Movie-Still Monday: Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds and Candice Bergen in Starting Over (1979). Reynolds gives a very human and sensitive performance as Phil Potter, a newly divorced man navigating life as a single adult dating and ultimately having to choose between his ex wife (Candice Bergen) and the new love in his life, Marilyn (Jill Clayburg). Watching Reynolds in Starting Over reminds us how his presence in film made “breathing easier.” He breathed beautifully fun life into cinema during the 70s and 80s. #RIP Burt!

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1984: A Blockbuster Year

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Ronald Reagan brought that oops moment to the world as he tested a microphone before a radio address; later that November Regan won a landslide re-election. That was the peak of the Reagan era. That was 1984.

1984 was, indeed, an unforgettable year!Mary Lou Retton won gymnastic gold and American hearts at the L.A. Olympics. The reining Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was stripped of her title because of a nude photo spread in Penthouse magazine. Madonna became everyone’s “boy toy” with her “Like a Virgin” performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Marvin Gaye was killed by his father; Bernie Goetz gunned down four muggers in the NYC subway; millions starved in Ethiopia; and Bob Geldoff responded with “Do They Know it’s Christmas Time.” Thousands died in the Union Carbide Corporation disaster in Bhopal, India; and Clara Peller asked, “Where’s the Beef?” Cindy Lauper proclaimed that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”; Prince let us know what it sounds like “When Doves Cry”; and Tina Turner made a big comeback and asked, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Clearly, 1984 was a year of big news, big events, and, thanks to the number one TV show, Dynasty, really of big shoulder pads! But as the ashes of have long since settled, it’s ’84’s hit movies that remain with us and have stood the test of time.

Besides being the year that introduced the first PG-13 movie, (Red Dawn), 1984 was the birth year for a number of hit features that spawned numerous sequels: The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy. Comedies were probably the most notable feature of ’84. While the year didn’t produce any great American Film Institute darlings as weighty as Citizen Kane, it did, however, release an impressive number of comedies that are still fresh and still freakin’ funny today. Already mentioned are Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy; but also there are All of Me, This is Spinal Tap, Splash, Revenge of the Nerds, and Romancing the Stone.

1984 didn’t just release blockbusters that kept bottom line obsessed studio heads filled with coke and lap dancing blonds, it also saw the release of some lesser known films that have endured to become classics, films such as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America; Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas; Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. And the cult classics such as John Sayles The Brother from Another Planet, and the NYC cult horror flick C.H.U.D.

1984 saw Regan era teen angst approach its peak, while the John Hughes’ teen classic, Sixteen Candles, solidified Molly Ringwald as the ’80s’ ginger teen queen and—along with Weird Science that same year—shot Anthony Michael Hall to geek teen stardom, as its new nerd on the rise. The Karate Kid taught us to “Wax on, Wax off,” and A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced slasher fans to a terrifying new evil villain, Freddy Krueger, who entered our nightmares and has remained with us nine sequels later. Not only did teen anxiety influence cinema, but also the collective unease of the Cold War, as 1984 released a cinematic Soviet Union invasion of the U.S.A. in cinematographer and director John Milius’s Red Dawn. The first film to receive a PG-13 rating, Red Dawn was perhaps a bit unbelievable but cathartic, and filled with up-and-coming young stars (Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, and Charlie Sheen); it was a definite reaction to the Cold War anxieties of the 1980s.

 
Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald

1984 was a year of movies filled with classic pop music in such films such as Prince’s Purple Rain, which produced an enduring soundtrack that still holds up today. The concert film Stop Making Sense featured the Talking Heads and was directed by a relative newcomer, Jonathan Demme. Beat Street and Breakin’ capitalized on the popularity of break dancing, and Footloose danced into theaters with its MTV look and a soundtrack that garnered six Billboard magazine top 40 hits. Footloose was promoted again and again; each subsequent music video featured clips from the film, and ultimately kept those bottom-line-obsessed studio heads “Dancing in the Sheets,” and laid the foundation for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

In celebration of that most unforgettable year, I have listed my twenty essential movies of 1984, films that have endured, some that are well crafted, some that capture the spirit of the ’80s—thirty-year-old movies that make us think, sing, dance, scream and, above all else, laugh out loud!
—John David West

David’s 20 Essential Movies of 1984

Ghostbusters

Paris, Texas

Amadeus

The Killing Fields

Once Upon a Time in America

Stop Making Sense


The Terminator

 

This Is Spinal Tap

Beverly Hills Cop


The Karate Kid


Sixteen Candles



Footloose


A Nightmare on Elm Street


Stranger Than Paradise


Purple Rain
Starman


Gremlins


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


The Muppets Take Manhattan


Police Academy

 

 

Click here from more movies from 1984 at IMDB, it’s amazing!

