best film:  the conformist is a visual showcase of set pieces, lighting, and overall mise-en-scene from architectural landscapes to costume design. It has noir roots and is Bertolucci’s best film. Although I’ve had it there in the past, I don’t have performance in my top 100 of all-time right now so the lone film from 1970 is the conformist making it the easy choice. Frankly performance is the only film from this year that comes close- yet I feel it’s a very strong year.

most underrated: .I’m actually shocked that patton with the George C. Scott performance and intelligent script isn’t in the TSPDT top 1000. It should be. Sure, patton is evidence that a 70mm film shot by Franklin Schaffner is not the same as a 70mm film shot by David Lean or Stanley Kubrick but with the genius -evel performance by Scott, the oscar winning screenplay by francis ford coppla, great supporting work form Karl Malden and that tremendous opening—it should be a top 500-700 film.

 most overrated:  I’m a great admirer of the work of John Cassavetes from faces to woman under the influence to the killing of a Chinese bookie- but I can’t get behind 1970’s husbands at #285 on the TSPDT list. Cassavetes is a needed, and welcomed counter-point to Hollywood cinema but husbands doesn’t give you much to latch on to or much to admire (relatively of course- I mean I have it in my archives below). I had it ranked as his 8th best film when I ranked my listing of his films.

 gem I want to spotlight: I really have two films here. For cinema diehards, I think performance is the film to watch. I talk a lot about the surrealism/doppelganger work and influence of bergman’s persona (bunuel, lynch, aronofsky) but we have a strange male counterpoint here with nicholas roeg’s performance, james fox and mick jagger. The film’s “memo from turner” sequence and music video is powerful filmmaking. For those movie-goes who are less experimentally inclined, Arthur Penn’s little big man is just about as entertaining a yarn as there is. I love this film, its strong narrative, and the performances (led by dustin hoffman).

trends and notables:  1970 gives us peak bertolucci and the auspicious first archiveable films from nicholas roeg and Robert atlman—great filmmakers. It’s a truly remarkable year for first time archiveable filmmakers because we’d also have films from Hal Ashby and Dario Argento. Martin Sheen would have his first archiveable film in 1970 with the mike nichols ensemble catch-22. Ryan O’Neal would be very important to the 70’s and though he has a tiny cameo in 1967’s the graduate, he essentially gets his start here with love story of course. Tommy Lee Jones would also get his first archiveable film in love story and their careers are interesting. Ryan O’Neal would be huge from 1970-1977 doing some really great work—and Jones would take much longer to resurface and would only become a great actor from 1989 to 2012- when O’Neal would be long gone from making archiveable films. Susan Sarandon would also give us her first archiveable film with 1970’s joe. Surely this is the beginning of a brilliant career that really wouldn’t until the early or mid-90’s as well with Thelma and Louise in 1991 and dead man walking in 1995. Looking over the films and talking about a new generation of actors and auteurs from altman to roeg to sarandon it sure feels a little strange to see archiveable films form billy wilder and david lean but it’s worth noting that they would continue to go good work here into the 1970’s. The amount of detail-oriented auteurs who would give us two archiveable films in 1970 is worth noting. It doesn’t happen these days with directors giving us two films in the same year but in just one year we have Bertolucci (which is unfathomable with the amount of detail in the conformist), Altman and Truffaut.

best performance male:  Jack Nicholson is devastating in five easy pieces and it’s my top performance of the year. He’s volatile, intelligent and cocky. It’s one of the best character studies in film history and it’s impossible to picture without Nicholson. 1970 is loaded with good performances so it kills me not to go with George C. Scott in patton. It’s a towering larger than life performance fit for the controversial leader—it’s one of the great biopics and the strength of the film is Scott. Jean-Louis Trintignant had a brilliant acting career and I’m pretty convinced the high-water mark is his work in the conformist. Rounding out my top five would be Dustin Hoffman (a mention here in 3 of the last 4 years) in little big man and Elliot Gould in MASH. I give Gould the nod here just ever so slightly over Sutherland who would probably be my closest honorable mention.

best performance female: It’s another rough year for the category. As much as I love the American new wave era, the era and directors failed to create as many good female roles as their male peers. Forced to pick one I think Karen Black’s work in five easy pieces is the single greatest performance. It’s a large performance—definitely one that goes for it—but it mostly hits and her scenes with Nicholson are the finest in the film. Faye Dunaway also steals scenes away from Dustin Hoffman in little big man much like Stefania Sandrelli does in the conformist. Lastly, Ali McGraw is excellent in love story.


top 10

  1. The Conformist
  2. Performance
  3. MASH
  4. Five Easy Pieces
  5. The Wild Child
  6. Little Big Man
  7. Patton
  8. The Red Circle
  9. The Confession
  10. Zabriskie Point


Archives, Directors, and Grades

Bed and Board- Truffaut R
Brewster McCloud- Altman R
Catch 22- Nichols R
Donkey Skin- Demy R
El Topo- Jodorowsky R
Five Easy Pieces MP
Husbands- Cassavetes R
I Never Sang For My Father R
Joe- Avildsen R
Landscape after Battle- Wajda
Little Big Man- A. Penn MS
Love Story- Hiller R
MASH- Altman MP
Monte Walsh R
Patton- Schaffner MS
Performance- Roeg MP
Ryan’s Daughter- Lean R
The Ballad of Cable Hogue- Peckinpah R
The Bird With Crystal Plumage- Argento R
The Butcher- Charbol R
The Confession- Gavras HR
The Conformist- Bertolucci MP
The Garden of Fitzi Continis- De Sica R
The Great White Hope HR
The Landlord- Ashby R
The Pizza Triangle
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes- Wilder R
The Red Circle- Melville HR
The Spider’s Strategim- Bertolucci R
The Wild Child- Truffaut MS
Tristana- Bunuel, Rey HR
Two Mules For Sister Sara- Siegel R
Zabriske Point- Antonioni HR



*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives