I love the movies, or I should say: I loved the movies. In the words of Badfinger, "something's happenin' here, what it is, ain't exactly clear...".
What is going on in Hollywood? How can they put out the stuff they call film? Are all the movie critics across this country drinking some Jim Jones kool-aid? So few questions, so much time...oooh, strike that, reverse it.
I like to think of myself as a discerning movie-goer. I have a select group of people with whom I see movies every third week or so. We've seen movies that are Academy-award winners, and movies that should never have been printed to celluloid, but each time, I thought we knew what we were getting into and we made the choice. Our group would go in with its collective eyes open, but lately, a disturbing trend has revealed itself...movies, with rare exception, have become stale, but read some reviews, and you'd be convinced that Hollywood is churning out classics.
Case in point: Children of Men.
Critics say: Oscar worthy, cutting edge, moving, thought-provoking, 4 stars, two thumbs up...such great reviews, even Gene Siskel is giving it a thumb up.
Eric and his movie group say: Ishtar was better. Of the seven on us, 4 thought it was one of the worst movies ever, and three of us thought it was bad, but not horrible. Not a great endorsement.
I think that partly, Hollywood makes movies for themselves. With their bloated wallets and bloated egos, they celebrate themselves with elaborate parties and award ceremonies. They celebrate a director's "vision", but if "vision" is a plotless, colorless film without character backstories and development (I guess the director's creative consultant was Helen Keller), they love it even more.
Without beating this horse to death too much, I posit 5 films for your consideration. These are not my all time best, not my all time worst, nor my all time mediocre, just 5 films that I was thinking about during this post. Love them, hate them, don't even know them? Here they are:
1. Billy Jack (1971)--who doesn't love a story featuring a Vietnam era veteran single-handedly protecting the hippie Native American "Freedom School" from the oppressive Sheriff, his kid, and the other hick locals right out of Central Casting. Frankly, the closing theme, "One Tin Soldier" by Coven, rolling as Billy Jack is taken into custody and rides in the back of a cruiser while all the students raise their right fists in a show if "Native American" solidarity is chilling. LOVE this movie, independently made by the star Tom Loughlin and his wife Delores Taylor. I have the Billy Jack 4 DVD boxed set, which includes the classic "Born Losers" from 1968, a prequel where Billy Jack makes his debut, "Billy Jack", sequel "The Trial of Billy Jack" and its sequel "Billy Jack Goes to Washington." Unfortunately, Coven does not perform in the sequels. This movie should be required viewing for every highschooler, in an effort to teach tolerance and acceptance. "Listen children, to a story, that was written long ago..."
2. Massacre at Central High (1976)--This movie has to resonate with every "B" list kid in high school. New transfer student finds himself the victim of a high school bullies, kills each of them in extreme ways in order exact revenge and free the other "B"-listers from their oppression, only to find the "B"-listers opprssing those deemed to be below them. The film explores high school hierarchy, student uprising and rebellion, ill-fated love, corruption from power, social liberation, and extreme acts of violence. Couldn't be better!!!
3. Bless the Beasts & Children (1971)--A Stanley Kramer movie. He produced one of my all time favorites, "The Caine Mutiny" (for another post in the future). This poignant film focuses on "troubled" teens sent to a boys' camp. The campers discover buffalo being "hunted" in pens, and set out to save them. This movie is disturbing on many levels, and leaves you wondering who the troubled really are, the boys, or their parents and the hunters. You can't go wrong with the Academy Award nominated theme sung by the Carpenters. Will anyone be saying that about "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from 2006's "Crash." Not likely!
4. Over the Edge (1979)--a staple of afterschool, early afternoon HBO in the early 80s. These were the days when HBO didn't start broadcasting until 5:00pm, and just ran a test pattern the rest of the time. And, there was only 1 HBO channel. Can you believe that!!! Only one! This movie features a young Matt Dillon. Parents move to a planned community called "New Granada" that has nothing to offer teenagers: no mall, no movie theatre, no fast food joint, no crack den. While the parents all focus on attracting businesses and industry to their new community, their kids are getting bored. After an accidental shooting, the kids go monkey-house crazy and show the parents they are bored as hell, and aren't going to take it anymore (I've seen something like this somewhere before...). The soundtrack features a bunch of Cheap Trick tunes, some stuff by the Cars, and the classic "Oooh Child" by "The Five Stairsteps." Righteous!
5. The Warriors (1979)--I could write my doctoral thesis on this movie! Something like: "Reactionary Film Viewing: Social Responses to Depiction of Non-Realistic Fictional Recreations of Imaginary Situations", or some crap like that. The tagline from the movie says it all: These are the Armies of The Night. They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber cops five to one. They could rule New York. Tonight they're all out for the Warriors.
For those who grew up under a rock, the Warriors was a gang movie. THE gang movie to end all gang movies. Storyline: gang gets accused of killing an opposing gang's leader, gets chased through NY by every other gang, including the Sopranos, and tries to make it back to their home turf before they get their comuppance. Serious, violent, cutting edge. So violent (allegedly) that some theatres banned it after gang wars broke out after showings. Talk about movie hype and publicity. The producers of this movie could not have asked for better...this movie set the stage for the battle of "which movie can get worst press and great publicity" between "The Warriors" and "Caligula" (which, by the way, if finally out on DVD with a "director's cut", as if we needed a "director's cut"!) Anyways..."The Warriors" is what makes movies like "Escape from New York" and "New Jack City" possible, if that's a good thing. Having seen "The Warriors" many times, I assure you, it is! Warriors...come out and playaaaaayyyy...
Hollywood just doesn't make them like this anymore!