Throwback Thursday Oscar Edition: Who Should Have Won?

Carry and Oscar

The Academy Award is the most coveted award in the film industry.  When one receives this award, it translates to more parts, more fame, and bragging rights that for one year, “I was the best.”  Or not.  Since its inception, the Academy Awards have been known to be a bit of a popularity contest.  This is not to say that it doesn’t get it right sometimes (Vivien Leigh winning for Best Actress in Gone with the Wind, Schindler’s List winning Best Picture, etc.). However, the Oscar prognosticators spend time analyzing the awards and looking to see who the Academy deems the most popular for that year, but not necessarily the best.  There are classic Oscar missteps that have been addressed by many (see Shakespeare in Love winning for Best Picture instead of Saving Private Ryan or How Green was My Valley winning Best Picture over Citizen Kane).  For this Throwback Thursday, managing editor John David West and awards season guru Ariadne Ansbro look back at some of the lesser known Oscar mistakes and tell you who they think should have won.

 

1950 Best Actress
From top left: Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday, Bette Davis in All About Eve, and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.

1950 Best Actress

Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday

Anne Baxter, All About Eve

Bette Davis, All About Eve

Eleanor Parker, Caged

Gloria Swanson, Sunset Blvd.

Ari’s pick: This is a tough one for me.  Judy Holliday was excellent at playing the dizzy blond Billie Dawn who starts to receive an education in Born Yesterday, but she was not even in the same league as Bette Davis or Gloria Swanson. Pitting Davis and Swanson against each other in career defining roles is an almost impossible choice.  However, I am paid to make impossible choices, so I would have to say that the winner that year should have been Bette Davis.  Her performance in All About Eve was the stuff of legends.  Can you imagine anyone else saying, “Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night.”?

David’s pick: Judy Holliday?  Holliday is solid as Billie Dawn, the same role she played on Broadway, but let’s have a reality check here: Bette Davis in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. Choosing between those two is unfair (like Meryl Streep and Jessica Lange in 1982)—and that’s probably why Holliday won. They cancelled each other out. Since life is unfair, I’m going to make a choice and say that the 1950 Best Actress should have gone to Gloria Swanson for her larger than life performance in Sunset Blvd. Her movie icon status was solidified when she said, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

 

1959 Best Actor
Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur and Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot

1959 Best Actor

Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur

Jack Lemmon, Some Like it Hot

James Stewart, Anatomy of a Murder

Laurence Harvey, Room at the Top

Paul Muni, The Last Angry Man

Ari’s pick: I am going to start by saying one of the most unpopular things I could ever say: I don’t like Ben-Hur.  This does not mean that I cannot see past my dislike for a film, yet see the brilliance in a performance (i.e. Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, don’t hate me).  However, Charlton Heston played Charlton Heston.  He was the exact same tough guy that he played in every movie before, and all of the Bible epics he did after.  Laurence Harvey was wonderful in Room at the Top.  I generally think that Harvey is an actor who is largely forgotten about, mostly due to his untimely death at age 45.  James Stewart really played against type in Anatomy of a Murder as a slightly dubious defense attorney who defends a man accused of murder.  In the end, I have to go with Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot.  There are so many great things in this film, but Lemmon is a true stand out.  Sadly, Oscar is not big on honoring comedic performances.  

David’s pick: I have to confess, I’m not familiar with many in this category and not a fan of the tediously long Ben-Hur. My choice is Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot for his comic performance as a musician who is forced to dress as a woman in order to hide from the mob. It’s a solid iconic comic performance in one of cinemas great classic comedies. 

 

 

1962 Best Actress
Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker and Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate

1962 Best Supporting Actress

Patty Duke, The Miracle Worker

Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate

Mary Badham, To Kill a Mockingbird

Shirley Knight, Sweet Bird of Youth

Thelma Ritter, Birdman of Alcatraz

Ari’s pick: Patty Duke won an Oscar for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.  This film was poised to pick up acting Oscars for both Duke and Anne Bancroft in the lead actress category, as the Oscars love to reward people for playing real people and characters who must overcome some sort of physical or mental disability (check and check).  The problem is that years later, the performance that stands out the most in this category is Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate.  These days it is hard to think of Lansbury playing someone so diabolical.  Lansbury’s performance is so memorable that AFI named her portrayal of Mrs. John Iselin as one of the 50 best villains of all time.  

