do like some movies that are mindless fun however, like desserts, on occasion. A diet of all desserts can make one addicted to and crave only sweet, empty calories.

From my perspective, that’s what most entertainment has been distilled down to in this era of corporate owned media (news for that matter as well), what used to be a sumptuous meal is now just the insubstantial instant gratification and lure of Double Stuff Oreos for the main course at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Internet age has raised the hopes of indie filmmakers that somehow it could result in creating an alternative path to making and distributing their films that doesn’t go through the narrow-minded corporate powers that be.

Until or unless this ever happens in a meaningful way, and like me, you want to support indie filmmaking, see them, rent them, go to film festivals and get the word out to friends if you see a really good one.

Now, as a reminder of the way things were and the way they are, here’s a select list of films from the last golden age of film, the 1970’s, when filmmakers had a lot more freedom to make films they were passionate about making.

Compare this list to this year’s crop of films…and please note how many of the following films were not inspired by Hasbro:

1. The Godfather – (1972)
2. The Godfather part II – (1974)
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – (1975)
4. Apocalypse Now – (1979)
5. Chinatown – (1974)
6. A Clockwork Orange – (1971)
7. Star Wars – (1977)
8. Jaws – (1975)
9. Taxi Driver – (1976)
10. The Deer Hunter – (1978)
11. Annie Hall – (1977)
12. Network – (1976)
13. Rocky – (1976)
14. Patton – (1970)
15. Heaven Can Wait – (1978)
16. M*A*S*H – (1970)
17. The Exorcist – (1973)
18. American Graffiti – (1973)
19. The French Connection – (1971)
20. Mean Streets – (1973)
21. Midnight Express – (1978)
22. Blazing Saddles – (1974)
23. Being There – (1979)
24. Monty Python and the Holy Grail – (1974)
25. Lenny – (1974)
26. Serpico – (1973)
27. The Man Who Would Be King – (1975)
28. Deliverance – (1972)
29. Barry Lyndon – (1975)
30. National Lampoon’s Animal House – (1978)
31. Alien – (1979)
32. The Candidate – (1972)
33. Dog Day Afternoon – (1975)
34. Five Easy Pieces – (1970)
35. The Last Picture Show – (1971)
36. Nashville – (1975)
37. All That Jazz – (1979)
38. Bound for Glory – (1976)
39. Saturday Night Fever – (1977)
40. Manhattan – (1979)
41. All the President’s Men – (1976)
42. Dirty Harry – (1971)
43. Cabaret – (1972)
44. Bananas – (1971)
45. Carrie – (1976)
46. Day for Night – (1973)
47. Amarcord – (1973)
48. Sleeper – (1973)
49. Shampoo – (1975)
50. The Last Detail – (1973)

Categories: Featured, Film

154 Responses so far.

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  1. Kalima says:

    Did anyone ever watch the film “Deathtrap” 1982 with Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, based on the play by Ira Levin?
    It was a very clever and page turning plot.

    Talking about Michael Caine, what about “Alfie” in 1966, making a bold statement about relationships in the “Swinging 60’s” of London.

  2. PepeLepew says:

    A couple of awesome Canadian movies, BTW.
    “Scanners”
    and “Rollerball”
    Yes, Rollerball is a Canadian movie.
    It was very cool when I was 11. And Scanners was very cool when I was 17.

  3. PatsyT says:

    McGinty,
    This list would make a great film fest, done in chronological order perhaps?
    That would take up a whole summer.
    There are four that jump out at me
    The Deer Hunter
    Alien
    American Graffiti
    Saturday Night Fever
    because of their soundtracks
    This piece from The Deer Hunter is one of my favorites


  4. PepeLepew says:

    Another great French movie I just remembered.
    “The City of Lost Children.”
    NOT a kid’s movie!
    The Spaniards also make some killer horror movies. Has anyone ever seen [rec]?

    • Khirad says:

      First one is a classic I never got to. Second, I find Spanish movies can be dark (which is a good thing). Love, passion, beauty, death… and flamenco!

  5. escribacat says:

    McGinty — what is “hasbro?”

  6. AdLib says:

    So pleased to see that others share my enjoyment of 30’s and 40’s films.

    Loved the old gangster films, “Public Enemy”, The Roaring Twenties, Scarface (the original with Paul Muni). Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Bogart. Always liked Bogart but Cagney had such charisma.

    Just watching Grapes of Wrath right now on TCM, such an appropriate story for today. A very challenging film in its day and one of Henry Fonda’s greatest roles, IMO.

  7. PepeLepew says:

    McGinty — a truly great French film is “Wages of Fear.” Very intense for its time. I actually saw “Sorcerer” first, then “Wages of Fear” second. I was blown away by the original.

