Bogdanovich. At age 35 Peter Bogdanovich was on top of Hollywood and mentioned alongside Altman, Coppola and Scorsese as one of the most promising young filmmakers in the New Hollywood. His first five feature films all land in the archives and he was on a crazy run from 1971-1974 with four archiveable films in five years. The Last Picture Show is a big reason he’s on this list- it’s a top 500 film— and then he backed it up with Paper Moon two years later—two gorgeous black and white films that are very easy not only praise- but connect. Sadly, after Paper Moon in 1973 he’s never make another film that you really contemplated putting in the top 10 of its respective year.
Best film: The Last Picture Show. You may watch it the first time just to spot all the acting talent on display. Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman won Academy Awards for supporting performances but how about the first archiveable film for the likes of Jeff Bridges and Ellen Burstyn? A second and third viewing with leave you awestruck by Bogdanovich’s achievement in the world he’s created in 1960’s small-town rural Texas. Robert Surtees (14 time Oscar nominee including The Graduate) as the DP and Bogdanovich craft a true achievement in black and white photography.
total archiveable films: 6
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (The Last Picture Show)
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (The Last Picture Show)
most overrated: Nothing. I’m 100 spots or so lower on The Last Picture Show but that’s not a big delta—Paper Moon is the only other film in the TSPDT consensus top 2000 right now and that’s at #950- a good spot for it.
most underrated : Nothing here either. I’ve yet to see Saint Jack– a 1979 Bogdanovich film starring Ben Gazzara- that has a good reputation.
gem I want to spotlight : Paper Moon. Unlike the sprawling ensemble of The Last Picture Show this is a two-hander starring Ryan and Tatum O’Neal (who famously won an Oscar for her performance as young child) set in the depression era. It’s easily accessible, entertaining, handsomely mounted by László Kovács and Bogdanovich. Rustic black and white rural photography yet again
- Like the French New Wave auteurs Bogdanovich was a renowned writer and film buff (his interviews with directors and actors may be of even more valuable than his films to most cinema lovers)—his appreciation and knowledge of cinema history comes through in his work- The Last Picture Show owes a great deal to John Ford and What’s Up, Doc? borrows heavily from Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby
- Nostalgia and loss– his best films are magnificently photographed black and white films set in rural areas
- Homages- like Tarantino he tried to bring back his heroes from his favorite films- instead of Pam Grier and David Carradine it’s Boris Karloff in Targets and Ben Johnson (who often worked with John Ford) in The Last Picture Show
- The Last Picture Show
- Paper Moon
- What’s Up, Doc?
- Daisy Miller
By year and grades
|1971- The Last Picture Show||MS|
|1972- What’s Up, Doc?||R|
|1973- Paper Moon||R/HR|
|1974- Daisy Miller||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
What do you value more?
A director who made great movies (wilder Stanton) or a great director who shows lots of promise, but never really makes too many good movies. (Bogdanovich perhaps)
Is your list ranked based on a mix of these 2 kinds of directors?
@Azman- I think résumé is the single biggest factor for sure
He almost directed these following Movies
The Way We Were
The Long Goodbye
I’m missing one more movie and I don’t remember what it is
Quote from Bogdanovich during the making of The Last Picture Show:
“I hope I’m not repeating what happened to [Orson Welles]. You know, make a successful serious film like this early and then spend the rest of my life in decline.”
I’ll let you all make of this what you will, but, well, somehow I think we’re all going to come to the same conclusion here. Haha.
@Zane- oh wow- I’ve never seen this quote- thanks for sharing. Ouch.
Wow. That’s either a triumphantly ambitious aim (to expect be greater than Orson Welles right off the bat) or supreme arrogance.
I don’t mean to be rude but you could not have misunderstood Bogdanovich’s quote more.
He’s not saying he’s going to be greater than Orson Welles, or hell even aiming to be such. He’s comparing the debuts of his own film and Welles’, The Last Picture Show and Citizen Kane, and stating about how Citizen Kane was a big critical hit upon release and is still beloved to this day whilst the rest of his career was a decline after that (not that Welles didn’t keep making excellent films; he absolutely did), and lamenting that this happened to Welles, who was his mentor on the set of The Other Side of the Wind, and hoping that the same thing will not happen to him following the release of The Last Picture Show, which misfortunately for Bogdanovich, it did.
You are probably right. I’m sorry I misunderstood the quote. I must admit that I have never seen a Bogdanovich film, nor do I know much about him or his work. However, I don’t think I was completely off. By saying that he is hoping not to repeat the misfortunes of Welles, it seems that he is placing himself and his movie on the same plane as the great master and Citizen Kane in a way, if only slightly. Your conclusion from the quote – that what happened was exactly what Bogdanovich was hoping to prevent – is much more useful than mine.