David’s pick: Of all the fine supporting performances in 1962, it’s Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, who should have won for her performance as the cold and calculating, communist agent who is part of a plot to brainwash her son to commit murder. Yes, that’s right, our beloved Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote played an evil communist operative. It’s an unforgettable performance that still holds up today. It’s a damn shame that Lansbury was overlooked for her most deserving Oscar.

 

1985 Best Actress
Geraldine Page in A Trip to Bountiful and Whoppi Goldberg in The Color Purple

 

1985 Best Actress

Geraldine Page, A Trip to Bountiful

Anne Bancroft, Agnes of God

Jessica Lange, Sweet Dreams

Meryl Streep, Out of Africa

Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple

Ari’s pick: Over the years, the Academy has given out awards to actors for their body of work instead of their individual performance in the film for which they are nominated.  For example, Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond and Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.  Both are fine performances, but no one would say that those were necessarily the “best” performances of their careers.  Geraldine Page’s win in 1985 is much the same.  She had been nominated seven times prior to this win and, as it turned out, didn’t have much longer to live (she died in 1987).  So the Academy felt that it was her time.  I don’t.  Whoopi Goldberg should have won for The Color Purple.   She was perfect as a woman trapped due to her circumstance, who eventually learns to find her voice.  The Color Purple was nominated for 11 Oscars, and didn’t win any.  What a shame.

David’s pick: This is a tough one for me because I’m pretty happy with Geraldine Page, but I have to admit that her Best Actress win does kind of feel like a lifetime achievement award. Streep and Lange are fantastic, and I was almost ready to go with Lange as Patsy Cline. But I have to go with Whoopi Goldberg for her breakout performance in The Color Purple. She was the most authentic and heartbreaking thing in a film that tended to be a bit stagy, over the top, and even silly; Goldberg kept it real.

 

 

1993 Best Sup Actor
Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive and Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List

1993 Best Supporting Actor

Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

Ari’s pick: This is a great category.  Each of these performances were so intricate and mesmerizing that they are all memorable.  However, there was one that was better than all the rest: Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List.  In life, most people are not all good or all evil; everyone has nuance.  Fiennes plays Amon Goeth as an evil, conniving, murderous bastard, but he also shows a human side to him.  Fiennes was asked about how he could play Goeth as a human being and not as a mustache twirling villain.  He said, “I mean, I could make a judgment myself privately, this is a terrible, evil, horrific man. But the job was to portray the man, the human being. There’s a sort of banality, that everydayness, that I think was important.”  The best scene that illustrates this is when he attempts to show a human side and does not immediately punish a Jewish worker for not getting the stains off his bathtub.  Watch it here.

David’s pick: 1993 was a great year at the Oscar, and this category is a difficult one. There’s not one clunker here. But Tommy Lee Jones Oscar for The Fugitive feels like he won for one of those big performances that inspires Academy voters to award more for career achievement than a specific performance. Without a doubt the Oscar should have gone to Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List as Amon Goeth, a Nazi concentration camp commandant. His portrayal of Amon was not just a two-dimensional evil Nazi that’s a pleasure to hate, but rather he played him with depth and complexity, which adds a level of tension and intensity.

MoviefiedNYC‘s Ten Best Movies of 2017

Here it is, better late than never, MoviefiedNYC‘s Ten Best Movies of 2017. It was not a banner year for great movies but once the last quarter arrived, September through December ultimately redeemed 2017 and proved to be an ok year at the movies!        Here are the Ten Best of 2017 as seen by John David West:

1. Dunkirk


Witnessing Christopher Nolan’s latest experiment with time was initially frustrating, but ultimately mind-blowing. It was a unique cinematic experience making for a refreshing departure from the sappy Hollywood war film—or any predictable narrative, plot-driven movie. Nolan takes viewers through a turning point of WWII with an immersive experience on land, sea, and air, revealing the soldiers’ confusion, fear, and drive to survive. Their experience is the viewer’s experience and is historic and important from a cinematic perspective. Hans Zimmer’s score is equally effective as are incredible visuals by Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar).

