Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: New Hollywood Marathon

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My largest and most glaring gap of cinematic knowledge, at least of American film, is easily the 1970s. I grew up watching the films of the Hollywood studios’ golden era, the 1930s-1950s, and of my own generation, the 1990s-current, but have only sporadically caught the films in between. Given that many of the greatest and most iconoclastic American films of all time come from the 1970s, I have decided that enough is enough, and this year I am going to eliminate my New Hollywood list of shame, which includes: The Godfather Part II, M*A*S*H, The Exorcist, Five Easy Pieces, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Badlands, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, and others.

easy-riders-raging-bulls.jpgBecause my knowledge of the whole era is a little superficial, I’m reading Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Generation Saved Hollywood to give myself a background in the history and temperament of the era, and watching the films he discusses while I’m reading. And I figured, might as well share my journey through New Hollywood as I go. The list of films you’ll find after the cut is culled from Biskind’s book and Wikipedia’s entry on New Hollywood, leaving out some that I have already seen.

One thing that has fascinated me as I worked on creating this master list is how varied the films are – drama, comedy, action, satire, war, crime, romance, horror, western, science fiction, concert film and period piece are all among the genres represented. What they have in common: 1) a willingness to push the boundaries of what cinema was allowed to do and to explore themes of sexuality, antiheroism, and isolation that were previously taboo, 2) a sense of brashness and raw vitality brought by the eager young filmmakers wresting the reins from entrenched studios, 3) a tendency to focus on character and script rather than plot, and 4) a knowledge of and appreciation for cinema itself, from the masters of Golden Age Hollywood to the imports coming from Europe and Japan.

This quote from Biskind’s introduction I think sums it up nicely:

[The 1970s were] the last time Hollywood produced a body of risky, high-quality work — work that was character-, rather than plot-driven, that defied traditional narrative conventions, that challenged the tyranny of technical correctness, that broke the taboos of language and behavior, that dared to end unhappily. […] In a culture inured even to the shock of the new, in which today’s news is tomorrow’s history to be forgotten entirely or recycled in some unimaginably debased form, ’70s movies retain their power to unsettle; time has not dulled their edge, and they are as provocative now as they were the day they were released. […] The thirteen years between Bonnie & Clyde in 1967 and Heaven’s Gate in 1980 marked the last time it was really exciting to make movies in Hollywood, the last time people could be consistently proud of the pictures they made, the last time the community as a whole encouraged good work, the last time there was an audience that could sustain it.

And it wasn’t only the landmark movies that made the late ’60s and ’70s unique. This was a time when film culture permeated American life in a way that it never had before and never has since. In the words of Susan Sontag, “It was at this specific moment in the 100-year history of cinema that going to the movies, thinking about movies, talking about movies became a passion among university students and other young people. You fell in love not just with actors but with cinema itself.” Film was no less than a secular religion.

A few Row Three contributors have already shown an interest in writing about some of these as well; if you’d like to watch and share your thoughts about any of them, please do! See also the list at the bottom, which includes several films I’ve already seen and don’t intend to rewatch and write about, but someone else certainly could. If you’re not a R3 contributor and would like to join in, just email me and I’ll post your reviews with credit.

 

The Films

Most blurbs are taken, with some modifications for length, from the good folks at IMDb.

bonnie&clyde.jpgBONNIE & CLYDE (1967)
Arthur Penn

One of the earliest films to combine American brashness with European New Wave sensibilities, Bonnie & Clyde signaled a seismic change in Hollywood – a filmmaking style led by actors, writers, and directors rather than producers and studios. It allowed its Depression-era bank-robbing heroes to be anti-heroic, to do terrible things and yet remain sympathetic. And it unleashed a level of visceral violence that electrified audiences.

Jandy’s Review
[Note: This review was written before I embarked on the New Hollywood series, but it stands; all I’d change after reading Biskind’s chapter on it is to give credit to writers David Newman and Robert Benton for the New Wave influences, instead of to director Penn.]

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graduate.jpgTHE GRADUATE (1967)
Mike Nichols

Recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock, unsure of what he wants to do with his future (other than he doesn’t want to listen to his privileged family), stumbles into an affair with older woman Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father’s business partner. Eventually he shifts his affections to daughter Elaine Robinson.

Jandy’s Mini-Review

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theyshoothorsesdontthey.jpgTHEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY (1969)
Sydney Pollack

The lives of a varied group of desperate contestants intertwine in an inhumane, grueling dance marathon in Depression-era Los Angeles.

