Each time I take on a year in film for the Top Ten By Year Project I end up adding more components. At the end of What I’ll Remember for 1978 I posted some of the shots that stood out for me the most. For 1925, I’m just making it a separate post because I’ve ended up with quite a few screenshots. I’m posting them on my tumblr page as thematic photosets and I’ll try to recreate them here as best as I can. This is by no means exhaustive but as often as I could I tried to pull what jumped out at me as being particularly evocative. I’ve realized I’m a sucker for hands, shadows, faces, and reflections. Basically, I’m an easy visual lay.
(Reminder of the Poll rules: Participants could vote for up to 10 films; no more, but certainly less. Order was not required since it had no bearing on the results.)
First off, thank you so much to everyone who voted, from those impressively well-versed enough in silent cinema for a full top ten, to those kind enough to contribute a handful of passionate picks. I knew it was going to be a much lower turnout than usual due to the year in question, and I wasn’t wrong. 47 people voted for 50 different films.
Taking into account the internet’s oversaturation with lists/listicles, I hope it’s clear that this project is anything but tossed off. Seeing what makes the collective top ten is a lot of fun, but may I direct your attention to the full breakdown of votes and the individual ballots? My hope with these polls is that in addition to promoting scraps of anticipation for the related posts to come (What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1925: A Love Letter, Favorite Shots, and the Top Ten. Poster Highlights can be found here), that they mainly serve as a reference point for anyone looking for new films to watch whether it’s from seeing:
a. what ‘Film Twitter’ collectively loves
b. more importantly, the films towards the bottom of the list, the ones you’ve never heard of that are begging for (re)discovery.
c. the individual ballots of folks whose taste and knowledge you value (“I don’t know what this is, but if Labuza likes it, surely it’s worth a gander”; what do you mean, of course people talk like this)
Keep a look out next month for the final two posts for Top Ten By Year: 1925.
I’m also so happy and honored to announce my participation in the upcoming installment of The Film Experience’s Smackdown Panel, where we’ll be dissecting the Best Supporting Actress performances from 1948. I’m a huge fan of this column, so to be on it is both exciting and intimidating. You can find what 1948 in film means to me here, and expect the write-ups and podcast companion up at the end of the month!
Leave your thoughts on the poll in the comments section!
POLL RESULTS – Top Ten By Year: 1925 1. The Gold Rush (Chaplin, US) – 41 votes 2. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, Soviet Union) – 39 votes 3. Seven Chances (Keaton, US) – 26 votes 4. The Freshman (Newmeyer/Taylor, US) – 25 votes 5. The Big Parade (Vidor, US) – 21 votes 6. Strike (Eisenstein, Soviet Union) – 19 votes (6). Phantom of the Opera (Julien, US)– 19 votes 8. Go West (Keaton, US) – 11 votes (8). Master of the House (Dreyer, Denmark) – 11 votes 10. Chess Fever (Pudovkin/Shpikovsky, Soviet Union) – 10 votes
The Rest: 7 votes: Varieté, Lady Windermere’s Fan, The Merry Widow 5 votes: Tartuffe
4 votes: The Unholy Three, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ 3 votes: Joyless Street, Orochi, Lazybones, The Monster, Body and Soul 2 votes: The Salvation Hunters, The Lost World, The Eagle, Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life
1 vote: Cyrano de Bergerac, A Woman of the World, Saint-Bernard, Les Aventures de Robert Macaire, Poil de Carrotte , Paris qui Dort, Whirlpool of Fate, In Youth, Beside the Lonely Sea, Don Q Son of Zorro, Super Hooper Dyne Lizzies, The Pleasure Garden, Proud Flesh, Sally of the Sawdust, Le Double Amour, Furasato no uta (Song of Home), Gus Visser and his Singing Duck , Stella Dallas, Dark Angel , Zandar the Great, His People, Beyond the Border, Stage Struck , Kentucky Pride, The Rat’s Knuckles, Faces of Children
@marshlands: The Big Parade, The Unholy Three, The Merry Widow, The Freshmanm, Seven Chances, The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, Strike, Joyless Street
@EricNBarroso: Strike, The Gold Rush
@juvie_cinephile: The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, The Big Parade, Phantom of the Opera, Strike, The Merry Widow, Go West, Master of the House, The Freshman
@salesonfilm (Kristen Sales of salesonfilm, Movie Mezzanine, FilmFracture, etc): Chess Fever, The Freshman, The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, Go West, the final chase sequence in Seven Chances
@SchmanthonyP (Brian Schmid): BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, THE BIG PARADE, GOLD RUSH, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE FRESHMAN. 7 CHANCES, VARIETY, STRIKE
@ProphetKotto (Alex Megaro): Le Double Amour (Jean Epstein), Seven Chances, Grass, The Gold Rush, Tartuffe, Phantom of the Opera, Battleship Potemkin
@whynotanna (of Start Focus End): Battleship Potemkin, Phantom of the Opera
@cinemasights (James Blake Ewing of Cinema Sights): GO WEST, 7 CHANCES, CHESS FEVER, BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, STRIKE
@Cinedaze (Paul Anthony Johnson of Film-Philosophy, Popmatters): 1.THE GOLD RUSH 2. SEVEN CHANCES 3. THE MONSTER 4. LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN 5.STRIKE 6.PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 7. SUPER-HOOPER-DYNE LIZZIES 8.THE FRESHMAN 9.THE LOST WORLD 10.CHESS FEVER
@pogform (Hannah): Ben Hur, Seven Chances, Go West, The Gold Rush
@ch_williamson (Chuck Williamson of The Missing Slate): 1. THE BIG PARADE 2. THE FRESHMAN 3. THE SALVATION HUNTERS 4. CHESS FEVER 5. POIL DE CAROTTE 6. JOYLESS STREET 7. THE MERRY WIDOW 8. THE GOLD RUSH 9. UNHOLY THREE 10. TARTUFFE
@dallasshaldune (TJ Duane): Battleship Potemkin, The Gold Rush, The Freshman
@atalvereo: Battleship Potemkin, The Gold Rush, Strike
@railoftomorrow (Scott Nye, writer and podcast co-host at CriterionCast, etc.): Big Parade, Seven Chances, Gold Rush, Potemkin, Go West, Strike, Merry Widow, Master of the House
@joshbrunsting (Josh Brunsting of CriterionCast): The Freshman, Battleship Potemkin, Strike, The Gold Rush, Master Of The House, Chess Fever
@astoehr (Andreas Stoehr of Pussy Goes Grrr, Movie Mezzanine, etc.): The Big Parade, The Gold Rush, Seven Chances, Battleship Potemkin, & Orochi
@BerenseOslo: 1. The Gold Rush 2. Potemkin 3. Phantom of the Opera
@DavidBlakslee (David Blakslee of Criterion Reflections): B’ship Potemkin, Body & Soul, Freshman, Go West, Gold Rush, Master of the House, Paris Qui Dort, Whirlpool of Fate
@CinemaGadfly (Cinemagadfly.com) 1. The Gold Rush 2. The Freshman 3. Master of the House
@willow_catelyn (of Curtsies and Hand Grenades): 1. BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, 2. THE GOLD RUSH, 3. FRESHMAN, 4. STRIKE, 5. SEVEN CHANCES
@bmrow (Brent Morrow): 1. Lady Windermere’s Fan 2. Chess Fever 3. Lazybones 4. Strike 5. Battleship Potemkin 6. The Merry Widow 7. Varieté 8. The Freshman 9. Master of the House 10. The Monster
