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30 Posts About Movies #10, Directors: Woody Allen and Hal Ashby

Post #10:  Your Favorite Director

If it seems like it’s been a while since I did one of these “30 Posts About Movies” entries, that’s because this is another *impossible* one.  It would be easier to do 30 posts about directors, but instead of either, I’ll just use this series of posts to babble on about some directors I like.

I don’t always think of films in terms of who directed them, and it’s rare that I’ve seen everything–or even almost everything–that a particular director has done.  I think just given my age and my tastes the exception to that rule might be Wes Anderson.  He’s the kind of director who puts a very distinct personal stamp on his films.  Other directors, who may be quite good, don’t necessarily have the same distinctive personal stamp that calls attention to itself in most or all of their films.

First off (since I’m just going to go through these alphabetically), I’ll mention a director who falls in the former category, Woody Allen. I know some people have a hard time appreciating his films given his personal transgressions. I’m throwing those aside in my assessment of him as an artist. He may be a loathsome human being–I’m not sure, but he’s made some good movies. I’ve written about some of them before, including Radio Days (1987) and Broadway Danny Rose (1984). I like both his comedies and his dramas.

Interiors (1978)

I think Interiors is underrated. Geraldine Page is amazing in it, and watching this clip I’m realizing that E.G. Marshall plays the district attorney in Compulsion (1959).

Some of Allen’s best films, like Annie Hall (1977) really blend comedy and drama. He is also a master of the mockumentary, and his crowning achievement in that genre is Zelig.

Zelig (1983)

Hal Ashby, on the other hand, is the latter sort of director for me.  His films don’t quite scream “directed by Hal Ashby!”  I include him among my favorite directors because he did Being There (1979), Harold and Maude (1971), and perhaps the best of the lot, The Last Detail (1973).  It’s impossible to share a clip from The Last Detail that isn’t soaking in profanity (and, honestly, this is The Last Detail, so I wouldn’t want to).  It’s the Navy, and it’s foul.  Miraculously, Columbia managed it in the film’s trailer.  I think they found the sum total of scenes with the least profanity in the whole movie and slapped them together in chronological order.

The Last Detail (1973) Trailer

In the Last Detail we get Bad-Ass Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and Mule (Mulhall, played by Otis Young) escorting a poor S.O.B. (Meadows, played by Randy Quaid) to a military prison in Portsmouth, NH where he has to serve eight years–for stealing forty bucks. Carol Kane and Gilda Radner also appear in small roles.

The underlying darkness of the new American cinema of the 70s is all over this movie–and the response in the face of that darkness is a big piece of what’s so great about The Last Detail. Sure, Nicholson was in that phase in the 70s and early 80s when he could do no wrong, but Ashby still gets my props for this one.

The Last Detail (1973)