Jandy’s Review

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midnightcowboy.jpgMIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)
John Schlesinger

A naive male prostitute and his sickly friend struggle to survive on the streets of New York City. The first (and only) X-rated film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, showing that the times were indeed a-changing.

Review Coming Soon

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easyrider.jpgEASY RIDER (1969)
Dennis Hopper

In the film that defined its rebellious, iconoclastic generation perhaps more than any other, a pair of counterculture bikers travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans in search of America.

Review Coming Soon

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bob&carol&ted&alice.jpgBOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE (1969)
Paul Mazursky

After attending a weekend self-discovery session, Bob and Carol feel newly enlightened, and want their friends, Ted and Alice, to feel the same way. The foursome each examine their feelings, and decide they have one last sexual boundary to cross to truly test their new enlightened state.

Jandy’s Review

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woodstock.jpgWOODSTOCK (1970)
Michael Wadleigh

Definitive footage of 1960’s hippie counterculture and its music. This documentary displays a vibrant attitude of youth and rebellion, bringing together artists such as The Who, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Ten Years After, Jefferson Airplane and many, many more over a three day period of drugs, rain, peace and love.

Jandy’s Review

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MASH.jpgMASH (1970)
Robert Altman

The 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital is shaken up by the arrival of Captains “Hawkeye” Pierce and “Duke” Forrest…crack surgeons but lousy soldiers. Joined by renowned chest-cutter “Trapper” John McIntyre, the surgeons set about dealing with the daily carnage of the war by raising hell.

Jandy’s Mini-Review

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fiveeasypieces.jpgFIVE EASY PIECES (1970)
Bob Rafelson

A drop-out from upper-class America picks up work along the way on oil-rigs when his life isn’t spent in a squalid succession of bars, motels, and other points of interest.

Jandy’s Review

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mccabe&mrsmiller.jpgMCCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971)
Robert Altman

A gambler and a prostitute become business partners in a remote Old West mining town, and their enterprise thrives until a large corporation arrives on the scene.

David’s Review

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thx1138.jpgTHX 1138 (1971)
George Lucas

In a dystopian future, all citizens are drugged to control their emotions and behavior. Factory worker THX-1138 stops taking the drugs and finds himself falling in love with his roommate LUH-3417.

Review Coming Soon

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carnalknowledge.jpgCARNAL KNOWLEDGE (1971)
Mike Nichols

The film traces the sexual and emotional confusion of two disparate men from their Amherst College days in the fifties through the Kennedy sixties, up to the Vietnam era.

Review Coming Soon

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lastpictureshow.jpgTHE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971)
Peter Bogdanovich

Small Texas town Anarene is dying a quiet death as folks head for the big cities to make their livings and raise their kids. The younger generation are torn between a future somewhere out there beyond the borders of town or making do with their inheritance of a run-down pool hall and a decrepit movie house.

Jandy’s Finite Focus

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badlands.jpgBADLANDS (1973)
Terrence Malick

He was 25 years old. He combed his hair like James Dean. She was 15. She took music lessons and could twirl a baton. For a while they lived together in a tree house. In 1959, she watched while he killed a lot of people.

Mike’s Review

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exorcist.jpgTHE EXORCIST (1973)
William Friedkin

Something beyond evil is happening in a little girl’s room. Regan has brutally changed both in the way she looks and the way she acts, with violent outbursts on everyone who comes in contact with her. Her worried mother gets in contact with a priest who comes to the conclusion that Regan is possessed and calls in an exorcism specialist.

Review Coming Soon

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meanstreets.jpgMEAN STREETS (1973)
Martin Scorsese

Charlie is a small-time member of the wiseguy community who collects protection money. When Charlie’s uncle Giovanni offers him a restaurant – the first step up the ladder – Charlie must choose between his desire for power, his love for his secret girlfriend Teresa and his duty to protect his friend Johnny Boy.

Jandy’s Review

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godfatherpartii.jpgTHE GODFATHER PART II (1974)
Francis Ford Coppola

The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York is portrayed while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on his crime syndicate stretching from Lake Tahoe, Nevada to pre-revolution 1958 Cuba.

Jandy’s Review

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nashville.jpgNASHVILLE (1975)
Robert Altman

In the wake of JFK’s assassination, under the shadow of the Vietnam war, an independent presidential candidate is running, bold and cheap, under the banner of the Replacement Party. The backdrop is Music City, the characters a myriad and hero-less cross-section of America.

