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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Film: Flashback! The Best Movies of 1968 Part Two

Compiled By Noah Mallin

Continuing with our flashback to 40 years ago, here's numbers 6 through 10 of the best movies of 1968. See 1 through 5 here.

6. Funny Girl

The big musical was a dying breed in 1968 but still had a few big shots left (Oliver! was another hit in 1968). With Omar Sharif and an Oscar-winning Barbara Streisand in the Fanny Brice story – what’s not to like? Great songs, very funny scenes, and terrific performances by all involved make this a screen classic. Brice finding herself torn between being the successful part of a couple and the expectation that a man be the breadwinner cannily echoed the choices that more women were beginning to make in their lives as the sixties began to draw to a close.

7. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Amidst the terrible string of assassinations in 1968, the racial violence, the war in Vietnam, there was still an underlying belief in progress and technology in American society that found its fullest flowering in the space program, which would land the first man on the moon the following year. 2001, essentially a collaboration between filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and sci-fi visionary Arthur C. Clarke, fused slick late 60’s style in set design and photography with deep mysticism – tracing the explorations of humankind and the dawning consciousness of a (possibly homicidal) supercomputer to the beginnings of knowledge. Also, it was really cool to drop acid to. Some of the most amazing cinematography, special effects and production design ever seen.

8. Rosemary’s Baby

Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby features a shot of a Time magazine cover from 1967 that asked “Is God Dead?” This is something of a bait and switch – Mia Farrow may be carrying the spawn of Satan in her womb but Polanski has more on his mind than good versus evil. Rather Rosemary’s Baby is a cautionary feminist tale about men’s control of women’s bodies embedded in one of the best psychological horror films ever. Ruth Gordon is outstanding as Rosemary’s neighbor and actor/filmmaker John Cassavetes is suitably chilling as her ambitious husband. The only truly outmoded touch for modern viewers is that a young couple starting out in the city could afford a fantastic apartment at the Dakota.

9. Rachel, Rachel

Our roving contributor Cletus pushed hard for this little gem and it’s easy to see why. Paul Newman made his directing debut and his wife Joanne Woodward was nominated for an Academy Award for her titular performance. She plays a never-married woman in her thirties at a time when this was relatively unusual. In the film she explores the idea of happiness with a man, with religion, by having a child, and with another woman only to accept that she might very well be lonely the rest of her life. The ambiguity of the film’s ending and the relentless focus on one woman’s growth echo the feminism of Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby on a smaller more intimate scale. Don’t miss Terry Kiser (Bernie in the Weekend at Bernie’s films) as a sleazy preacher.

10. The Odd Couple

This film adaptation of Neil Simon’s hit play is the quintessential buddy movie with it’s iconic teaming of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau (first seen in the delightful black comedy The Fortune Cookie). The fact that this odd couple happen to be two divorced men reflected the growing rate of failed marriages – the other side of the growing feminist consciousness represented in Rachel, Rachel, Funny Girl and Rosemary’s Baby. If it never transcends it’s origins as a play, its still highly entertaining with some of Simon’s best dialogue and a great cast of supporting characters.

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