@TaybackX (Ken Adams): 01)THE GOLD RUSH 02)BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN 03)THE JOYLESS STREET 04)JEALOUSY and SEVEN CHANCES
@erikgregersen (Erik M. Gregersen): Seven Chances, The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, In Youth, Beside the Lonely Sea, The Freshman, Strike, Don Q, Son of Zorro
@redroomrantings (Justine A. Smith, Chief Film Editor and podcaster at Sound on Sight): 1. The Big Parade 2. Lazybones 3. Battleship Potemkin 4. The Gold Rush 5. The Phantom of the Opera
@LotsOfLea: THE GOLD RUSH, SEVEN CHANCES, BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN and GO WEST
@TheEndofCinema (Sean Gilman of The End of Cinema; The George Sanders Show, and They Shot Pictures podcasts): The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, The Big Parade, Seven Chances, Strike!, The Freshman, Phantom of the Opera
@PaulBoyne: 1. The Gold Rush 2. The Phantom of the Opera 3. The Big Parade 4. Varieté 5. Seven Chances
@MoviesSilently (of Movies Silently) BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, CHESS FEVER, HIS PEOPLE, BEYOND THE BORDER, THE LOST WORLD, CYRANO DE BERGERAC, A WOMAN OF THE WORLD, THE EAGLE ZANDER THE GREAT, VARIETY
@Cinematic_Life (of This Cinematic Life): Potemkin, Phantom of the Opera, The Gold Rush, The Freshman, The Unholy 3
@oblongpictures (Chris Salt): Potemkin, Tartuffe, Freshman, Phantom of the Opera, 7 Chances, Gold Rush, Big Parade, Go West, Gus Visser and his Singing Duck
@jchristley (Jamie N. Christley): 1. The Big Parade, 2. Seven Chances, 3. Go West, 4. The Rat’s Knuckles 5. Lady Windermere’s Fan 6. Lazybones 7. The Gold Rush 8. Sally of the Sawdust 9. Chess Fever 10. Master of the House
@jaimegrijalba (Jamie Grijalba): 1. The Gold Rush 2. Battleship Potemkin 3. Orochi 4. The Phantom of the Opera 5. Furasato no uta
@pierrefilmon (Pierre Filmon): Lady Windermere’s Fan, Potemkine, Gold Rush, Saint-Bernard
@rgodfrey (Ryan Godfrey): 1. Phantom of the Opera 2. Seven Chances 3. The Gold Rush 4. Battleship Potemkin 5. Body and Soul
@realcbeckett (Christopher Beckett): The Gold Rush, The Big Parade, Seven Chances, Potemkin, Strike, Ben Hur, Master of the House
@MrDude_o_o: 1. Strike 2. The Big Parade 3. The Gold Rush 4. Battleship Potemkin 5. Seven Chances 6. Master of the House 7. Ben-Hur 8. The Phantom of the Opera 9. The Merry Widow 10. Go West
@48ONIRAM (Brian!): Battleship Potemkin, The Gold Rush, The Freshman
@sarahnwondrland (my Aunt!): 1. Seven Chances 2. The Freshman 3. Battleship Potemkin 4. The Gold Rush
@Fulmer: Battleship Potemkin. The Gold Rush. The Freshman. Big Parade. The Monster. Proud Flesh, Stella Dallas.
@adamhopelies (Adam Batty, Lecturer and founder of Hope Lies At 24 Frames Per Second): Les Aventures de Robert Macaire, Tartuffe, Battleship Potemkin, The Big Parade, The Gold Rush, The Freshman, Strike, P Garden, The Salvation Hunters
@BBandmoviegal: BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, THE BIG PARADE, THE GOLD RUSH, THE EAGLE, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, 7 CHANCES, THE FRESHMAN, BEN-HUR, LADY WINDEMERE’S FAN
kinodrome: 1. The Big Parade 2. Strike 3. The Gold Rush 4. Body and Soul 5. Seven Chances 6. Master of the House
Celluloidfire: 1. Variety 2. The Gold Rush 3. The Phantom of the Opera 4. Seven Chances 5. Battleship Potemkin 6. The Big Parade 7. Go West 8. Strike 9. The Freshman 10. Grass: A Nations Battle for Life
Peter Labuza (Author of Approaching the End, host of The Cinephiliacs, contributor to Variety, etc.):
The Big Parade (Vidor, USA), Faces of Children (Feyder, France), Seven Chances (Keaton, USA), Stage Struck (Dwan, USA), Kentucky Pride (Ford, USA), Master of the House (Dreyer, Netherlands), Orochi (Futagawa, Japan), Chess Fever (Pudovkin, USSR), The Freshman (Lloyd, USA), Battleship Potekmin (Eisenstein, USSR)
Travis Clark: The Gold Rush, Seven Chances, The Phantom of the Opera, The Big Parade, The Freshman, Variety, Battleship Potemkin, Strike, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Chess Fever
Steven Venn: Battleship Potemkin, The Gold Rush, Phantom of the Opera, Seven Chances, Tartuffe, Unholy Three, The Merry Widow, Dark Angel, The Freshman, Lady Windermere’s Fan
Adam K. (rl friend): The Big Parade, Phantom of the Opera, Battleship Potemkin
I’m in the final third of my research for Top Ten By Year: 1925 (I’ve got about 13 viewings left). With 1992, 1958, and 1978 I conducted a poll with all you fellow film lovers, asking what your choices would be. It has been such a success so far, and it’s become the inaugural kick-off for festivities in the Top Ten By Year Project. Next month, be on the lookout for 1925 coverage; I already posted my Movie Poster Highlights of 1925 and coming up will be a What I’ll Remember post, the Top Ten, and of course the Poll Results.
Order doesn’t factor in for results, but you are more than welcome submit them that way. If you’ve only seen a handful of films from 1925, don’t merely a list of what you’ve seen. I only want submissions for films you consider favorites. If that means it’s only 1 or 2, that’s perfectly fine! I don’t want 10 for the sake of 10 or even 5 for the sake of 5. Only the ones you love.
Leave your lists in the comments section. Voting is open for the next seven days.
During the last pass through the Top Ten By Year project, 1978, I introduced a new tradition during all my round-up coverage; the Poster Appreciation post. I’m about 60% finished with my latest year, 1925, and figured, why not establish the poster post as an early prelude to the festivities to come? So here we are. This has been, to put it frankly, a shitty time for me. The distraction of this project has been a help, and then it wasn’t, and now it is starting to be again.
In most cases I have unfortunately been unable to identify or give credit to any artists who contributed to or created these pieces. There is not a lot of easily accessible documentation regarding artist credit so sadly I don’t have much to offer on that front.
So let’s start with posters for lost films. In culling together a watchlist for 1925, there were numerous posters I’d see that would have me longing to see a film right away. And of course it was often accompanied by discovering that the film was not available and considered lost. But at least we can still ogle at the advertisements and use them as a romanticized launching pad for our idealized versions of what might have been.
All survival statuses provided by the Progressive Silent Film List.
The Morgan Lithograph Company was one of the top poster lithographers in the early years of cinema. Here are three Paramount posters handled by them.
Almost all of Bebe Daniels’s silent films are considered lost, which is such a shame because look at this!”Susan’s mania was speed”?!?! She looks completely indifferent as she whizzes down a big yellow arrow. She’s so over the adrenaline. There’s no way the film would live up to this image, but every Bebe Daniels poster I see makes me mourn the fact that I can’t experience most of her filmography.