  8. PepeLepew says:

    The Man Who Would Be King. I *loved* that movie. My dad took me to that when I was little. Very underrated.

    • McGinty says:

      Strongly agree here too. The Man Who Would Be King is a great film that somehow flew beneath many people’s radar.

      John Huston had originally cast Bogart and Gable in the leads then had to wait many years to finally make it. After seeing Connery and Caine in those roles, one could hardly imagine Bogart and Gable making it anywhere near as amazing as Connery and Caine did.

  9. Khirad says:

    “I do like some movies that are mindless fun however, like desserts, on occasion. A diet of all desserts can make one addicted to and crave only sweet, empty calories.”

    Phew. I’m kinda snobbish about my film choices. And, quite frankly, have a list somewhere of my faves, but it’s such a daunting task and overwhelming. But, I must say, I got drawn into some of the most saccharine movies ever made, but which when done right, are good fun, and in fact need to be judged on their own merits. I speak of the passion which is Bollywood. I, a non-Indian, sometimes shock Indians with my knowledge. Unofficial estimate has got to be putting me around 300+ since I started watching in early 2000’s broadening my love of all films foreign. Of course, I, taking private group classes in Hindi at the time, could trudge through really bad, simple movies just paying attention to dialogue (it beats some of those language CDs!). It is my guilty pleasure.

    My regular fare is more along the lines of Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta, speaking of Indian films, or speaking of Twilight and vampires, the Swedish “Let the Right One In” is a far superior alternative (I especially get uppity and absolutely indignant about gothy things being appropriated by the mainstream), although I’m more forgiving when Tim Burton puts out a stinker.

    My favorite old movie would have to be “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari” -- I love the German Expressionist style. I like things strange. I’m more into the artsy and abstract, the ‘Kubrickness’, than “real” cinema or high drama. I’m also a sucker for elaborate costume (

    • kesmarn says:

      Loved Caligari and the German Expressionists in general. Conrad Veidt is one of the great German actors.

      • escribacat says:

        kesmarn--I just discovered him recently. I was thinking I was the only netflix member who ordered the movie The Man Who Laughs, with Conrad Veidt. I guess not, eh? VERY strange movie. He also played Major Strosser in Casablanca, which I just watched the other night.

        • kesmarn says:

          Oh yeah. The Man Who Laughs is totally unnerving--but gripping. I’m sure Veidt suffered in the making of that one, too. Not only did he have to do all his acting with his eyes only, but that “mouthpiece” or whatever it was had to be uncomfortable!

          He was a fine actor.

          • escribacat says:

            I saw a documentary about the German film industry just before WWII. A lot of them got out and ended up in Hollywood, taking bit parts and working on B movies. The cast of Casablanca is populated with these people. A lot of the horror flicks (eg wolfman movies) from that era were particularly well done because they were able to get these artists for cheap.

            • kesmarn says:

              You have to wonder what kind of wonderful stuff they would have made if they’d had their artistic freedom. But Hollywood didn’t operate that way back then. And that sure wasn’t going to happen in Germany, either. Sad.

              I understand Veidt had to flee Germany early on because his wife was Jewish. What craziness. In a way, the German Expressionists of the 1920s, to me, seemed to visually present the latent psychosis that was present after WWI in Germany. Little did they know where that repressed angst was going to take their country. If only the artists could have been left free to exorcise that national nightmare/demon, you wonder if things would have turned out a bit differently. Art is so valuable--as catharsis, among many other things--it’s too bad it isn’t taken more seriously. I hear there are RW folks here who are bitching about the $50 million in the stimulus that’s dedicated to the arts. Sigh. They would have fit right in, in the Germany of 1934.

            • escribacat says:

              Good points, kesmarn. I know the NEA is always under fire from the rightwing in this country. I don’t imagine there are too many artistic types at those teabagger rallies.

    • escribacat says:

      Oh, I forgot about Das Boot. What a brilliant film. I love the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari too.

  10. escribacat says:

    I guess I’ll chime in with a list of some of my favorites. I’m a classic movie buff — I love a good screenplay. I also love good screen chemistry between the main players.
    Atonement
    The Illusionist
    Raise the Red Lantern
    Aguirre, the Wrath of God
    Dersu Uzala
    Laura
    Notorious
    Sweet Smell of Success
    Gosford Park
    Sunset Boulevard
    In the Heat of the Night
    Shoot to Kill
    The Wedding Singer
    The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
    Ship of Fools
    Fargo

    • nellie says:

      The sweet smell of success is a film I study over and over again for its structure and dialogue. What a masterpiece.

      I’m going to check out the films on your list that I haven’t seen. Judging from the ones I have seen, it seems we have similar taste.

