Tag: Marathons

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: Woodstock (1970)




“But above that, the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing BUT fun and music, and I God bless you for it!”

woodstock-5_thumb[1].jpgWoodstock exists in cultural memory as the quintessential music festival – the festival that brought together the greatest musical acts of the late 1960s with the counter-cultural generation. Every musical festival since aspires to be Woodstock-like (though sadly, most achieve the comparison only by being doused in rain and becoming mudpits as Woodstock famously did). As a current music-lover and festival-goer who is admittedly under-informed about a lot of the history of rock music and its place in culture at that time, I feel very grateful to Michael Wadleigh and others for preserving the event so well on film.

He begins with the festival set-up, interviewing the organizers as they supervise stages being built and fences being set up. The fences would quickly prove useless, as the crowd of young people entering the grounds from all directions more than doubled expectations; rather than hold off a quarter-million non-ticket-holders, the organizers decided to make the festival free and let everyone in. A pretty incredible situation compared to today’s tightly-secured festival grounds.

Read the rest on Row Three

Easy Riders…: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?




This film should come with a warning label: “Do not watch if you are already in a suicidal state.” Seriously, I’ve seen some downer movies in my time, but as far as gutwrenching, exhausting, draining, and depressing movies go, this has to be up near the top of the list. That’s not to say it’s not good; in fact, if it weren’t tightly scripted, memorably shot, and compellingly performed, it wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is at provoking the kind of visceral disgust that it does – there are images and themes and lines of dialogue that I still can’t wrest from my brain a week later, even though, in some cases, I would like to.

It’s the 1930s, the height (or depth) of the Depression, and a bunch of desperate people gather in Los Angeles to compete in a dance marathon. Whichever couple could manage to stay on their feet the longest without passing out and getting tapped out by the judges would win $1500 – not to mention that the radio station sponsoring the event was providing three meals a day to the contestants, not too shabby an incentive itself. At least at first.

theyshoothorses03.jpgAmong the participants we get to know over the course of the first several hours of the competition are a cynical but driving young woman played by Jane Fonda, the drifter she takes as her partner when her initial parter is disqualified right off the bat for being sick, a young pregnant couple who just arrived in LA after riding the rails from the midwest, a wanna-be glamorous actress, and a middle-aged sailor. We zero in most on Fonda and her partner, but we learn very little more about their past or their lives outside the marathon – in fact, there basically IS nothing beyond the marathon, which becomes a metaphor for life itself.

Read the rest at Row Three ->

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls Marathon on Row Three


I’ve been doing a New Hollywood marathon over at Row Three for a little while now, but hadn’t thought to crosspost over here when I post a new entry up. Okay, let’s be honest, I’ve only done three entries aside from the initial announcement, but still. I watch faster than I write. Anyway, the 1970s is one of my weakest points in film history, so I’m reading through Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll Generation Saved Hollywood and watching the films along with it. I came up with a list of thirty or so films that I hadn’t seen (plus a couple I have but need to rewatch) that exemplify the era, and am working my way through the list chronologically. That full list is here on Row Three. I also invited the other R3 contributors to add reviews as they saw fit, so not all the reviews in the marathon are going to be by me, but most of them probably will be.

Here’s an excerpt from that post that lays out the importance of this era and why I, as a film buff and wanna-be critic, want and need to become more familiar with it:

One thing that has fascinated me as I worked on creating this master list is how varied the films are – drama, comedy, action, satire, war, crime, romance, horror, western, science fiction, concert film and period piece are all among the genres represented. What they have in common: 1) a willingness to push the boundaries of what cinema was allowed to do and to explore themes of sexuality, antiheroism, and isolation that were previously taboo, 2) a sense of brashness and raw vitality brought by the eager young filmmakers wresting the reins from entrenched studios, 3) a tendency to focus on character and script rather than plot, and 4) a knowledge of and appreciation for cinema itself, from the masters of Golden Age Hollywood to the imports coming from Europe and Japan.

This quote from Biskind’s introduction I think sums it up nicely:

[The 1970s were] the last time Hollywood produced a body of risky, high-quality work — work that was character-, rather than plot-driven, that defied traditional narrative conventions, that challenged the tyranny of technical correctness, that broke the taboos of language and behavior, that dared to end unhappily. […] In a culture inured even to the shock of the new, in which today’s news is tomorrow’s history to be forgotten entirely or recycled in some unimaginably debased form, ’70s movies retain their power to unsettle; time has not dulled their edge, and they are as provocative now as they were the day they were released. […] The thirteen years between Bonnie & Clyde in 1967 and Heaven’s Gate in 1980 marked the last time it was really exciting to make movies in Hollywood, the last time people could be consistently proud of the pictures they made, the last time the community as a whole encouraged good work, the last time there was an audience that could sustain it.

And it wasn’t only the landmark movies that made the late ’60s and ’70s unique. This was a time when film culture permeated American life in a way that it never had before and never has since. In the words of Susan Sontag, “It was at this specific moment in the 100-year history of cinema that going to the movies, thinking about movies, talking about movies became a passion among university students and other young people. You fell in love not just with actors but with cinema itself.” Film was no less than a secular religion.


Throughout the rest of today, I’ll add excerpts over here from what I’ve already posted, then try to keep up with pointing out new articles as I post them on Row Three.

Some of the films that will be covered in the marathon are:

  • Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
  • The Graduate (1967)
  • Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  • Easy Rider (1969)
  • Woodstock (1970)
  • Five Easy Pieces (1970)
  • McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
  • The Last Picture Show (1971)
  • Badlands (1973)
  • The Exorcist (1973)
  • The Godfather Part 2 (1974)
  • Nashville (1975)
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • Raging Bull (1980)

Click here to see the full list, with brief descriptions and images of each film.

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