best film: annie hall leads the way in what is the weakest single year in quite some time (probably looking at somewhere in the 1950’s at this point). That said, there’s no shame in having annie hall as the best film of the year- it’s certainly worthy, is a top 100 all-time film, a breakthrough for woody as an artist, the comedy genre, and certainly has become an influential work. It’s also woody’s first collaboration with gordon willis who would become his sven nykvist over the next decade.

most underrated:  Maybe I’m just a sucker for the tom ripley novels by Patricia Highsmith but I think wim wenders’ the American friend is categorically underrated (this would make three ripley novel adaptations very underrated for me- this, purple noon and minghella’s the talented mr. ripley in 1999). Ganz and Hopper are magnificent, wenders gives the film a dark and tragic look photographically and it should definitely be somewhere in the top 1000 on TSPDT and currently isn’.t

most overrated:  I’ve seen killer of sheep twice and can’t get behind the ranking of it at #311. I’d listen to arguments in favor of it at that ranking but found it static visually and I have a hard time getting over some of the technical rough edges and acting.

gem I want to spotlight: I’m dying to see the new 4k restoration of Dario argento’s suspiria. The film transcends being just one of the greatest horror genre films (many horror fans find it too arty actually) of all time and simply has one of the best use of lighting, colors, grand set pieces, and music (score by the goblins) in the decade (which put it up there all-time). I struggled through a crappy subpar transfer version of it upon my second viewing so a third, in proper format, may put this film back on track to be on my all-time top 100. It’s pure, wonderful, cinematic visual excess and both the camera movement and editing are set to the music making for such a hypnotic experience.

 

trends and notables:  1977 is an awful year. Annie Hall is a major artist’s second best film (it’s my overall #58 all-time) so no shame there and actually we’re solid here 1-3 but after about 7 films the year completely runs out of steam and for the first time in a long time I had to backfill slots in my top 10 with films that normally wouldn’t be deserving of a top 10 (slots 8-10 below).   On top of everything else there are only 30 total archiveable films this year which is a very low number for anything post 1939. 1977 is a major shift for Woody Allen tine tone and visually.. Don’t get me wrong, annie hall is very funny, but it’s not a farce or spoof like his earlier funnier films and he’s innovating with the 4th wall in interesting ways, cuts of animation in the story and even talking to a child version of himself in a great odd sequence. Clearly star wars from George Lucas is a box office smash and cultural event but I really don’t factor that in. What I care about is that it is a brilliant narrative achievement and original work (yes I know the sketch of the idea isn’t new (kurosawa is probably the biggest influence but kurosawa borrowed liberally from john ford and others as well so what are we talking about here?)). 1977 is another showcase for the continuation of the Bunuel French renaissance. Bunuel has been making archiveable films since 1930 and has made films all over the place from spain to mexico, but his period from 1967 with belle de jour to 1977 is one of his strongest (this would be bunuel’s last archiveable film). Three Women is far from Atlman’s best film but its significant because it’s the end of his ridiculous run from 1970-1977. He’d take a 5 year break from the archives (come back to the five and dime jimmy dean) and a 15 year hiatus from the top 10 (the player in 1992). During this stretch Altman have us 9 archiveable films in 8 years, 6 top 10 films, and 4 top 5 films. Wow. We have a few very important first archiveable milestones in 1977. We have Ridley Scott with the duelists, Meryl Streep in Julia and a young Christopher Walken (he and streep would be so brilliant together the following year in deer hunter) in a very memorable small role in annie hall.

 

 

best performance male: It’s not a strong year here either. There have been several years (1976 included) where’d I’d have at least 2-3 options better than any single one here but given my choices I’m going to go with Richard Dreyfuss’s strong work in close encounters as my performance of the year. His possessed every man is imaginative and energetic but has enough sympathy to stick it out with him when he abandons rationality (and his family)—it’s a tough role and dreyfuss is perfect for it. Behind him I’m definitely going with Woody Allen. Diane Keaton won the oscar and she’s great- but Allen carries the film. Bruno Ganz does some superb work in wenders’ American friend so he’s my third choice and my last choice here is the charasmatic turn by Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Alec Guinness received the oscar nom but I think Harrison Ford’s turn is clearly superior and it’d hate to see how dry this film could be without him.

 

best performance female:  I am going to agree with the academy and give the best performance to keaton in annie hall. She’s great at playing naïve and awkward—she’s funny– but clearly she goes through a transformation throughout the film and is more than just an allen foil. Behind her I think Liza is very good in scorsese’s new york, new york and the two performances in altman’s three women by Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek (another mention for spacek which gives her 3 in 5 years) round out my choices here.

 

top 10

  1. Annie Hall
  2. Star Wars
  3. Suspiria
  4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  5. Three Women
  6. The American Friend
  7. That Obscure Object of Desire
  8. Black Sunday
  9. The Last Wave
  10. The Spy Who Loved me

 

Archives, Directors, and Grades

 

A Bridge Too Far- Attenbourogh R
A Special Day
Annie Hall- Allen MP
Black Sunday- Frankenheimer R
Close Encounters of the Third Kind- Spielberg HR/MS
Equuas- Lumet R
Julia- Zinneman R
Killer of Sheep R
New York, New York- Scorsese R
Padre Padrone R
Providence- Resneis
Rabid- Cronenberg R
Riddles of the Sphinx
Rolling Thunder R
Saturday Night Fever R
Sorcerer- Friedkin R
Star Wars- Lucas MP
Stroszek- Herzog
Suspiria- Argento MS
The American Friend- Wenders R
The Duelists- R. Scott R
The Goodbye Girl-Ross R
The Last Wave- Weir R
The Late Show- Benton R
The Man Who Loved Women- Truffaut R
The Obscure Object of Desire- Bunuel
The Spy Who Loved Me R
Three Women- Altman HR
Twilight’s Last Gleaming- Aldrich R

 

*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