2. The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is at the top of his game with this beautifully conceived fairytale for adults. With exquisite art direction, fluid cinematography by Dan Laustsen, a dreamy score by Alexandre Desplat (The Tree of Life), and a strong performance by Sally Hawkins; the world that del Turo has created makes this film stand out as one of the most unique movies of 2017. One can’t help but think of the 1955 classic B-movie, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but this m/animal has more depth and love. And there’s a Good versus Evil element, with Good represented by characters on the margins of society.

3. Phantom Thread


Director Paul Thomas Anderson delivers a quiet mood piece that is beautifully styled, and artistically stylized. It’s lovely to look at, thanks to Anderson’s careful attention to detail in every shot. The cinematography—by Anderson himself—brings viewers in close contact with the fabric and feel of dresses as the characters make them. The score by Jonny Greenwood equally matches the lush visual textures seen on screen. This is a film involving three people: dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), and Reynolds’ lover, Alma (Vicky Krieps). All actors are as exquisite as the other elements of this film and delicately funny.

4. Call Me by Your Name

Is this the annual pretentious film appealing only to lovers of high art, beauty, language, and the finer things in life that elevate us? Those elements are all there in a multi-linguistic script that is balanced and restrained, thanks to Luca Guadagnino’s measured direction. The film’s elements are indeed beautiful (the “Somewhere in northern Italy” location, the actors, and the soundtrack), but above all, the film’s subject is universally relatable. No matter whom you love, the pain of love and loss sticks with you long after the film’s credits end—and what’s portrayed behind those final credits makes the film devastating and unforgettable.

5. I, Tonya

Movie snobs beware, Tonya Harding is the subject of a narrative film and it’s funny and campy, it winks at its audience in a faux documentary style, it’s a tragic comedy about a comically tragic event, and it’s damn good. When I first heard about I, Tonya, I thought, “oh hell yes, this will be a hoot to watch,” a hoot in the campy Lifetime movie sense—certainly not in the Academy Award level sense! Margo Robbie kills it as Tonya. We are with her—elevated with joy—when she triple axels her way to the top of the podium at the US Championships, and we feel the pain of a too harsh sentencing when she’s stripped of her US figure skating rights and never allowed to skate again. One can’t help but think, “Jesus, at least let her skate in an animal suit in Ice Capades; she’s not a child molester or a drug kingpin—it’s just ice-skating after all!” Allison Janney also kills as Tonya’s monstrous mother. For a film about a kooky moment in sports history that centers on a bunch of foolhardy “Boobs,” it’s impressive how moving I, Tanya is.

6. Get Out

get-out 2

Jordan Peele brilliantly takes the anxiety felt by American minorities and submerges it into a thriller to capture today’s racial tension. This multilayered horror, sometimes-comedy draws on the ever-present U.S. issues of black and white racial tensions and the legacies of American slavery. Peele makes us question where all the racists suddenly came from when Trump became President, folks who were previously silenced and muzzled by political correctness. Get Out is not only a good horror film—a difficult achievement in itself—it’s a film that will be remembered as an important movie that reflects the time in which it was made.

7. Florida Project

Florida Project 2

Sean Baker’s latest social-realistic film introduces viewers to another set of enigmatic characters who live on the fringe of society. Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her daughter (Brooklynn Prince) survive on the edge of homelessness in a motel called the Magic Castle, near Disney World. The exterior of the motel is a vibrant cheap purple, and this creates a delightfully colorful world in contrast to occupants’ poverty, but at the same time reflects the children’s joyous summertime play. The film easily brings back memories of those days of childhood wonder, regardless of one’s economic status or what neighborhood you grew up in. Their world contrasts sharply to Disney’s with its pricy fun far out of financial reach to many. Too obvious a metaphor? Perhaps, but watching these characters live makes the film remarkable.  Florida Project doesn’t have a deeply complicated plot and the mother doesn’t have a traditional character arc whereby she learns and grows—she’s a tragic figure. Above all Brooklynn Prince, whose naturalness infuses Florida Project with energy and charm, makes you want to keep watching her—and everyone—live and behave in their world.

