best film: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid edges out the 5 other masterpieces from 1973 for my top slot. It’s not the towering achievement that can hold up the quality of an entire decade like 2001 or the searchers but it’s a stylistic treatise by Peckinpah that is shockingly close to the wild bunch (a top 50 film for me) in overall quality. The Bob Dylan music, death scene of slim pickens, the jaw-dropping opening credit sequence are all stylistic highlights that carry this film to my top 100 list- the only entre from 1973.
most underrated: Pat garrett is woefully underrated at #537 but there were multiple versions of pat garrrett out there for years so I think a definitive “final cut”-like version of the film (hopefully in the future) could remedy that. The one I want to focus on here is one I just recently caught up to and that’s lady snowblood. Toshiya Fujita’s lady snowblood is nowhere to be found in the TSPDT consensus top 1000 and i have it as a top 5 of the year quality film after my first viewing which would put it roughly in my top 500-600. It is extremely ambitious all around: stylistically, thematically and narratively—it does not treat itself as a b-film.
most overrated: The spirit of the beehive is at #129 all-time and I can’t find a spot for it in my top 14 of a loaded 1973 so we’re worlds apart here. On top of the films you see below on my top 10, I’d throw fassbinder’s world on a wire, scarecrow, the sting and maybe even sleeper, American graffiti, high plains drifter and Papillion as arguably superior works to spirit of the beehive from 1973
gem I want to spotlight: I’m putting the sting as my gem here because of the engrossing nature of the narrative, the well-earned ending, four great performances (redford, newman, Robert shaw and Charles durning) and the frustration that I can’t find a spot for it in my top 10. It’s a top 5 of the year quality film but 1973 is just absurd. It’s one of the “yes it shouldn’t have won best picture but it’s not overrated” films that I enjoy revisiting and admiring every year or two. The Sting makes us a very clean two for two on paul newman and robert redford collaborations—not sure if I should be frustrated they didn’t make more or happy with the quality average here with this and butch cassidy and the sundance kid.
trends and notables: Six masterpieces in one year is only matched by one year (1939) and topped by one (1960) so this is a fantastic year even if it doesn’t have a colossal work like rules of the game or la dolce vita. It’s Peckinpah’s second best film but a artistic treat for any cinema fan. This is only the first or second time I can’t find a spot for a top 5 quality of the year film in my top 10 (the sting here) which is really wild. If I count top 10 quality films I have 19 here for 1 year. Again, it’s unreal and American new wave cinema in full swing (of those 19, 12 of them are from the US and many of them are from directors that didn’t come on the scene until the 1970’s (including works by george lucas, altman, Scorsese, malick)). Mean Streets is the first archiveable film for Scorsese, badlands is the debut (shocking) for terrence malick, sisters is the first archiveable film for De palma. De Palma, Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas (and Spielberg who is absent from 1973) would be the “movie brats” who are the leaders of this new wave. Outside of the US we have masters like Bergman and Truffaut showing off their depth with more top 10 films and the third top 10 of the year quality film already this decade from Roeg. Mean Streets would be the first archiveable film for De Niro and Harvey Keitel. We have the first archiveable film from a young Harrison Ford in american graffiti. We have the first archiveable film for Helen Mirren in o lucky man and a young sissy spacek (who is just genius) in badlands. He’s not part of the movie brats but Franklin Schaffner shouldn’t be overlooked here- he’s quietly produced 3 top 10 films in the last 6 years (patton, Papillion, and planet of the apes). Also, he hasn’t peaked, but Woody Allen is in the middle of his “early funny films” here and has an archiveable film in 4 of the last 5 years, sleeper, is far and away his best film to date and would be the #9 or #10 film on the top 10 of many years. Lastly, I’ll mention him again here below in the best performance list but Pacino is just on fire here with two performances of ridiculous quality in one year.
best performance male: I have seven performances i have to mention here. It’s actually tough to pick just one to highlight. I think I’m going to pick Harvey Keitel in mean streets. When I first saw the film in the last 1990’s I was blown away by De Niro’s performance (which I’m definitely still recognizing here as one of my seven) but over the years the more subtle, and slightly greater performance, is keitel’s I think. I don’t think quite as much of the film as many critics do but I have to mention Nicholson’s performance in the last detail along with the work of Erland Josephson in scenes from a marriage. Josephson is no second class citizen to max von sydow in the bergman stable of great actors. Gene Hackman’s work in scarecrow is also brilliant and worthy of mentioning. Lastly, Pacino followed up 1972’s the godfather with performances here in both serpico (as the title character) and alongside Hackman in scarecrow. It’s a magnificent run and the fact that we have de niro debuting in the archives alongside the stretch run from the likes of hackman, pacino, hoffman, redford, nicholson and beatty—it’s just a special time.
best performance female: It’s a really strong year here and I have 4 performances here that would top most of the year’s list in this category. My overall #1 is liv Ullmann in scenes from a marriage. She’s followed very closely by Ellen Burnstyn in the exorcist who is actually stronger here than in the oscar winning year the following year in alice doesn’t live here anymore. Meiko Kaji absolutely blew me away in lady snowblood so she and sissy spacek’s stunning turn in badlands (that voice over an all-timer) are my top 4. My last slot would go to Streisand in the way we were. I know her performance and that film may grind on and wear people out but liking a character is not indicative of a high quality performance (most of the time it’s the opposite)—just check out some of the work of Katharine Hepburn.
- Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
- Mean Streets
- Don’t Look Now
- The Exorcist
- The Long Goodbye
- Scenes from a Marriage
- Lady Snowblood
- Day for Night
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|American Graffiti- Lucas||HR|
|Charley Varrick- Siegel||R|
|Day For Night- Truffaut||MS|
|Distant Thunder- S. Ray|
|Don’t Look Now-Roeg||MP|
|Enter the Dragon||R|
|High Plains Drifter- Eastwood||HR|
|Mean Streets- Scorsese||MP|
|Memories Under Development|
|O Lucky Man- L. Anderson||R|
|Paper Moon- Bogdanovich||R/HR|
|Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid- Peckinpah||MP|
|Save the Tiger-Avildsen||R|
|Scenes From a Marriage- Bergman||MS|
|Sisters- De Palma||R|
|The Day of the Jackal- Zinneman|
|The Exorcist- Friedkin||MP|
|The Friends of Eddie Coyle- Yates||R|
|The Holy Mountain- Jodorowsky||R|
|The Last Detail- Ashby||R|
|The Long Goodbye- Altman||MS|
|The Paper Chase||R|
|The Spirit of the Beehive||HR|
|The Three Musketeers- Lester||R|
|The Way We Were- Pollock||R|
|The Wicker Man||R|
|Theatre of Blood||R|
|World on a Wire- Fassbinder||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