Here’s a few featuring the work of Boris Bilinsky! If you want to read more about him or see more of his work, here’s a great article on MUBI for you.
Speaking of Joyless Street, here are two other posters for Pabst’s film:
Renowned and versatile artist Alexander Rodchenko created some masterworks of graphic designs with his movie posters. Here are a few for 1925 films:
Here is another amazing poster for Battleship Potemkin. This one by the Sternberg brothers. Another MUBI article for your pleasure.
The last two posters may be my favorites because I can never get enough of illustrations of dark-lipped sexy women framed by a pop color.
For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I pick weak years for me re: quantity of films seen and/or quality of films seen in comparison to other years from said decade. I use list-making to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-driven way. And I always make sure to point out that my lists are based on personal ‘favorites’ not any notion of an objective ‘best’. I’ve completed 1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, and now 1978. Next I’ll be doing 1925.
So, we’re finally at the end. 1978 contained my longest watchlist and the longest time spent on an individual year in the Top Ten By Year project. I was reminded just how much I love 70’s cinema. That it’s not just about New Hollywood and the force of macho film-school bred auteurists. 1978 catches us between two worlds in American cinema. On the one end is the reign of the thinking man’s picture, mid-scale character dramas, revisionist genre play, and expansive rule-breaking. On the other end, this is three years after Jaws and a mere year after surprise phenomenon Star Wars; studios are quickly realizing that youth is the most potentially profitable demographic. Superman is about to become the first film deliberately constructed blockbuster, with the now ubiquitous strategic ad campaign and excessive merchandising. Though we now recognize the overlap between the two, the modestly scaled and heavily auteur-driven genre play of the 70’s will soon give way to the big-scale classic pop genre play of the 80’s. With Vietnam three years in the past, filmmakers are beginning to investigate the country’s very messy recent history. And while we somewhat rightfully refer to the nostalgia drenched culture of today as a poisonous succubus that has only recently swallowed up pop culture, looking at some of the top films of 1978 such as Grease, Superman, National Lampoon’s Animal House and Heaven Can Wait, demonstrates this as an age-old custom.
Biggest Disappointments: California Suite Same Time, Next Year Alucarda Capricorn One Empire of Passion Despair Five Deadly Venoms
Some Blind Spots:
Gates of Heaven, Perceval le Gallois, La Cage aux Folles, The Tree of Wooden Clogs, Who’ll Stop the Rain, The Boys from Brazil, Big Wednesday, The Green Room, Fingers, Graduate First (so sad I couldn’t find this), Lord of the Rings, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Every Which Way But Loose, The Big Fix, Convoy, My Way Home, Crippled Avengers, American Boy: A Profile of Stephen Prince, Don, Nighthawks, China 9, Liberty 37, The Buddy Holly Story, The Shooting Party, The Scenic Route
I had seen 16 films prior to this. I’ve now seen 64 films from 1978.
TOTAL LIST OF FILMS SEEN IN 1978: (bold indicates first-time viewings during research, italics indicates re-watches during research): Alucarda, Always for Pleasure, Autumn Sonata, Avalanche, Blue Collar, Blue Sunshine, California Suite, Capricorn One, The Cheap Detective, Coma, Coming Home, Dawn of the Dead, Days of Heaven, Death on the Nile, The Deer Hunter, The Demon, Despair, Drunken Master, Empire of Passion, Du er ikke alene (You Are Not Alone),Eyes of Laura Mars, Fedora, Five Deadly Venoms, Foul Play, The Fury, Girlfriends, Grease, Halloween, Heaven Can Wait, Heroes of the East, Interiors, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, In a Year of 13 Moons, Jubilee, Killer of Sheep, Krabat (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), The Last Waltz, Long Weekend, The Mafu Cage, Magic, The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa (short), Midnight Express, Mongoloid (short), National Lampoon’s Animal House, Panna a Netvor (Beauty and the Beast), Pretty Baby, Remember My Name, Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (The Meetings of Anna), Same Time Next Year, Satiemania (short), The Shout, The Silent Partner, Straight Time, Superman, Thank God It’s Friday, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, An Unmarried Woman, Up in Smoke, Violette Noziere, Watership Down, A Wedding, Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?, The Wiz
Key: FTV = First-Time Viewing RW = Re-watch LTF = Long Time Favorite
10. The Mafu Cage (US, Arthur) (FTV) Top Ten By Year: 1978 is bookended with films directed by women. I couldn’t really say whether The Mafu Cage is well-regarded or not because it’s not regarded, period. Hell, it doesn’t even have a wikipedia page. In one way this makes sense; the majority of people are likely to be turned off by this claustrophobic and perverse story. In another way, it makes no sense whatsoever; just where oh where is the cult following for The Mafu Cage??? Come out from behind those bushes, people! There are so few of us (thank you author Kier-La Janisse, whose essential book House of Psychotic Women brought the film’s existence to my attention)! It’s massively fucked up and pretty tasteless, but surprisingly stirring, very intimate, and so very very loaded. It’s also one of the more bizarre and discomfiting fictional realms I’ve ever been invited to participate in. This is really uncomfortable stuff, people (extended appropriation of African culture as characterization and monkeys that no doubt felt some level of trauma in real life from the filming of this); familial support gone horribly horribly wrong.
Where does The Mafu Cage fit within female-driven horror? Is it horror? Absolutely, (although it’s equal parts psychological chamber drama), especially its incorporation of taboo subjects and the way narrative plays out in regards to Cissy’s victims. It could easily be a companion to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and other psycho-biddy films. Just take out the aging camp legends and insert the apocalyptic Carol Kane.
I’ve always loved Carol Kane but this is a whole other can of worms; she is absolutely unapologetic here. What’s wrong with Cissy? Well, what isn’t wrong with her? She lives in self-imposed seclusion with her sister in a Los Angeles home that recreates the African jungle of her youth. She’s like a child, living off delusions and whims. She says “DUMBSHIT” when provoked, which is often. She screeches and yells a lot. She is possessive, entirely irrational, and in no way equipped to be functional within anything resembling reality. Capable of momentary self-reflection, it’s only a matter of time before she inverses self-awareness. Kane plays Cissy as someone trapped in her own patterns of behavior, which are unfortunately defined by the death of people and animals alike. She is a tantrum-led woman suffering from severe unchecked mental illness. Her sister Ellen (Lee Grant) means well but is ultimately an enabler, keeping a promise to their father to protect her, shielding her instead of getting her the help she so clearly needs.
Karen Arthur was the first woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series (for a 1985 episode of “Cagney and Lacey”). She was the second female member of the DGA. Arthur does a beautiful job with this material, and it’s a shame the film mostly exists at a video quality level. The film is filled with strangely bewitching images. She confronts Cissy even though we and those around her walk on eggshells in her presence. Montages cement her behavior as part of a cycle. The Mafu Cage played at Cannes, received a good reception and then a weak independent release only to disappear. I’m hoping at least a few people seek it out because of this post.
9. I Wanna Hold Your Hand (US, Zemeckis) (FTV)
From time to time Robert Zemeckis marries touchstone history to the lives of his characters. His success rate varies but his first film, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, is scaled to chaotic perfection. This isn’t Forrest Gump haplessly stumbling through hallmark events like a walking gimmick; this is a dogged unshakable group of fanatical girls who very much want to shove their way into a national moment; by gaining access to The Beatles on the day they’re set to perform on the Ed Sullivan show (February 9th, 1964).
In my Honorable Mentions post, in reference to Thank God It’s Friday, I mentioned my love for One Crazy Day/Night films (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Modern Girls, Adventures in Babysitting, After Hours, Magnolia, ParaNorman; the list goes on and on). I Wanna Hold Your Hand is a lesser known treasure of the subgenre. It starts at the eventual final destination, with Ed Sullivan’s rehearsal session, and quickly branches out to our core group, made up of obsessives and reluctant and/or opposed tagalongs. When our characters enter the abyss of countless fanatics on the same quest, they quickly find themselves splintering off, and soon the characters are having their own individual adventures.
The most entertaining of these is the soon-to-be-married Pam (Nancy Allen) who at one point finds herself alone in The Beatles hotel room. I’ve grown so fond of Nancy Allen’s bright-eyed cherubic quality over the years, and seeing her lust over leftovers, instruments, and whatever else she can get her hands has become an instantly iconic movie moment for me.
Zemeckis’s debut doesn’t look down on or solely gawk at the devotion of fanaticism; it just hops on the insanity train. Regarding the tone it could have employed, I’m reminded of the recent snarky reactions from people, largely men, towards the collective mourning from One Direction’s largely female fan base over Zayn Malik’s recent departure. I Wanna Hold Your Hand playfully looks at Beatlemania as a phenomenon of ‘hell hath no fury’ fans, but also recognizes that fan bases are made up of individually felt emotional extremes, a very authentic loyalty, and sincere commitment.
8. The Shout (UK, Skolimowski) (FTV)
The only comparison I have for the cryptic and unknowable experience of The Shout are the films of director Nicolas Roeg and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The ‘unknown’ at the center of The Shout, made up of aboriginal mysticism and an unreliable narrative, makes for a disturbing nucleus that resides underneath consciousness. Even the credits are hazy and out of reach.
Like our next film, sound is central to The Shout, employing an innovative Dolby mix to disorient. Alan Bates, who disrupts the lives of a young couple in the countryside (John Hurt and Suzannah York), claims to have attained occult powers, specifically ‘The Shout’, which apparently has the power to kill anyone who hears it. John Hurt plays an experimental electronic musician, and several scenes take place in his home studio as he records various noises. To him, ‘The Shout’ becomes the holy grail of sounds; something he, at least initially, denounces as hogwash. And finally, the score by Tony Bates and Michael Rutherford of Genesis, is an ambient soundscape that further dislodges the viewer. But then, everything about The Shout dislodges the viewer.
This is a world where everything may be a lie, or worse, everything may be true. A world where people can be controlled as long as you have their belt buckle. The cricket game in the framing device carries a waiting room kind of menace, as if this world will end as soon as one team wins. Films like The Shout are the kind I wait and hope for. These mind-fuck movies that are legitimate and hypnotic, fueled by rhythms that defy standard logic and are populated by mysteries that defiantly refuse to be solved.
7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (US, Kaufman) (RW)
Philip Kaufman spends the first half of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a remake of Don Siegel’s 1956 film, establishing a paranoid mood piece where the threat infiltrates safe spaces before we’ve even had time to settle into the picture. They may just look like plants, but fuck do they move fast. Everything is in plain sight right from the beginning, covering both the corners and foreground of the frame, and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Kaufman secretly plans to have it both ways by filling in the run-run-run second half with some startling practical effects sequences, allowing mutating slime and atmospheric smoke-screens to give way to each other.
I can’t think of a cooler ensemble than this; Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum and the recently departed Leonard Nimoy who uses his soothing demeanor to chilling effect. Donald Sutherland in particular is in peak form doing his baritone Chia Pet thing.
Layers and layers of heartbeats, electronic white noise and throbs, rain sticks, and clanging and banging push in on us; a contemporary comparison for the cumulative impact of Denny Zeitlin’s score is Brian Reitzell’s ingenious work on “Hannibal”.
My first time seeing Invasion, I was totally unprepared to discover it’s the kind of slick and smart artful mainstream horror that doesn’t come around too often. Full of applicable social commentary, a genuinely rattling air you desperately want to shimmy off, and filled with fodder to dissect every which way you turn.
6. The Fury (US, De Palma) (FTV)
Pauline Kael’s review of The Fury is one of her most famous because it’s an anomalous hyperbolic rave, a viewing experience that sounds like it amounted to something like an orgasm. Much of the review’s notoriety stems from the generally lackluster reaction people tend to have to Brian De Palma’s follow-up to Carrie. De Palma devotees drool over it, and most others either casually dismiss or actively deride the film. But I’m with you Pauline. I’m with you.
On its face The Fury has a lot in common with Carrie. It’s also based on a novel. It’s also about a girl with telekinesis. It also features Amy Irving. But this one has conspiracies, chases, a father trying to find his son, an Xavier Institute equivalent. It’s a strange brew of supernatural spy thriller! Sound overcrowded? It is; but I love the hell out of The Fury‘s bloated convolution.
Even through its slower section The Fury is blisteringly alive. I can’t explain why, especially because John Ferris’s script (adapting his novel) is kind of a hacky mess, but it all felt like it mattered. Being thrown into the preposterous story, you either submit to it or scoff through it. Sure, the Kirk Douglas material is initially less interesting, but come on, who doesn’t want to see Kirk Douglas vs. John Cassavetes? How can one deny watching the star in his sixties, running around shirtless with a machine gun, and disguising himself to make him look, wait for it, old! And besides, this slowly but surely becomes Gillian’s (Irving) film. There’s also weird pockets of humor. De Palma often opens scenes by zeroing in on peripheral characters, whether it’s the cop who just got a brand new car, the little old lady who delights in helping out a trespasser, or the two security guards who like to trade Hershey bars for coffee.
It’s trademark De Palma to toy around with the nature of cinema, and The Fury is constantly interacting with itself. Gillian’s telekinetic link to the missing Robin (Andrew Stevens who is terrible, but I love sociopathic brat characters like this) is depicted visually, so the intimate and exclusive link between them also includes us. Since Gillian’s visions strike through sight (what else?), she acquires information by watching scenes play out in front of her eyes. She learns, and we learn through her. Gillian becomes, in her way, an audience member. This is cinema as the ultimate form of communication and information (surveillance is a recurring theme here too), something that can transcend the confines of the screen. At one point, Robin is even shown the first five minutes of the film! De Palma’s stylized techniques drive it all home; editing and rear-screen projection are used to emphasize and encompass, and characters are brought together by overlapping spaces and sounds. The camera often tracks conversations by moving around characters, covering all bases.
There’s a bravura four minute slow-motion sequence that turns the notion of the escape scene on its head. It isn’t until the end when we realize the slow-motion is in fact stretching out a character’s final moments. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better send-off to any movie; I’m serious. It cannot be beat. Don’t even try to tell me it can. It’s the money shot to end all money shots, but shown from every possible angle. But it’s not just showstopper sequences like these that I fell in love with; it’s the whole damn film.
(There is a scene in which a horrified Gillian sees Robin, her face directed straight at the camera, horrified. This is exactly what Stanley Kubrick would do with Danny Torrance in The Shining a mere two years later.)