8. Faces Places

Faces Places 5

At 89 years old Agnès Varda—a legend of the French New Wave—is still making movies, and this time she’s found sweet perfection as she teams up with 35 year old photographer, JR. Together they make for the most unlikely duo to entertain audiences in years. Faces Places is a road movie that travels through rural France and shows us the extraordinary beauty of seemingly ordinary people. And the movie may make a historic stamp on cinema when the father of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard, makes the mother of the French New Wave cry—he doesn’t even appear in the movie and yet Goddard is still affecting cinema.

9. Good Time

Good Time 1

Who is that scruffy skinny actor so full of energy? Why it’s Robert Pattinson! He plays the worst brother a sibling could be cursed with, especially one who is mentally disabled. After a bank robbery that goes really bad, Connie’s (Robert Pattinson younger brother Nick (Benny Safdie one-half of the film’s brother directors) ends up in prison. Good Time has been compared to Martin Scorsese’s 1985 Tribeca odyssey After Hours. The comparison is certainly fair, only this NYC odyssey pushes it to full-throttle taking viewers in a rapid fire pace through Manhattan and God knows which borough of New York City.

10. mother!

mother! 2

Without a doubt mother! is the most polarizing film of the year. It pissed a lot of people off, made others laugh, and inspired endless “WTF” text messages upon its release. Once the allegory is clear, mother! sends your mind spinning. It’s an apocalyptic, biblical tale that layers on elements of war, invasion, and climate change, resulting in an experience that is disturbing, maddening, and sits with you for days. Michelle Pfeiffer delivers one of her best performances in years, and Jennifer Lawrence (this year’s Razzie nominee for worst actress), is well cast in one of her best role since Winter’s Bone.

Honorable Mention:

Blade Runner 21. Bladerunner 2049
2. Lady Bird
3. Coco
4. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
5. Mudbound

The Trip to Spain

Rob Brydon [Rob] and Steve Coogan [Steve] in Michael Winterbottom’s THE TRIP TO SPAIN. Photo courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.
During last spring’s Tribeca Film Festival, one of the most enjoyable movies was The Trip to Spain. It  won me over simply for the two actor’s dueling impressions of Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and of course Michael Caine. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s midlife crises, mansplaining, trip—while damn hilarious—is darker than their previous films. It’s a neurotic treat for the insecure fools in all of us.

Top 5 New York City Movies from the ’70s

In response to this summer’s “New York in the 70s” film festival at Film Forum, MovefiedNYC decided to repost our first list, the “Top Five NYC Movies from the ’70s.”  The choice for our first list was obvious; it had to come from our own backyard, a place and time—now perhaps mythological—of unrelenting creativity, expression, and guts.  A town broke, dangerous, black-and-white and obscured by sweat and steam: New York City in 1970’s, the place that made our love for film like a beginning buzz (from one too many cocktails) that turned into a continuous intoxication.  -JDW & MD

John David’s Top Five 1970s NYC

Broadway, high fashion, yellow cabs, prostitutes, and neurotic intellectuals who romanticize their lives in black ‘n’ white. These are some of the images that helped form my Top Five New York City movies from the 1970s.

 1. Taxi Driver (1976)

Like the bankrupt city on edge, ready to crack under the pressure of urban decay, sleaze and political distrustTaxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, paranoid and alienated from society, looks at himself in the mirror and asks, “Are you talking to me?” Is he having fun or is Scorsese speaking what’s on the viewer’s mind? Thirty-six years later we’re still imitating DeNiro’s line. This movie has all the grit of the ’70s gritty city. Taxi Driver plays like an indexical sign that proves to us today that the mythological gritty 1970s New York City did exist.

 2. Manhattan (1979)

Every now and then I find myself in one of those “Wow-I-Love-This-City” moments. Woody Allen shares those same feelings in his 1979 film Manhattan.  The city is a character that we along with Allen romanticize. Annie Hall seemed like the obvious choice, but then Manhattan stepped up, as if to say, “Really? Let’s get serious, I have New York City shot in black-and-white, widescreen Panavision aspect ratio (2.35:1) with a nine-minute montage of New York City set to George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue!” Yes, OK, Manhattan, you win: all that and that iconic 4 A.M. shot in front of the Queensborough Bridge secure Manhattan on my list.

 3. All That Jazz (1979)

Fosse submerges his autobiographical self into the character of Joe Gideon, a hyper-sexed, director/choreographer who pops Dexedrine, screws sexy dancers, neglects his loved ones, chain smokes (even in the shower) and works himself to a perfectly choreographed death. It’s the ’70s: the Me decade, cynical and all about Fosse. The opening audition scene set to George Benson’s “On Broadway” captures the desire, joy and disappointment every dancer feels who wants to be on Broadway. 

