1973 was a hell of a year at the movies. Bruce Lee kicked ass in Enter the Dragon, Roger Moore debuted as Bond in Live and Let Die, and smalltown California got its romantic due in American Graffiti. There was Sydney Pollack‘s The Way We Were, Sam Peckinpah‘s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Robert Altman‘s The Long Goodbye. Martin Scorsese and Terrence Malick announced themselves as filmmakers to be reckoned with upon the respective releases of Mean Streets and Badlands, and Michael Crichton made cinematic history with technological advances in Westworld. Then there’s The Sting, which I’m always willing to defend in a battle to the death as Greatest Film Ever. But these are more than just great movies — these are unique and fresh-seeming efforts, influential to this day because they all pushed the envelope.
And though the horror genre received more than a few landmark films that year — The Exorcist, The Wicker Man, etc. — Nicholas Roeg’s grief-stricken terror Don’t Look Now might be the scariest. It’s certainly the most engrossing. Envelope-pushing apparently wouldn’t cut it for Roeg and Company, as the incredibly intense Venice-set thriller does more to explode the envelope into a zillion tiny bloodstained pieces. The story follows John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) in the months following the accidental drowning of their daughter Christine. Paralyzed by anguish, the couple retreat to Venice. Soon, they encounter a pair of women claiming to have a connection to the deceased Christine.
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Days of Heaven is that second album that is so hard to make. The album that has so much to live up to; the album that has such large shoes to fill. Days of Heaven, however, does not fall short of its predecessor Badlands – Days of Heaven is Led Zeppelin II to Badlands‘s Led Zeppelin I. Terrence Malick manages to dazzle his audience once again with his patient storytelling and epic imagery.
Taking home the Oscar for Best Cinematography, Days of Heaven was widely considered one of the most visually appealing films to ever be made at the time of its release in 1978. Under Malick’s impeccable direction, Nestor Almendros captures some of the most impressive shots that I have ever witnessed. One particular scene took my breath away – in which the farmer (Sam Shepard) ignites his entire field of crops causing a massive fire. The screen of my laptop was engulfed in violent flames and I was truly stricken with a brief, but intense, sense of panic as I watched the fire rage.
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Terrence Malick’s debut feature film, Badlands, barrages its audience with the near-perfect execution of every aspect of film that one desires. From Malick’s masterful storytelling and characterization to the film’s deep insights on human nature and modern society alike, Badlands is full-on “GO!” for the entire ride. This film is absolutely filled with unexpected escalations and massive character arcs; thus, in respect to the film, this review must contain spoilers. If you are in the most unfortunate circumstance of not yet having seen this film, I implore you to please discontinue your reading of this review now.
In one of the best performances of his career, Martin Sheen, and the less well known, but greatly talented, Sissy Spacek star in the ninety-four minute thrill ride that is Badlands. Loosely based on the real-life killing spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, the film follows Kit (Sheen) and Holly (Spacek), who represent the real couple, respectively. Now if that doesn’t set the scene for sudden escalation, in-depth character development and just the slightest pinch of horror – a.k.a. the makings of an awesome f@#cking movie – then I’m not sure what will. However, their journey starts in the relative calmness of rural Texas. Here, Holly is still a young, innocent girl. A young, innocent girl with a desperately ill mother, suffering from pneumonia in a time and place where modern medicine is not far reaching. Texas becomes the burial ground of Holly’s mother. Texas is where her father is too often reminded of the loss of the love of his life. So, the pair leave Texas, venturing to South Dakota, hoping for a fresh start.
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