Barry Lyndon (1975)


Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Leon Vitali, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Marie Kean, Murray Melvin, Michael Hordern (narrator)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Summary: An Irish rogue cheats his way to the top of 18th-century British society

Other Nominations: Director, Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design*, Song Score*, Art Direction*, Cinematography*, Film Editing


-This is a film epic that feels very different than most in style and tells a really compelling rise and fall of a deeply flawed man whose life feels like a joke played on him by a cruel god who likes getting his hopes up before dashing them. I mentioned something similar in my review of A Clockwork Orange, but it’s even more pronounced here-despite the character himself not really changing or growing over the course of the movie, your attitude towards him changes a number of time, based mainly on the specific situation he’s in at the point in the story. In some ways, you could also say the same about Lord Bullingdon as a character, and in both cases it makes for an interesting story on an intellectual level (should I really be reacting this way right now?) Finally, the dual scene at the end is fantastic and easily some of the best direction Stanley Kubrick ever did.

-The score, all new orchestrations of classical music pieces, is one of the top 10 best from this project so far, especially the main theme (a version of Handel’s Sarabande) and the selections fit perfectly with the mood of every scene.

-Stanley Kubrick was legendary for his attention to detail, and it’s probably more obviously evident here than in any of his other films. The costumes and sets are gorgeous, the exteriors and countrysides were perfectly selected, and every single shot in the film looks fantastic, many of which were purposely done to reference various English paintings of the period. The movie is also famous for its lighting, where almost all light is natural-either filmed during the day with no added light, or by candlelight which required special camera lenses. It gives the film a distinctive look that’s hard to replicate.

-Kubrick got a lot out of a cast comprised mostly of relative unknowns, but the one that really stood out to me was Berenson. She has almost no dialogue in the film (despite being in the movie a lot), but her facial expressions convey this incredible sorrow and melancholy and you always know what she’s thinking.


-This is a long movie (just over 3 hours), and it’s not for everybody-it’s pretty audacious in just how cold and unemotional it is for the most part and how detached it feels from its characters.


I actually watched this film in January but I liked it enough the first time that I felt like watching it again 6 months later; this time, I think I liked it even more, since I could fully appreciate how great the visuals and score are since I already knew the story. This is Kubrick’s least popular film from his golden period (1957-1987) despite being his most awarded at the Oscars, yet it’s one of his best due to its narrative, visuals and score.

Rating: A

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)


Starring: Al Pacino, John Cazale, James Broderick, Charles Durning, Chris Sarandon (his film debut), Sully Boyar, Penelope Allen, Lance Henriksen

Director: Sidney Lumet

Summary: A man robs a bank to pay for his lover’s operation

Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Pacino), Supporting Actor (Sarandon), Original Screenplay*, Film Editing


-Al Pacino gives what is probably his best performance (yes, even better than in The Godfather movies). He has a lot to work with given he’s playing such an interesting character, but he brings out the humanity and inner-turmoil within the character without going over the top and he feels like a completely real person. I also like Cazale and how his total lack of any emotion for the most part added to the mystery of the character and the surreal quality of the whole situation; that, and his line about Wyoming (which he came up with) and the delivery is perfect.

-I liked how it was a commentary on group causes of the time that still is 100% relevant today. Members of the crowd around the bank either totally support him or are against him because he fits into their individual causes in some way, regardless of this really being the kind of guy you want to get behind as a figure for your movement (he’s still committing armed robbery at a bank regardless of his reasons). This reflects not only the 70s when everybody was anti-establishment and you had tons of individual causes (black power, anti-police, anti-war, gay rights, etc.), but also the way we are right now (occupy wall street, black lives matter, anti-immigrant, anti-muslim, etc.) where our “heroes” or “villains” are all filtered through our own group politics.


-I really liked the movie as a character piece, but I never got into it as a tense drama, the other major aspect this film was going for what with the hostage negotiations and the sweltering NYC summer. The movie being almost nothing but one long hostage negotiation wasn’t an issue, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t get a little tired of it towards the end.


Pacino makes the movie and the script does a great job of balancing humor with poignancy, even if it works more effectively as a character piece than it does as a tense drama.

