Badlands – Get Rekt!

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Greetings, Glancers! Today I run a more critical eye over my tenth favourite movie of the year 1973, seeking to ignore my bias and provide a fair score based on the 20 criteria I feel are most important in the creation of a film. Today’s movie is BadlandsTerence Malick’s tale of youthful love and violence in the middle of nowhere.

Sales: 2. It struggled to find an audience, and even as an artsy movie it failed in Europe. But it had a low budget so wasn’t a significant financial failure.

Critical Consensus: 4. Looking at it today, it’s universally acclaimed, but there’s no doubting that much of the criticism in 1973 was negative.

Director: 5. I don’t think you can go lower than 4 here. It’s Malick’s movie, and even at this point in his career, it’s masterful.

Performances: 5. Maybe you go 4 for the relative inexperience of Sheen and Spacek, but both are incredible as the focal points of the film, ably backed up by veterans like Warren Oates.

Characters: 4. I could see some people going 3, given the prevalence of this type of story and these types of characters before and after Badlands. They’re kids angry with the world, kids in love, but the characters are strengthened by the performance and the way the story is told.

Cinematography: 5. Malick films are uniformly gorgeous, here he employs a group of cinematographers to convey the American landscape.

Writing: 4. It’s an excellent first-time screenplay, with just the right amount of philosophical introspection to portray these intelligent, flawed people. The narration and the speeches may put some viewers off, and the ending may frustrate.

Plot: 3. If you haven’t seen the characters before, you’ve definitely seen the story in one way or the other; angry young lovers frustrated at the world meet, just want to be alone, go on a rampage. It was more original then that it would be now, but certainly not unique.

Wardrobe: 3. Holly is made to look very young, Kit is made to look like James Dean. Not much more to add.

Editing: 4. Smooth.

Make up and Hair: 3. See wardrobe.

Effects: 3. Not really applicable, so a 2 or a 3, but we’ll be positive.

Art and Set: 4. It’s a beautiful movie, but it was made for pennies.

Sound And Music: 4. A solid soundtrack with some notable pieces of music.

Cultural Significance: 4. Three may be more appropriate given that the movie hasn’t directly influence much in wider culture, at least not when considered against the film it’s most usually compared to – Bonnie & Clyde. But, considering it was Malick’s first film and very early in the careers of Spacek and Sheen, and considering that it has influenced many film-makers, including Tarantino.

Accomplishment: 4. Again, a huge accomplishment for a first-time director to create something so complete, visionary, and mature. The only let down is that it has always been underseen.

Stunts: 3. It’s not an action movie, but it does have violence and chases – Kit hunting down cops and driving away from them. You could go with a 2.

Originality: 4. Depending on what’s valuable to you, you could go lower here. Plot and characters – not overly original, but contemporary. But the lyrical way the plot unfolds and how we view the characters and the places they find themselves in, the things they see and feel – few films of this nature take such an approach.

Miscellaneous: 3. Nothing much to add here – I like that True Romance makes multiple references to Badlands. I love True Romance. 

Personal: 4. As much as I love Badlands, there’s something a little clinical about it. It’s the same thing I always find with certain directors, like Malick. I rarely get too invested in the characters or the plot with these directors, but you can’t deny the technical proficiency, the performances, and the directing.

Total Score: 75/100

Let us know your scores in the comments!

Best Cast – 1973

My Nominations: Badlands. The Exorcist. The Last Detail. The Last Of Sheila. Live And Let Die. Mean Streets. Paper Moon. Scarecrow. Serpico. The Sting. The Three Musketeers.

As always we finish with the Best Cast category. It’s always been my opinion that the 1970s was when the best performers we’ve yet to see hit their peaks – most of my nominations this year feature those performers. In Badlands it’s pretty much the one-two of Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek announcing themselves to the world, while The Exorcist is features a mini ensemble each delivering their most iconic performances. The Last Detail sees Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, and Otis Young in an underrated film while The Last Of Sheila does the same for James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welch, Richard Benjamin, and Dyan Cannon.

