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Best and worst movie titles for 1979

The WIlla Cather prize, the Pauline Kael prize

1) What's in a name?

a. The Fourth Annual Willa Cather Citation for the classiest title of the movie year is conferred on Yanks, with much the same reluctance as when Carl Yastrzemski was crowned the American League batting champion with an average of .301. Yanks is really not bad as titles go — simple, evocative, and liltingly foreign-sounding. Closest runners-up are No Time for Breakfast (batting average of .299) and Illustrious Corpses (.295).

b. The Fourth Annual Scott Fitzgerald Citation for the year's trashiest title goes to Apocalypse Now, which we have aU been hearing and reading for SO long in advance of the movie itself, and have gotten so accustomed to as a God-given fact of nature, that we no more think of questioning the name semantically than we do such other proper names as the Seattle Supersonics, Seven-Eleven Stores, or 20 Mule Team Borax. When we do so question, we can hardly help but conclude that it is the most pretentious title yet on record. Others near the top of the bash heap: Meetings with Remarkable Men, for remarkable dullness; The End of the World in Our Usual Bed on a Night Full of Rain, for filibusterish verbosity; and Quadrophenia, for easy mistakability, in the context of a rock movie, as a term denoting an innovative new four-channel stereo system, rather than, what it is supposed to denote but what is never explained in the film itself, a psychological state.

c. Wasted-effort title changes: from The Senator to The Seduction of Joe Tynan, from Treasure of the Piranha to Killer Fish, and from A Very Big Withdrawal to A Mall, a Woman, and a Bank.

d. Dream double feature of the year: Running and The Runner Stumbles. Quintet and Sextette also has a certain appeal as a potential pairing, but not enough to dislodge the present honoree from the top spot, not even with the obvious temptation to relegate the Running and Runner pair to runner-up status.

e. I can hardly wait: Killer Nun, starring Anita Ekberg and Joe Dallesandro, was advertised in Variety but has not yet made the Atlantic crossing from Italy. The rest of the advertisement is written in what we must politely suppose to be the author's second language: "Life itself has written that highly dramatic story of a thriller full of suspense which occurred in an European Country, in our days!"

2) The most readable theater marquee in town belongs to the downtown Balboa. A few tasty samples of its carnival-barkerish embellishments:

"Heart Stopping Savagery" (for The Deer Hunter), "Depraved Beyond Belief" (for Slavers), and "Violence Most Brutal, justice Most Strange" (for The Onion Field).

3) Cases for CaIPIRG:

a. The pilot episode of the defunct Battlestar Galactica TV series was recycled theatrically with the following double-talk ad copy: "The original theatrical version of the spectacular television film."

b. Although the ads for Filmex proclaimed, "For 16 days you will be moved, shattered, touched, torn, reduced to tears. raised to hysterical laughter, weak-kneed and on the edge of your seat," the director of the festival, Gary Essen, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, "Every year there is at least a third of the festival that I wouldn't pay a dime to see." He requires the public, of course, to pay $4.00.

4) Three cheers for movies with a moral purpose:

a. After Paul Schrader lifted the lid off the pestilent world of porno-prostitution in Hardcore, the unchastened Les Girlsn nightclub, one of several San Diego sites used by Schrader to illustrate his treatise, placed the following ad in the Tribune sports (!) the movie Hardcore, where did George C. Scott find Nicki? At the World Famous Les Girls!"

b. Tony Bill, the producer of Boulevard Nights, went out of his way before the premiere of his movie to explain to the media the wide separation between his truthful, sobering. and socially responsible gang movie and the glamorizing, violence-inciting The Warriors, which had been earlier blamed for three deaths in or near the theaters where it was playing. The first day that Boulevard Nights opened across the country three people in attendance at a San Francisco theater were shot to death.

c. The luckiest break since the seizing of the Mayaguez coincided with the release of The Wind and the Lion, and a damn sight luckier even than that, was the simultaneity of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident and the release of The China Syndrome, thus ensuring the latter a spot on every astrologer's Ten Best list.

5) A little something to think about the next time you are stuck in a gas line: the Apocalypse Now press book boasts of a simulated napalm attack using up 1200 gallons of gasoline in ninety seconds. Elsewhere it boasts of another 1200 gallons being used up for a bridge demolition in it doesn't say how many seconds.

6) Silliest Oscar nomination of 1979: The Swarm for Best Costume Design.