Rating: B+

Jaws (1975)


Starring: Roy Scheider,  Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Murray Hamilton, Lorraine Gary (her film debut)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Summary: The sheriff of an island town takes to the seas when a bloodthirsty shark invades the local waters

Other Nominations: Original Score*, Sound Mixing*, Film Editing*


-The script is perfect, at least from a structural standpoint-it plays perfectly as a thriller-horror film combination. It starts off with a bang so you know the severity of the threat, then the rest of it builds really nicely where the shark starts coming more and more frequently, and almost every time, it’s done for suspense rather than pure shock-you either hear the music, see a shark POV or some other visual cue that the shark is coming soon and you’re waiting for exactly when and where it happens; the few times it does show up as a jump scare, it works well because the whole rest of the film has told you it won’t surprise you, therefore you are actually surprised when something does happen. Making a horror film with a shark is a stroke of genius because, as ridiculous of the idea of a terminator-like shark is, it preys on legitimate (extremely unlikely, but they do occasionally happen) fears about a shark attacking you if you’re in the ocean. Finally, the dialogue is good as well, especially from Quint. In a related note, Shaw is excellent and the only reason I can think of for him not getting a Supporting Actor nomination stems from why he also wasn’t given one for The Sting: he demanded lead billing (he’s billed on the same screen with Scheider and Dreyfuss in the opening credits) and therefore was treated as a lead.

-The score is also legendary, primarily the main theme which is one of the most iconic and effective in all of film, and I can’t imagine how you could make the shark a bigger threat than using that music in conjunction with him showing up. The rest of the score is very good as well, even if it’s overshadowed.

-This is famous as a film immensely improved in editing, and as much as it has been said already, a lot of the suspense and fear of the shark does come from how infrequently you see a good look at it before the climax of the film (although another good reason for the shark’s infrequent appearances is how poorly the shark worked in salt water). I would also like to mention the cinematography and I’m shocked it wasn’t nominated-the shark POV shots were a brilliant decision, there’s a number of great zoom-ins and tracking shots, it’s great all around.


-This is pretty much the best this movie could have possibly have been (okay, maybe the shark could have looked better, but I’ll take the mechanical shark over any CG one), but there’s not any greater aspirations than a really well made thriller/horror film-and that’s fine, great even! But I’m not usually going to give a movie with really broad characters and no real themes of significance an A, as good as it is. Note, I will probably break this general rule multiple times with a couple of films I’m thinking of right now, but nevertheless I just can’t give it an A.

Other Stuff

-Just wanted to mention the great Jaws: Special Edition sketch from Robot Chicken that’s an excellent parody of the Star Wars Special Editions:


The movie that launched Steven Spielberg into superstardom and along with Star Wars a couple of years later, forever changed the industry’s conception of what a blockbuster was by destroying the previous record for box office-few films have had a greater impact on American cinema, and its place of significance is richly deserved.

Rating: A-

Nashville (1975)


Starring: Ronee Blakley (her film debut), Henry Gibson, Ned Beatty, Lily Tomlin (her film debut), Geraldine Chaplin, Keith Carradine, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Baxley, Shelley Duvall, Gwen Welles, Karen Black, Barbara Harris, Allen Garfield, David Hayward, Michael Murphy, Jeff Goldblum

Director: Robert Altman

Summary: Country music stars get caught up in tangled affairs and an independent candidate’s political campaign

Other Nominations: Director, Supporting Actress (Blakley), Supporting Actress (Tomlin), Original Song (“I’m Easy”)*


-Few directors were better known for their cynical view of America more than Robert Altman, and this movie certainly fits the bill, but with more depth than MASH. It’s about a lot (and I mean a lot) of musically or politically ambitious people, some of whom have achieved their dream of success, some are seeking it and some will never get it, but none what we do see of success seems pretty hollow (or at least, those who have achieved it feel that way). Those who aren’t in that ambitious seem out of place with the world and feel burned out with their lives, or are just goofy idiots like Chaplin and Duvall’s characters, who are vapid yet are probably the most satisfied with their lives. What’s interesting is that it fully uses the setting to its greatest effect, but music-style aside, it feels like it could have taken place in LA or New York or really anywhere where people go to try and make a big break, and it gives the movie a pretty universal quality in regards to the American dream.

-While this ends up being a net negative in some ways, the movie does a really good job of juggling all these different characters and mini-stories, most of which weave into each other at one point or another over the course of its 160 minute run time.

-The cast on a whole is very good, with Chaplin as a clueless BBC reporter, Blakley as a country music star on the verge of a breakdown and Gibson as a diminutive country music legend being my favorites.


-The big problem is that I don’t feel anything about most of the characters the vast majority of the time-there’s some terrific scenes in the last hour or so, but before that, not much. Part of it comes from there being so many characters that you never really get invested with any of them, the other part comes from just how cold the movie is towards its characters most of the time. If it had more of a story, this wouldn’t be as much an issue, but there’s almost none whatsoever and it’s entire about it’s character, place and theme. For me to really like a drama (which this is despite its humorous elements), you usually have to sell me on the story or the characters and this does neither.


