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Article regarding 70's movie era - discussion (1 Viewer)

Jim DiJoseph

Second Unit
Dec 13, 1999
I just stumbled across this interesting article at MSNBC regarding a couple documentaries that deal with cinema in the 1970s:

That 70's Movie

Near the end of “A Decade Under the Influence,” one of two new documentaries celebrating the so-called “golden age” of 1970s Hollywood, Francis Ford Coppola likens today’s low-risk, corporate Hollywood to a pharmacy that only sells two products, tranquilizers and Viagra.
Coppola has an interesting perspective, and one that will likely ring true with many of the HTF members. I wanted to start this thread in the hopes that we could have a frank discussion about the direction of cinema. I know many of these discussions turn into flaming arguments about turning our brains off and enjoying movies versus really getting to see cinematic genius, but I hope we can avoid the petty stuff.

So, what do you think? Has the great movie machine evolved (or devolved) into an industry that panders to the tranquilizers and Viagra that Coppola describes? Will there always be enough room for great cinema amidst popcorn flicks?


Rich Malloy

Senior HTF Member
Apr 9, 2000
There's more great cinema in the world today that there was in the 70s, but hardly any of it is coming out of Hollywood or the American Indie scene.

Asia is where it's at, particularly Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea, but also China and Japan. I think it's interesting that some of the most popular American films in recent years have borrowed heavily from Asian cinema, and we've even seen some Asian films break into the mainstream.

I guess my point is that cinema ain't broke, but in America it's really struggling. And European films, too, while more varied and interesting than the American ones, are but a pale shadow of what they used to be.

But, looking at it world-wide, cinema is stronger than ever.


Feb 14, 2003
The state of American cinema is very much money orientated and has been for a long time, no doubt about that. I think everything moves in cycles and believe the movie industry is producing better movies now than there were, say 10 years ago. Competition is also capable of producing better movies. If everyone is copying off one another and essentially making the same movies over and over again then the medium stagnates. But when filmmakers are influenced or better yet have their own original ideas instead of trying to copy then some interesting things can happen. Then again originality is a scarce commodity.

I'm a big fan of the 70's in general so I would agree with Coppola. But basically there's always a few good movie being released amongst the crap every year. You have to also consider the odds of good movies coming out against the plethora of all the titles released in one year. Most will be bad movies. However, whenever I think movies suck I can always look towards television or radio to get a true reading of how 2 other mediums, TV shows and music, have sunk to levels beyond recognition.

Simon Massey

Senior HTF Member
Aug 9, 2001
Shanghai, China
Real Name
Simon Massey
So, what do you think? Has the great movie machine evolved (or devolved) into an industry that panders to the tranquilizers and Viagra that Coppola describes? Will there always be enough room for great cinema amidst popcorn flicks
If your talking solely about Hollywood, which Coppola seems to be then yes I agree with him. But cinema around the world...no. It isnt that not many great films get made today, you just have to really search for them to be able to watch them. Perhaps if cinemas gave us more of a choice instead of having 70% of their screens devoted to the latest Matrix, X-Men or Star Wars film....and perhaps if the studios spent more time and money to market their riskier projects as well as the sure thing (does anybody really not know that there is a new Matrix film out next week ??)

The movie-star system is the main problem and the ludicrous fees they are paid for a film. I am glad that at least some of them use their perceived clout at the box office to get riskier projects made.

Jim DiJoseph

Second Unit
Dec 13, 1999
Excellent points. And yes I probably should have narrowed my question to include only American cinema because I too am aware of some of the great work coming from international sources.

However, I'm afraid that the summer blockbuster appeal will preclude any such accomplishment (on a grand scale) here in the States. Sure, Sundance and other smaller markets will (hopefully) always encourage and support creative cinema, but many of us won't be able to enjoy it at the local theater.

Before I get called out on account of other postings, I must confess that I do enjoy the blockbuster movies. I like to be "wow-ed" now and then and I have enjoyed many of the movies that have come out in the recent past. I just wonder if the really creative American cinema, which is seeing less exposure today than in the past (IMHO), will continue down this road of obscurity in the future. Or am I overstating the issue?


Edwin Pereyra

Senior HTF Member
Oct 26, 1998
I just wonder if the really creative American cinema, which is seeing less exposure today than in the past (IMHO), will continue down this road of obscurity in the future. Or am I overstating the issue?
There may have been a point in time when the issue you pointed out was such the case primarily due to the change in our society’s culture, the ever changing habits of the moviegoing public and, most especially, the main demographics or target audience of today’s films, which is primarily the teenage crowd that own the box office. But I think we have turned the corner and reversed the trend just in the last few years.

