News and Commentary

News and Commentary – Taxi Driver: The Man Who Wasn’t There

The sensation that was Taxi Driver settled in as the eleventh screening at our semester of the seventies film.  Directed with brilliant, baroque virtuosity by Martin Scorsese (on the heels of his breakthrough Mean Streets and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore), Taxi Driver was the result of an extraordinary convergence of the talents of three young men: Scorsese (collaborating with cinematographer Michael Chapman),

News and Commentary – Shampoo: Holding a Mirror to the Left

A semester of seventies films offered with its tenth entry a (modest) respite from the usual darkness and despair, with the sex-comedy Shampoo (1975).  Of course, everything is relative—it’s still the seventies out there, and we surely don’t get the ending we were rooting for, leaving George (Warren Beatty) as diminished, desolate and despairing as Harry Caul was at the end of The Conversation.

News and Commentary – A Semester of Seventies Films (9): Network

Another week, another landmark movie – business as usual for a semester of seventies films.  Network (1976), comes in the final year of the New Hollywood (in 1977 the writing was on the wall as Network and Taxi Driver lost best picture to the feel-good entertainment that was Rocky, as the morally unambiguous Star Wars was poised to lay waste to the industry’s entire business model).  But the semester still has some weeks to go—let’s accentuate the positives. 

News and Commentary – A Semester of Seventies Films (7): The Conversation

Even in the glory days of the New Hollywood, Francis Ford Coppola’s intensely personal, almost willfully non-commercial masterpiece The Conversation (1974) was not an easy film to get produced. But after scoring a massive hit with The Godfather, Coppola was able to extract studio backing for the picture he cared about in exchange for his promise to direct The Godfather, Part II.

News and Commentary – A Semester of Seventies Films (5): Nashville

How fresh is Nashville (1975), more than forty years after its release? Tom Wicker, political columnist for the New York Times, described the film as a “cascade of minutely detailed vulgarity, greed, deceit, cruelty, barely contained hysteria, and the frantic lack of root and grace into which American life has been driven.”  

News and Commentary – A Semester of Seventies Films (4): Five Easy Pieces

The magnificent Five Easy Pieces (1970) is an exemplar of everything the Seventies Film aspired to be.  Directed by Bob Rafelson (who also co-wrote the story), the movie was a product of the legendary six-picture deal that BBS Productions (Bert Schneider, Bob Rafelson, and Steve Blauner) reached with Columbia Pictures—one that traded small budgets in exchange for no studio interference with the product.  BBS, with Jack Nicholson as a virtual fourth par

News and Commentary – A Semester of Seventies Films (3): Medium Cool

Week Three of the “Politics of the 70s Film” featured Medium Cool (1969), a labor of love from quadruple-threat Haskell Wexler (writer-director-cinematographer-camera operator).  I have written at length about this outstanding film previously, and more recently a short piece about Wexler as well, and so I will not repeat those efforts here.  But Medi