Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number One

#1 — Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974) According to Robert Towne, it was a vice cop who gave him the title Chinatown and the backstory of cynicism it conveys. He asked the officer what he did when he was stationed in Chinatown, and the man answered, “As little as possible,” an exchange that was eventually carried almost intact onto the screen. There were so many dueling dialects at play among the complicated gang alliances and conflicts, that it was extremely difficult for the police to sort out what was going on. The men on the force often didn’t know if their … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number One

Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number Four

#4 — A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971) Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is widely considered a classic. I can’t think of another film in the same exalted status that is as brilliantly, exuberantly, comically savage. In adapted Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novella of the same name, Kubrick tore free the ferocious id of humanity and laid it bare, ultimately questioning whether the true problem was the roiling internal rage and impulsive hedonism of people or the cloying attempts of society to contain those instincts. Untamed passion may lead to random acts of violence and terror against innocent people, but isn’t … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number Four

Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number Five

#5 — The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) Through this process, I’ve already confessed to being out of step with the critical consensus on Francis Ford Coppola. While The Godfather showed up in this tally, other likely contenders–including its sequel and Apocalypse Now, which jumped past the mafia epics to become Coppola’s highest ranking film in the most recent Sight & Sound poll–were bypassed. The clearest statement I can give about my overall view of the director’s films is that The Conversation is far and away my favorite film to bear his cinematic signature. It is everything that Coppola’s more … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number Five

Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number Ten

#10 — Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976) I don’t think it’s quite right to say that all great films are timeless. I do think there are broadly translatable qualities to the very best works–things such as wit, grace, intellectual heft and emotional piquancy–that can ensure an eternal appeal even when a film is wedded to the era in which it was made. That conviction makes me somewhat reluctant to contextualize a film on the basis of its copyright date. I’m not entirely adverse to the practice, of course, and it’s especially useful to measure the insights of Network against the state … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number Ten