Harold and Maude (1971)
If you’re like me, the most common thing you have heard about this movie is that it involves an old woman hooking up with a teenage guy. OK, so this happens (in one suggested scene) but really this wonderful, off-beat, coming-of-age comedy has nothing to do with granny porn. Instead it celebrates living life to the fullest.
Harold is a young man obsessed with death; he compulsively attends funerals and frequently fakes his own death. Maude, on the other hand, is a 79 year-old who loves life. She’s a free-spirited artist and enjoys joy riding and liberating trees. They become friends and, over a perfect score by a young Cat Stevens, Harold learns from the vivacious, yet elderly Maude the value of living.
The direction and writing clearly had an influence on Wes Anderson, so if you liked Rushmore or The Royal Tennenbaums, chances are you will love Harold and Maude.
ConU film students take note, first time writer Colin Higgins wrote this quirky flick for his film school thesis, proving “real education for the real world” doesn’t just have to be an inane slogan.
Raging Bull (1980)
As a rule, when Martin Scorsese directs a picture starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (i.e. Casino, Goodfellas) it’s worth seeing. Raging Bull is the first film to offer this trio and is arguably the best.
De Niro plays boxer Jake LaMotta in a rags-to-riches-to-rags story spanning over twenty years. It is visually stunning, brutally anti-Rocky and replete with spousal abuse, sensuality and mob corruption.
As a testament to his dedication, De Niro trained under the real LaMotta and gained over 50 pounds to shoot the later parts of the movie.
The fight scenes are the most memorable moments of the film. They are highly stylized using slow-motion photography, wild sound effects and fast-paced editing.
Watch De Niro at his best (before he started making movies like Showtime and The Score).
Annie Hall (1977)
Many claim that Woody Allen has had his day. This is unfair. His recent movies (including the under rated Hollywood Ending) are witty and well-crafted.
Still, the bar is raised high for Woody because he wrote and directed some truly classic and innovative films in the 1970’s, notably Annie Hall.
Over twenty years after this film’s release, it is still comes off fresh, hilarious and poignant. At the most basic level, the story is about an on-and-off again relationship between neurotic writer Alvy Singer (Allen) and ditsy young singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). But the film’s superb dialogue also meditates on the meaning of life, communication theory (Marshall McLuhan makes a spectacular guest appearance) and, of course, sex.
Cinematographer Gordon Willis of Godfather fame does a great job making New York City circa 1977 look gorgeous. Allen’s directorial trademarks of talking to the camera, placing present day characters in their own flashbacks and other devices, such as animation, are, for the 1970’s, original and help make the movie great.