Sunday, June 13, 2010

That's a Lot of Robert Shaw: Black Sunday, Pelham 1-2-3 and the 70's

So, I accidentally went to go see Black Sunday on... Sunday.

Or it could be exactly right now, when I think I'm about to watch "Giant".

And this evening headed back to the Paramount to see The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.

These guys who dress like your PeePaw? Armed hostage takers.

Both films star Robert Shaw, one of those actors people say great things about, but I think I'd previously only ever seen as Quint in Jaws (one of the best movies, ever. Yes it is. Shut up.). He's great in both as two very different characters. And I can't believe someone decided to replace the guy with Travolta in last year's remake (which I didn't see).

Look, I really wish I liked more new movies, but looking at this summer's offerings, "Iron Man", "Toy Story 3" and "Inception" are about it for me. That's 2 sequels (one of which is based on a 50-year-old property), and one by Nolan, who had me at Memento. But then I read this...

Richard Donner’s original Superman heavily influenced Nolan during the production of Batman Begins: “I literally pitched the studio my take on Batman by saying I wanted to make the Batman film that had never been made in 1978 or 1979.” He was taken by the notion of “an extraordinary hero in an ordinary world.”

Of course, any geek who went through film school recognizes 70's-era film making for being a watershed era in film making. Sure, much of it was low-budget, but the studios were losing so much market share to television and, I guess, 8-tracks and people caring for their pet rocks, that they started just letting the wild-eyed beatniks in their midst run around and make some pretty darn great movies.

I mean, no, they didn't create something as great as G-Force, but...

The 70's gave us The Godather, Star Wars, The Deer Hunter, Annie Hall, All the President's Men, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now and dozens and dozens of other influential movies. It gave us a naturalistic style to movies, more organic storytelling, tougher material and Pam Grier.

women like Ms. Grier are into tubby comic geeks, right?

Anyway, that's not to say that the 70's wasn't laden with awfulness, too. For every "Godfather Part II" there were 4 "Xanadu" clones, 6 hacky slasher movies, 4 movies about "feelings" or some junk, and 3 movies about people driving around in Southern California doubling for a drive across America, and wearing ugly pants.

However, I live in the future, where we've weeded out the crummy 70's movies, and I don't have to watch them (don't have to, but it happens, anyway). It's sort of how... when I was in film school and some turtle-neck wearing jerk would lament that everything they made in France was sooooo much better than American film, I would ask them if they really thought we were getting the French equivalent of Major Payne imported stateside (because the French are idiots, too, and somehow that means they're making their own "Major Payne").

Anyhow, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 is a movie that's been imitated endlessly at this point, but you can't help but appreciate how well cast they made the movie, how New York feels like a lived in place, and that at no point do we get bogged down in some subplot about any character's children, romance, etc... There's more than enough story there without Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock falling in love during the disaster.

Plus, you have to love Walter Matthau.

Black Sunday still works, and will feel relevant until, I suppose, we have peace in the Middle East and we quit worrying about domestic terrorism (and Bruce Dern).

I'd say the mvoie could handle a remake, but a remake would wind up starring Shia LeBouf as the war-weary Israeli soldier. And the fact that anyone is willing to hire Shia LeBouf, and put millions of dollars behind LeBouf, and count on the fact that millions of people want to watch LeBouf for two hours at a time... that is exactly why most movies fail.

That said, I think we're due for another wave of new and better stuff. This summer's offerings have been, frankly, disappointing. The past year had little to offer that didn't have the word "Twilight" in the title. I hear from Troubles, who knows these things, that the box office is having a tough time of it this summer (Iron Man 2 has done okay at $230 million or so, but that's a far cry from Batman's $1 billion).

When the studio execs quit trying to throw the same junk at the wall and essentially give up on what they know and let young producers risking their skin to make it big try new things, as they did in the 70's (and to an extent, in the 1990's), the pay off is generally in folks taking the creative chances that can payoff in better movies.

Unfortunately, someone has to tell Hollywood that "we're releasing it in 3D!" is not making new and better product, per se. And that I now have 1500 channels.

In the meantime, I will keep spending my clams at The Paramount and watching movies that came out before I was born.


Fantomenos said...

There have been many times when a remake of a classic 70's movie is about to come out, so I rent the original, and then realize it is so good and so dark that the remake is going to be so awful in comparison that I never watch the remake.

"Get Carter" and "Rollerball" come to mind.

Seriously, if you haven't seen the original "Get Carter", check it out. It made me totally get why Michael Caine is a huge star.

The League said...

Sold! Will seek out "Get Carter", but avoid the Stallone remake.

I have seen a few remakes that were better than their original counterparts, usually because all that was preserved was the nugget of the idea... but I am hard-pressed to name one at the moment.

mcsteans said...

Ocean's 11?

Simon MacDonald said...

It is sad to see the movie studios trying to add 3D to movie after the fact. I think when 3D is used from the beginning like Avatar it is worth the extra couple of bucks at the theater. But when it is bolted on afterwards it's just a gimmick.

Seems like the mad thrashing of studio heads trying to squeeze out some extra dollars out of a dwindling audience. News Flash! If you make good movies people will go seem them.

The League said...

I don't see any evidence that people green lighting movies know what a "good movie" looks like. They know what parts of recently successful movies look like.