(John G. Avildsen, 1976)
Driven by Stallone's relentlessly odd characterization (it's in the way he talks, moves around, shifts his body, the whole cadence of Stallone) but anchored by Avildsen's modest, effective direction. Avildsen roots Rocky
in a mostly believable environment, capturing the grimy atmosphere (paint peeling, deserted city streets), so when the underdog film cliches come through the most, the film has already earned some trust. Gets points an ending that's genuinely moving because the logical plot outcome ceases to matter, and all that comes through is Rocky's complete disregard for anything but what he cares about.
(Woody Allen, 1979)
I finally get the jokes. Hard for me to imagine how much I could've gotten out of this when I was 13 (the last time I watched this). I'm pretty ambivalent toward Woody, but it's hard to dismiss this film when it's so completely beautiful. Willis' cinematography is a complete triumph, romanticizing every frame, submerging the characters in his usual shadows. The characters here are all middlebrow bourgeois intellectuals, and Woody's set of references by this point are so familiar that I'm pretty sure he never moved past Fellini or Bergman. The film is affectionate toward them, mocking at points, but always interesting and engaging them, treating them fairly. Still, it's hard to not to feel a little icky when it comes to the Mariel Hemingway plot line, no matter how beautifully it's concluded.
33. The Andromeda Strain
(Robert Wise, 1971)
Actually pretty similar to Wise's later Star Trek
film in that it's pretty much just people looking at screens, speaking jargon to each other. Andromeda
differs in that it's a film that's pretty much solely interested in the scientific processes that its main characters employ, to the exclusion of much else. Still, Wise shoots his sets and characters with about the same level of interest, and can't quite ratchet up the tension when it counts.
34. The Godfather
(Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
Coppola's film is arguably the ground zero of today's Golden Age of TV anti-hero nonsense where our hero's morality is corroded by the end of its runtime. Its depiction of screen violence also seems prescient. Anyway, what makes the film of interest is how Coppola both mythologizes the Corleones, makes them emblematic of his thematic ideas, develops them metaphorically, while also sketching them as out more than just archetypes. It's also remarkably fleet-footed, running through its scenarios without becoming cumbersome in its relentless focus on plot, though a couple of detours (Michael's stay in Sicily) overstay their welcome. Also: Gordon Willis is the MVP.
(Blake Edwards, 1979)
Almost completely loved this, but felt it lost a little bit of its comic invention by film's end. Still, another Edwards comedy that's surprisingly full of pain and sadness, even if pratfalls and drunken buffoonery interrupt things every once in a while. The ending, however, is completely genius, as thematic strands regarding voyeurism, looking and perspective all come to fruition in the iris shot. But we've all read Dave Kehr on this movie, right?