Thursday, May 31, 2012


Day 31, the final day of my journey down the 70’s river.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

This last month of my ride down the 70’s waterways has been tumultuous, enlightening and not without its share of disappointments. But I knew it was the river that I wanted to continue upon as I floated ominously off the main flow and through an opening that led to the massive compound. It was inevitable that I ended up here…and I knew what I needed to do. I brought my skiff up to the dock. This skiff had taken me from Days of Heaven to The Last Picture Show, thorough Nashville to Chinatown. And I knew I was now at my Dog Day Afternoon.I had finally come to the meanest of the Mean Streets.

The dock was huge and made of solid wood. But was this really wood? It felt like a different type of substance as I docked and began to walk down it. Was this some sort of mind trick? On either side of the dock were about a dozen people in canoes. They were real enough all right. All of them had red hair, freckles and wore thick glasses. They were all holding an electronic device of some kind that reminded me of an etch-a-sketch. The sight scared me and my first instinct was to retreat, but I had come this far already and knew my only option was to forge ahead. My mission was clear. I knew what I needed to do. The only question was, could I go through with it?

I walked gingerly to the end of the dock. The redheads glared at me as I passed them, holding tighter and possessively to their electronic devices. I breathed a sigh of relief as I disembarked from the dock on the ground. Before I could breath easily for too long, a tall man with long hair, glasses and a bandana jumped in front of me. He hugged me and I winced, since he had a camera around his neck that dug into my chest.

“Hey, man! We’ve been expecting you,” he said.

“You were expecting me? I asked. “How did you know I was coming?”

The hippie began to laugh. “All moviegoers eventually end up at the Lucas Compound. It’s your destiny man!”

I latched onto his shoulder. "The Lucas Compound? As in George Lucas?" I said. I tried to rationalize it, but deep down I knew that all paths and waterways would eventually lead here. I looked at the hippie again. “And you…You’re Steven Spielberg.”

He giggled and nodded his head for a moment. “Call me Stevie.”

Stevie and a couple of indigenous natives escorted me to an empty straw hut that was apparently going to be my home during my stay. I tried to ask questions, but Stevie put a finger to his mouth as he shushed me. “Your questions will be answered soon. Your time will come shortly.

After they left, I plopped to the ground. The dirt floor was cold, but I was so tired that I quickly found myself falling asleep. I spent two days in the compound surrounded mostly by locals. I came out of my hut only a couple of times, as I wasn’t sure that the native population was going to be too friendly towards me. They did bring me food, which was edible and almost tasty for someone who hadn’t had a good meal for over thirty days. Still, I wanted to get on with this. I was more than ready to see Lucas.

On the third morning, I braved sitting at a table with a few natives who had offered me some fresh pineapple juice when Stevie came behind me and slapped me on the back. “How you doin’ man? I know you’ve been anxious to see the genius. But he’s a busy man. All the wonders that flit around inside that man’s head! I tell you he is a God! A God! But I get carried away. I’m here to tell you he will see you at zero eight-hundred tomorrow.” Stevie vanished before I could question him further, but I was encouraged that it looked like I might finally get the opportunity to do that which I had come to do.

I was really tired that evening. Sleeping the last couple of nights on the dirt floor of my hut didn’t lend itself to a comforting rest. My bones ached as I tried to stretch. I put one hand onto the ground and despite my fatigue found that I was able to lift my entire body weight with just my right hand. I was temporarily entranced by my own abilities before coming to my senses and collapsing to the floor. “No, it’s a trick, I said. Just a trick,” I said out loud before finally managing to close my eyes for the night.

Stevie and a couple of men with spears came the next morning and grabbed me. They put a blindfold over my eyes despite my protests. “It’s for your own protection, man,” Stevie said unconvincingly.

