best film: Malick’s days of heaven is far and away the best film of 1978 and with every viewing of the film moves it closer and closer to top of my overall all-time list (currently sitting at #49). It’s simply one of the most beautiful movies ever made (I know I saw that a lot but this is on a very short list of 5-7) and basically invented the term “magic hour” for cinephiles. The score is haunting, I love the performances, the voice-over and the narrative, but it’s the visuals, the lighting and photography that makes it an all-timer.
most underrated: I’m still surprised to see john carpenter’s Halloween sitting at #510 on the all-time list according to TSPDT. It’s really the only option for me in terms of films from 1977 that are underrated and I really haven’t read any detractors of the film so I thought it would be closer to the 200-300 ranking range. Carpenter’s work with POV (yes argento did it prior in deep red as did many others including Hitchcock and powell in peeping tom) is astounding and his own pulsating score is one of the all-time greats. It created a sub-genre (stab horror) that came out with a lot of crap but that’s no this fault just like it isn’t Spielberg or lucas’ fault for all the crap they inspired (I’m not just picking on popular films—I mean nobody holds cassavetes responsible for all the bad indie movies).
most overrated: I hate to do it because I enjoy the hell out of the movie but I don’t think there’s much of an artistic reason why animal house should be in the top 1000 and it’s sitting on the TSPDT list at #885. I laugh through the film and there are some great moments but I think there are enough films of stylistic merit and individual achievement (whether it be acting or writing not to mention visual style and film form) to keep me to and through my top 1000 without going for films that made me crack up.
gem I want to spotlight: George Romero (in what I think is far and away his best film) takes on consumerism, materialism, the 70’s “me” decade thru the narrative vehicle of howard hawks’ rio bravo while staying within his own voice, genre and trilogy. It absolutely works a sa horror film without the social statements. It absolutely engrossing. This film is imminently rewatchable and a milestone for the horror genre.
trends and notables: By the TSPDT consensus this is a pretty awful year- only 7 films in the top 1000. I tend to agree with them actually. I really like coming home and straight time but in really good years these films just don’t end up on a top 10 list. They end up on that top 15 (or even top 17 or so) on the outside looking in. Days of heaven is both a towering achievement for Malick and a “goodbye” for 20 years as he goes on one of the oddest and longest mid-year hiatuses of any auteur in history (he wouldn’t resurface until thin red line in 1998). Clearly in 1978 horror is a major artistic genre with both Carpenter’s work and Romero’s sequel ending up in the top 5. It would be a very ugly top 10 without horror films. He’s not horror by Hal Ashby is so essential to the American new wave of the 1970’s. All 7 of ashby’s archiveable films would come out in the 70’s and would give us a total of 4 top 10 worthy films including 1978’s coming home. Speaking of coming home, Jane Fonda gives us three archiveable films in 1978 with this, California sweet and comes a horseman. Her co-star in coming home bruce dern would give us two archiveable films including one in the driver as well. Sadly, 1978 is the last archiveable film for the great John Cazale who gave us 5 archiveable performances in just 7 short years and all 5 films would be masterpieces. That’s right—he’s in the godfather, the conversation, godfather II, dog day afternoon and deer hunter. This would top even james dean and Daniel day lewis for per film average and it won’t happen again in 100 more years of cinema. Days of heaven would be the first archvieable film (and probably his best overall performance) for Richard Gere. Lastly, once again it’s worth acknowledging Fassbinder, in a year with 13 moons is his 5th top 10 film of the decade already. Unreal.
best performance male: It’s not an amazing year here but I have 5 I’d like to single out. Oddly enough, 3 of the 5 are actually considered supporting. My top performance is a lead though and goes to De Niro for his work in michael cimino’s meditative deer hunter. De Niro and Walken (who might be my #2 choice) are wonderful in this film, as is streep below, and portray characters of such depth. For De Niro this is an incredible run and deer hunter gives him a strong, performance acknowledgement-worthy work in 4 masterpieces already this decade (mean streets, godfather ii, taxi driver and now this). Walken as I said before takes the leap from a hilarious scene in annie hall to an unforgettable character in deer hunter. It’s his career-best performance. Behind the two towering performances in deer hunter we have Richard Gere’s first archiveable performance here in Terrence malick’s days of heaven. His building jealously help make this quite possibly his career pinnacle. John Hurt steals absolutely every scene he’s in in alan parker’s superb midnight express as does bruce dern in coming home. Dern and Hurt show that you don’t have to play lead to walk away with a picture and become part of cinema lore and these two films aren’t even the godfather in quality or anything—you can still do it in a top 10 film.
best performance female: Meryl Streep gives the best female performance of the year as Linda in the deer hunter. Streep doesn’t have the intensity of the Russian roulette scenes like her male counterparts but her character is fully formed for sure and her intimate scenes with both walken and de niro are amongst the best in the film. Behind her we have the great Ingrid bergman in Ingmar bergman (that’s tough to say)’s autumn sonata. It’s great to see Ingmar and Ingrid, two greats, pair and work together. Jane Fonda continues her incredible run with her performance in coming home and my last two performances go to Stockard Channing for her scene-stealing in grease and geraldine page for her embittered performance in woody allen’s interiors.
- Days of Heaven
- The Deer Hunter
- Dawn of the Dead
- The Tree of Wooden Clogs
- Midnight Express
- In a Year with 13 moons
- Coming Home
- Straight Time
- Autumn Sonata
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|An Unmarried Woman- Mazursky|
|Autumn Sonata- Bergman||HR|
|Blue Collar- Schrader||R|
|California Suite- Ross||R|
|Comes a Horseman – Pakula||R|
|Coming Home- Ashby||HR|
|Dawn of the Dead- Romero||MS|
|Days of Heaven- Malick||MP|
|Fury- De Palma||R|
|Heaven Can Wait- W. Beatty|
|In a Year With 13 Moons- Fassbinder||HR|
|Invasion of Body Snatchers- P. Kaufman||R|
|La Cage aux Folles||R|
|Les rendez-vous d’Anna- Akerman||R|
|Midnight Express- A. Parker||HR|
|Pretty Baby- Malle||R|
|Remember My Name- Rudolph||R/HR|
|Superman: The Movie-Donner||R|
|The Boys From Brazil- Schaffner||R|
|The Buddy Holly Story||R|
|The Deer Hunter- Cimino||MP|
|The Green Room- Truffaut|
|The Tree of Wooden Clogs||HR|
|Who’ll Stop the Rain- Reisz||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