At least Welles was still able to create a fabulous masterpiece more than twenty years after his unforgettable debut.
@Zane and @Graham– I think both readings of the quote can be right. I love Bogdanovich, have read several of his books, listened to podcasts, seen him give intros on TCM, etc– and to think there isn’t a ton of arrogance in that quote (comparing himself to what many consider the greatest filmmaker and his film to what many consider the greatest single film) would be an incorrect reading as well in my opinion. Still- he clearly had a ton of talent – sad he turned out not to be one of his generation’s greatest filmmakers.
A shame, one of the biggest cinephiles, only behind Scorsese, Allen and maybe Schrader.
One of the few directors that i like more for his personality than for his filmography together with William Friedkin.
He certainly got carried away by the impulse he had and couldn’t handle it.
I highly recommend his interviews and movie audio commentary if you can.
@Aldo- good stuff here Aldo- if you guys can get your hands on it this book is fantastic https://www.amazon.com/Devil-Made-Conversations-Peter-Bogdanovich/dp/0679447067
Targets(1968) is included in the top 10 but omitted in the grading section.
@Anderson- thank you
@Harry- Indeed. What a wild life Bogdanovich led. Great filmmaker and a big-time cinephile and film historian. I have several of his books on my shelf.
He is one of those great directors who you always hear of yet he made the kind of movies hardly anyone remembers or cares for. A privileged rich kid who got access to numerous Hollywood great in spite of being a nobody. I guess when you are born to a life of privilege you could o whatever your want. He has film knowledge but it is not hard to acquire. His actual films were mostly a crock of dreck.
And Sidney Poitier on the same day 🙁
@Ivan- I just saw this as well. RIP. A long life at least.
Curious, do you consider Peter Bogdanovich to be a “style plus” auteur?
I was going to start a Michael Haneke study (will come back to that later) but
decided to start a (abbreviated) Bogdanovich one instead, maybe 7 or 8 of his films.
@James Trapp- I would not say Bogdanovich is a style plus auteur
– Starts off with a (horror) movie within a movie, fast paced editing
– Bogdanovich has some Tarantino in him, movie references within the movie
– 30:15 “all the good movies have been made” ha this quote is from Sammy a character who is a director…
played by Bogdanovich himself
– 34 to 37 min great use of flickering lighting as Bobby smokes cigarette in the dark, dark blue tint
– 37 to 38 min quick edits add to discombobulated nature of the scene as Bobby kills 3 family members out
of nowhere add
– Camera floats across house showing massacre then to note left by Bobby at 42:22
– Bobby comes across as “all American” guy, young married guy who served in military and has seemingly
good relationship with his family even eats a Baby Ruth bar in one scene ha
– 58 min mark Bobby is on elevated ground with a sniper riffle, and we start getting POV shots through the
sniper riffle cutting back and forth to close up shots of Bobby
– 1:05:56 shot of purple/violet screen, I am not sure exactly what these colors indicate but I’ve seen them
enough times in the film to know it is intentional (according to one source (purple often associated with
fantasy or surreal)
– 1:07:22 setting of film moves to a drive-in theatre, very Tarantinoesque with the movie within the movie
(obviously before Tarantino)
– Great tracking shot starting around the 1:13:00 mark
– There is no attempt to explain Bobby’s actions which I like, yes, he’s a Vietnam Veteran but it is never implied
that his actions are tied to this. This film is far more about style than ideology (a good thing!)