They dragged me through the jungle and up a steep hill before removing my blindfold. I was so bleary eyed from my lack of sleep and bruised from my journey that I could barely take note of my surroundings, but I did notice that the place ahead of me appeared to be made of straw. Yet it felt as solid as brick when I ran my hand against it. Were these just more mind tricks? Whatever the reality, this was clearly where Lucas stayed. Stevie began jabbering about something in a language I couldn’t understand (he may have even been speaking in tongues) as he took me down a long hallway outside a room with two other guards in white uniforms and helmets. Stevie signaled at them to let me pass. I stumbled into the room, which though large, seemed to have very little in the way of any kind of comforts. There were two young ladies wearing what appeared to be gold bikinis, though my current interest was fixed only on the dark figure between them. I approached what I presumed to be Lucas and sat down on a stone table a few feet in front of him. He noticed me, but was completely unfazed by my presence. Had he really been expecting me to come all this time? Or at least someone like me? The pictures I had seen of Lucas were all with a full-beard and bushy haired. But the man in front of me had shaven off all the hair on his face and his head. His immense girth also took me by surprise. Lucas sat cross-legged and was wearing a long cloak. He kept pulling a huge sponge out of a bucket and saturating his bald scalp with it. This ritual appeared to be a purge of some kind, though what he was trying to get rid of, I had no idea. He sniffed a couple of times, as if it was his way of acknowledging my presence. It took him another moment to finally speak.

“Have you had you measles…mumps…rubella vaccinations?” Lucas asked me without looking in my direction.

I was surprised at the question, but answered in the affirmative.

He nodded his approval before dousing himself with the sponge again.

“Diptheria, cholera and polio. How about those?”

“Yes, sir. I had my polio vaccine when I was a kid,” I said.

“Good,” he replied “We can’t neglect polio vaccines just because we take them for granted. That which we take for granted will eventually destroy us.”

“Yes, sir.” I said.

He doused his head with water once again and only after a few minutes did he address me again as he stared at me for the first time.

“Are you an assassin?” he asked.

“No, sir. I’m a librarian,” I said.

“You are neither," he replied. "You’re just a blogger sent by cinephiles to correct what you perceive as a great cultural injustice.”

He lowered his head and didn’t say anything else to me for a few minutes before the two natives that brought me here came in and escorted me outside.

This scenario was repeated over the next few days, with me being dragged to see Lucas, where he imparted thoughts on a myriad of subjects ranging from nuclear proliferation to the merits of freeze dried coffee. During our visits, I was left unguarded. I could have made the attempt to take him out at anytime, but the timing never seemed appropriate. He talked about his vision for a special effects studio that would be called Industrial Light and Magic. I admit it sounded wondrous, but I tried not to be dazzled and blinded by his dream. But it was getting more and more difficult to be taken in by him with each passing visit.

During one visit, he began putting peanuts in his mouth and spitting them out. After a few rounds of doing this, he began to talk to me. “Tell me, my friend,” he said before spitting out the final peanut that he took from his bowl. “Did you ever see my movie called THX-1138?

“Yes, sir. I have seen it.”

Lucas nodded his approval before spitting again.

“And did you like it?”

“I don’t know how to answer that. I can’t honestly say I understood it all that well.”

Lucas clinched his fist before pushing his peanut bowl to the floor. “And do you know why you didn’t get it?” He screamed.

His raised voice took me aback and I could only respond with a shake of the head.

“Because…because...” He hesitated and began to rub at his scalp as if he were trying to pull the skin off of him before he straightened himself out and jutted out his jaw. “Because my vision in THX-1138 was pure, unadulterated, crystalline…Art! Isn’t that what you are here for, librarian? The preservation of art?

“My mission is classified, sir,” I nervously responded.

“Let me tell you about art. You can’t have art without THIS!” He pointed to something on the table next to him that I hadn’t noticed before. It was a light saber. I went over and placed my finger on it, but didn’t dare pick it up. The time wasn’t right.

“If you don’t have the courage to pick it up…librarian, it’s time for you to leave.” I put my head down as I walked away from his presence. Stevie was outside the room as I passed and was more animated than ever.

