I wanted to give a list of the movies I finally got around to in life this year, rather than an insincere list of my top 10 of 2016, because I know there are at least 15 movies left that I’d like to put in contention for the best of this year. How can I know what my number one is, if I haven’t seen LA LA LAND or ELLE yet? I want to talk about how I finally got around to all five hours of Bertolucci’s NOVECENTO.
- SITTING TARGET: Oliver Reed breaks out of jail with the help of young Ian McShane. Because he is angry his wife is pregnant and leaving him. This movie is about cheering on an escaped felon to kill his pregnant wife! It’s brutal and dirty and goes where you don’t expect it to.
- HARDCORE: This year marked the 40th anniversary of TAXI DRIVER, so I wanted to fill in my Paul Schrader gaps. George C. Scott explores the seedy underbelly of the LA porn scene in search of his runaway daughter with the help of peep-show-model Season Hubley. Schrader shouldn’t have disowned this movie — he should be proud of all of its sleazy glory.
- THIS PROPERTY IS CONDEMNED: Robert Redford and the ethereally beautiful Natalie Wood star in this Tennessee Williams adaptation about a railroad man coming to a small town to fire everyone and falling in love with the “popular” girl, who is also being wooed by several men including a young, sexy Charles Bronson. Just when you think it’s a tender love story and these gorgeous creatures will find true love forever, the last five minutes go exceedingly dark.
- THE HUSTLER: I feel a tremendous sense of shame I never watched the Paul Newman classic before. Apparently now was not the right time, as I over-identified with the tragic Piper Laurie character, with her sultry voice and her penchant for morning drinking.
- JEREMIAH JOHNSON: The second Redford/Pollack team-up on my list, I felt a need to finally see it after watching THE REVENANT. It’s a tale of a lone man surviving in the wilderness to enact revenge, and it was every bit as breathtaking and sweeping as the film that inspired me to watch it.
- THE SPLIT: I’m a fan of Donald Westlake adaptations, and I was surprised this had slipped my knowledge. Jim Brown heads up a heist crew made up of Jack Klugman, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, and Donald Sutherland! Naturally, some double-crossing takes place, and Brown has to work with a potentially dirty cop played by Gene Hackman. The score is by Quincy Jones, with a classic theme song by Billy Preston. An absolute crime film delight, and well worth seeking out.
- STRAIGHT TIME: I’m also a fan of Eddie Bunker’s books about life in prison and the hardships of going straight. It was time to rectify not having seen this adaptation of his novel No Beast So Fierce, starring Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman’s character has problems with his parole officer, thanks to his no-good buddy played by Gary Busey, and has his hand forced into the dramatic robbery of a jewelry store. On a side note, it was directed by Ulu Grosbard, who also directed another of my first-time watches, FALLING IN LOVE, with Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro, a movie that secretly captivated my heart.
- ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA: This was the year I was going to finally make it through all four hours! Ever since then I am dying to ask everyone in sight if they think James Woods’ character really killed himself in that garbage truck, or if he was faking his death again. On garbage day, I watch the trucks and wonder how excruciating it must be to get threshed in one, and if it’s wiser to jump in head or feet first. In other words, Sergio Leone has made me a much more gruesome person this year.
- BLUE COLLAR: Paul Schrader gets a very special place in my heart this year. He managed to not only have 2 films in my top 10, but also the #2 of garbage I wish I had never watched this year. (Fuck you, DOG EAT DOG. You are wedged between BROTHERS GRIMSBY and SUICIDE SQUAD in my list of 2016 regrets). BLUE COLLAR, on the other hand, starts as a wacky caper with Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto robbing a union office, that turns deadly serious and becomes a meditation on race and the working class that is equally relevant today. I saw it back in February and haven’t stopped talking about it since.
- THE BEGUILED: Any movie that starts with Clint Eastwood asking a little girl how old she is, and when she replies 12, he declares “old enough for a kiss,” and fully makes out with her…. is right up my sleaze alley. Clint plays a wounded Civil War soldier hiding out in an all-girls boarding school where he seduces all the teens and the headmistress. It’s a Southern Gothic tale of obsession, lies, and unreliable narrators that takes a vicious turn. Soon to be remade by Sofia Coppola, starring Colin Farrell in the Eastwood role.
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Tags: Billy Preston, Charles Bronson, clint eastwood, Delle Bolton, Dick Sargent, Don Siegel, Donald Sutherland, Donald Westlake, Douglas Hickox, Dustin Hoffman, Ed Begley Jr., Edward Woodward, Elizabeth Hartman, Elizabeth McGovern, Ernest Borgnine, Gary Busey, George C. Scott, Geraldine Page, Harry Dean Stanton, Harvey Keitel, Ian McShane, Jack Klugman, Jackie Gleason, James Woods, Jill St. John, Jim Brown, Jo Ann Harris, Josh Albee, Kate Reid, Natalie Wood, Oliver Reed, Paul Newman, paul schrader, Peter Boyle, Piper Laurie, Quincy Jones, Richard Pryor, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Robert Rossen, Season Hubley, Sergio Leone, Sydney Pollack, Theresa Russell, tuesday weld, Ulu Grosbard, Warren Oates, Will Geer, Yaphet Kotto