Sure, the big blockbuster films remain the favorite amongst today’s moviegoing public but the appetite for non-mainstream films is now stronger than ever. This is evidenced by the growing number of film festivals held around the country these days, the increasing amount of independent films that are being released each year, and the growing popularity of cable channels now devoted to alternative programming.

This year, I belong to the programs committee of our city’s film festival and one of the first new project I spearheaded this year was bringing all the 2002 Oscar nominated live action and animated shorts for a benefit screening last month. For a first time event, it was well attended and because of its success, it is now scheduled to be held annually a week prior to the Oscar telecast.

Our committee also found that the public wants more alternative films. In the past, our festival has focused primarily on classic films. This year, along with the classics, we will be having more independent films (some of them straight from the Toronto Film Festival), short independent film judging, a screenwriting conference, and a technological seminar on editing and animation from Pixar studios.

No, I don’t think creative American cinema, as you put it, is on the road to obscurity. There are directors out there that are still making personal and meaningful films, albeit on a much smaller scale. These are the ones that are making a name for themselves - the talented few, amongst the many, in today’s American cinema.


Jim DiJoseph

Second Unit
Dec 13, 1999
Edwin, thanks for your response. Perhaps things are indeed turning around, but that perspective must rely heavily on geographics. In my region, these festivals are non-existent. I've searched high and wide, but it seems that in order for me to have access to these sorts of films, extended travel must be involved. And this is part of the issue I was addressing - what percentage of those of us who enjoy creative American cinema really have easy access to it?

However, it's good to hear that other cities such as yours (none is indicated in your profile) host festivals like you say. Thanks.

Mike Broadman

Senior HTF Member
Aug 24, 2001
The point made at the end of the article makes a great point: wereas films of the early 70s were cynical, the simpler hero/villain fare has devolved to the point where it is presented with even more cynicism.

It's as if Hollywood stopped trying to make films have any artistic merit. In fact, most people are afraid to use the A word for fear of sounding pretentious.

Yes, of course there are great film makers who work outside the Hollywood system. But that's the point- why should they have to?


Stunt Coordinator
Dec 31, 2000
Real Name
Armand Vaquer
Speaking strictly about Hollywood-generated films, I have to agree with Coppola. The studios aren't taking risks like they used to. Everything they produce "has to make a ton of money" or it won't get made.

Others on this thread covered the lack of originality in films, but I want to mention that we have lost the will to have cheap-but-well-made films. Everything has to be the "big blockbuster."

I miss seeing the many "B" movies of the 1970s today. What was considered a "B" movie shown in theaters back then are now the "direct to video" films of today. There are no more double features, even though ticket prices have tripled (or more) since the 1970s. The prices at concession stands are ridiculous (naturally, the theaters make their money through concessions).

Thankfully, we now have the option of DVDs. But it would be nice to take the family out to a movie (another thing, very few drive-ins are left) without having to get a second mortgage on the house to pay for it.

What it really boils down to, we don't seem to be getting our money's worth these days.


Senior HTF Member
Jul 19, 2002
the difference between the cinema of the 70's and the cinema of the 80's-on up, lies in the drugs that were being consumed.
i'm serious.
in the 60's you saw many creative types experimenting with psychedelics. this definitely influenced the grammer of film and themes of product in the late sixties/early 70's.
when the block busters started to roll in in the mid 70's, cocaine was becoming the more popular recreational substance.
all visceral, nervous movement with mostly shallow thought behind it.


Supporting Actor
Oct 14, 2001
I must say I was amused to read Coppola's qoute. Godfather III was not exactly taking a lot of financial risk or what I call ground breaking/challenging film making.
I am in my 50s and I certainly remember clearly when in the early 80s I read very similar things, "Sure there were some great films in the 70s, but the Golden Era is really in the 40s and 50s". Sounded good, who can argue with Bogart, Holden, Mitchum, Steward, Stanwyk, Hepburn,..and Wilder, Hawks, Ford,...?
Hollywood not taking chances is not news, I remember all the Biblical theme dramas in the later 50s into early 60s, the endless Mafia knockoffs after the success of the Goldfather, and the flood gate really broke loose after Star Wars.
If one looks outside of the "establishment", I think there are plenty of excitment and innovation, and these films are successful, even though they may not be 100 million box movies. Offhand, film like Far From Heaven would probably not be a 70s film, Asians in 70s film were certainly not like the ones in Better Luck Tomorrow (in other words, for those that are old enough to remember, 70s films were largely low in minority POV and high with stereotyping).
Now, before we REALLY jump on "commercial" American films, let's look at the movies that had the "buzz" last year:
Chicago, The Hours, Adaptation, Road to Perdition, 25th Hour, Quiet American, Antwone Fisher, Far From Heaven, Catch Me If You Can, Gangs of New York.. Box office blockbusters, we have Signs, Harry Potter COS, and LOTR. I think one will be hard pressed to find any year in the 70s, commercial or otherwise, that have so many films of comparable quality.

