Tuesday, September 1, 2015



I admit to being a bit biased here, but I've always thought of 1979 as the best movie year ever. My bias may be partly because of the fact that this was the year I started my senior year of high school and maybe I saw it as the end of an era...Maybe. But hey...that year gave us Apocalypse, Now, All That Jazz, Alien....and that's just movies that begin with A! Anyway, the first movie I re-watched for this year is definitely a good one to come out your senior year...

Dennis Christopher in
Breaking Away
Breaking Away- This story about a small town underdog bicycle team received good reviews when it came out and I remember it fondly, though I'm not sure it would be on my all-time list or anything.

So I was curious what my reaction would be after watching it again... And after viewing, I think the film has aged very well. It's still has the kind of underdog Rocky vibe to it, but I honestly think I like it more than Rocky at this point. A well-written and performed story with a lot of charm and humor.

Do I want to go to college? Do I want to speak Italian? Do I want to race bicycles? Well, life is full of questions when you're seventeen, isn't it? Anyway, Breaking Away is definitely on my on my 1001 list.

Steve Martin is The Jerk
The Jerk-The late 70's was the era of Steve Martin. He seemingly burst onto the scene out of nowhere to be just about everywhere all the time! Keep in mind, this was a time that was dominated by the three networks. Martin was always on The Tonight Show, often as guest host. He hosted the new Saturday Night Live show so often, that he was as close as anyone to being a regular as anyone who wasn't actually called a regular. And there was also his prime time specials. And then there was the record albums, of which I had every one, including: Let's Get Small and A Wild and Crazy Guy. Steve was always and I mean always in character as the goofball, dense but fun-loving guy named...well...it was Steve Martin. He didn't break character...and that I loved!  But then I watched him on a Barbara Walters interview as...himself? Not the wild and crazy guy! I remember being so let down seeing that he was more of a regular guy than his goofball alter-ego persona. But, it was better for him and his fans in the long run.

Then the movies-where he did maintain the Martin character persona (At least until Pennies from Heaven). First, there was the funny short film The Absent-Minded Waiter as well a cameo in The Muppet Movie. Steve's version of Maxwell's Silver Hammer in Robert Stigwood's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is probably the highlight of that largely dismal film.

But Martin's decade ended with his magnum opus, The Jerk. It's still funny, if not admittedly silly. The plot has Steve as Navin Johnson as a white guy who was born a poor-black child (according to the narrator) and leaves home to obtain (and eventually lose) a fortune. But the plot is just an excuse for gags and funny lines from Navin, who seems to misinterpret everything: Calling his dog Shit-Head when told that's what he should name him, thinking a blow job was a type of employment opportunity, thinking someone who is trying to shoot him is trying to shoot the cans of motor oil next to him, complaining to a waiter about snails in his dates food after he orders escargot-are just a few examples. Navin is so good-natured and innocent about it all, you just have to laugh. At least I still do.

Martin made many fine comedies in the years that followed, but The Jerk will probably always represent the peak of Martinmania.

Breaking Away and The Jerk both made the 1001 list, but here are a few more films that I've seen that didn't quite make the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die cut.

1. 10
I remember the part of this movie when Bo Derek is running down the beach in slow motion and...that's really all I can remember about 10.


2. Americathon
I remember going to see this off-beat comedy about a a telethon to save America from corporate interests? or was it Native Americans? I don't remember. Apparently, neither does anyone else. Maybe it's time for an Americathon revival? It did have an interesting cast list that included: John Ritter, Fred Willard, Elvis Costello, Meatloaf, Peter Marshall, Chief Dan George and Tommy Lasorda!

3. Hair
The hippie musical re-imagined by Milos Forman has always been a favorite of mine. I'll take it over Grease anyday.

4. The China Syndrome
A tense drama (from what I remember) about a leak at a nuclear power plant. I'm a little surprised this isn't in the 1001 book.

5. The Concord Airport ’79, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure
The disaster movie craze of the 70's had really petered out by the time these sequels came out. If these movies didn't completely kill off the disaster genre, then Irwin Allen's When Time Ran Out put the final nail in the coffin next year.

6. California Dreamin'
I like the movie Califonia Dreamin'. And I know the main reason I like it is because I saw it while I was a senior in high school and it was a nice and pleasant diversion about guys and gals on the beach. If it had come out a couple of years later, I'd probably have no use for it. That being said, I haven't seen it since 1979 and probably hold it in higher regard than it deserves.

California Dreamin'

7. The In-Laws
Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in one of the all-time great movie teamings.

8. Fast Break
After John Travolta hit it big in movies, I guess it was time to make fellow Welcome Back, Kotter alum Gabe Kaplan a movie star! Didn't work out quite as well. Aside form that, Fast Break is a nice little film with Gabe as a basketball coach to a bunch of misfits. (That's how I remember it, anyway)

9. Going in Style
Touching comedy about three outcast elderly gents (George Burns, Art  Carney, Lee Strasberg) who plan a bank robbery just to feel alive again.

10. Boardwalk
1979 was a good movie year for Lee Strasberg. And he gets to kick some young punk's ass in this movie!

11. Caligula
Actually filmed a few years earlier, but how can I leave Caligula off a list of 1979 movies since that was the year it came out? I remember going to the midnight movie to see this one. I guess I was just really interested in Roman history. Yeah, that must have been the reason.
Malcolm McDowell as Caligula

12. The Kids are Alright
I was a Who fan. Still am. Went to see Tommy in 1975. Went to see this in 1979. What? Who? What was I saying?

13. Norma Rae, The Rose
Oscar worthy performances by Sally Field and Bette Midler in these two films. But the Academy could only give it to one. Sorry, Bette.

14. North Dallas Forty
One of the best movies ever made about American football. Actually, I can't think of a better one.

15. Meatballs
Yes, the silly summer camp movie doesn't really date that well. But I had to go see it at the time just to see Saturday Night Live's Bill Murray in his first starring vehicle. And that would still be the main reason to see it if I ever choose to sit through it again.

16. Phantasm
Bizarre, creepy, macabre horror movie that I actually didn't see until I went off to college the next year. Obviously a favorite of a bunch of drunk, loud college students. And who can forget the Tall Man?

17. Wise Blood

Putting a rather film unfriendly Flannery O'Connor story on film is a tricky task, but I admit John Huston does a nice job with this one.

18. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Don't try to be 2001: A Space Odyssey! Don't try to be Star Wars! Be Star Trek! But we had to wait until Wrath of Khan for that to happen.

19. Time After Time
Exciting thriller with H. G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper through a time machine into modern San Francisco. Sorry that I missed the stars Malcolm McDowell and Jack Warner when they re-united at Dragon Con last year.

20. The Wanderers/The Warriors
Two gang movies from this year. The Warriors is the cult film that more people seem to remember (Warriors! Come out to plaaaayyy!) but The Wanderers, which is set in the early 60's is worth remembering too.

21. Rock N Roll High School
The true high school musical from the time I went to high school (And not Grease). And just for the presence of The Ramones and my former girlfriend P. J. Soles...What more do you need?
P. J. Soles and The Ramones
What else do you need?

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