Like Micheal Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, critics have attacked and mocked the excessive ways of Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie. Rather than focus on the film – the imagery, characterizations and experimental structure – they honed in on the sensational stories of orgies and cocaine consumption because that’s what sells. The truth is, while Hopper’s film may be flawed, it is seminal – directionless, faded and disturbing. Under the tutelage of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, Hopper constructed an experimental narrative – including a title card flashing missing scene as if we are watching a rush – continually reminding the viewer of what this is – just a film.While it’s not earth-shattering genius, neither was Easy Rider nor even Midnight Cowboy or Apocalypse Now for that matter, but it’s genuine and a far cry from the processed images of today, all seemingly rendered from a rendering of a rendering. Personal and real, The Last Movie itself will be rendered soon enough. “Love is everywhere.”
Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is occasionally on the mark with their annual Best Picture – Casablanca (Curtiz, 1943), Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969), Annie Hall (Allen, 1977) & No Country for Old Men (Coen Brothers, 2007). However these awards have more to do with Hollywood politics and marketing campaigns – such as Harvey Weinstein bullying on behalf of the dreadfully mediocre Shakespeare in Love (1998) – and much less to do with the art of film-making. As a consequence, the Best Pictures ends up consistently falling short. This isn’t just an issue with which film wins, but which are nominated and has been a problem right from the start of the Awards in 1927. The most apparent has been in the exclusion of most of the great foreign films in ages past, failing to nominate Passion of Joan of Arc (Dryer, 1928), M (Fritz Lang, 1931), La Regle de Jeu (Renoir, 1939), Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954), Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957), Breathless (Godard, 1960), Aguirre, Wrath of God (Herzog, 1973) and The Sacrifice (Tarkovsky, 1986) and City of God (Meirelles, 2003)…to mention only a fraction. The Academy is flawed at its core, responding to the topicality of the film – social movements above all – and less to the work itself. “Best Pictures” are often predicable and dull, lacking in both vision and inspiration…and this year is no different. Here’s my list of the Academy’s most glaring mistakes.
Not even nominated Winner (Soon to be Forgotten)
1946 Gilda (Vidor) Best Years of Their Lives (Wyler)
1952 Singin’ in the Rain (Kelly) Greatest Show on Earth (DeMille)
1958 Vertigo (Hitchcock) Gigi (Minnelli)
1979 Manhattan (Allen) Kramer vs. Kramer (Benton)
1982 Blade Runner (Scott) Gandhi (Attenborough)
2003 Elephant (Van Sant) The Lord of the Rings (Jackson)
That’s Show Biz.