I thought the movie did a great job with it’s theme about the hollowness of the American dream, but the lack of a connection with the characters in conjunction with the lack of a real story make this merely good for me instead of great.

Rating: B

*One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)*


Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson (his credited film debut), Brad Dourif (his credited film debut), Sydney Lassick, William Redfield, Christopher Lloyd (his debut), Danny DeVito

Director: Milos Forman

Summary: A small-time criminal fakes insanity in hopes of doing easy time in a mental hospital

Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Nicholson)*, Actress (Fletcher)*, Supporting Actor (Dourif), Adapted Screenplay*, Original Score, Cinematography, Film Editing


-The theme of conformity vs. individuality and the human spirit, and the story of a man challenging all conventions against “the system” (in this case, the rigid head nurse at a mental hospital) is well-done and very timely for the time when everybody was disillusioned from Watergate and the constant culture wars that took place from the mid 60s to late 70s. Honestly, the most interesting and important character in the story is the Chief (who is actually the narrator in the original novel)-he represents the path of least resistance and being angry, but going along with the easiest path, a man beaten down by the system who ends up finding the courage to rebel at the end.

-The casting was excellent. Nobody could play likeable asshole like Nicholson, who won his first of his three Oscars for his performance; even if I thought he was better in Chinatown and Five Easy Pieces, he’s still great here. Fletcher also won an Oscar despite not getting the kind of screen time you might expect for a Best Actress winner (about 35-40 minutes I’d guess), but she is perfect with her cold, smoldering anger that rises up over the course of the film. The movie also has a number of other people who would go on to do great things-DeVito and Lloyd launched their careers on the show Taxi three years later and would do tons of movie and TV work over the next two decades, and Dourif would become best known as the voice of Chucky from the Child’s Play movies.


-While it executes its main theme well, there’s not much more than that and the whole movie feels overly simplistic and lacks depth. As said earlier, only the Chief and Dourif’s characters have any kind of arc or change at all, and the rest of the characters can be summed up very easily and either are there to represent the main conflict or simply to be impacted by the conflict. Neither the characters or the narrative itself really stuck out to me, and the theme as simple as it was wasn’t enough to carry the whole movie for me. I also think that, if it’s supposed to be anything more than an allegory for culture wars and is actually supposed to also be some kind of commentary on mental health institutions, it’s overly simplistic there as well, as bad as 1960s mental institutions were-more freedom and having people with mental disabilities try new things isn’t necessarily the best approach, as every person and mental illness is different.


I liked the movie quite a bit, but I don’t see why it gets the kind of unreal praise it has received since the time of its release.

Rating: B+

1975 in Review

Other Notable Films from 1975

The Mirror: #19 in the last Sight and Sound Poll, this stream of consciousness film was the third in a string of legendary films from Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev, Solaris and Stalker afterwards).

Monty Python and the Holy Grail: One of the most acclaimed comedies to ever come out of Britain (eclipsed only by its successor, although this one is the more popular of the two), it came out a year after the original show wrapped up and is irreverent and consistently hilarious.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Probably the first movie to become a cult movie much less a “midnight movie” with large audience participation (something that would later happen with The Room and Plan 9 from Outer Space). This bizarre, rambling movie features early performances from the always great Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick from Spin City and Megaforce, and Meatloaf two years before Bat Out of Hell. I would be remiss not mentioning the wonderful theme “Science Fiction Double Feature.” In the National Film Registry.

Grey Gardens: One of the most famous documentaries of all time from the Maysles brothers about the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy who lived in isolation at a dilapidated mansion on Long Island. It’s depressing, humorous yet somehow still moving. In the National Film Registry.

1975 Nominees in Review

Barry Lyndon: A

Jaws: A-

Dog Day Afternoon: B+

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: B+ (Won Best Picture)

Nashville: B

Did 1975 live up to the hype? Yes and no: I would call it the most consistently good year so far I think, but 1974 had more great movies in my opinion, as I was slightly underwhelmed by Dog Day Afternoon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Nashville. The two others are masterclass examples of storytelling, with Jaws being an example of a near-perfect screenplay and Barry Lyndon being one of the best directed movies with an outstanding narrative I can think of.

Yet another loaded slate of films coming up in 1976 (4/5 in the National Film Registry again), with a very controversial Best Picture winner (as much as people like it and the whole series it spawned, there’s no way it should have won BP). We have: a movie where they spent $100,000 (in 70s money) on just the desks in the newsroom for accuracy sake; the first movie to use Steadicam; a movie that made back 225x its budget on its original release and spawned 6 sequels; a movie that won Best Director, Actress, Actor and Screenplay at the Golden Globes and Actress, Actor and Screenplay and the Oscars, yet won Best Picture at neither; and the last movie Bernard Herrmann ever scored.