      • escribacat says:

        Yes — the dialogue in that movie is incredible. They don’t write ’em like they used to!!

        Have you got a list of favorites?

        • nellie says:

          My favorite films are the ones with good dialogue. I can practically recite All About Eve from beginning to end. The sweet smell of success is probably the best dialogue of any movie ever written. I love People will talk for the same reason. It’s a little schmaltzy and the plot is almost ridiculous, but the dialogue is wonderful. And I can watch The man who came to dinner over and over and still laugh at the same lines every time.

          The list of my favorite films would be very long — and theme based. Dialogue films, visual films, great chemistry films, love the actor/actress films, scared the bejezus out of me films…..

          Fargo is one of those that fits into several categories.

          • escribacat says:

            Just saw the Man Who Came To Dinner again a couple months ago. I haven’t seen People Will Talk …will have to look that up. I’ve seen All About Eve several times — great flick! We do have similar tastes.

            A big screen hit with unexpectedly good dialogue: Aliens (the second one).

            • nellie says:

              I will look into that. I loved the first one because of the visuals. The guy who designed the alien had an exhibit of his art — very creepy stuff!

    • Kalima says:

      I’m in love with the black/white films of the 30’s and 40’s. Loved the women, their hair, their clothes and for the most part, their feisty attitude. My idea of heaven would be to laze in bed and watch them until my eyelids start to droop and I fall asleep to dream that I’m Katherine Hepburn acting with Spencer Tracy in “Guess who’s coming for Dinner” impossible with constantly hungry furry ones, an all time favourite of mine even though it’s much later and not in black and white.

      • McGinty says:

        Loved the screwball comedies of the 30’s and 40’s, especially those of Preston Sturges, “Sullivan’s Travels”, “The Palm Beach Story”, “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” and of course, his edgy political comedy/drama, “The Great McGinty”.

      • escribacat says:

        Yes, I love those old movies. Late 30s, early 40s is the best. Film noir!!

        • Kalima says:

          The absolute best and funnily enough, I never tire of watching them, the clothes of the 40’s were to die for, the jewelry too.

          Pass the smelling salts please!

  11. javaz says:

    Anyone ever seen the movie by Warren Beatty -- “Reds” ?

    It also stars Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson

    It’s an excellent movie and it is a long movie, but worth every minute and it’s based on a true story about the only American buried in Red Square in Russia.

    • Kalima says:

      Yes we have seen it, great film. I think I have a copy on Beta, I know, I know. Will have to have many keepers dubbed to DVD soon but still own a working Beta video deck and 2 turntables for all the albums were brought over from our time in London before we moved here.

  12. Kalima says:

    I too miss the great films of yesterday, but especially the great British films I watched countless times without ever being bored.

    The 1969 Ken Russell film “Women in Love” adapted from the D.H. Lawrence novel of the same name. “The Music Lovers” in 1970 depicting the slide into the madness of Tchaikovsky.

    “The Go-Between” from a novel by J.P. Hartley 1970, shot on location in and around the place I grew up in after we moved to England and where my father still lives.

    The last two films I really enjoyed were “The Bucket List” and a little movie about the gap in the cultural understanding between an Indian couple who arrived in the States to start a new life and their son who was born in the States, “The Namesake.”

    I can’t remember the last time I was in an actual movie theater, the crowds are overwhelming in Tokyo. We wait for them to show on cable or sometimes receive DVD’s from the guy who is in charge of Warner Brothers here.

    Adding two more to my list. “The Constant Gardener” 2005 and “The English Patient” 1996.

    Really memorable film are few and far between, it really is such a shame.

    • javaz says:

      Good morning.

      I’m glad that you wrote about the “Bucket List” since we’ve been hesitant on checking it out of the library because it had such poor reviews.

      I do find that the movies that get poor reviews, we actually like, and then the movies that get great reviews, we despise.

      We love watching movies and we do either the Red Box, which is dollar rentals, or we check them out of the library for free.
      I’m making a list of movies that Planet members are leaving here so that we can watch them.
      All of your suggestions are much appreciated and keep them coming!!!

      Have you ever seen “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?”
      It stars George Clooney and is hilarious.

      Imho, Clooney is at his best in comedies -- “Leatherheads” about the origin of American football and quite funny, and “Burn After Reading”, which is a great movie with Clooney and Brad Pitt that didn’t get the recognition that it should have gotten.
      That was a very funny movie, but a somewhat dark comedy, yet it was entertaining.

      • kesmarn says:

        Javaz, Kalima and all, hello! (I was here earlier, was called in to work and now am back.)

        Loved Clooney in “Oh, Brother!” Those dance moves he did on the stage were hilarious…especially the expression on his face!