5. Coming Home (US, Ashby) (FTV)
Three years after the Fall of Saigon there were two Best Picture nominees that directly dealt with Vietnam. One was the wholly masculine collapse-of-camaraderie film The Deer Hunter. The other was the far more liberal-minded Coming Home, about tormented veterans and a woman who comes into her own politically and sexually following her husband’s departure for Vietnam. People tend to knock Coming Home for being a war film that ‘descends’ into something as ‘cliche’ as a love triangle. Is there any easier way to dismiss a film for daring to be about the female experience of wartime? These are three people (Jon Voight and Bruce Dern are the paraplegic lover and husband respectively) whose lives become inextricably linked through their traumas, their evolution, their bodies, and their love.
The film materialized through Jane Fonda’s tenacity, and her outspoken anti-Vietnam activism prohibits us from buying into the place her traditional sheltered wife character begins. But that doesn’t last for long. Everyone involved, not just Fonda, from Jon Voight to Hal Ashby to producer Jerome Hellman, were heavily concerned with post-war realities. Coming Home is a best case scenario message picture in the guise of an achingly human love story.
This was not a film I expected to have this kind of response to. Perhaps most of all, I had an all-in investment in the pairing of Jane Fonda and Jon Voight. Their relationship, which begins with, of all things, a broken pissbag, makes Coming Home one of the most erotic films I’ve ever seen. The two actors share a vitality that is not only palpable, but supports the core of the film; the basic necessity for people to connect with each other in times of strife, immeasurable hardship, and an unknown future.
4. Days of Heaven (US, Malick) (RW)
Already with his sophomore feature, Terrence Malick brings his storytelling into the ether, the outer zones. The characters and their drama are contained in something bigger than themselves; the cornfields and the magic hour, and the narration of a child (Linda Manz), mumbling and halting. Her perception is omniscient if not all-knowing. It begins as a romanticized snapshot, not of Depression-era workers, but of what surrounds them. It gradually transforms into something else altogether, a kind of melodrama hiding in plain sight. The central house is like a mirage, and Days of Heaven is triangular, made up of people, land, and machinery, each interacting and needing the other. Like Badlands, there is a honeymoon period for these characters, the makeshift family, isolated but not wanting for anything. “I think the devil was on the farm” is just one of many Biblical allusions. Days of Heaven is as immense as the universe and as microscopic as a single house in the middle of a wheat field.
3. Satiemania (short) (Yugoslavia, Gašparović) (FTV)
Visualizing the music of Eric Satie, Satiemania alternates between the mocking hustle-bustle of city life, where outsized caricatures fill the streets, and the melancholy hours where women drink and undress, their bodies of various shapes and sizes, eternally longing for something more. Not only do I love Satie’s “Gnossienne” pieces, but Gašparović’s animation style is exactly the kind of aesthetic I tend to respond to; messy and sketchy, action shown through ever-morphing dissolves as if the nights are forever slipping away; moments are lost even as they happen. The illustrations are exclusively about people, whether singled out in a crowd, pushed together in a bar, or by themselves in their most private moments.
2. Blue Collar (US, Schrader) (FTV) Blue Collar is probably the best working mans drama I’ve ever seen. Systematically shattering, from the bowels of an incensed and very hungry monster. These are people at their wit’s end, backed into a corner by corrupt unions, with no exit strategy. Blue Collar is frighteningly relevant in its portrayal of corruption as a trap that sees working class solidarity as just another thing to be exploited, suppressed and dismantled. Paul Schrader, in his debut film, is on the front line with them, never taking the easy way out. It’s direct and didactic and illuminating.
There is the scene where our three characters, played by Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto, strategize about the stolen ledger. They talk about their options and each guy has a different idea. Three options are presented, yet it feels like they have none. These men aren’t stupid. They see through it all and make a concerted effort to exploit the exploiters. And it backfires. Big time.
The three main actors apparently all hated each other in real life, and it’s one of those things that results in a live-wire chemistry and onscreen camaraderie that authentically sings to the tune of empathetic disgruntlement. We become so attached to them and what they are to each other, whether together in the thick of it or blowing off steam. I sat at the edge of my seat sensing the trajectory of the film and wishing so badly to be proven wrong. Richard Pryor in particular is electric, by turns exhausted and exhausting. So earnest is he in his desire for change, a naive hope that he can make the system better if only he comes at it from the right angle.
1. Girlfriends (US, Weill) (FTV)
Let’s be honest, Frances Ha is an uncanny reworking of Girlfriends; narratively, structurally, thematically. Except this is way better (sorry ’bout it). There are hardly any films about women made by women from this era. Nowadays the fumbling twenty-something trying to figure it all out in NYC is an indie cliche. But in 1978?
This is a film to be cherished by everyone who sees it. No lie, my life can now be split into Before Girlfriends and After Girlfriends. Claudia Weill and screenwriter Vicki Polon have created something truly disarming here; an open and honest work about female friendships rightfully treated as life-defining, where change equals tailspin, resentment, and adjustment. It is equally about being comfortable with living alone, being comfortable with not living alone, and trying to build a creative career in a tough racket. The film is unstudied and charmingly choppy, primarily homegrown in its form. And at the same time, it’s entirely assured; the film and Susan (Melanie Mayron) are uniformly comfortable in their own skin, even when on the surface they doubt and fret. There is a painfully sincere and recognizable quintessential harmony at work with no affectation in sight.
The film admires Susan, loves Susan, but isn’t bewitched by her in that familiar way (you know what I’m talking about) where we shake our heads and coo ‘oh you’ at her. The film would be great regardless, but Melanie Mayron as Susan Weinblatt cements this as an all-time top 100 film of mine. I cannot even begin to do her justice. Drowning in hair with second grade glasses and a goofy and frumpy demeanor, she is completely laid-back in her neurosis, and somehow not awkward despite all this. A genuine character, and a special performance in a truly special film.
I just started a second job so it’ll take a little while for the final Top Ten By Year post for 1978 to be written and go up (and then on to 1925!) Accompanied with that post will be a full list of the 1978 films I’ve seen and a Blind Spots list. For now, here are my ten honorable mentions. I always list and briefly write about five honorable mentions in my Top Ten By Year posts, but for 1978 and 1992 desperate times called for desperate measures. I’ve fallen in love with so many 1978 releases, which, of course is a great ‘problem’ to have. The fact that Violette Noziere, Pretty Baby and Long Weekend couldn’t even make the honorable mentions post shows how crowded this year was.
These 10 (plus Grease!) films are in alphabetical order
FTV = First Time Viewing RW = Rewatch LTF = Long Time Favorite
Autumn Sonata/Höstsonaten(Sweden, Bergman) (RW)
I figured that Ingmar Bergman’s mother-daughter showdown was a sure bet for my final ten. The Magician made my 1958 list even though I far prefer this over that. But 1958 was a different template with different scales.
Autumn Sonata could also be called ‘The Meeting of the Bergmans’. This was the one and only collaboration between Ingmar and Ingrid, and it carried a finality for both (it was the director’s last exclusively theatrical release and the star’s final feature film appearance). The familial chamber drama pits mousy neglected daughter Eva (Liv Ullman) against her famous pianist mother Charlotte (Bergman) after a lifetime of pent-up resentment and stunted emotional baggage. The toxic and frayed dynamic shows itself through the film’s bifurcated halves. An initial impenetrable barrier of niceties and separate stirrings gives way to one fateful evening when Eva’s charges against Charlotte spill out in hyperventilating fits of anger; the director’s penchant for inescapable close-ups carries through all.
Ullman plays the final half of Autumn Sonata as if possessed by the distilled anxiety of her child-self; the mere presence of Charlotte triggers an uncontrollable summoning bigger than herself. Eva’s collapse into memory is so total that presentational single-image flashbacks make their way into the film. Gradually, the accusations against Charlotte become more and more vague, unformed, and even off the mark. By the end, we’ve seen something possibly irreparable, almost delusional, take place. Changed but not changed.
