Best Films of 1970
Best Films of 1971
Best Films of 1972
Best Films of 1973
Best Films of 1974

Best Films of 1975
Best Films of 1976
Best Films of 1977
Best Films of 1978
Best Films of 1979

Mean Streets
Spirit of the Beehive
Edvard Munch
Desert of the Tartars

Minnie and Moskowitz
That Obscure Object of Desire
Nosferatu the Vampire

BEST FILMS OF 1979 - List in Progress
by Mike Lorefice

Butch and Sundance: The Early Days
Richard Lester

The problem with sequels - actually there's too many to name - is they're invariably compared to the original due to said film being their raison d'etre. Richard Lester's prequel may lack the big names that will forever be associated with the eponymous roles, but thankfully undermines the saccharine sentimentality and nostalgia of George Roy Hill's lovable outlaws at all costs. In fact, it's largely a satire of the idea of famous outlaw heroes. The overrated Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was in the manipulative Bonnie & Clyde ilk of asking you to root for the robbers to the point you ignore all their violence and bemoan their nihilistic demise. Lester's comedy is very laid back, focusing on the absurdity of the characters, who are all quite foolish though the not so dynamic duo do grow to become less inept through bonding and experience. After the predictable flop of his ambitious anti-commercial post apocalyptic The Bed Sitting Room, Lester didn't direct again for four years and wasn't able to tackle anything too serious as his only offers were for movies set well in the past, usually frivolous blockbusters. Still, he was always a funny man who utilized a diverse arsenal of techniques, showing a strong understanding of most forms of silent and sound comedy. The Early Years is a fun, charming, plotless film loaded with excellent vignettes that bring out the budding relationship as well the folly of man. Cassidy is a fame hunter out to make a name for himself even if he has to pay $500 to a bum who improves his story to the point he's heard of "Dutch Cassidy". Butch's kids only know he's Robert Leroy Parker, which Sundance milks in every possible way, portraying Cassidy as the short ugly unintelligent mole he carries until Butch can't take being at home anymore due to his kids bickering over who gets to play Sundance. Tom Berenger may not be Paul Newman, but is nonetheless excellent as the garrulous narcissistic endlessly self-aggrandizing brains of the outfit. [8/28/07] ***


Don Coscarelli


Full Movie Review


Wise Blood
John Huston

"I don't have to run away from anything 'cause I don't believe in anything," says Hazel Motes (Brad Dourif). Growing up with a fire and brimstone bible thumper for a grandfather (John Huston), Hazel has come to associate the Lord with vengeance and spite, hence the need to eliminate him from the equation. Without Jesus Christ dying for our souls, there's no guilt, no need for salvation and redemption, no bastards, original sin, resurrection, blind men seeing, and all that jazz. Obviously a man who starts The Church of Christ Without Christ, believing the way to elude sin is to be soulless is seriously confused, and this inner turmoil drives Wise Blood. Motes tries his hardest, but ultimately fails to reject his own belief in Christ. The Bible Belt is filled with exploiters of increasingly commercialized religion to the point radio preacher Hoover Shoates (Ned Beatty) changes his views in an instant upon seeing dollar signs in Hazel as his new prophet. Amidst all the charlatans and hangers on, which include "blind" preacher Asa Hawkins (Harry Dean Stanton) and his sex obsessed "virginal" assistant Sabbath Lily (Amy Wright), Motes should stand out for his integrity as if nothing else he's faithful to his own vision of religion. Typical of John Huston films, man can never work together and thus will fail on their own. Hazel tries to save people from the hypocrites, but the grating and in many ways clueless believer is incapable of any form of compromise. Motes struggles to comprehend religion on an individual level, rejecting any would be "converts" (he is keen at seeing though insincerity and profiteering) because whatever their motives they come with their own interpretations he's not willing to accept, so his rebellion remains exclusive. I suspect Flannery O'Connor's novel was deeper than Huston's film. Philosophical tragicomedy is present, but it's all too farcical. The backwoods segregated South of 1952 when O'Connor published is no longer existent for Huston to capture, so lacking the funds to reproduce it he largely seems to ignore period, not mentioning the war Hazel returned wounded from is WWII and just kind of letting aged foregrounds exist amidst modern backdrops. The soundtrack is even less defensible, either overly dated corn or too modern. Brad Dourif gives a standout performance as the memorably unnerving antagonistic protagonist, casting his maniacal gaze that would be piercing if he bothered to look at anyone for more than a few seconds. His glancing style perfectly fits his distracted self-absorbed characters utter disinterest in anyone else's needs, desires, hints, and offers to "help". Wise Blood is at once frightening, hilarious and profound because interpretation of the purposely contradictory story that's rendered to create a collision of feelings is left up to the suitably mystified viewer. [6/1/07] ***

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