Thursday, December 6, 2012

Three '70's Greats

If you know me, you've probably picked up on the fact that I’m overly fond of the 1970’s, at least when it comes to movies, TV, and, to an extent, music.

Let me state it clearly: I believe the 1970’s were the single greatest decade for movie making to date.  The ‘70’s produced Godfather I and II, Annie Hall, Taxi Driver, Rocky, Jaws, All the President’s Men, Star Wars, Young Frankenstein, just to name a few. Even the clunkers were epic; Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Rocky Horror Picture Show, for instance.

This past week I finally got a chance to watch three of the undisputed best offerings of that golden decade.
Network is best known for its “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” scree, which is certainly worth remembering.  

Still, it’s a shame that memory of the film has been largely reduced to one catchy line of dialogue. For those of you unfamiliar with Network, it’s the story of a television news anchor that slips off the rails and speaks his mind on the air, and the ensuing ratings boost inspires the network to make the newscast more of a circus than an informational broadcast.

It was intended as broad satire, an exaggerated swipe at the business of television. Flash forward nearly 40 years and much of that satire is unrecognizable. Oh, sure, we don’t have psychics on our nightly news (yet), but much of the ‘insanity’ of the network decisions is just par for the course in this day and age. It reads much ‘straighter’ now than it ever did when it was released.

It is a finely written film with inspired performances by the entire cast; my one complaint would be that each character seems contractually obligated to launch into at least one long, preachy monologue during each act.

Grade A+

Next up was Marathon Man, the Lawrence Oliver/Dustin Hoffmann thriller best known for the torture scene in Oliver’s dentist’s chair. I thought it was a good thriller, though I remain a little confused as to the relationship between the American agents and Oliver’s Nazi character. Additionally the final scenes in the water treatment plant seemed flat, and I’ve heard a rumor that the author of the source material was annoyed with it too.

A great movie? Eh. A very good movie? Yes. More proof screenwriter William Goldman is a Hollywood genius? Darn skippy. 

Grade: B+

I have seen and read more about Dog Day Afternoon than just about any film out there (it even popped up in a novel I just read) and so I was eager to see this Pacino classic. The verdict? Wow. As good as advertised.

Pacino is perfect as the quirky, slightly effeminate Sonny, while John Cazale’s otherwise minuscule part resonates with hopelessness and an undercurrent of violence. Were there flaws? Precious few. The police response to the bank robbery seems ham-fisted and overblown to my eyes, , but I’ll chalk that up to a different time and place.

The grade for this film is a no-brainer from me: A+

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