Dawn of the Dead ( US/Italy, Romero) (RW)
For a horror film so universally worshiped, it’s easy to forget how peculiar the squib-filled Dawn of the Dead really is. It’s these peculiarities that so strongly lure me to it. The ragtag family of four. The zombies with an unsophisticated chalky blue tint on their cadaverous skin. The inevitable reclamation of consumerist domesticity as a mode of denial. The boldly goofy shifts in tone. The irreverent and hassle-free shopping montages. And spearheading all of this is the headstrong smoothness of Ken Foree as Peter, quite possibly my favorite male horror flick protagonist. This is George Romero at the peak of his powers.
Drunken Master (Hong Kong, Yuen) (FTV)
1978 was the year Jackie Chan’s career catapulted to stardom with Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow. Replacing Bruce Lee as Hong Kong’s top box-office star, Chan molded his early screen persona as a scrappy underdog with acrobatic prowess, “comically exaggerated panic”(Bordwell, “Planet Hong Kong”), and an ever-resourceful reliance on slapstick. In the ludicrously fun Drunken Master, he plays the not with assured capability, but with a deer-in-headlights expression and the illusion that he is frantically grabbing any props within reach to defeat his opponent. Watching him feels like a sort of onscreen miracle, and every time I see a Jackie Chan film I marvel at his genius anew.
Eyes of Laura Mars (US, Kershner) (RW)
Soft focus, red herrings, confounding twist ending, voyeurism; this is what American giallo looks like. This is also what pop sleaze looks like. Fashion photographer Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) unwittingly sees through the eyes of a killer whose crimes eerily mirror her controversial work. Laura’s work is surface-level provocation, using artfully arranged violence to sell product. Funny thing is, the nature of her work and the film itself are kind of inextricable from each other. There’s some commentary about the public reception to Laura’s photographs, questioning her responsibility to people who use the images she creates as violent inspiration (something else I love about this film is that it’s a horror flick about adults with full-fledged careers). There’s a perhaps unintentional level of self-reflexivity going on here (who knows; scripted by John Carpenter yet produced by Jon Peters, a man devoid of self-awareness), but regardless the film playfully inverts itself in multiple ways, such as when Laura, seeing through the eyes of the killer, is looking at herself as the next victim, as prey. The ultimate voyeuristic conundrum.
Grease (US, Kleiser) (LTF)
In fourth grade we were assigned to make plaster masks for an art project. I made mine of Stockard Channing’s Rizzo. Sure I made her look like a melting hunk of cheese, but the dedication was there. The biggest money-maker of 1978 is a seamless blend of generations, a venue for peppy dressed-up youth to play out. It was released at just the right time, riding off the 50’s revival of American Graffiti from several years earlier and John Travolta’s newfound and entirely justifiable super-stardom. If you want to know what Grease is, just look at the climactic “You’re The One That I Want” number. Grease is Danny and Sandy’s DNA’s combined, a rare breed of wholesome filth that surely contributed to its mass appeal, feeding off the need for a hit musical that wasn’t dour in content and tone or cultish in origin and transgression.
Halloween (US, Carpenter) (RW)
John Carpenter wastes no time bringing deep-focus compositions and inquisitive camerawork into the daytime streets of ‘Haddonfield, Illinois’, creating an unassuming town scaffold where peaceful suburbia ought to be. Michael Myers is a stark specter, his blank white presence is direct and his sneakiness is presented directly, entirely without sneak. The camera is on a constant swinging pendulum, roving between Myers and our trio of girls. We are never with either of them. Not truly. Halloween occupies the space between predator and prey.
One of the most successful independent films ever made, Halloween established John Carpenter as a defining directorial presence moving into the 80’s and kicked off the (while being far from the first one) the fad of slice-and-dice slashers. But Halloween has an atmospheric restraint, and is far more interested in sustaining and encircling the unknown; qualities that can’t be found in its offspring. Prelude aside, it takes fifty minutes before someone is killed. That’s a long way from the kill-sex-kill-break-nudity-kill structure that slashers would become known for.
In a Year of 13 Moons (West Germany, Fassbinder) (FTV)
Rainer Werner Fassbinder made In a Year of 13 Moons in response to his former lover’s (Armin Meier) suicide. Opening with a beating, and text that tells of the fated tragedy of the cosmos, Fassbinder underlines that Elvira (Volker Spengler) is destined for doom. And it only goes downhill from there. It’s a high bar to clear, but this is Fassbinder’s most confrontational, openly hopeless work, a fusion of his evocative melodrama and his more anarchic leanings. When Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop” casually plays in the background of a lengthy scene, there is a conscious effort to make us feel off-center in our own skin. But nothing compares to the butchery sequence, in which uncompromising graphic footage of animal slaughter is coupled with Elvira’s increasingly frenzied pitch of a voiceover (think Willy Wonka on the boat or Judge Doom’s toon voice), adding up to a nauseating visual and aural assault the likes of which I’ve never quite experienced.
If I could only pick one performance from 1978, Volker Spengler as Elvira would be it. He makes Elvira and her dangerous acquiescence and her comfort in the familiarity of abuse, all too human and frustrating (Elvira can be a very troubling character when looking solely through the lens of trans portrayals but that’s a whole other conversation). Demure and devoid of self-regard, his face begs everyone and anyone to give her something, any reason to keep going. Nobody does.
Killer of Sheep (US, Burnett) (FTV)
A major work of American cinema. A mosaic of evocative naturalism that observes, empathizes, and communicates through the mundane routines of life in the Watts area of Los Angeles. Intimately caught between narrative and free-form, adults and children, and yet immovably rooted in the experience of impoverished black America.
Krabat – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice/Čarodějův učeň(Czechoslovakia, West Germany, Zeman) (FTV) Krabat was the penultimate film from seminal Czech filmmaker Karel Zeman. His far-reaching influence as an animator has inspired the likes of many, and after seeing this it’s easy to see why. In this dark-fantasy fairy tale, cut-out animation is assembled with carefully placed pieces of live-action background. The effect is a richly textured aesthetic where the stiff and often immovable expressions of the characters reflect the constrictions of the poor boys of the story, who are lured into forced labor.
Krabat is about conquering the oppressive and seemingly preternatural force of tyranny, a tyranny that even conquers the mode of storytelling for the evil sorcerer is the only character given a speaking voice. The story is told by adult Krabat’s narration with the (even in its darkest turns) straightforward remove of a fairy tale which further forces the viewer to rely on the directness of the fixed animation. Krabat and his fellow captive apprentices learn to fear the cycle of life, and the inevitability of what is to come based on the season. Emphasis is given to the beauty of the seasons; at the inescapable and isolated mill, what should be a comfort has been curdled into something of a constant harbinger. And of course, it is love which must conquer all.
Thank God It’s Friday (US, Klane) (FTV)
Just so you know, disco music and the ‘One Crazy Day/Night’ scenario are two of my favorite things to find in a film. Put them together? Time capsule movie gold. Everyone wants in on the discotheque where The Commodores are set to perform with dance contest in tow. A wide variety of characters fleetingly bounce off each other throughout. Highlights include Jeff Goldblum as a sleazy ladykiller, Debra Winger as a clumsy gal, a young Terri Nunn (!!), and Otis Day as ‘Wrong Way Floyd’ who you should never put in charge of your instruments. If the film had a little more shape to it (with this many story threads, it should never feel like the film is killing time) it might have made my final ten. As it is, it’ll have to settle for being the kind of film I can randomly put on to enjoy again and again.