        • Kalima says:

          Hello kesmarn, I hope that you are relaxing now. I’m off for a paddle in my bathtub and will check back later.

          Take care.

          • kesmarn says:

            Enjoy, Kalima! It’s nearly 2 a.m. here, so I’ll be heading off to bed shortly. Sigh, time at the Planet flies by. Time at work, on the other hand…

      • KQuark says:

        I love Coen brothers movies and loved

      • Kalima says:

        Good evening javaz. We enjoyed the film very much and loved both Jack N and Morgan Freeman in their roles. I never really listen to the critics about anything, I have a mind of my own and want to use it.

        • javaz says:

          Brad Pitt in that “Burn After Reading” plays such an idiot, and he does it so well, it’s worth watching.
          And Clooney is so paranoid, and the movie, well, it should have done better at the box office.

  13. javaz says:

    What about war movies?
    Are those considered good film?

    One of my favorite movies of all time is “The Dirty Dozen” with Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas and Trini Lopez!

    And another absolute favorite is “The Magnificent Seven” with Yul Brenner.

    And then there’s “Tora Tora”.

    • escribacat says:

      The Guns of Navarone is a really good war movie. Also, Where Eagles Dare.

    • KQuark says:

      I tend to like the war movies with a message like “Apocalypse Now”, “Full Metal Jacket” and “Platoon” even thought the moral clarity of WWII movies makes me nostalgic.

      I do love some old and new cowboy movies like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, “High Plains Drifter” and “Unforgiven” too. Hmmm… All Clint Eastwood movies come to think of it.

    • nellie says:

      javaz, have you ever seen The Young Lions — one of my favorite war films about WWII. It was made in 1958, starring Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Dean Martin, Hope Lange, Maximillian Schell, Barbara Rush — what an unlikely cast, huh? A moving film, and an unusual take.

      Also in the cast, May Britt, who married Sammy Davis Jr.

      • javaz says:

        No, I have not, but am putting it on my list.

        I thought at first you were talking about that film with Michael Caine and Robert Duval, and that was an excellent movie about the old timers taking in the young boy from a wild mother and them guys were older and told wild tales that ended up being true.

        Oh, do you know the movie that I am talking about?

        And now that I am thinking about this topic and this thread, we still have great movies coming out of Hollywood, but the marketing and the suck movies that make it big -- I still cannot get over that “Titanic” by James Cameron won an Oscar for best film, but heck yeah, we have lots of great movies still to this day that come out.

        “Cider House” -- is that the name of that movie?
        It was excellent.

        And even the cheesy -- “Devil’s Advocate” with Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron and Al Pacino -- that’s a great movie.

        • Khirad says:

          Devil’s Advocate was indeed cool.

        • nellie says:

          I adore Keanu Reeves. Point Break is my favorite guilty pleasure.

          Yes, I am also bewildered by Titanic getting as many nominations as All About Eve — and then WINNING.
          ????

          Cider House Rules — is that the film you mean? I have yet to see that one. People warn me that it’s very upsetting, so I have to wait until I’m in the right place to see it.

          I think you’re so right about marketing. It’s terrible. We get so much promotion for cartoon and sitcom based films, almost nothing for the more complex, interesting storytelling. Who can figure Hollywood ….

          • javaz says:

            That’s it, “Cider House Rules” and it’s about abortion.
            Can’t say it was upsetting, but was rather eye-opening.

            There was also another movie about abortion, and it was another excellent movie, about an average woman who helped women in need, and it takes place long ago, maybe in the 40’s, and the woman makes no profit from her services, but a young woman dies from the abortion and then she goes to prison, but that’s only at the end.
            That movie showed how rich women can get safe abortions, while the middle class and poor cannot.
            I wish I could remember the name, but the actress was nominated that year for an Oscar, and yes, I watch the Oscars every year, even though I don’t see the movies, but love them.

            You know, I never realized until this thread came up here, how much I do love movies.
            I love them all.
            From “Waynes World”, to “Austin Powers”, to serious movies such as “The Pianist” or “Schindler’s List”, I love movies.

            I remember growing up, and my mother would tell stories about my dad being in the Navy during WW2, and she just had my oldest brother, but he was a baby back then, and how the only joy she got in them days was walking up to the local theater and paying a nickle to see a film.

            And btw, the very first date my father and mother had was when my dad took my mom to see ‘Gone With The Wind’ in the city, and when they brought that movie back out and re-colorized it, or whatever is the term, my parents were older, and my father took my mom to see the newer version at the movie theater.

            I think I was 10 or so, and it is a sweet memory, because my parents were so cheap and we were so poor, so for my father to take my mother to the new ‘Gone With The Wind’ at the movie theater is such a wonderful memory.


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