Chinatown (1974)


Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez, John Hillerman, Diane Ladd, Darrell Zwerling, Burt Young

Director: Roman Polanski

Summary: A Los Angeles private eye’s investigation into a case of infidelity leads to him  unraveling a massive web of corruption within the city.

Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Nicholson), Actress (Dunaway), Original Screenplay*, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Sound, Film Editing, Original Score


-The script is one of the best (maybe the best) for a mystery noir-it keeps us on our toes guessing what’s going to come next with some great twists and turns, it’s exciting, it has great characters that are both totally tropes of the genre (the hard boiled PI who doesn’t know when to quit, the femme fatale) yet are distinctive and give new life to those kinds of characters, and I love how it really builds up the character of Noah Cross before we ever meet him and then he looms over the whole movie despite only being in it for 15 minutes. It has a little bit of everything, and the last 15 minutes are some of the best ever, even on my second viewing. On the whole, it reminds me of something Billy Wilder would write if he was in his prime in the 1970s.

-Nicholson and Dunaway are both fantastic in the leads, playing their archetypes perfectly. Nicholson is funny, charming, crass, yet until the end doesn’t let anything really get to him because his character has seen pretty much everything before. Dunaway was one of the best (maybe the best) leading woman of the era, and everything about her screams mystery and “she’s hiding something” behind her poker face, but with more style and elegance than say, Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon, and she’s also better at the more emotional scenes. Last but certainly not least is John Huston; there have been plenty of people nominated (or have even won) Supporting Actor/Actress for movies they only appeared in for 15 minutes, so I don’t know how he didn’t for this one (he did get nominated for the Golden Globe), as he’s amazing every time he shows up.

-You can see why L.A. Noire pretty much outright stole the score from Chinatown-it’s big brassy sound with piano undertones is perfect for the film and is one of Jerry Goldsmith’s best efforts, if not his best.


-Hmmmmm….Well, I don’t really like Roman Polanski as a person that much, so there’s that even if it didn’t effect my enjoyment of the movie (he also shows up on-screen briefly in an important scene). Other than that? Too much water? You’ve got me.


It’s a shame that it had to go up against The Godfather Part II, as in almost any other year it would have won Best Picture (and even won the Golden Globe for Best Drama over that movie). If you like noirs, mysteries or even are someone who likes dramas and has a healthy tolerance for cynicism, you’ll probably love this movie. Watch it if you haven’t.

Rating: A

The Conversation (1974)


Starring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, Harrison Ford, Teri Garr, Robert Duvall

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Summary: A surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he has been spying on will be murdered.

Other Nominations: Original Screenplay, Sound


-This is a wonderful example of character building through show, don’t tell-there’s very little expository dialogue about the kind of person Hackman’s character is, and instead we learn about him through his actions and body language. The result of the script and Hackman’s excellent performance is a vivid and memorable character: a paranoid introvert who is awkward in every way, yet he feels very much like a real and original character despite many others having similarities to him.

-Besides being a character study, it also works really well as a thriller/mystery, and one with very relevant themes about secret surveillance. The movie is very vague until the last 35 minutes or so about who he’s working for and for what purpose exactly, but whereas in some movies this would be frustrating and you might feel you need a little more to go on, the character building it does for the first hour and a half is interesting enough on its own and they give you just enough to go on that you’re okay with waiting for answers. The conclusion we get is outstanding and extremely well-done with Hackman ending up in a place that feels logical (and almost deserved) considering who he is and also drives home the point about the consequences of surveillance technology and how (even now!) we really haven’t thought about the true ramifications of it on our lives now and in the future until it’s too late.

-I really think the score should have gotten an Oscar nomination, as it feels very ahead of its time. While you see plenty of movies go for light piano music when you have a character who is fragile or lonely, I don’t think that was always the case and this movie may been an inspiration for others.


-I didn’t like the one “dream sequence” where he tries to talk to Cindy Williams’ character because it breaks the “show don’t tell” rule that the rest of the movie adhered to so well and it doesn’t actually add anything to the movie or our understanding of the character.

Other Stuff

-While it was unintentional because the movie was written in the mid 60s, the timing of this movie couldn’t have been any better: this movie about secretive surveillance using bugs and wiretaps was released in April 1974, at a time when Richard Nixon was undergoing impeachment proceedings as a result of the Watergate scandal.