Scott Weinberg

Senior HTF Member
Oct 3, 2000
Great thread here.

I saw Easy Riders Raging Bulls earlier this year and was hypnotized by the whole movie.

Since then I've been keeping an eye out for 'lesser-known' 70s films and I've 'discovered' a whole lot of 'em.

Sure, the 70s did spawn the Blockbuster Mentality that we all know so well today, but the Golden Rule is still pretty much the same: a good movie is a good movie. People rarely remember hype and budgets and buzz; they sure as shit remember a movie they love.

It seems that the popular actors of the 70s were willing to take a lot more 'chances' than their modern peers do.

And how the heck is Scarecrow (Pacino and Hackman!) not available on DVD yet!?!? ;)

Jack Briggs

Senior HTF Member
Jun 3, 1999
One problem with The Downward Spiral is that now, in the popcorn era, the bar has been lowered for most people as to what constitutes excellence. So a film that would have been widely regarded as trite or manipulative or mediocre in the early '70s is today hailed as a "masterpiece" or "great." Far From Heaven, for example.

Scott Calvert

Supporting Actor
Nov 2, 1998
"I think one will be hard pressed to find any year in the 70s, commercial or otherwise, that have so many films of comparable quality."

The French Connection
A Clockwork Orange
Fiddler on the Roof
The Last Picture Show
Nicholas and Alexandra
The Hospital
Sunday Bloody Sunday
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Mary, Queen of Scots
Carnal Knowledge
The Conformist (not Hollywood, I know, but what the hell)
Summer of '42
The Andromeda Strain
Straw Dogs
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Brad Porter

Jun 8, 1999
Coming to a theater near you this year:

Sequels (or prequels):
X2: X-Men United
The Matrix Reloaded
Pokemon Heroes
2 Fast 2 Furious
Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd
Rugrats Go Wild!
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde
Bad Boys II
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
American Wedding
Freddy vs. Jason
Jeepers Creepers II
Desperado II: Once Upon A Time In Mexico
(why isn't this El Mariachi III?)
Scary Movie 3
The Whole Ten Yards
The Matrix Revolutions
Barbershop 2
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
(not actually part of a previous franchise, but c'mon, it's Sinbad!)

Remakes (or translations from TV/Comic Books):
The In-Laws
The Italian Job
The Hulk
Freaky Friday
If You Were My Girl
(is a remake of Can't Buy Me Love)
The Alamo
Cheaper By The Dozen
Peter Pan

Is there a precedent for this volume of sequels and remakes? Are the Hollywood studios that frightened of original material? I'll grant that some of these will be very good movies (perhaps the height of irony is that I'm typing this message while watching The Godfather Part II), but it's seems easier to get a safe project with a built in audience greenlighted than perhaps it should be. Somewhere in Hollywood, I'm sure they've had pitch meetings for The Seventh Sense, My Big Fat Greek Baby, and xXXx: One More X.


Scott Weinberg

Senior HTF Member
Oct 3, 2000
Well argued point there, Scott.

Can I do 1972?? :)

The Godfather
Butterflies are Free
Man of La Mancha
High Plains Drifter
The Getaway
Jeremiah Johnson
Silent Running
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
The Poseidon Adventure
The Hot Rock
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex
Lady Sings the Blues
The Heartbreak Kid


Scott Calvert

Supporting Actor
Nov 2, 1998
Someone needs to go back and do 1970 :)

EDIT: Ah hell, I'll do it:

Little Big Man
Five Easy Pieces
The Great White Hope
Women in Love
Let it Be

I hesitate to add Love Story and Ryan's Daughter, but...well, there it is.

Scott Calvert

Supporting Actor
Nov 2, 1998
The Sting
American Graffiti
The Exorcist
The Last Detail
The Last Tango in Paris
The Paper Chase
Bang the Drum Slowly
Paper Moon
The Way We Were
The Day of the Jackal
A Touch of Class
Don't Look Now
The Harder They Come
The Iceman Cometh
Jesus Christ Superstar
The Last American Hero
The Legend of Hell House
The Long Goodbye
Magnum Force
Mean Streets
Pat Garret and Billy the Kid
The Seven-Ups
Soylent Green
The Three Musketeers
The Wicker Man

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