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

50 Years Ago This Week – Harper

The Paul Newman vehicle Harper opened on February 23, 1966.  Despite the considerable talent attached – including cinematographer Conrad Hall (whose 70s credits include Fat City and Smile), screenwriter William Goldman (All the Presidents Men, Marathon Man), and a marvelous cast that also features Lauren Bacall, Shelly Winters, Robert Wagner and Janet Leigh (wasted in a thankless role that brings out Newman’s mugging) – it is by no means a must-see.  Goldman’s adaptation of a Ross McDonald novel (the source material probably accounts for the exce

News and Commentary – A Semester of Seventies Films: The Graduate

I’m teaching “The Politics of the 70s Film” this semester, and Mid Century Cinema will follow along, with a few words about each movie screened for the class.  First up is The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967), a film that, in style, substance, and attitude, crystallized many of the elements of the emerging New Hollywood.