“Oh, man,” the hippie said. “You’ve got to spread the word about him man. Spread the word! Do you know about fractions? Is a third a fraction? Like Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Or is that more like the number three? I don’t know, man. I do know the genius deals with whole numbers. His inspiration began with part four. Do you know what that means? He’s changing math as we know it. He’s redefining everything, man.”

I was weary of Steven and didn’t respond as I went back to my hut without commenting to him before contemplating my next visit to Lucas. Something had to happen on my next visit or I would probably end up in the nerd pool with the other redheads and their etch-a-sketch devices. I knew my moment was coming. After being at the Lucas Compound over a week and sitting at his feet for at least the fifth or sixth time.

On my tenth visit to Lucas, I had the feeling that the time to act was now or never. I began to lose my nerve and excused myself to use the bathroom down the hall. I noticed that Lucas had one of those overhead tank toilets with a pull chain. I reached my hand around the back of the tank to see if there was a gun taped to the back, but there was nothing. I became so nervous I knelt at the toilet and lost the little lunch I had had. I came out of the toilet and into the room and faced Lucas, who seemed to be in a state of meditation. He wasn’t paying any attention to me. Sweat was pouring down my face as I grabbed the light saber on the table to the left of me. I tested it and it was fully functional. The power within it was as great as I had imagined. As I looked at him, I realized that his appearance had changed. His ears seemed to be at points and his tint was clearly an off-shade of green I brought the light saber up as if to bring it upon him. He didn’t raise his head, but held up a hand for me to stop.

“Why wish you destroy me?” He said in an uncharacteristically squeaky voice.

“I…I…just felt I had to try something.” I managed to say.

Lucas slammed his fist into his lap. “Try not. Do! Or do not! There is not try!”

I dropped the light saber to the ground and began to weep into the palms of my hands.

“I just thought that I could somehow change the future.”

“Always in motion is the future.” Lucas said. “Like a flowing river. Sometimes calm. Sometimes fierce. But flow it must. Tears you must dry now. Something for you I have.”

“But why do you want to give something to me.I-“

He clapped his hands together twice in succession. “There is no why,” he scolded.

Lucas, who was now much smaller in physical size, yet had somehow grown larger in stature, hopped down off his chair and handed me a large collection of type written pages.

I looked at the top page, which read The Empire Strikes Back by George Lucas. “Inscription you must read,” Lucas said.

On the blank space near the bottom, it read; To my friend, the librarian-May the Force Be With You-George Lucas.

“For me? Your original script? You’re giving this to me? Thank you, Mr. Lucas thank you!”

He nodded to me once before returning to his seat and sponging his head once again.

I now knew it was time for me to leave him for the last time. Steven smirked at me as I left Lucas’s dwelling and headed down the dock to my boat. But I didn’t care. I had The Empire Strikes Back script autographed by George Lucas! I sat down in an empty canoe next to the redheads. Some of them eyed my script with what appeared to be envy, but I held onto it. It was mine! It was mine and no one was ever going to take it away. I should have known all along that it had been useless to resist.

Coming over to the dark side really isn’t so bad after all.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Day the 30, the outer edge of the 70’s river

Raging Bull (1980)

The Scorcese River, Part II
The rough and sometimes hard to take biopic of Jake Lamotta is my final stop on the 70’s River. It did come out in 1980, but still has the spirit of the pull-no-punches (no pun intended) attitude that made the movies made in the 70’s so memorable. Yet, it wasn’t really that successful commercially and soon movies would go in another direction. A more frivolous direction. But why did the Francis Ford Coppola decade have to disintegrate into the John Hughes decade? Is it somehow possible this could have been prevented? You know, I actually do have one more stop on this river after all. Tomorrow, I will go to the place where it all turned and maybe, just maybe, I can prevent it all from happening.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 29

Mean Streets (1973)
Often copied tale of small time hoods in the big city was apparently the most autobiographical of Scorcese’s films.

The Scorcese River I
The Scorcese River was the 70’s river that has continued to run strongly ever since.