Francis Ford Coppola could do more than big epic stories at the height of his powers, as this is a fantastic small character study/thriller/mystery that is very personal and yet has some big themes that still apply today.

Rating: A

*The Godfather Part II (1974)*


Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Michael V. Gazzo, Lee Strasberg, Talia Shire

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Summary: The early life of Vito Corleone in 1920’s New York is depicted, while his son Michael expands and tightens his grip on his crime syndicate

Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Pacino), Supporting Actor (De Niro)*, Supporting Actor (Gazzo), Supporting Actor (Strasberg), Supporting Actress (Shire), Adapted Screenplay*, Art Direction*, Costume Design*, Original Score*


-In many ways, this is a superior film to its predecessor and tells a better core story. Seeing how Michael deals with power is more interesting to me than seeing his ascent to power. The dynamic between Michael and Fredo here is the highlight of the series for me, and Cazale should have been nominated (instead of Strasberg or one of the other non-Godfather nominees). The struggle between family and loyalty vs. what’s best for business underlines the entire movie and the examination of those themes is done better than in the first movie.

-Besides Cazale, who I mentioned earlier, the cast as a whole is everything you would expect it to be. Pacino, especially over the last hour or so, puts in some of the best work of his career; Gazzo brings a lot of needed boisterous energy to the movie when he’s on screen; Duvall and Keaton don’t get quite as much screentime as I maybe would have liked but nail their bigger scenes and are good as always.

-Even if it’s derivative of the original’s (even reusing the famous theme), the score is still great for all the reasons it was for the first one.


-The Don Corleone story was good and everything, but I would have rather seen a more streamlined movie just focusing on Michael.

-It’s a shame that they replaced Peter Clemenza with Frank Pentangeli (even if Gazzo is great) because the original actor’s demands were unreasonable (he wanted to write all his own dialogue, he wanted too much money and they wanted him to gain the weight back that he lost in the interim). The storyline would have made more sense and would have been more effective with a character we already knew really well from the last movie. Heck, I would have just replaced the actor for Clemenza instead of replacing the character entirely.

Other Stuff

-This movie was the first time an American movie had a numbered sequel; before this, Hollywood conventional wisdom was that people didn’t want to see the same story twice, something that has obviously been proven to be wrong as thoroughly as humanly possible.


It has story flaws but they don’t impede my enjoyment of the movie all that much and I still like this movie better than the original Godfather (my reaction from the first time I saw both movies) because I think it tells an even more compelling story and the core performances are even better. It’s the best ending to the series they could have done…or at least it should have been.

Rating: A

Lenny (1974)


Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Valerie Perrine, Jan Miner, Stanley Beck

Director: Bob Fosse

Summary: The story of acerbic 1960’s comic Lenny Bruce, whose groundbreaking, no-holds-barred style and social commentary was deemed obscene by the establishment

Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Hoffman), Actress (Perrine), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography


-Valerie Perrine is the best thing in this movie, which came as a huge surprise to me considering 1) it has Dustin Hoffman in it as the main character and 2) she didn’t really do all that much before or after it. She plays Bruce’s wife and embodies the kind of fun yet broken and depressing woman that she eventually became with a lot of emotion and reality to it. Hoffman is pretty good, but I don’t think he should have been nominated (much less over Gene Hackman for The Conversation) and wasn’t able to “make” the movie, something that in a lot of ways fell on his shoulders.

Filming the set at the end where he’s completely lost it all in one long, agonizing take is great and is the one thing in the movie besides Perrine that was perfectly executed.


-Something about the whole movie felt underwhelming and sort of lifeless despite its subject’s rise and fall being a potentially interesting story and his career had a big impact on comedy and obscenity laws. Part of it is Hoffman’s performance just being pretty good and not anything more, part of it comes from how episodic it is and another part is how they don’t give any kind of bigger context for Bruce’s career as part of culture. The movie uses a framing device that;s done in faux documentary style (guy offscreen is interviewing some of the people who knew Bruce about his life), which works because it ties together all the episodes, but it doesn’t give us that much more information about who Bruce really was as a person or his impact (an opportunity which feels missed) and the movie being as episodic as it is hurts the movie’s energy and the whole movie in general.

-The movie is the rare post 60’s nominee that was filmed in black and white, but it feels unnecessary, unlike The Last Picture Show or Raging Bull, where the lack of color heightens the dramatic impact and fits the story that’s being told better.


It’s not bad or anything (mainly because of Perrine’s excellent performance and some of the scenes towards the end), but this is a fairly disappointing biopic.

Rating: C+