7) When did the Rubensesque make its return as the ideal of feminine beauty? Laura Antonelli, whom Jack Kroll of Newsweek has dubbed "the most beautiful woman in films today" (several other critics have paid her only slightly less slavering compliments), and whose films have created' a small import industry unto themselves, was represented locally by The Innocent, Wifemistress, and How Funny Can Sex Be? Still to come are The Divine Nymph, Till Marriage Do Us Part, and the re-re of Malicious.

8) The hard life of a movie critic:

a. Jacqi Tully of the Arizona Daily Star commanded national attention when she was banned from a ten-theater chain in Tucson, not for the readily understandable reason of her spelling of her first name, but rather for her allegedly "biased" reviews: With her picture posted at each theater in F.B,I. Ten Most Wanted fashion, she was not merely denied her customary free admittance, which has happened to several of us without our cracking the national headlines, but was not even allowed to buy her way in, and was once forcibly ejected, until the howling of fellow critics and studio representatives brought about a rescinding of the ban.

b. The New Yorker instituted a sort of volleyball rotation of film critics when Penelope Gilliatt went on "an indefinite leave of absence" due to "her poor state of health," this following shortly after charges of plagiarism were leveled by Michael Mewshaw at her profile of Graham Green (Sampie of Michael Mewshaw in The Nation: "Perhaps this ... explained the paradoxical nature of his fictional characters who have to be strong because they know they are weak, who are good because they are sinners." Sample of Penelope Gilliatt in The New Yorker: "He is moved most by characters who have to be strong because they are weak, who have to be good because they think themselves sinners.") Meanwhile, Pauline Kael, who had been splitting The New Yorker chores with Gilliatt was in Hollywood, working for Warren Beatty as fledgling producer of a film to be directed by her "friend" James Toback, getting fired from that project for the traditional reason of "artistic differences," though remaining "still friends" with Toback, and moving over to Paramount Pictures to work in an advisory capacity, The New Yorker, looking into her future at the magazine, reported that Kael "hasn't left, she's just on leave."

c. Lastly, the Pauline Kael Prize for the hyperbole of the year goes to Rex Reed for his blurb on Yanks ("In every decade, a truly memorable motion picture comes along ..."), thus edging out Andrew Sarris, whose bid to claim this distinction for the third year running (on Manhattan: "The one truly great American film of the '70s") was slightly timidified by the qualification of "American."

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1) What's in a name?

a. The Fourth Annual Willa Cather Citation for the classiest title of the movie year is conferred on Yanks, with much the same reluctance as when Carl Yastrzemski was crowned the American League batting champion with an average of .301. Yanks is really not bad as titles go — simple, evocative, and liltingly foreign-sounding. Closest runners-up are No Time for Breakfast (batting average of .299) and Illustrious Corpses (.295).

b. The Fourth Annual Scott Fitzgerald Citation for the year's trashiest title goes to Apocalypse Now, which we have aU been hearing and reading for SO long in advance of the movie itself, and have gotten so accustomed to as a God-given fact of nature, that we no more think of questioning the name semantically than we do such other proper names as the Seattle Supersonics, Seven-Eleven Stores, or 20 Mule Team Borax. When we do so question, we can hardly help but conclude that it is the most pretentious title yet on record. Others near the top of the bash heap: Meetings with Remarkable Men, for remarkable dullness; The End of the World in Our Usual Bed on a Night Full of Rain, for filibusterish verbosity; and Quadrophenia, for easy mistakability, in the context of a rock movie, as a term denoting an innovative new four-channel stereo system, rather than, what it is supposed to denote but what is never explained in the film itself, a psychological state.

c. Wasted-effort title changes: from The Senator to The Seduction of Joe Tynan, from Treasure of the Piranha to Killer Fish, and from A Very Big Withdrawal to A Mall, a Woman, and a Bank.

d. Dream double feature of the year: Running and The Runner Stumbles. Quintet and Sextette also has a certain appeal as a potential pairing, but not enough to dislodge the present honoree from the top spot, not even with the obvious temptation to relegate the Running and Runner pair to runner-up status.

e. I can hardly wait: Killer Nun, starring Anita Ekberg and Joe Dallesandro, was advertised in Variety but has not yet made the Atlantic crossing from Italy. The rest of the advertisement is written in what we must politely suppose to be the author's second language: "Life itself has written that highly dramatic story of a thriller full of suspense which occurred in an European Country, in our days!"

