Saturday, October 8, 2011

1969 ... What a Year!

Nearing the end of a decade of hazy malaise, we arrive at the sexiest year of the century. Was it a coincidence that the Academy's first X-rated Best Picture nominee was released in 1969? Maybe. But for the purposes of my argument, let's pretend that it wasn't. Let's say it was a deliberate attempt to sex it up.

But was it all about love in 1969?

  • Led Zeppelin
  • Apollo 11
  • Woodstock
  • Sesame Street

That was one hell of a year, I must admit. But, what was it like on the screen? Here's a brief lowdown on some of the highlights of 1969:
  • Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, in which Robert Redford doesn't know how to swim. Or was it Paul Newman?
  • Easy Rider, in which Jack Nicholson rides bitch on Peter Fonda's chopper.
  • My Night at Maud's, in which there is sex.
  • The Passion of Anna, in which there is more sex.
Another strong showing of classic films and cult favourites. However, the above 3 cannot match the levels of the 3 films below:

3- The Wild Bunch (dir: Sam Peckinpah; wri: Walon Green & Sam Peckinpah)

Perhaps Sam Peckinpah's best known film, The Wild Bunch is as emotional and bloody as it must have felt like in 1969. It is a tiring film for all the right reasons. It has spawned countless imitators, but nothing came even close to its bloody finale. This was the true end of an era, of a genre. Peckinpah hammers the last nail on the coffin of traditional Western and paves the way for the likes of Unforgiven and the recent, brilliant Meek's Cutoff. A truly iconic film for an iconic year.

2- Midnight Cowboy (dir: John Schlesinger; wri: Waldo Salt)

Even today, Midnight Cowboy will have the odds highly stacked against it to win a Best Picture Oscar. But the times, they were a-changin' and a film about a gigolo making his way through the rich middle-aged women and young men of New York won people's and the Academy's hearts. Yet, its infamy isn't the only thing that makes Midnight Cowboy so awesome. It has one of the best on-screen non-sexual relationships ever. In Dustin Hoffman it has one of the most memorable characters of its time. In John Schlesinger it has a director who brings a European sensibility to an all-American story. Flesh? Yes. Blood? Some. Tears? In abundance.

1- Kes (dir: Ken Loach; wri: Barry Hines; Ken Loach & Tony Garnett)

Talking about tears ... the simple story of a small-town boy and his friendship with a kestrel ... a political and anthropological study of living in a dilapidated Northern mining town ... dealing with the adult world that is irreversibly corrupt ... knowing that inevitably you will be a part of that very world ... Kes is the masterpiece of British film.

1969 ... what a year!

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