Sunday, September 20, 2015

THE ODD COUPLE (1968), FACES (1968)

Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon
in The Odd Couple
The Odd Couple-Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, the comedy about two divorced men sharing an apartment in New York City, debuted on Broadway in 1965 and has been a perennial stage production all over ever since. I grew up with the television version starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman which will always remain a favorite of sitcom of mine.

But for many the definitive version is the original movie starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Matthau plays Oscar, the sloppy sportswriter and Lemmon plays Felix, the fussy neurotic These two actors worked so well together, that they went on to appear together in numerous successful films in subsequent years. However, I can't bring myself to watch their thirty year later Odd Couple II

But for all these positives, The Odd Couple is NOT in the 1001 movie book! But never mind that, see it anyway.
Gena Rowlands and John Marley playing another
odd couple in Faces

Faces-Faces...close-ups...laughing...joking...crying...yelling...drinking....more close-ups...wrinkles...and more close-ups. It's a hard movie to define, unless you want the simple definition of it being the story about the dissolution of a marriage. Cassavetes movies are like that. It doesn't have a plot that's easy to follow or characters who we can get to know or even know who they are very easily! And the overlapping dialogue makes it difficult to catch everything being said. It's kind of like life that way and Cassavetes certainly doesn't make it easy for the viewer. Undoubtedly a hard film to get into at times, but worth the effort.

I mentioned The Odd Couple didn't make have made the 1001 list,  and here are a few more films from 1968 that I’ve seen that didn’t quite make the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die cut.

1. The Swimmer
If I could add one movie to the 1001 book, it would probably be the existential swimming movie starring Burt Lancaster and based on the John Cheever novel. It's one of those movies that strikes you or doesn't. Clearly I'm in the "strikes me" camp.
Burt Lancaster temporarily out of the water
in The Swimmer
2. The Green Berets
John Wayne's ill-fated attempt to make a positive Vietnam film during the year the war was most unpopular. Recognized as politically naive and a poor film to boot, but at least it did have that catchy theme song by Sgt. Barry Sadler!

3. Oliver!
Another Best Picture winner that didn't make the 1001 movie book but is certainly worthwhile for any fan of musicals. At least catch it on stage if you can.

4. Charly
Based on Flowers for Algernon, which is one of my favorite books. The structure of the Daniel Keyes's novel doesn't lend itself easily to a film treatment, but Cliff Robertson's Oscar-winning performance and the Ravi Shankar music is worth checking out.

5. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Dick Van Dyke's success in Mary Poppins led him to leave his classic television series to pursue a movie career, with very mixed results. I do think I liked the flying car when I saw this as a kid.

6. Head
The Monkees...The Pre-Fab Four star in a film that has gained a certain amount of cult status, but also pretty much killed their career. But never fear, The Monkees in one form or another have made many a comeback over the years and had the last laugh.
Mike, Peter, Davy and Mickey in Head
Yes, I grew up watching their TV series

7. Yellow Submarine
The real fab four (The Beatles, I mean) didn't have a lot to do with this creative animated film about the lad's journey through Pepperland fighting blue meanies. They did do some new songs for the film, including John's "Hey, Bulldog," and Paul's "All Together Now."

8. Monterey Pop
If Woodstock wasn't enough of a journey down musical memory lane for you, I think Monterey Pop might help you to quench your 60's groove thirst. This music festival included The Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix and many more.

9. The Lion in Winter
Even though it came from a stage play and was remade with Patrick Stewart, the version of The Lion in Winter with Katherine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole probably remains the gold standard for this story. I say probably because it's been an awfully long time since I've seen it.

10. Psych-Out
I have a special place in my film buffs heart for all the hippie movies that came out in the late 60's. The Trip, Blow-Up, The Born Losers, Easy Rider, Alice's Restaurant and others. Psych-Out was about...about...I guess I don't remember, man.

I at least remember Jack Nicholson was in Psych-Out
11. Pretty Poison
All the years after first seeing this movie at the Silver Screen theater in Atlanta, this movie still sticks with me. Beautiful Tuesday Weld gets involved with nutty Anthony Perkins, but she turns out to be even crazier than he is! I guess if I ever saw it again, I run the risk of it not being as good as I remember. That's the chance you take when you revisit.

12. No Way to Treat a Lady
Pretty good police thriller from what I remember. I also remember Rod Steiger does a W. C. Fields impression which foreshadows his later role as Fields in W. C. Fields and Me.

13. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Adaptation of yet another of my favorite Southern novels and does show a strong feel for the period and setting. And Alan Arkin as the deaf-mute Mr. Singer is every bit as good as Robertson in Charly.

14. The Love Bug
I certainly loved Herbie, The Love Bug when this first came out. And I thought that Buddy Hackett was so funny! I was at an impressionable age, you know. I also liked the sequel, Herbie Rides Again, a few years later. But as I got older, Herbie and I parted ways. Herbie Goes Bananas?...This I cannot abide.

15. Wild in the Streets
You can probably add Wild in the Streets to the previous list of hippie movies. This was one of the first movies I checked out after I got my first VCR! A rock singer who gets the voting age lowered to 14 and leads to a teenage takeover of the government is pretty silly stuff for the most part, but does hit on some real issues here and there.

Don't trust anyone over 30
in Wild in the Streets
Goodbye, 1968!

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