Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Roger Ebert on the best of 1978.

The “From the Vault” strand on Roger Ebert’s website this week offers us a really nice episode of Siskel and Ebert from 1978. It’s the best and worst of the year show. Roger and Gene name two relatively off-centre films …

Mon, Aug 29, 2011, 23:06

   

The “From the Vault” strand on Roger Ebert’s website this week offers us a really nice episode of Siskel and Ebert from 1978. It’s the best and worst of the year show. Roger and Gene name two relatively off-centre films as their favourites: Siskel picks the wonderful Straight Time; Ebert sides for the now largely overlooked An Unmarried Woman.

“Have I included enough bosoms, Russ?”

The most interesting bit of their conversation, however, is the section where — noting that Jaws 2 was the third biggest film of the year — they wonder if the huge blockbusters were going to elbow more interesting films out of the way. Mark Kermode was entertaining¬†a very similar debate in this week’s Observer. Plus ca change. But Siskel and Ebert were really onto something. It is easy to overstate the popular acceptance of Hollywood’s Easy Rider, Raging Bull tendency in the early 1970s. As many people loathed that sensibility as celebrated it. But there is no doubt that it was something of a golden period. You could well argue that it ended in 1978 (or maybe the year before). The success of Jaws and Star Wars really did change the way studios thought. Never again would a picture like The Godfather become the most successful of its year. A vague terror of nuance was setting in.

It’s also amusing to hear Roger confidently state that Jill Clayburgh was sure to win the Oscar for An Unmarried Woman. As you will be aware, she didn’t. The statuette went to Jane Fonda for the somewhat soapy Coming Home. With that in mind, we declare him a good sport for inviting us to look again at this particular episode. Hooray!¬†The programme offers a real Proustian rush for those of us old enough to be occupying the stalls in that year.

For the record, Roger’s full top ten for that year was as follows:

1. An Unmarried Woman (1 and a half thumbs up from Screenwriter)

2. Days of Heaven (2 thumbs WAY up)

3. Heart of Glass (2 thumbs up)

4. Stroszek (2 thumbs WAY up)

5. Autumn Sonata (2 thumbs WAY up)

6. Interiors (1 thumb up)

7. Halloween (2 thumbs WAY up)

8. Animal House (1 and a half thumbs up)

9. KIngs of the Road (2 thumbs WAY up)

10. Superman: The Movie (1 thumb up)

What about Dawn of the Dead, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, The Tree of Wooden Clogs and Fingers? Well, you can’t have everything.

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