Wednesday, April 13, 2011

AFI Top 100 Countdown #95: THE LAST PICTURE SHOW


Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Written by Peter Bogdanovich and Larry McMurtry
Starring: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, and Cloris Leachman

AFI Top 100 Criteria:

Critical Recognition: Formal commendation in print, television, and digital media.

*“The Last Picture Show is a rare movie that plays differently, but equally well, to members of separate generations. For those born in the mid-1940s and earlier, this is a nostalgia trip - a journey through memories unearthed in the nether spaces of the mind. For younger viewers - those who came into being after the second World War - The Last Picture Show is a time capsule to an era that, while not that long ago, is unlike anything that came after.”
James Berardinelli-

Major Award Winner: Recognition from competitive events including awards from peer groups, critics, guilds, and major film festivals.

8Won the 1972 Oscar for Best Actor In a supporting role-Ben Johnson. Best supporting actress in a supporting role- Cloris Leachman. Nominated Bst Actor in a Supporting Role- Jeff Bridges. Best Actress in a Supporting Role- Ellen Burstyn. Best Cinematography Robert Surtees. Best Director Peter Bogdanovich. Best Picture Stephen J. Friedman. Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material From another Medium- Larry McMurty Peter Bogdanovich.

Popularity Over Time: Includes success at the box office, television and cable airings, and DVD/VHS sales and rentals.

*There have been various directors cuts. The movie launched Jeff Bridges' and Cybill Sheperd's career.

Historical Significance: A film's mark on the history of the moving image through visionary narrative devices, technical innovation or other groundbreaking achievements

*THE LAST PICTURE SHOW is part of the Criterion Collection's America Lost and Found: BBS Box set. Per Criterion's page "Like the rest of America, Hollywood was ripe for revolution in the late sixties. Cinema attendance was down; what had once worked seemed broken. Enter Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner, who knew that what Hollywood needed was new audiences—namely, young people—and that meant cultivating new talent and new ideas. Fueled by money from their invention of the superstar TV pop group the Monkees, they set off on a film-industry journey that would lead them to form BBS Productions, a company that was also a community. " THE LAST PICTURE SHOW depicts a very specific time in America's history and was thus deemed historically important to be included in the Criterion Collection.

Cultural Impact: A film's mark on American society in matters of style and substance.

*In 1998, The Last Picture Show was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Jonesy: Sometimes you don’t realize how great a movie is until it’s still resonating with you days after you’ve seen it. Initially after watching The Last Picture Show, I was kind of on the fence about whether I liked it or not. Then after a while, I realized I was still thinking about the story, characters, subtlety of the storytelling, and the tragic themes it presented.

Overall, this is a tragic story of a once thriving small town that can’t keep up with the times it’s living in. People are moving to the suburbs, and within a generation, this town will probably die. The elders are there for the long run, but the kids are looking to a brighter, more metropolitan future in the city. It reminded me of stories of mining towns that complete die once the mine closes. Some of the people lose their whole livelihood and purpose but to no fault of their own. Now the brilliance of the movie is showing the ins and outs and secrets that a small town always holds. Everyone has their specific role and status within the town; that’s the way it was and will always be. Now I’m not from a small town, but I can imagine the boredom that can occur and the antics and gossip that would be rampant within the town.

I was very impressed with how dynamic the characters are. Every choice they made I knew the motivation and intention behind it. I loved how Cybill Shepherd’s character starts off as a driven girl wanting to succeed in life and fall in love, but eventually falls to her mother’s influence and learns her life lessons through sexual experiments. Jeff Bridges’s character ultimately deciding to join the army and go fight in Korea because there is no other way to leave the town is depressing but mirrors decisions made by many young people today.

This has been my biggest surprise on the countdown so far. I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy and think about the film as much as I have. It’s a perfect look at trials of surviving and escaping small town life in the early 1950s. It’s a view we don’t get to see much anymore.

Javi: Sometimes a movie is a true slow burn, a movie that leaves a lasting impression beyond the first viewing. This movie for me these past few days has been The Last Picture Show. It was a movie that I initially didn’t care for too much, and none of the cast did much for me except Sonny, and I found the story to be nothing to write home about. But now, I realized how much deeper the movie is in its commentary about the 50’s, progress and shattering the small town America that by now has been glorified. It is a movie about the deterioration of a way of life and society and what it brings to those that refuse to move on or onto bigger things.

Just having re-watched Iron Man, it was slightly jarring to see Jeff Bridges as a young bratty dude in town, but I have to be honest, this was not his best performance from what I have seen, considering that Timothy Bottoms as Sonny carries more emotional weight as a character and an actor. Bridges does play a lot on the quiet desperation and frustration from his character’s situation, while Sonny is more mournful and contemplative in his demeanor. Mind you, this is not a complaint but more of an observation. I think out of all of the performances my favorite was Cloris Leachman as Ruth Popper, with her frustration and annoyance at her own marriage and subsequent affair . And now I’ve gone from thinking that characters I don’t like suck, and I’ve realized with Cybil Shepherd’s character, Jacy Farrow, is so well written in her flaws and annoying traits that I have to give credit to the writers.

I feel that this movie is the American cinematic equivalent of 100 Years Of Solitude where the town of Macondo where the Buendia house is being torn down due to negligence and other such natural disasters. From the opening shots, you feel the dirt road all over you and you see the lack of options that people have in this town. The businesses there are hanging by a thread and even the men are just a bunch of gossips. I found it interesting that for the first bit of the movie, all everybody can talk about is the failed football game that Sonny’s team lost. This goes on for a while, which shows how little people have going on here. I felt nothing but desperation at seeing these people’s lives. The scene where Jacy goes off with a guy to a pool party I will say that one of the biggest flaws of this movie having no good characters. By good I don’t mean “quality” but morally good, this can be off-putting for a lot of people.

The best character of this story is Sam. The man is so interesting because he is a product of this small town and all of its drama and pettiness without being a part of it. His death is the most tragic thing in this story, where everything just seems to unravel in the lives of Sonny and Duane. With the last movie being shown in the theater as Duane is leaving for Korea after enlisting, and Sonny inheriting the pool hall, you get a sense that things will continue getting worse here. And finally when the final tragedy of the movie occurs, and Ruth tells Sonny, “It’s going to be all right," and you know that it won’t.

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