Jandy’s Review

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alicedoesntlivehereanymore.jpgALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (1975)
Martin Scorsese

When Alice Hyatt is suddenly widowed after years of domesticity, she decides to travel to Monterey, California with her 11-year-old son Tommy to resume a singing career, with stops for jobs and relationships along the way.

Review Coming Soon

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shampoo.jpgSHAMPOO (1975)
Hal Ashby

George Roundy is a Beverly Hills hairstylist whose uncontrolled libido stands between him and his ambitions. The fact that he loves to love women doesn’t help this high-spirited, ADHD, genius-type person. As this tongue-in-cheek look at the sexual revolution rolls on, the girl juggling, stress and lies all wear George down.

Review Coming Soon

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dogdayafternoon.jpgDOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)
Sidney Lumet

On a hot summer afternoon, Sonny and Sal hold up the First Savings Bank of Brooklyn. Although the bank manager cooperates, Sonny finds that there’s actually nothing much to steal, as most of the cash has been picked up for the day. Then Police Captain Moretti contacts Sonny, telling him the place is surrounded by the city’s entire police force.

Jandy’s Review

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rocky.jpgROCKY (1976)
John G. Avildsen

When heavyweight champion Apollo Creed visits Philadelphia, an exhibition match between Creed and struggling boxer Rocky is set up, touted as a chance for a “nobody” to become a “somebody”. The match is supposed to be easily won by Creed, but someone forgot to tell Rocky, who sees this as his only shot at the big time.

Review Coming Soon

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next-stop-greenwich-village.jpgNEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE (1976)
Paul Mazursky

An aspiring Jewish actor moves out of his parents’ Brooklyn apartment to seek his fortune in the bohemian life of Greenwich Village in 1953. He struggles to come to terms with his feelings about his mother’s overbearing nature, while also trying to maintain his relationship with his girlfriend.

Review Coming Soon

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carrie.jpgCARRIE (1976)
Brian DePalma

After an embarrassing incident in the showers causes her fellow pupils to tease Carrie ruthlessly, the teacher disciplines them severely. Determined to have revenge, the other students hatch a plot against Carrie, which turns horribly wrong when Carrie’s strange mental powers are unleashed during the school prom.

Review Coming Soon

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taxidriver.jpgTAXI DRIVER (1976)
Martin Scorsese

A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as nighttime taxi driver in a city whose perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge to violently lash out, attempting to save a teenage prostitute in the process.

Review Coming Soon

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daysofheaven.jpgDAYS OF HEAVEN (1978)
Terrence Malick

Young couple Bill and Abby, pretending to be brother and sister, want to escape the poverty and hard labour of the city and travel south, finding employment on a farm in Texas. After the harvest the rich young farmer invites them to stay because he has fallen in love with Abby. When they discover that the farmer is seriously ill, they decide that Abby will accept his wedding proposal in order to benefit from the situation.

Review Coming Soon

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apocalypsenow.jpgAPOCALYPSE NOW (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola

During the on-going Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Green Beret who has set himself up as a God among a local tribe.

Review Coming Soon

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beingthere.jpgBEING THERE (1979)
Hal Ashby

A simple-minded gardener named Chance has spent all his life in the Washington D.C. house of an old man. When the man dies, Chance is put out on the street with no knowledge of the world except what he has learned from television.

Review Coming Soon

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ragingbull.jpgRAGING BULL (1980)
Martin Scorsese

When Jake LaMotta steps into a boxing ring and obliterates his opponent, he’s a prizefighter. But when he treats his family and friends the same way, he’s a ticking time bomb, ready to go off at any moment.

Review Coming Soon

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heavensgate.jpgHEAVEN’S GATE (1980)
Michael Cimino

Sheriff James Averill attempts to protect immigrant farmers from wealthy cattle interests, and also clashes with a hired gun over the woman they both love. Both men find themselves questioning their roles in the furious conflict between wealthy landowners and European immigrants attempting to build new lives on the American frontier.

