The Drop Box

January 22, 2008

Vanishing Point (1971)

Filed under: Movies — Tags: , , , , — Toshi Yano @ 9:32 pm

Vanishing Point poster 

Vanishing Point opens with a wonderfully slow 180-degree pan, beginning at an empty Shell station, passing over rural landscape and ending on an empty road. From the distance a police motorcycle speeds towards us, siren blaring, but we don’t follow it – the camera stays on the road. Two bulldozers creep across the screen; another police vehicle whips by, but again the camera refuses to budge – it’s focused intently on the bulldozers’ deliberate advance. A broken window with a tattered screen, the bulldozers reflected in a shard of glass – an old man mumbling to himself, watching the bulldozers pass – a handful of townsfolk eyeing the strange procession, vaguely curious… Finally the bulldozers stop and drop their blades to the blacktop, blocking both lanes of the two-lane highway. This title sequence is a near-perfect example of a certain kind of Seventies filmmaking – it’s contemplative, has a real pastoral quality and induces a strange longing – and it’s a shame because it’s the best part of the movie. It’s a shame, too, because the absurdity that follows does not feel nearly as enjoyable as it could have, coming on the heels of such a fine introduction.

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January 18, 2008

The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three poster
 

Walter Matthau is a particular favorite of mine. The greatest curmudgeon in movies (with the possible exception of W.C. Fields), Matthau brought his gruff wit to comedy classics like The Bad News Bears, The Odd Couple, and the highly underrated A New Leaf, but was equally at home in thrillers like Charade, Fail-Safe and the excellent Charley Varrick. His sense of timing is without equal, his vocal control is amazing, and his reactions are works of art – I’ve never seen such subtle double (and triple!) takes as the ones peppered throughout A New Leaf; Matthau can create meaning with the slightest motion of his eyes. And what a face!

Walter Matthau and Jerry Stiller in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

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January 16, 2008

Marathon Man (1976)

Marathon Man poster

Dustin Hoffman has made a career playing characters with little Character – vague, watery men, incapable at times of even speaking, much less acting. Sometimes this works to his advantage, as in The Graduate, where the comedy is his haplessness, or Straw Dogs, in which he is forced to confront this weakness at an existential level. But other times, in place of Character, Hoffman lets loose with a barrage of tics and, taken to the extreme, he wins an Oscar for Rain Man.

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