2) The most readable theater marquee in town belongs to the downtown Balboa. A few tasty samples of its carnival-barkerish embellishments:

"Heart Stopping Savagery" (for The Deer Hunter), "Depraved Beyond Belief" (for Slavers), and "Violence Most Brutal, justice Most Strange" (for The Onion Field).

3) Cases for CaIPIRG:

a. The pilot episode of the defunct Battlestar Galactica TV series was recycled theatrically with the following double-talk ad copy: "The original theatrical version of the spectacular television film."

b. Although the ads for Filmex proclaimed, "For 16 days you will be moved, shattered, touched, torn, reduced to tears. raised to hysterical laughter, weak-kneed and on the edge of your seat," the director of the festival, Gary Essen, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, "Every year there is at least a third of the festival that I wouldn't pay a dime to see." He requires the public, of course, to pay $4.00.

4) Three cheers for movies with a moral purpose:

a. After Paul Schrader lifted the lid off the pestilent world of porno-prostitution in Hardcore, the unchastened Les Girlsn nightclub, one of several San Diego sites used by Schrader to illustrate his treatise, placed the following ad in the Tribune sports (!) the movie Hardcore, where did George C. Scott find Nicki? At the World Famous Les Girls!"

b. Tony Bill, the producer of Boulevard Nights, went out of his way before the premiere of his movie to explain to the media the wide separation between his truthful, sobering. and socially responsible gang movie and the glamorizing, violence-inciting The Warriors, which had been earlier blamed for three deaths in or near the theaters where it was playing. The first day that Boulevard Nights opened across the country three people in attendance at a San Francisco theater were shot to death.

c. The luckiest break since the seizing of the Mayaguez coincided with the release of The Wind and the Lion, and a damn sight luckier even than that, was the simultaneity of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident and the release of The China Syndrome, thus ensuring the latter a spot on every astrologer's Ten Best list.

5) A little something to think about the next time you are stuck in a gas line: the Apocalypse Now press book boasts of a simulated napalm attack using up 1200 gallons of gasoline in ninety seconds. Elsewhere it boasts of another 1200 gallons being used up for a bridge demolition in it doesn't say how many seconds.

6) Silliest Oscar nomination of 1979: The Swarm for Best Costume Design.

7) When did the Rubensesque make its return as the ideal of feminine beauty? Laura Antonelli, whom Jack Kroll of Newsweek has dubbed "the most beautiful woman in films today" (several other critics have paid her only slightly less slavering compliments), and whose films have created' a small import industry unto themselves, was represented locally by The Innocent, Wifemistress, and How Funny Can Sex Be? Still to come are The Divine Nymph, Till Marriage Do Us Part, and the re-re of Malicious.

8) The hard life of a movie critic:

a. Jacqi Tully of the Arizona Daily Star commanded national attention when she was banned from a ten-theater chain in Tucson, not for the readily understandable reason of her spelling of her first name, but rather for her allegedly "biased" reviews: With her picture posted at each theater in F.B,I. Ten Most Wanted fashion, she was not merely denied her customary free admittance, which has happened to several of us without our cracking the national headlines, but was not even allowed to buy her way in, and was once forcibly ejected, until the howling of fellow critics and studio representatives brought about a rescinding of the ban.

b. The New Yorker instituted a sort of volleyball rotation of film critics when Penelope Gilliatt went on "an indefinite leave of absence" due to "her poor state of health," this following shortly after charges of plagiarism were leveled by Michael Mewshaw at her profile of Graham Green (Sampie of Michael Mewshaw in The Nation: "Perhaps this ... explained the paradoxical nature of his fictional characters who have to be strong because they know they are weak, who are good because they are sinners." Sample of Penelope Gilliatt in The New Yorker: "He is moved most by characters who have to be strong because they are weak, who have to be good because they think themselves sinners.") Meanwhile, Pauline Kael, who had been splitting The New Yorker chores with Gilliatt was in Hollywood, working for Warren Beatty as fledgling producer of a film to be directed by her "friend" James Toback, getting fired from that project for the traditional reason of "artistic differences," though remaining "still friends" with Toback, and moving over to Paramount Pictures to work in an advisory capacity, The New Yorker, looking into her future at the magazine, reported that Kael "hasn't left, she's just on leave."

c. Lastly, the Pauline Kael Prize for the hyperbole of the year goes to Rex Reed for his blurb on Yanks ("In every decade, a truly memorable motion picture comes along ..."), thus edging out Andrew Sarris, whose bid to claim this distinction for the third year running (on Manhattan: "The one truly great American film of the '70s") was slightly timidified by the qualification of "American."

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