Sunday, July 15, 2012

1976 - What a Year

I'm cruising through these now (relatively speaking), aren't I? Where was I? Oh yes ... 1975. What a fucking great year it was. Will any year live up to that? We shall see, readers. We shall see.

1976, before you show us what you got, please remind us what happened back when you were "this year":
  • Concorde's first flight. Let's face it - air travel used to be so much more romantic back then. It's shit now.
  • Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic declares independence. It still exists today and you've never heard of it.
  • Two nerds form a company named after Malus domestica.
  • UK and Iceland end the Cod War. I think this should still classify as a cold war considering the respective climates of the countries involved.
  • Nadia Com─âneci's perfect score in the Summer Olympics. Greatest athlete of all time?

Good year, lots of firsts, oohs and aahs. But, we're interested in the cinematic highs of 1976. Before revealing the top 3, which films deserve to get the nod. Here's the lowdown:
  • All the President's Men, in which Forest Gump is nowhere to be seen.
  • Assault on Precint 13, in which Laurence Fishburne is nowhere to be seen.
  • In the Realm of the Senses, in which everything is to be seen.
Meh ... it was going to be pretty tough to reach the heights of 1975, but the above films aren't even in the same league as the also-rans from that year. But the top 3 are pretty good. In fact, they are very, very good. You don't believe me? See for yourself.

3- Rocky (dir: John G. Avildsen; wri: Sylvester Stallone)
Well, well, well. Did somebody order cheese? Yes, I did. A melty 'merican cheese. You might like your camemberts or your brunosts, but sometimes all you need is bad plain old 'cheese'. Same with your movies. And Rocky fits that bill perfectly. It is not a particularly interesting story and you might argue that it's insultingly predictable. But the thing is, this is the template for that predictability. You can argue back and forth whether this or Raging Bull is the greatest sports drama ever, but you'll be missing the point. Just because they are about boxing doesn't mean they are the same kind of film. While Raging Bull stimulates conversations, Rocky stimulates tears. Lots of them. And there's nothing wrong with that.

2- Carrie (dir: Brian de Palma; wri: Lawrence D. Cohen)
I moved to Oporto, Portugal in 2003 for a few months. A few days after I settled in, I was walking around the gorgeous town centre and came across a poster for the Fantasporto 2003 - the city's annual fantasy and sci-fi film festival. I immediately bought an all-access ticket (it was relatively cheap) and came home to browse the catalogue. While creating my own schedule, I knew there was one film I wasn't going to miss for anything. A film that I owned and had watched numerous times, Carrie. When the day arrived I was very excited, nervous. It felt like I was going to watch it for the first time. Well, it was the first (and so far the only) time on the big screen. This was huge. The film started and I was having a blast ... for about 5 minutes. Why? Because there was an obnoxious group of people sitting a few rows down that were laughing at everything. Yes, the film has dated terribly. The production values look meagre even when compared to McDonald's value menu. And yes some scenes are now pure unintentional comedy genius. And it felt like they were rubbing it in my face. Try as I might I couldn't phase them out. No one else seemed to be bothered by them. How could they ridicule one of my favourite films? Philistines! However, I didn't need to ask them to be quiet or reprimand them for their 'lack of taste' (how naive and idealist I was back then). Why? Because the film did it for me. Clearly, they hadn't seen it before and they knew nothing about it. Certainly nothing about that scene. Along with the shower scene in Psycho or the chestbuster scene in Alien, it is arguably the most famous 'scare' in modern horror film. So when that happened all of them jumped up at the same time, giving out a little cry of terror. It was my turn to laugh (inside) and when the film was over I followed them walking outside. None of that smug arrogance was on thier faces. Instead remained a look of utter shame at not being able to foresee the ending and at crying like little girls who just shat themselves in a playground. Or maybe they were just tired and bored, but I'd like to think otherwise.

1- Taxi Driver (dir: Martin Scorsese; wri: Paul Schrader)
If they somehow effectively manage to add a smell function to film viewing, Taxi Driver should be one of the first films to receive that treatment. Because not many films 'smell' of their setting as much as Scorsese's masterpiece (yes, you've read that correctly) does. Few films can boast as many classic and unforgettable scenes as Taxi Drver has and few films have stood the test of time as well as Taxi Driver has stood in terms of the themes they explore. And few films (if any) have a performance like De Niro's Travis Bickle. Hands down the greatest screen performance by an actor.

1976 ... what a year!

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