An Unmarried Woman (US, Mazursky) (FTV) Jill Clayburgh prancing around in her undies, giggling uncontrollably in the throes of foreplay, and performing with a rare in-character spontaneity. All this and more support Paul Mazursky’s dramedy about a woman trying to rebuild a life after her husband abruptly leaves her. There is a fascinating knowingness and a concerted effort to tap into the what the ‘modern woman’s picture’ may look like that is by turns outdated and still shockingly relevant. As Erica tries to figure out who and what will define her new life, Mazursky displays an immense care in the particular wants, needs, struggles, inner life, experiences, sexuality, and empowerment of his heroine.
My What I’ll Remember posts are an ongoing tradition. A logbook of sorts, they pay tribute to all the year-specific viewing I’ve done over the past however many months. It also stresses that, while the Top Ten list is the crux of this whole project, it’s really a means to an end. It goes without saying, but the process and journey of watching and re-watching these films is most important. I’ve recently looked back on previous What I’ll Remember posts and they evoke the feeling of a photo album, flipping through filmic memories of all shapes and sizes. Still to come are my Ten Honorable Mentions plus Grease post and the Top Ten.
At the end of the post I have a Suggested Double Features section and a compilation of some of my Favorite Shots of the year.
10 Performances of 1978: Volker Spengler (In a Year of 13 Moons), Geraldine Chaplin (Remember My Name), Carol Kane (The Mafu Cage), Richard Pryor (Blue Collar), Ingrid Bergman (Autumn Sonata), Jill Clayburgh (An Unmarried Woman), Melanie Mayron (Girlfriends), Isabelle Huppert (Violette Noziere), Christopher Reeve (Superman), Robert De Niro (The Deer Hunter)
Freeze frame endings (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Pretty Baby, Capricorn One, Eyes of Laura Mars, Girlfriends, Magic, Blue Collar, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, An Unmarried Woman, The Deer Hunter)
The fashion photo shoot montage scenes inEyes of Laura Mars
“You’re my friend Jerry, but you’re thinking white”(Blue Collar)
The makeshift family unit inDawn of the Dead
The end ofInvasion of the Body Snatchers; still about the scariest thing I can think of. Poor Veronica Cartwright
The isolated presentational snapshot flashbacks ofAutumn Sonata
Liv Ullman and Ingrid Bergman going head-to-head with pent-up mother-daughter angst inAutumn Sonata
Denny Zeitlin’s score for Invasion of the Body Snatchersas prelude for Brian Reitzell’s work on “Hannibal”
Abortion talk (Interiors, A Wedding, Long Weekend, Girlfriends, The Meetings of Anna, Dawn of the Dead, Autumn Sonata, An Unmarried Woman)
Women in suits (Isabelle Adjani, The Driver; Maggie Smith, Death on the Nile; Fiona Lewis, The Fury)
“You got a chair!” “You changed your hair!” (Coming Home)
The half buried manatee carcass that gradually makes its way up the sands inLong Weekend
1978 Movie Marathon with Amanda! (Drunken Master, The Cheap Detective, Girlfriends, Long Weekend)
American pop giallo (Eyes of Laura Mars)
Favorite Characters of 1978: Susan Weinblatt (Melanie Mayron;Girlfriends), Annie (Nancy Loomis; Halloween), Rizzo (Stockard Channing; Grease), Peter (Ken Foree; Dawn of the Dead), Gillian Bellaver (Amy Irving; The Fury), Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty; Heaven Can Wait)
Goldie Hawn = cutest librarian ever (Foul Play)
Terrence Malick already bringing his work into the ether for his sophomore film (Days of Heaven)
“Flick my Bic!!” (Blue Collar)
Has Alan Alda always been this insufferable and I’ve just never noticed it? (Same Time, Next Year)
The introduction of the five deadly venoms(Five Deadly Venoms)
Put aside the present day creepy Uncle vibes for a second and appreciate that there is nothing quite as deliciously sexy as John Travolta in his prime (Grease)
First experiences with these directors: Karel Zeman (Krabat), Jerzy Skolimowski (The Shout), Chantal Akerman (The Meetings of Anna), Les Blank (Always for Pleasure), Derek Jarman (Jubilee), Paul Mazursky (An Unmarried Woman), Yuen Woo-Ping (Drunken Master), Chang Cheh (Five Deadly Venoms), Liu Chia-Liang (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Heroes of the East)
The emphasis and innovative use of sound inThe Shout
Wow, so Eli Wallach is weirdly attractive as the elder charming rabbi inGirlfriends
Hilarious peripheral characters ‘One Song Tinker’ (Scatman Crothers) inThe Cheap Detectiveand ‘Wrong Way Floyd’ (Otis Day) inThank God It’s Friday
The radical ending of You Are Not Alone
Death by paint fumes (Blue Collar)
The “part Mary Hartman, part Ingmar Bergman” gal pal gatherings inAn Unmarried Woman
Maggie Smith playing an actress who loses an Oscar only to win an Oscar in real life for said performance. Surely the only time this has ever happened? (California Suite)
The painful experience of watching the unforgivably cartoonishSame Time, Next Year
The butchery scene inIn a Year of 13 Moons; a raw collision of visual and aural assault quite unlike anything I’ve experienced
Speaking of; graphic slaughterhouse scenes inKiller of SheepandIn a Year of 13 Moons
Jesus H. Christ I had suppressed the grueling Russian Roulette-as-dramatic-device scenes inThe Deer Hunter. Sound and image marry the casual pandemonium of the room with the intimate begging and communicative gazing between the actors. Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage are all-in, and the experience looks legitimately tormenting for all
The rigorous training section ofThe 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Body as focus, object of transformation and unparalleled discipline
The aggressively unfunny bedroom farce vignette ofCalifornia Suitewith Walter Matthau and Elaine May. Who would have thought thatA New Leaf reunion could taste so sour?
