I wanted to write this post today for a simple reason: I was looking at my top and bottom ten lists that I have all fancily mapped out (they are on word documents where I have names and dates… its all very technical.) and I thought that 1976 was a particularly interesting year. So I said to my self: “Self: You are the coolest person I know. You are talented and full of awesomeness… now go write a post damn it!” Without further ado, bask in the glory that is my top 10 of 1976.
10. In The Realm of the Senses (dir. Oshima)
Honestly I wanted to do a top ten list of this year purely so that I can talk about this film. Oh man. If you have not experienced In the Realm of the Senses, what are you waiting for? Well you are probably waiting to turn eighteen so that you can deem yourself old enough to watch such sadistic stuff. For those not in the know, this movie revolves around a couple who have a torrid affair. The graphic depictions of sex between the two turn into a sadistic one up man ship before they end up committing suicide together. At the time in Japanese cinema history, this was called a pink film due to its graphic depiction of sex. This was a popular film genre that has since inserted this mentality in the anime and manga that is now mass produced for these perverts. Unfortunately this movie does not go quite to the extreme lengths of tentacle porn but it comes dangerously close. Come for the graphic depictions of sexual doings and stay for the amazing cinematography and gorgeous costumes… when they are wearing any. Boom!
9. The Omen (dir. Donner)
This movie is enough to make me never want to have children. I mean seriously who wants to be raising a child that people die around him and he is considered the Anti-Christ. Good clean horrific fun. Plus Damien is truly scary.
8. Carrie (dir. De Palma)
I first saw this movie when it was playing late one night on USA, the cable channel. I was barely in high school at the time and I absolutely hated any kind of horror film. I would get so freaked out and scared by them. But my best friend convinced me to watch this movie. I identified with Carrie to a certain extent (I too have telepathic abilities) and was getting along just fine until the final scenes. During these scenes I went to hide underneath the table so as to be obscured enough from the television so as not to see all of the terrible images of young boys and girls dying at the prom. I have yet to revisit this movie. It is this high on the list because the movie is lodged so completely in my memory as being the scariest movie I had ever seen up to that point. Now I am more experienced, I know that it won’t be the case, but still like to think it is.
7. The Pink Panther Strikes Again (dir. Edwards)
Peter Sellers is one of the best comedians of all time. He is just fantastic. He is a descendant to Buster Keaton. This is a silly movie, like all other Pink Panther movies, but it is one of my favorites purely because Sellers is a genius. End of story.
6. Network (dir. Lumet)
This is one of those iconic films that everyone who wants to know about the history of film should see. Because of this movie, John Stewart was possible. Because of this movie, Peter Finch is remembered as a great actor, even though this was his last role. Because of this movie, everyone is just this much more aware of the corrupting influence that yellow journalism plays on our psyches and everyday lives.
5. The Man Who Fell to Earth (dir. Roeg)
I saw this movie right when I was first started thinking seriously about movies and the impact they have on the viewer. I was naive to think that a movie that starred a music pop icon would be straight forward. It was not and yet I loved every moment of it. David Bowie plays an alien who comes to Earth and gets corrupted by the forces around him. He gets beaten into shape until he resembles a mere earthling and a shell of his former personality. It is breathtaking to watch. What Nicholas Roeg can do with a camera is fascinating. When I think of this movie, I can still recall long shots of otherworldly atmospheres instead of just the plot line. That actually doesn’t happen a whole lot to me these days.
4. Harlan County, U.S.A. (dir. Kopple)
Each movie on here is iconic in someway. This movie is no different. Essentially about a mining town who’s workers have gone on strike for better wages and a healthier environment, it is also about the class struggle that still exists to this day. The big mining company who refuses to even let them have good running water doesn’t see the problem with paying their workers slave wages and giving them shacks to live in. They are poor so let them suffer. However, the workers are not just poor, they are many and have the ability to shut down plants in order to get their way, so they strike. This is one of the first documentaries to explore strikes and to give a voice to the voiceless in a stripped down fashion. Although it clearly shows it’s bias towards the miners and away from the mining companies several times, it is still a powerful statement about how little progress we have made from the turn of the century.
3. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (dir. Cassavetes)
Do you ever watch a movie for a first time and realize that you have just found one of the best actors of all time? Even if they had been discovered before by many other cineastes, directors, actors and film critics, the experience of seeing this actor’s performance for the first time was so mind blowing that you thought you discovered him. Ben Gazzara in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie gave me such a thrill at watching him just chew up the scenery as this sleazy night club owner who gets into some really bad trouble for no reason other than he likes to gamble that it felt like nothing I had ever seen before. For a period after that, I had to stop myself from thinking that Ben Gazzara was a new discovery for everyone.
2. All the President’s Men (dir. Pakula)
1976 brought us two really great news stories. Network was about the corruption and gotcha journalism that was just starting in the news industry that has since rotted out it’s core. But All the President’s Men showed a more idealistic and serious side of news. It showed the potential that news had for changing the world. It tells the real life story of two reporters who revealed the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon’s resignation. Well acted, well shot and an intriguing story all make this movie that was just Oscar bait into top notch Oscar fodder.
1. Taxi Driver (dir. Scorsese)
Of course Taxi Driver is my favorite movie of 1976. I mean come on. I couldn’t call myself a film critic, a cineaste or even a classic movie watcher without this movie being my favorite of this year and potential favorite of all time. It is just sort of a given. I don’t have much to say about the film that hasn’t already been said millions of times before, so I will spare you all that. All I have to say is that if you are reading this blog post and you haven’t seen Taxi Driver, then there is something wrong with you. Seriously. You should probably be checked into the hospital and examined.