Bogdanovich must have loved making this film, his character hangs with the Boris Karloff character playing a
fictional version of himself
– The 2 plot lines collide in the final 10 min, there is a case to be made that the film could have been stronger if
it focused on one of the 2 story lines instead of cutting back and forth
Nevertheless I enjoyed this film and its focus on style over content, impressive use of color, editing, and POV
shots from the perspective of Bobby using the sniper riffle
The Last Picture Show (1971)
– Starts off with shot of movie theatre in a run downtown, camera moves across street capturing gusts of wind and teenagers in retro 50s cars
– Glass Dr. Pepper bottles
– 9 min teenagers in movie theatres
– 10:02 Great introduction of Cybill Shepherd’s character, Jacy, with close up, Timothy Bottoms character, Sonny, has girlfriend but is clearly smitten
– 21-mark blunt mother daughter talk about life in dead end town
– Great town dance sequence ending with Timothy Button character and gym teacher’s wife, Ruth
– 38 min naked swim party
– 55:33 min Ruth smiles for the first time in the film, characters in this film seem to be searching for something; happiness, purpose
– 1:01:10 more closeup shots of faces, seems to be a go to tactic for Bogdanovich
– 1:03:35 a great dissolve edit
– 1:08:53 scene with Sonny staring out car window past endless empty landscape, appropriate match of visuals with theme
– 1:25:12 great blocking with close ups on faces of towns people gossiping
– 1:29:00 haunting dissolve edit of Ruth waiting in her room for Sonny who blows her off for Jacy
– 1:32:00 Duane and Sonny fight over Jacy ending with serious injury to Sonny
– 1:45:00 Texas sure likes their football
– 1:48:00 Duane and Sonny go to the final movie before movie theatre shuts down, hence the title reference “last picture show”
– 1:48:17 “take em to Missouri Matt” scene from Hawks Red River (1948), there was a Hawks reference in Targets (1968) as well
– Ruth explodes in anger at Sonny’s poor treatment of her in probably the best acted scene in the film
– 2:03:00 beautiful dissolve edit and sweeping shot ending on the same theatre the movie started at
Bogdanovich has crafted a film brimming with nostalgia, So far, the 1st 2 films of this Bogdanovich study emphasis movie theatres in the storyline
I liked the decision to go without a score, no Diegetic music, and the only music there is in movie is country hits listened by characters
10:02 Great introduction of Cybill Shepherd’s character, Jacy, with close up, Timothy Bottoms character has girlfriend but is clearly smitten
Bogdanovich captures the teenage/High School experience as well as anyone not named Richard Linklater; hanging at pool halls, talking football, naked swim parties, drinking beers, guys talking about sex, girls talking about sex, etc.
I liked that it was not sentimental or melodramatic, the story is told in a more cool detached way almost documentary like. The movie just keeps moving along, for example the scene when Jacy breaks up with Duane on the phone is handled very matter of factly, a more traditional High School movie would linger on Duane’s heartbreak
What’s Up Doc (1972)
– Starts with page book for opening credits with Barbra Streisand song “You’re the Top”
– 11:06 mark Ryan O’Neal’s character, Howard Bannister has chance meeting with Barbra Streisand’s character Judy Maxwell in a drug store
– 14:24 Howard and Judy talking both going up opposite sides of escalators
– 21:55 meet and greet of musicologists
– 46:28 nice shot using doorway as frame
– Starting around 47 some slapstick comedy resulting in fire in hotel room
– 52:18 Judy quotes Casablanca
– 1:04:00 mobsters crash the convention leading to more slapstick and general absurdity
– 1:09:00 scene in San Francisco streets during parade
– 1:20:00 plot summed up in scene in front of judge with all the movies characters in same place at same time
– Apparently, this was largely inspired by Howard Hawk’s Brining up Baby (1938) which I look forward to watching (just ordered the Criterion Blue Ray)
– High energy film for sure
– Review from Time Magazine “The result is a comedy made by a man who has seen a lot of movies, knows all the mechanics, and has absolutely no sense of humor.” It’s a little harsh but I agree that I do not think the comedy was as effective as Bogdanovich was going for
– I did enjoy but admit I did not laugh out loud much if at all although I did enjoy the fast-paced story as well as Barbra Streisand’s performance. I would have preferred someone like Dustin Hoffman to play the Ryan O’Neal role
Paper Moon (1973)
– Black and White again as film starts with gorgeous black and white photography
– Film begins at funeral, real life father daughter, Ryan O’Neal, and Tatum O’Neal, as Moze and Addie
– 7:55 nice frame using door
– 8:33 depth of field
– 9:05 low angle shots used when showing Moze from Addie’s perspective
– 9:19 incredible shot through diner glass window of Moze and Addie eating
– Moze and Addie are perfect team of con artists
– 14:38 nice frame using car window
– 20 min mark Addie shows off her talent as a con artist
– 20:50 nice use of depth of field in frame
– Repeated shots of car driving in open road after each successful con
– I got scruples; you know what that this?” “No, but if you have them, I bet they belong to someone else.” Great line!
– 36:54 fair with cotton candy, those classic big swirl lollipops, etc.