The way the blow-up doll floats out of Dudley Moore’s closet inFoul Play
Crucial lesson learned from The Silent Partner; whatever you do, do not fuck with Christopher Plummer
Mother and daughter bed confessional inThe Meetings of Anna
The charged sexual chemistry between Jane Fonda and Jon Voight inComing Home
The ingenious reveal that “Jeepers Creepers” is the “As Time Goes By” equivalent in the spoofThe Cheap Detective
The immediate and out-of-nowhere inciting incident in Blue Sunshine
Jeff Goldblum’s entrance in Thank God It’s Friday
Debut films from Robert Zemeckis (I Wanna Hold Your Hand), Errol Morris (Gates of Heaven), Paul Schrader (Blue Collar)
The Neils ofThe Last Waltz
The eternal magic hour coupled with Linda Manz’s narration inDays of Heaven
What a year for horror; even if you don’t like half of these it’s an impressive group: (Halloween, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dawn of the Dead, The Fury, Blue Sunshine, The Shout, Long Weekend, Martin, Alucarda, Magic, The Mafu Cage, Eyes of Laura Mars, Patrick, Piranha, The Grapes of Death, etc)
Nancy Allen in the Beatles’s hotel room, molesting and lusting over leftovers, instruments and whatever else she can get her hands on. In a just world, these moments would be iconic (I Wanna Hold Your Hand)
Mia Farrow playing crazy ladies (Death on the Nile, A Wedding). InA Weddingshe’s like a woman-child version of that creepy photo from Repulsion
The “Born to Hand Jive” scene inGrease, my favorite movie scene as a young teen. Still watch it constantly. Actually, can you all hold on for just a few minutes? *runs off*
“Can you read my mind?” (Superman)
The shopping montages ofDawn of the Dead
Instances of films I’m conflicted about being ultimately more memorable and/or must-see than ‘solid’ works (Fedora, A Wedding, Remember My Name, Jubilee)
Well hello there Brad Davis (Midnight Express)
Paul Dooley and Dennis Christopher playing father and son inA Wedding, a year beforeBreaking Away
Diana Ross frantically running away from crows inThe Wiz
Greatest ending ever or greatest ending ever? (The Fury)
The truly brutal child abuse/abandonment/killing inThe Demon
My slight obsession with Nell Campbell resurfaces (Jubilee)
Greatest final line to a film?; “The electric blanket I had sent her came back undelivered.” (voiceover) (Fedora)
Another great final moment: Peter: “How much fuel do we have?” Fran: “Not much” Peter: (with a shrug of a delivery) “……alright” (Dawn of the Dead)
2 of the 5 Best Picture nominees being about women and their sexuality, their experiences, their lives. Can this please stop being an anomaly? I’m begging you (Coming Home, An Unmarried Woman)
Melanie Mayron as Susan Weinblatt = my new hero (Girlfriends)
Tommy Lee Jones + turtlenecks/Tim Curry + V-neck sweater (Eyes of Laura Mars, The Shout)
Least Favorite Characters of 1978:George (Alan Alda; Same Time, Next Year), Joey (Mary Beth Hurt;Interiors – basically everyone inInteriorsexcept Pearl, but Joey especially for her disgusting ‘vulgarian’ remark), Kehaar (voiced by Zero Mostel; Watership Down), Richard ‘Ringo’ Klaus (Eddie Deezen;I Wanna Hold Your Hand), all the supporting dudes inGrease, everyone in The Demon, the central couple inLong Weekend, Toyoji (Tatsuya Fuji);Empire of Passion)
“Intelligence would take the bloom off your carnality” (Despair)
Sample dialogue fromAvalanche: Mia Farrow: (looking at a picture on the wall) “What is that?” Robert Forster: “Guess” Mia Farrow: “A goat?” Robert Forster: “A ram” Mia Farrow: “Oh, a ram”
Introducing!Dennis Franz(A Wedding, The Fury, Remember My Name), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), Daryl Hannah (The Fury), Eddie Deezen (Grease, I Wanna Hold Your Hand), Jim Broadbent (The Shout), James Cromwell (The Cheap Detective), Kathy Bates (Straight Time), Alfre Woodard (Remember My Name), Mark McClure (I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Superman, Coming Home), Kevin Bacon (National Lampoon’s Animal House)
“A space flower?” (Invasion of the Body Snatchers)
Christopher Plummer, dead and in drag, descending down the escalator inThe Silent Partner
Depiction of nature as something all-consuming and inescapable inEmpire of Passion
The amazing wall-to-wall disco soundtrack in the preposterously funThank God It’s Friday
Fully appreciating Christopher Reeve inSuperman; adorable, eerily perfect, his performance pitched so we somehow buy into a world where mere glasses can obscure Clark Kent’s identity
The ‘Shout’ scene inNational Lampoon’s Animal House
The near bottomless slapstick fun ofDrunken Master
The revelatory and genuinely unnerving work by Geraldine Chaplin inRemember My Nameand Carol Kane in The Mafu Cage
Capricorn Onedesperately needing to ditch everything and become a deadpan detective romcom with Elliot Gould and Karen Black
The rare female protagonist at the center of a 1970’s conspiracy thriller (Coma) (the only other example I know of isThe Stepford Wives)
Realizing that the beast inPanna a Netvor is actually Birdman
Roaming through the streets of ‘Haddonfield’ in broad daylight (Halloween)
The “how do we know you’re that good” scene inThe Driver
Bruce Conner + Devo = perfect combination (Mongoloid)
“I love you once, I love you twice I love you more than beans and rice” (Pretty Baby)
“Peggy Ann Snow, Peggy Ann Snow Please let me follow wherever you go” (Magic)
Jill Clayburgh ballet-prancing in her undies inAn Unmarried Woman
The dummy inMagicmaking me scream out loud in terror
Aging male stars from 50’s Hollywood in their tighty-wighties (Kirk Douglas in The Fury, William Holden in Fedora)
Queen Isabelle Huppert kicking off her reign of enigmatic and unknowable women inViolette Noziere
Annie’s hiked-up yellow socks inHalloween
Re-enacting Jerry Lewis (In a Year of 13 Moons)
The re-watch ofHalloweenthat finally clicked for me in a big way
The Detective: “I really like chasing you” The Driver: “Sounds like you’ve got a problem” (The Driver)
The women ofJubilee, especially Jordan lip-syncing to Suzi Pinns’s “Rule Britannia”. Everyone else can go home
The far more compelling than they needed to be supporting cast ofEyes of Laura Mars (Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, René Auberjonois)
Speaking of great casts, pretty sure the combination of Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum can’t be topped (Invasion of the Body Snatchers)
Banner Years for (not exhaustive):Brooke Adams (Days of Heaven, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Richard Pryor (Blue Collar, The Wiz, California Suite), Gordon Liu (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Heroes of the East, Shaolin Mantis (haven’t seen last one), Elliott Gould (The Silent Partner, Capricorn One, The Big Sleep (haven’t see the last one)), Mia Farrow (Death on the Nile, Avalanche, A Wedding), Maggie Smith (Death on the Nile, California Suite), Suzannah York (The Shout, Superman, The Silent Partner), Jeff Goldblum (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Thank God It’s Friday, Remember My Name), Alan Bates (The Shout, An Unmarried Woman), John Hurt (Midnight Express, The Shout, Watership Down (voice), The Lord of the Rings (voice) (haven’t seen last one)), Jane Fonda (Coming Home, California Suite, Comes a Horseman (haven’t seen last one))
So many things I could pick fromThe Fury, but I’ll go with the peppy Paragon Institute montage accompanied by a proto-Harry Potter section of John Williams’s score (Video games are played! Frisbees are thrown! Laughs are had! Dogs are played with!)
All the sketchy dudes that pop up inGirlfriends
The “get Fats to shut up for five minutes” scene in Magic
The final scene ofCapricorn Onebringing me to tears (from laughter; slow-motion been more hilarious)
The pants burning scene in Drunken Masterbringing me to tears (also from laughter)
The mosaic of evocative naturalism inKiller of Sheep
Suggested 1978 Double Features: The Fury/Eyes of Laura Mars(telekinetic horror cinema that plays with the act of ‘seeing’ to create intimacy with characters; filmmakers finding ways of allowing a film to interact with itself) You Are Not Alone/Pretty Baby(Naturalistic coming-of-age films with controversial material regarding the telling/depiction of children (using child actors) in stories focused on sex/nudity. You can also thrown inThe Demonfor really thorny treatment of children but re: violence) Violette Noziere/Remember My Name(Elusive Women Double Feature) I Wanna Hold Your Hand/Thank God It’s Friday(Music-centric One Crazy Day/Night films) The Shout/Long Weekend(use of sound/horror relating to Australia) Drunken Master/Superman(Adorable Leading Men)
Favorite Shots of 1978 (in no way is this exhaustive. It’s more of a sampling):