Monday, May 28, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 28

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Robert Benton's Best Picture Winner from perhaps Hollywood's best year for movies. Still a strong drama and led by another terrific Dustin Hoffman performance, but should it have really beaten out Apocalypse, Now, Being There or All That Jazz for Best Picture?

The Benton River
The Benton River actually intersected early on with the Penn River during the genesis of the 70's Rivers and culminated with his Best Director prize at the end of the decade.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 27

One of Woody Allen’s “later 70's, funny, but not as funny as the earlier Allen but more thoughtful ones.” One of those films that I've seen many times but haven't seen in years and found most pleasant to revisit.

The Allen River, Part II
You can’t go down the 70’s rivers without a trip down the latter half of the Allen river. One of those later parts of the 70's Allen River that is kind of funny as I said before. I do warn you that if you take this part of the river, avoid the Interiors.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

SLEEPER (1973)

The 70's Rivers, Day 26

Sleeper (1973)
One of Woody Allen’s “early, funny ones.” Still over the top (in a good way) and still funny after all these years.

The Allen River
You can’t go down the 70’s rivers without a trip down the Allen river. Early parts of the river are funny and later parts of the river are also funny, but in a different way. I think that makes sense.

Friday, May 25, 2012

ALIEN (1979)

The 70's River, Day 25

Alien (1979)
In Space No One Can Hear You Scream...One of the best tags for a movie ever. It’s always interesting to see the beginning of a film franchise when no one involved including the viewer knows where all this is headed. My favorite in the series.

The Scott River
The Scott River began too late in the decade to be associated with the 70’s too much, but I’ll give it credit for getting under the wire and flowing freely often afterwards.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

SHAFT (1971)

The 70's Rivers, Day 24

Shaft (1971)
I had never seen Shaft before this viewing and it really is the Godfather of Blaxpotation flicks. And is there a song that fits a film more than Isaac Hayes’s? Theme from Shaft? Can ya dig it?

The Parks River
The Parks River gave current to a new type of waterway and to that we should be grateful.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

FINGERS (1978)

The 70's Rivers, Day 23

Fingers (1978)
Until this movie was mentioned in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, I was only vaguely aware of its existence. Part Mean Streets, part Five Easy Pieces and part Oedipus Rex, if anyone asks you what a typical American character study film from the 70’s might look like, you may want to point your finger to Fingers.

The Toback River
Not a river I was really aware of, but The Toback River is...uh…I suddenly seem to be running out of river references. Maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 22

All That Jazz (1979)
Still one of my favorite movies of the 70’s. It’s a brutal self-portrait from director Bob Fosse told in a totally creative fashion.

The Fosse River
One of the most exciting of the 70’s rivers. Where some of the other waterways dried up, the Fosse River seemed to just disappear forever when at its peak.

Monday, May 21, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 21

All the President's Men (1976)
For dramas sake, isn't the clickity-clack of typewriters much more dramatic than than seeing someone gently stoking the keyboard on a computer? You get plenty of clickity-clacking in this one and it all adds to the memorable and true story.

The Pakula River II
I meant to get off the Pakula River yesterday, but how could I do this month without this entry?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

KLUTE (1971)

The 70's Rivers, Day 20

Klute (1971)
Good character study of prostitute (Jane Fonda) and the cop on her case (Donald Sutherland). The scenes where we delve into Fonda’s mind through her analyst sets this movie apart.

The Pakula River I
Don’t forget to take a ride down the often neglected Pakula River when you travel down the waterways of the 70’s.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 19

Chinatown (1974)
Entertaining update of film noir with great combination of director (Roman Polanski), actors (Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway), and screenwriter (Robert Towne). Hey, they even brought back Maltese Falcon director John Huston to play the heavy!

The Polanski River
Like many of the 70’s rivers, the Polanski river’s reservoirs were often susceptible to drought, but still managed to resurface to good effect on occasion.

