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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

1968 - A Random Cinematic Year In Review

Preface: I have decided to write this series at least in part because I don't make it out to see new films very often and I've found that I spent too much time at the end of the year attempting to see all the big releases (many of which I'm not even interested in) for no other reason than to make an obligatory 'year end list'... This is a way that I can continue writing about films without feeling the pressure to see a bunch of stuff that I wouldn't otherwise take the time to. I'll still see most of them eventually, just on my own time. I use a random number generator to pick a year and I use to determine the actual release year.

1968 was a very eventful year in the news. The United State's involvement in The Vietnam War was facing the its worst problems both at home and abroad.The Tet Offensive was North Vietnamese's most successful campaign and amid mounting public outcry and protests, President Johnson's approval rating plummeted.

This year also saw two of the most historically significant political assassinations. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F Kennedy were both shot within months of each other.

"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal." - MLK

Not all the news of the year was bad however. On Christmas Eve, the crew of NASA's Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit the Moon.

The year in cinema was rather eventful as well. Two of the most famous films of all time actually opened on the same day. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and Franklin Schaffner's PLANET OF THE APES both opened on April 3rd. 2001 ended up winning at the box office but lost the Oscar to Carol Reed's OLIVER!.

The Festival at Cannes took place during massive general strikes and anti-capitalism and anti-consumerism demonstrations. As a form of acknowledgement, the festival decided not to hand out any awards. Films were screened from some of the best of the Japanese, French and Czech New Waves....

And meanwhile, back in the states,.. A young and ambitious filmmaker from The Bronx, was running around a small town in Pennsylvania inventing a subgenre of horror that is today worth more than the GDP of some countries... 

My Top 5

5) CAPRICIOUS SUMMER - Directed by Jiří Menzel
When I think of the late 60's, I think of Japanese, French and Czech films. This film isn't quite the masterpiece as Jiří Menzel's previous effort, CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS but its more than entirely watchable. Just imagine how light and airy a Czech film could be when it's not taking place during the Nazi occupation... 

4) 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY - Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick didn't make any imperfect films and this one is no exception. It is not meant to be merely watched, but consumed, over and over in the decades following its release. I really don't know what else to say about this one. It's comforting like a warm blanket. At any time, I can watch any part of it in passing or enjoy it all the way through. It never disappoints.

3) SHAME - Directed by Ingmar Bergman
There are plenty of dark Bergman films to choose from but this highly underrated gem might take the cake. It is essentially about all of humanity's worst traits and how tight of a grasp they have during wartime. Stress, anxiety, impotence, cruelty and betrayal all take their turns on the center stage here. Liv Ulman and Max Von Sydow make for brilliant puppets to these aforementioned human conditions.

2) NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD - Directed by George A. Romero
It's really impossible to understate this film's significance. The importance of what Romero did for horror and its zombie subgenre is eclipsed only by what he did for American independent DIY filmmaking. In 1968, the auteuristic attitude hadn't quite infiltrated the American studio system yet. And this film's success (10th at the box office) surely led to some of this nation's culture towards artistic freedom.

1) ROSEMARY'S BABY - Directed by Roman Polanski
Every Roman Polanski film feels as though it is the exact film he was trying to make. Every technical aspect is meticulously planned. Simultaneously disarming and disturbing , its easy to forget that this is Polanski's first American film and he was only 35 when he made it. I'll never get tired of watching this one... 

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