Kurt’s Review

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An additional selection of films associated with New Hollywood: Rosemary’s Baby*, The Wild Bunch*, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid*, Love Story, Little Big Man, Billy Jack, The Last Movie, The Panic in Needle Park, Summer of ’42, Duel, The French Connection*, Klute*, Jeremiah Johnson, The King of Marvin Gardens, Fat City, What’s Up Doc?*, Deliverance, The Godfather*, Cabaret*, Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Serpico, Scarecrow, The Long Goodbye, Paper Moon*, The Sting*, Don’t Look Now*, American Graffiti*, Thieves Like Us, Harry and Tonto, The Sugarland Express, The Conversation*, Chinatown*, Barry Lyndon, Night Moves, The Day of the Locust, Jaws*, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest*, Marathon Man, Network*, All the President’s Men*, Star Wars*, The Goodbye Girl, New York New York, Sorcerer, Close Encounters of the Third Kind*, Annie Hall*, Dirty Harry*, 3 Women, The Last Waltz, Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, Heaven Can Wait, An Unmarried Woman, Straight Time, All That Jazz*, Manhattan*, Alien*, Kramer vs. Kramer*, Atlantic City, Cruising, American Gigolo, The Shining*.

*starred movies I have seen, which in many cases is the reason they do not appear in the main list above. If you’d like to write about them, please feel free. A few of the movies in the main list will be rewatches for me, but only because I really wanted to rewatch them anyway.

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Me
Guest

One of this sites fans the acclaimed fantastic Chicago Public Radio did a marathon on this very subject not to long ago, I think they even taught a class on it. Im trying to remember which films they discussed i know they did Mean Streets, Bonnie and Clyde, and Badlands for sure.

Me
Guest

Correction the acclaimed fantastic Chicago Public Radio show Filmspotting.

rot
Guest

can't wait to revisit Badlands, haven't seen it since the dawn of dvd.

David Brook
Admin

God that's an impressive list of films, I love 70's American cinema. There are still a couple I haven't seen, but they're ones you're planning on reviewing so I'll sit back and enjoy reading.

Have fun!

Andrew James
Admin

This will give me an excuse to finally watch Five Easy Pieces and Midnight Cowboy. Two films sitting on my shelf I've never gotten to.

Didn't care a whole lot for Being There, but Peter Sellers is fun to watch in that one. Woodstock though = awesome piece of American history told in a way that mimics the event; kind of dreamy and surreal, yet warm and friendly. I want to go back there.

David Brook
Admin

I have an unwatched copy of Mccabe and Mrs. Miller on DVD so I'd quite like to review that. Good excuse to get through my pile!

Thanks. And yeah Woodstock is crazily long but amazing, especially Hendrix. They're bringing out a new album of unreleased material if any Jimi fans out there haven't heard – can't wait.

Andrew James
Admin

It's funny David, I find myself skipping over a lot of the music portions of the movie. I'm much more interested in the crowd and the atmosphere and the dynamic between the people and the town and between the people and themselves. It's interesting look into a subset of society at the time that I find really fascinating and again… just warm.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

Though you can't skip past Santana's fiery version of "Soul Sacrifice" or The Who's blistering section.

Some great stuff in there. Network, Nashville, The Last Waltz, Close Encounters and The Shining would probably be my favourites of the entire list above.

rot
Guest

I think I might try Carnal Knowledge too because I love Nichols and have never got around to seeing it before.

Kurt
Guest

@rot: Carnal Knowledge

It is a good movie, and I know you are a fan of Nicols' CLOSER, which along with CARNAL KNOWLEDGE and WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLF? form a gender-politics trilogy of sorts which spans the 60s, 70s, and 00s. I actually wish that Nicols had made one of these for the 80s and the 90s as well. But nevertheless, watching all three back to back (which I've done) is quite interesting.

rot
Guest

Haven't seen Wolf either.

Kurt
Guest

Nichols first film (he was 33 at the time) was the Oscar Grand Slam in terms of nominations.

Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, screenplay, score, editing.

It didn't win evertything, but still, not bad for a 4 character play transplanted to the screen.

James McNally
Guest

Love love love this list of films, and glad to see Paul Mazursky get some love. Next Stop Greenwich Village was a real discovery when I saw it on TVO's Saturday Night at the Movies a few years back.

Another worthy book to set you up is Mark Harris' Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. He looks at the five nominees for Best Picture at the 1967 Oscars (Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, In the Heat of the Night, and Doctor Doolittle. His thesis is that this year was the faultline that divided Old from New Hollywood, and it's a great read.

James McNally
Guest

Well, with Doolittle, they wanted to repeat the success of something like The Sound of Music, but even in 1965, the big Hollywood musical was played out. These things are in the planning stages for so long, though, that the juggernaut kept rolling until it finally beached itself. How about that for a mixed metaphor? 🙂

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