Live And Let Die sees a new Bond in Roger Moore taking the series in a newer direction, ably backed up by some of my favourites in the series – Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto, and good old Clifton James. Mean Streets, while not featuring their debuts, got to the heart of the raw talents of Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro and Paper Moon sees father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O’Neal in one of the most memorable real life partnerships along with Madeline Kahn. Scarecrow and Serpico were both Al Pacino vehicles with the former also seeing Gene Hackman in top form, the latter with a bunch of respected character actors in smaller roles. The Sting is another hit from Robert Redford and Paul Newman, also featuring Robert Shaw, Charles Dunning, Eileen Brennan and others. My only true ensemble nomination is The Three Musketeers – Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay, Richard Chamberlain, Christopher Lee, Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway and others make up the exciting romp.

My Winner: The Exorcist.

Let us know in the comments which film of 1973 you think has the Best Cast!

Best Stunt Work – 1973

My Nominations: White Lightning. Live And Let Die. Lady Snowblood. Enter The Dragon.

Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds had one of the finest stunt performer/actor relationships in history making a string of hits and memorable stunts. White Lightning has some of Needham’s best work – a film filled with good old car chases and one stunning car jump onto a moving boat which didn’t quite go according to plan. Lady Snowblood and Enter The Dragon fill the martial arts quotient, both fine examples of what can happen when you have highly skilled fighters simulating all out war. Live And Let Die is the sure winner this year – double-decker bus chases, bayou boat antics, and a short sprint over live crocodiles just some of the classic moments.

My Winner: Live And Let Die

Best Visual Effects – 1973

My Nominations: Westworld. The Exorcist.

It’s somewhat surprising that after the Visual effects bonanza and disaster epics of the previous year that this year sees such a downturn. Perhaps it took that extra year for the industry to catch up – hence the onslaught which will be featured in this category next year. Westworld toys with robotics and sci-fi action, but our real winner is The Exorcist – using effects not merely to wow us, but to shock us with their realism and accompanying the plot and character. It’s almost safe to say The Exorcist is an effects driven film such is the power of the head spinning, stomach carving, spider walking, bed raising antics. But it’s more accurate to say that the effects are there to facilitate the descent of Regan and make us feel helpless and horrified.

My Winner: The Exorcist

Let us know your pick in the comments!

Best Make-Up – 1973

My Nominations: The Exorcist. Live And Let Die. Westworld.

Although there was a surplus of horror movies this year, few of them actually stand out for making advancements in this area. The one that did is of course, The Exorcist – Regan’s transformation to angelic child to spawn of Satan wouldn’t work without the talents of the Make-up team, not to mention the entirely convincing aging work done to Max Von Sydow. Live And Let Die has some nice paint and makeup jobs too on the likes of Baron Samedi and Kananga which are both for show and a specific plot point. Finally, Westworld has some notable makeup and effects works to show the gradual and sudden deterioration of the crush kill destroy bots.

My Winner: The Exorcist.

Best Art Direction – 1973

Official Nominations: The Sting. The Exorcist. Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Tom Sawyer. The Way We Were.

As much as I’d love to pick The Exorcist as winner here, the lack of variation while adding to the atmosphere, stifles the artistic look and feel of the production when compared with the variety on display in the official winner – The Sting. Zeffirelli’s movies always look pretty, but there’s little going on beneath the surface in Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Likewise The Way We Were doesn’t have much going for it. Tom Sawyer is exactly as you expect.

My Winner: The Sting

My Nominations: The Sting. The Exorcist. American Graffiti. Enter The Dragon. The Three Musketeers.

American Graffiti is added for… making car interiors look pretty? Everything about the film is dripping with 50s rock and roll teen stylings. Enter The Dragon has a few very specific sets with styles bordering on iconic – most notably the mirror room in the finale which must have required a lot of skill to prepare and shoot. Finally, The Three Musketeers trumps Tom Sawyer in the literary/period stakes.

My Winner: The Sting

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Costume Design – 1973

Official Nominations: The Sting. Cries And Whispers. Ludwig. Tom Sawyer. The Way We Were.

There is really only one winner out of these choices, and another notch for Edith Head. It’s The Sting, it’s old-timey, you already know it’s my winner. Cries And Whispers seems like too basic a choice, the costumes are mere footnote to the rest of the visuals. Ludwig would have been in with a shot had it been more successful – it definitely looks the part, while Tom Sawyer has been made so many times now it’s difficult to see anyone doing anything unique with it. The Way We Were has absolutely no business being nominated here.

My Winner: The Sting

My Nominations: The Sting. Ludwig. Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. The Three Musketeers. Westworld.