4. Klute (1971)

New York City as it enters a decade on the brink of a meltdown. Jane Fonda plays a call girl who is complex, vulnerable, and lacks that ever-expected heart of gold. Besides Fonda’s brilliant performance, what makes this film memorable is a shot from inside a stark, corporate office on the upper floor of a high-rise. Through floor-to-ceiling windows, we see the two towers of the World Trade Center under construction. A financially powerful man sits at his desk, diminished against the multiple cranes high in the air, constructing the tallest buildings in the world. The image takes on new meaning when one realizes that the mass of construction outside the window will someday fall to a heap of destruction that will affect us all. 

5. Eyesof Laura Mars (1978)

1970s disco-fashion juxtaposed against ’70s New York City grit. Ultra glamorous Fay Dunaway is Laura Mars, a fashion photographer who wields a Nikon camera to photograph sexy models in stylized violent murder settings: Columbus Circle ablaze with overturned cars on fire as glossy girls wearing lingerie and fur coats pull each other’s hair. The violence is thrust right back at Laura when a serial killer turns her photos into real murders.  The character of Laura doubles as the camera when she witnesses the murders through the killer’s eyes, while they are happening, through her own eyes.  The film’s director, Irvin Kershner, turns the movie’s view of violence on the audience: are we looking at the eyes or are the eyes looking at us?

Myrna’s Top Five 1970’s NYC

NYC as it was in the ’70s. Sex, drugs, street gangs, disco divas, politicians, the homeless, celebrities, musicians, hookers, and some major attitude. So many great films to choose from; it is almost impossible to leave any of them off this list. I went with my gut, what I liked: candy over substance most times. I took a deep breath, wrote down five titles and never looked back.

 1. The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1974)

“Respect My Ass!”  screams Mel, and I do. Neil Simon’s slice of New York city life—once again like in The Out of Towners, not a very nice place—in Prisoner of Second Avenue is rich in its mundane everyday quality, shrouded in genuine humor delivered brilliantly by the cast. The pounding New York City heat wave is so palpable it is a character in the film. The Prisoner of Second Avenue shows us witty New Yorkers on the verge of, and breaking down in, their urban habitat, pacing back and forth, drowning in the ever—relentless noise—wrapped in a high rise box.

2. The French Connection (1971)

“Doyle fights dirty and he plays rough, but that’s ok because Doyle is a good cop” —growls the trailer.  Let’s be honest: New York looks better in grit than any other city, and The French Connection’s grimy realism and downbeat ending are refreshing. Popeye Doyle—not your classic hero—violent, racist and mean-spirited. His dedication to his job, just short of dangerous obsession—a New Yorker! The film’s high point, a high-speed car chase with Doyle tailing an elevated train, was one of the most exciting screen moments of its day. The French Connection gives me the visceral charge that keeps me addicted to New York.

 3. Shaft (1971) 

I can not ignore the blaxploitation genre when talking about the New York of the 1970s. Shaft full of mood, attitude and fashion. Brought the world—the Harlem-dude look of feather-hat, platform boots and silver-top cane—what delicious eye candy! The theme song also unforgettable . Shaft took us all over the city; he lived in the Village, worked in Times Square and cruised up and down 125th Street.  Can you dig it?  

4. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

John Travolta strutting down the streets of Brooklyn to his dead end job changed the world as we knew it. No one ever walked down the street the same way again. He escapes to the local disco, where he is/was King and dreams for a better life in Manhattan. Don’t we all? Fever is dripping with a  gritty sense of the ’70s economic malaise that plagued New York. Dance numbers, the Bee Gees soundtrack and Travolta’s white-suited presence all set in the city of dreams. “They had me at hello” 

5. All That Jazz (1979)
“It’s showtime!” Director and choreographer Bob Fosse takes a Felliniesque look at the life of a driven entertainer (some say his own life)—Joe Gideon. The ultimate work-and-pleasure aholic. All That Jazz shows the merciless price you pay to be an entertainer, taking us from realistic dance numbers to extravagant flights of cinematic fancy with Gideon as our guide; he meditates on his life, his women and his death. A ll That Jazz is a  fiercely personal personal film. Roy Scheider’s brilliant performance as Joe Gideon leaves me wanting for more every time.

