AMARCORD (Federico Fellini)
“Amarcord” means “I remember” in Italian, and nobody remembers like Fellini. Here he takes us on a journey through his own past, as a child and young man. Visually splendid as his films always are, this one is less stylized but just as evocative. His last great work, and arguably his warmest. It is also often very funny, as well.
BLAZING SADDLES (Mel Brooks)
Mel Brooks simply takes a deep breath and blows every other movie comedy (or even attempt at comedy) out of the water. Bold in its day, it looks even more courageous today. That’s just Mel being Mel. He thinks funny and he knows when he’s funny. Fuck it, if you don’t get the joke. In Mel We Trust.
CHINATOWN (Roman Polanski)
A great example of a collaborative effort that produces a work of art. Producer Robert Evans assembled the team of Polanski, screenwriter Robert Towne and Jack Nicholson that resulted in an absolutely classic and classy take on the great L.A. noir detective stories of the past. Everything from the art direction, the wardrobe and Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful score is top-notch.
THE GODFATHER, PART II (Francis Ford Coppola)
Both a prequel and a sequel, Coppola managed to make this even better than the original. How often does that happen? It turns out that there was more to be shown and told about the Corleone family, not to mention the history of organized crime in America. Here, Coppola covers all the bases. Along the way, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro solidify their status as the actors of the 70’s.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (Mel Brooks)
What a year Mel was having! He was already hot as a pistol, so naturally he was given the approval and the budget to make a black-and-white comedy homage to the classic Universal Frankenstein films. Ka-ching! Another success. Affectionate and knowing, it is also damn funny.
THE CONVERSATION (Francis Ford Coppola)
Coppola managed to squeeze in another one, too. Just to show that he didn’t require Godfather-sized budgets to tell a story, here is a beautifully constructed character study with Gene Hackman as a reserved surveillance expert who gets involved with a case that turns out to be more than he can handle. An Indie-style film from an A-list director.
THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (Luis Bunuel)
Just a series of random surreal episodes, but just as unique and provocative as any of Bunuel’s more narrative works. Bunuel was clearly on a roll during these years, and his visual sense and wit were as sharp as ever.
PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (Brian De Palma)
De Palma had started to make a name for himself with the horror film, SISTERS when he made this ambitious horror/comedy/rock musical. It didn’t work for everybody, but has actually stood the test of time quite well. The equally ambitious score was written by the diminutive uber-talented Paul Williams, who stars as well. But it is Garret Grahame as “Beef” who steals the show. Give De Palma credit for taking chances, something he would continue doing throughout his career.