– 39:10 we get a shot of the paper moon referenced in the title
– Frequent shots show the vast and largely empty landscapes which I think is effective in depicting isolation of living in during The Great Depression
– Car scene 50/51 min mark Addie sitting in back of car with arms folded as she is upset that Moze’s attention has shifted to Trixie
– 1:05:12 great use of framing the faces
– 1:12:05 amazing silhouette shot
– 1:17:30 great zoom in on movie Addie is hiding on the inside of her hat while they are at the police station
– Starting around the 1:26:00 mark Moze gets in a fight, interesting as Ryan O’Neal was an Amateur boxer (he gets in a fistfight in Barry Lyndon as well)
– 1:29:57 great framing using a circular mirror
– This is undoubtably a movie for those who really love cinema, it is funny, poignant, bittersweet, and perhaps most importantly of all, very entertaining
– I love road movies in general
– Bogdanovich clearly has a penchant for nostalgia in his films between this and The Last Picture Show
– Camera is more active than I remembered (only saw this once)
– I loved the story, similar to The Last Picture Show, it avoids becoming excessively sentimental which I think improves the ending
– Very impressive performances from the real-life father daughter team, and while I am not an actor, I would have to imagine this is not any easy thing to do
– Bogdanovich uses low angle shots in a few scenes from the perspective of Addie, this is effective in reminding us that Addie, despite her impressive intelligence and cunning nature, is still a nine-year-old after all
– Visually this was quite stunning, deep focus cinematography
– Tatum O’Neal might give the best performance from a child actor under 12 that I have ever seen, it’s right up there along with Anna Paquin’s character in The Piano (1993)
– Great last scene with the duo driving into vast land with no real plan in mind
Saint Jack (1979)
– 9 min mark confrontational stare Ben Gazzara’s character and locals
– Fish out of water film for the British character played by Denholm Elliott visiting the country
– 20:20 room light with dim red light soon followed by erotic dance routine from two women
– 39 min mark Bogdanovich cameo
– Jazz music in background
– 54:26 tension building as he is surrounded by men with knives
– 1:07:20 Bogdanovich’s character turned out to be more than a cameo as we see he has a more substantial role
– 1:28:50 great composition in the church scene
– 1:37:18 nice shallow focus work
– 1:44:10 great framing through door
– Ben Gazzara has such an effortless style, his character reminds me of his character in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, I have to imagine Bogdanovich choose Gazzara with that performance in mind, there are clear similarities in the character and the way he deals with people
– I don’t know what Bogdanovich politics were (and don’t care) but there are some scenes with Americans (and Brits) behaving quite poorly with boorish behavior; I mean the plot revolves around the prostitution business, so I guess that is to be expected, none the less I don’t think Bogdanovich is making any kind of political statement, but the thought did cross my mind
– I admire the pacing of this film, and the way it is highly atmospheric and less plot oriented
The Cat’s Meow (2001)
– Starts in black and white
– 4:25 gorgeous dissolve edit that brings the film to color
– 7:38 nice using of framing through boat’s circular window
– Plot takes place on a luxury yacht with several historical figures tied to the film industry including William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies
– 35:10 great frame within a frame as the passengers watch movies in a projection room on the boat, while William Randolph Hearst lecturers the room of people
– 54:15 peep hole shot a la Polanski
– 59:09 nice low angle shot
– 59:30 nice symmetrical frame with some of the women playing ping pong on the boat
– Interesting from a historical perspective as the film is based on the Thomas H. Ince scandal; this refers to a death that occurred during a private party held by William Randolph Hearst on his private yacht and whether or not Thomas Ince was murdered (officially he died of a heart attack)
– same people in Fincher’s Mank although this is certainly no Mank
– Kirsten Dunst is solid as Marion Davies
– This film has its moments and its easy to see why a film historian/buff like Bogdanovich would be interested in making it, especially considering his connection to Orson Welles
Final Ranking and Grades:
1. The Last Picture Show, MP
2. Paper Moon, MS/MP (my personal favorite)
3. Saint Jack, R/HR
4. Targets, R/HR
5. What’s Up Doc, R
6. The Cat’s Meow
Finished a mini study for Bogdanovich covering 6 of his films, basically the most acclaimed ones. The timing is of course not a coincidence; I thought to cover his most acclaimed films as he recently passed away. Definitely similarities between Bogdanovich and Quentin Tarantino. While Bogdanovich certainly is not on Tarantino’s level both in terms of filmography and style he nevertheless is interesting as Bogdanovich like Tarantino is a cinephile as auteur. His knowledge of film history is impressive and the films I watched were highly enjoyable. At the same time I would be lying if I denied that it’s a shame that he wasn’t able to make more films the quality of The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon. Still I always try to take the stance that we should be happy for what we do have from any talented auteur even in cases where they do not appear to live up to their potential.
Forgot to include the grade for
6. The Cat’s Meow, R
@James Trapp- thanks for sharing this here- very good work!
I finally watched Saint Jack recently and I was impressed. Certainly a very good directorial accomplishment. And one of my guilty pleasures is At Long Last Love because I appreciate what Bogdonavich was trying to do.
@Nick Noble- thank you for sharing- I’ve had Saint Jack sitting here ready to go for far too long. I need to prioritize it.
Has anyone seen the sequel to The Last Picture Show; Texasville? I’ve heard good things.
@Harry – didn’t know a sequel existed, thanks for the heads up will have to check it out
@Harry I have not seen it myself. Notoriously difficult to find.