 

1984: A Blockbuster Year

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Ronald Reagan brought that oops moment to the world as he tested a microphone before a radio address; later that November Regan won a landslide re-election. That was the peak of the Reagan era. That was 1984.

1984 was, indeed, an unforgettable year!Mary Lou Retton won gymnastic gold and American hearts at the L.A. Olympics. The reining Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was stripped of her title because of a nude photo spread in Penthouse magazine. Madonna became everyone’s “boy toy” with her “Like a Virgin” performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Marvin Gaye was killed by his father; Bernie Goetz gunned down four muggers in the NYC subway; millions starved in Ethiopia; and Bob Geldoff responded with “Do They Know it’s Christmas Time.” Thousands died in the Union Carbide Corporation disaster in Bhopal, India; and Clara Peller asked, “Where’s the Beef?” Cindy Lauper proclaimed that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”; Prince let us know what it sounds like “When Doves Cry”; and Tina Turner made a big comeback and asked, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Clearly, 1984 was a year of big news, big events, and, thanks to the number one TV show, Dynasty, really of big shoulder pads! But as the ashes of have long since settled, it’s ’84’s hit movies that remain with us and have stood the test of time.

Besides being the year that introduced the first PG-13 movie, (Red Dawn), 1984 was the birth year for a number of hit features that spawned numerous sequels: The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy. Comedies were probably the most notable feature of ’84. While the year didn’t produce any great American Film Institute darlings as weighty as Citizen Kane, it did, however, release an impressive number of comedies that are still fresh and still freakin’ funny today. Already mentioned are Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy; but also there are All of Me, This is Spinal Tap, Splash, Revenge of the Nerds, and Romancing the Stone.

1984 didn’t just release blockbusters that kept bottom line obsessed studio heads filled with coke and lap dancing blonds, it also saw the release of some lesser known films that have endured to become classics, films such as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America; Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas; Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. And the cult classics such as John Sayles The Brother from Another Planet, and the NYC cult horror flick C.H.U.D.

1984 saw Regan era teen angst approach its peak, while the John Hughes’ teen classic, Sixteen Candles, solidified Molly Ringwald as the ’80s’ ginger teen queen and—along with Weird Science that same year—shot Anthony Michael Hall to geek teen stardom, as its new nerd on the rise. The Karate Kid taught us to “Wax on, Wax off,” and A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced slasher fans to a terrifying new evil villain, Freddy Krueger, who entered our nightmares and has remained with us nine sequels later. Not only did teen anxiety influence cinema, but also the collective unease of the Cold War, as 1984 released a cinematic Soviet Union invasion of the U.S.A. in cinematographer and director John Milius’s Red Dawn. The first film to receive a PG-13 rating, Red Dawn was perhaps a bit unbelievable but cathartic, and filled with up-and-coming young stars (Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, and Charlie Sheen); it was a definite reaction to the Cold War anxieties of the 1980s.

 
Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald

1984 was a year of movies filled with classic pop music in such films such as Prince’s Purple Rain, which produced an enduring soundtrack that still holds up today. The concert film Stop Making Sense featured the Talking Heads and was directed by a relative newcomer, Jonathan Demme. Beat Street and Breakin’ capitalized on the popularity of break dancing, and Footloose danced into theaters with its MTV look and a soundtrack that garnered six Billboard magazine top 40 hits. Footloose was promoted again and again; each subsequent music video featured clips from the film, and ultimately kept those bottom-line-obsessed studio heads “Dancing in the Sheets,” and laid the foundation for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

In celebration of that most unforgettable year, I have listed my twenty essential movies of 1984, films that have endured, some that are well crafted, some that capture the spirit of the ’80s—thirty-year-old movies that make us think, sing, dance, scream and, above all else, laugh out loud!
—John David West

David’s 20 Essential Movies of 1984

Ghostbusters

Paris, Texas

Amadeus

The Killing Fields

Once Upon a Time in America

Stop Making Sense


The Terminator

 

This Is Spinal Tap

Beverly Hills Cop


The Karate Kid


Sixteen Candles



Footloose


A Nightmare on Elm Street


Stranger Than Paradise


Purple Rain
Starman


Gremlins


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


The Muppets Take Manhattan


Police Academy

 

 

Click here from more movies from 1984 at IMDB, it’s amazing!