Friday, May 18, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 18

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
This tale of a bank heist that goes horribly wrong is one of the 70’s films that seems to have really improved with age. Great combo of acting (led by Al Pacino), directing(Sidney Lumet) and story (Oscar winner Frank Pierson)

The Lumet River
The Lumet River was one of the longest running of the seventies rivers. It ran mighty long before the 70’s, but may have ran its strongest during that decade.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 17

The Deer Hunter (1978)

The third of the seventies Vietnam trilogy(along with Coming Home and Apocalypse, Now)and the only one of the three to win a Best Picture Oscar. The wedding scene is still too bloody long after all these years, but the film does have a lot of emotionally charged drama in it.

The Cimino River
The Cimino River ran successfully only once and then helped destroy all rivers in its path shortly thereafter. Damn you, Cimino River!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 16

Being There (1979)
I cannot imagine this fable without the presence of Peter Sellers as Chance the Gardner. I’ve truly enjoyed revisting the Hal Ashby films from this decade.

The Ashby River III
No waterway defined the essence of 70’s to me quite as much as The Ashby River.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 15

Coming Home (1978)
This is not in the 1001 movie book, but I’ll always think of this as one of the trilogy (with The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse, Now) of Vietnam films of the late 70’s, so I really couldn’t leave it out. Still a strong and sad drama. Of course, I also love the music. I hadn’t seen this movie since it first came out 34 years (34 years! Holy, crap!) ago, but still associate The Rolling Stones’ song Out of Time with the opening credits of the film.

The Ashby River II
The Ashby River was one of my favorite 70’s waterways. You just never knew in what direction it was going to flow.

Monday, May 14, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 14

Harold and Maude(1971)
Even after all these years, Harold and Maude is the still the definitive cult movie. Accept no substitutes.

The Ashby River I
The first leg of the Ashby River is a most memorable waterway that one should dip into repeatedly.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 13

Little Big Man (1970)
For a more modern day viewer, I guess you could call Arthur Penn's Little Big Man a version of Dances With Wolves meets Forrest Gump. And I still love the way the movie portrays Custer.

The Penn River
The Penn River actually began its flow with a bang during the 60’s, but still was a strong if sometimes neglected waterway during the 70’s.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 12

Altman’s multi-character storytelling isn’t for everyone. I had a good friend who I tried to turn on to Nashville, but he just couldn’t get into it no matter how I tried to convince him. But if I had only one Altman film to recommend, it would still have to be Nashville.

The Altman River, III
The peak of the flow of the original Altman River. It did dry up a bit after this, but the river happily resurfaced during the 90’s.

Friday, May 11, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 11

McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Not my favorite Altman film, but this Western does seem to get better with subsequent viewings. I’ve even grown to like Leonard Cohen.

The Altman River, Part II
Expect different rates of flow from The Altman River. Still flowing freely and in an original way here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

M*A*S*H (1970)

The 70's Rivers, Day 10

M*A*S*H (1970)
Definitely a big event when the original movie appeared on television during the early 70’s, even in a slightly edited version. “Hey did you see the shower scene/football game/pot smoking scene?”

The Altman River, Part I
An intense river whose flow can be grand and can also dry up quickly at times. Unlike many of the 70’s rivers, The Altman River did occasionally resurface during subsequent decades quite strongly.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 9

The Last Picture Show (1971)
This is still one of my favorite movies. Nostalgic, well told and shot in glorious black and white. I would have picked this over The French Connection for Best Picture that year, but nobody asked me.

The Bogdanavich River
Of all the rivers that ran strongly during the decade, yet dried up quickly, none of the drop-off seemed quite as severe as The Bogdanavich River.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 8

The French Connection (1971)
It’s really been a long time since I’ve seen this one. It holds up as a model of many of the action movies that followed it, though I’ve never once picked my feet in Poughkeepsie.

The Friedkin River
A raging river in the early part of the decade. The Friedkin River, like so many others of the time, continued to flow much more sporadically as the decade progressed.

Monday, May 7, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 7

Badlands (1973)
I can see where Terrence Mallick's couple on the run story has a cult follwing. It’s well done and there is more to it than one might think, though overall I still think I’d choose Mallick's Days of Heaven over it even if Martin Sheen pointed a gun at my head.