Three period pieces are added to my list – a traditional Western, a futuristic Western, and maybe the best take on d’Artagnan, Milady and co (aside from Dogtanian). No point discussing them though, as there’s still only one winner.

My Winner: The Sting

Let us know in the comments which film you pick as having the Best Costume Design of 1973!

Best Animated Feature – 1973

My Nominations: Robin Hood. Heavy Traffic. Charlotte’s Web. Fantastic Planet.

This is actually a groundbreaking year for animated movies. Maybe groundbreaking isn’t the correct technical term, but it’s one of the first years to see more than one or two highly significant releases from different studios. Aside from the ones I’ve listed, there are other strong offerings from Asia and Japan, but I feel these are the best. Robin Hood is yet another Disney entry, not one of their most popular or successful, but it does have a cult following and is one I was very familiar with growing up – lots of money moments and one piece of music in particular which will stay with you for days. Heavy Traffic continued Ralph Baski’s foray into adult animation becoming a fairly hefty success and containing his typical flair for raunch and satire. Charlotte’s Web is a film I never really liked, but it was always forced upon us in school.. I never got the whole ‘lets feel sorry for a spider’ business because ALL SPIDERS MUST DIE but it’s probably still the best adaptation we have. Finally, Fantastic Planet is an animation years ahead of its time, proving that the genre can be just as thought-provoking and powerful as any piece of non-animated work.

My Winner: Robin Hood

Let us know in the comments which film you choose as winner!

Best Writing (Original) – 1973

Official Nominations: The Sting. American Graffiti. Cries And Whispers. Save The Tigers. A Touch Of Class.

The Sting was the deserving and expected winner this year, even though the story was heavily inspired by real life events which had been previously documented. Nonetheless, it’s the nuances of the script, the dialogue, and the rapport between Gondorff and Hooker which helped the film become such a hit – you feel that even with lesser names than Newman and Redford the movie still would have been acclaimed, if not as financially successful. American Graffiti deserves a nomination more for its loose, near improvised feel which would go on to inspire many future directors, writers, and the slacker film movement. The script is both nostalgic and innocent, yet eternally prescient – the cars, the moves, the style, the lingo may have changed, but we grow, we explore, and we seek friendship, a mate, and the desire for freedom in an exciting and uncertain future.

Cries And Whispers doesn’t need to be here given that it was released in 1972, suffice it to say, it’s another dense exploration by Bergman, dealing with family, sexuality, life, and death. Save The Tiger is kept afloat by Jack Lemmon’s performance and in many ways it’s the perfect dramatic script for him, the everyman drowning in a world passing him by with the script highlighting his isolation and inability to stay relevant. Finally, A Touch Of Class feels like a film which would have had a greater impact in the 60s, with its depiction of marriage, affairs, sex etc. Its characters are finely drawn, though thoroughly unlikable even with the witticisms  on display.

My Winner: The Sting

My Nominations: The Sting. American Graffiti. Badlands. Day For Night. High Plains Drifter. The Holy Mountain. Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid.

Only two make it over to my list. Joining them is Terence Malik’s screenplay for Badlands – one of the finest examples of being sparse yet dense at the same time; when the characters aren’t talking, the pictures do the rest. Nevertheless, his two central characters and their dispute with the world is both universal, timeless, and symbolic of the USA in the early 1970s. Spacek’s narration feels innocent and alarming, while Sheen’s infrequent outbursts and speeches feel like they deserve iconic status. There aren’t many great films about making movies, or the love of movies, but Day For Night experiments with both of these themes playfully and cynically. Fresh off his work on The French Connection, Ernest Tidyman makes one of the great new US Westerns – new as in being influence by Leone, a story which throws out most notions of the glorious Wild West where enterprising individuals built North America. The Holy Mountain… well, I’ve got to nominate it for something. Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid is a Peckinpah film which is only now getting reevaluated after an initial critical mute response – a film with a torrid production, not least between writer and director with Peckinpah rewriting Wurlitzer’s script – a harsh, downbeat story.

My Winner: The Sting

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1973

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

10: Badlands (US)

9: Robin Hood (US)

8: High Plains Drifter (US)

7: Mean Streets (US)

6: Serpico (US)

5: Don’t Look Now (UK/Italy)

4: The Wicker Man (UK)

3: The Exorcist (US)

2: Enter The Dragon (HK/US)

1: Live And Let Die (UK)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One