The Mallick River, Part II
The beginning of the Mallick river is a little rough going for the faint of heart, but try to stay afloat if you can.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 6

Days of Heaven (1978)
I had never seen a Terrence Mallick movie before this viewing and can understand why many love his vision and camera, even if it may be at the expense of characterization.

The Mallick River, Part I
One of the most beautiful waterways of the 70’s. But you have to look fast for this river-it only resurfaces about every ten years or so.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 5

Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Another small film about the inner conflicts of a prodigy adjusting to…well, life. My favorite Nicholson movie of the decade, which is saying something.

The Rafelson River
A river of the decade that raged strong but quickly ran dry, perhaps unfairly. But, hey,-thanks for The Monkees, Bob.

Friday, May 4, 2012


The 70's Rivers,Day 4

The Conversation (1974)
That small, personal film about a wiretapper that exemplified the kind of film that seemed so fresh during the decade.

The Coppola River, Part III
Not as deep as the first parts of the Coppola river, yet it ran just as strong in its on way. But alas, such a river as this just couldn’t run so freely forever.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


The 70's Rivers, Day 3

The Godfather, Part II (1974)
I often wondered why other filmmakers never used the device of parallel stories in different time periods tied cohesively and relating back to the original film…and as I ask the question I realize that I don’t think it could ever be done as well as it is in The Godfather, Part II. Is it superior to the first one? Let’s just say, both would be in my top five, but I still can’t figure out which would come first.

The Coppola River, Part III
The second part of the Coppola River proved to be just as mighty as the first. It was a truly a sight to behold. But how long could it last?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


The 70's River, Day 2

The Godfather (1972)
No film has ever influenced this moviegoer’s life like Coppola’s epic saga of The Corleone family. A lot of praise has been heaped on its director and actors, but it’s the great storytelling that rules the day. Easily in my top ten of favorite films.

The Coppola River, Part II
The beginning of the Coppola river, a waterway that ran deep and mighty and controlled the flow of other rivers of the 70’s for years to come.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I just finished reading Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and watching the Hollywood documentary, A Decade Under the Influence. It made me nostalgic to revisit he American films of the 70’s that I grew up with. Ah…the films I grew up with. When Hollywood finally began to show the courage and made the kind of films that Europeans had been making for years. When a personal film like Five Easy Pieces could actually be a hit! Those were the days…The American movie Renaissance. But they weren’t all masterpieces, were they? I admit to being a huge fan of cheesy disaster movies during this era. But for every Towering Inferno or Love Story, there was a Lenny or The Deer Hunter or The Godfather or Midnight Express. Perhaps I’m romanticizing it a bit. As I said, they weren’t all masterpieces.

No film typifies the 70’s more to me than Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic Apocalypse, Now. There is so much in it that is brilliant (the great bombing sequences, Colonel Jessup’s scenes, the entry into the Kurtz compound) and some in it that is overdone (the crew’s massacre of civilians making them totally unsympathetic from that point on!). But I’ll tell you what-don’t miss it! People died and went crazy in the making of it (See the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse). All you-the viewer have to do is watch it! You aren’t in any real danger!

The story deals with Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) being sent on a mission down the Dugong River with his crew during the Vietnam War to assassinate the rogue Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). I had never seen the Redux version that I just finished watching which included a twenty minute or so scene with a group of Frenchmen that was completely removed from the films original release. This made Apocalypse, Now not only an interesting revisitation but a partially new experience as well.

During the scenes where Willard’s crew was going down the river, I had a thought…a daydream. These films from the 70’s were from a time long ago now and viewing them again, I feel as if I too am going down a river, albeit a less dangerous and metaphorical one. A river of dreams. A river of hope. A river of disappointment. But I feel the need to go down this river all month. What will I find at the end? I don’t know, but I certainly want to go down the 70’s rivers and soak in all its components. But am I an assassin? I guess I’ll find out.