‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ 1975

While driving home during a rain filled night, straight-laced lovebirds Brad Majors and Janet Weiss end up by chance at the castle of one Dr. Frank-N-Furter and his strange and bizarre entourage, and find that he’s having a party. This is no ordinary party, no ordinary night. This is the unveiling of the doctor’s latest creation: Rocky Horror, a man-made Adonis that will give absolute pleasure. Over the course of the night, Frank seduces both Brad and Janet, Janet and Rocky become biblically involved, and Dr. Everett Von Scott arrives looking for his nephew Eddie (whom Frank killed earlier in this film). This is an exceedingly grand visual and musical camp satire of the golden days of the B-movie horror and science-fiction genres. Projected along with a musical soundtrack to give audience participation a new meaning in dimension, time and space, this shall be a night that both Brad and Janet will remember for a very long time in the sexually kinky, rock ‘n roll, rock-opera world of a gender-bending scientist – and his time warped plans.

Critical Reception

Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert noted that when first released, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was “ignored by pretty much everyone, including the future fanatics who would eventually count the hundreds of times they’d seen it”. He considered it more a “long-running social phenomenon” than a movie, rating it 2.5 out of 4 stars. Bill Henkin noted that Variety thought that the “campy hijinks” of the film seemed labored, and also mentioned that the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Wasserman, who had liked the stage play in London, found the film “lacking both charm and dramatic impact”. Newsweek called the film “tasteless, plotless and pointless” in 1978.

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 80% based on 41 reviews. A number of contemporary critics find it compelling and enjoyable because of its offbeat and bizarre qualities; the BBC summarised: “for those willing to experiment with something a little bit different, a little bit outré, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has a lot to offer”. The New York Times called it a “low-budget freak show/cult classic/cultural institution” and considered the songs featured in the film to be “catchy”. Geoff Andrew of Time Out noted that the “string of hummable songs gives it momentum, Gray’s admirably straight-faced narrator holds it together, and a run on black lingerie takes care of almost everything else”, rating it 4 out of 5 stars. Dave Kehr of Chicago Reader on the other hand considered the wit to be “too weak to sustain a film” and thought that the “songs all sound the same”.

In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”

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‘All That Jazz’ 1979

Choreographing and picking dancers for his current show whilst editing his feature film about a stand-up comedian is getting to Joe Gideon. Without the chemical substances, he would not have the energy to keep up with his girlfriend, his ex-wife, and his special dancing daughter. They attempt to bring him back from the brink, but it’s too late for his exhausted body and stress-ravaged heart. He chain-smokes, uses drugs, sleeps with his dancers and overworks himself into open-heart surgery. Scenes from his past life start to encroach on the present and he becomes increasingly aware of his mortality.

Critical Reception

In his review in The New York Times, Vincent Canby called the film “an uproarious display of brilliance, nerve, dance, maudlin confessions, inside jokes and, especially, ego” and “an essentially funny movie that seeks to operate on too many levels at the same time… some of it makes you wince, but a lot of it is great fun… A key to the success of the production is the performance of Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon… With an actor of less weight and intensity, All That Jazz might have evaporated as we watched it. Mr. Scheider’s is a presence to reckon with.”

Variety described it as “a self-important, egomaniacal, wonderfully choreographed, often compelling film” and added, “Roy Scheider gives a superb performance as Gideon, creating a character filled with nervous energy… The film’s major flaw lies in its lack of real explanation of what, beyond ego, really motivates [him].”

TV Guide said, “The dancing is frenzied, the dialogue piercing, the photography superb, and the acting first-rate, with non-showman Scheider an illustrious example of casting against type . . . All That Jazz is great-looking but not easy to watch. Fosse’s indulgent vision at times approaches sour self-loathing.”

Film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film two-and-a-half stars (out of four) in his 2009 movie guide; he said that the film was “self-indulgent and largely negative,” and that “great show biz moments and wonderful dancing are eventually buried in pretensions”; he also called the ending “an interminable finale which leaves a bad taste for the whole film.”

Upon release in 1979, master director Stanley Kubrick (who is referenced in the movie) reportedly believed it to be the “best film I think I have ever seen”. In 2001, All That Jazz was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The Academy Film Archive preserved All That Jazz in 2001. In 2006, the film ranked #14 on the American Film Institute’s Greatest Movie Musicals list.

The film would be the last musical nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture until Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) and the last live-action musical nominated until Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001).

‘Grey Gardens’ 1975

The Maysles brothers pay visits to Edith Bouvier Beale, nearing 80, and her daughter Edie. Reclusive, the pair live with cats and raccoons in Grey Gardens, a crumbling mansion in East Hampton. Edith is dry and quick-witted – a singer, married but later separated, a member of high society. Edie is voluble, dresses – as she puts it – for combat in tight ensembles that include scarves wrapped around her head. There are hints that Edie came home 24 years before to be cared for rather than to care for her mother. The women address the camera, talking over each other, moving from the present to events years before. They’re odd, with flinty affection for each other.

Grey Gardens is a 1975 American documentary film by Albert and David Maysles. The film depicts the everyday lives of two reclusive, formerly upper class women, a mother and daughter both named Edith Beale, who lived in poverty at Grey Gardens, a derelict mansion at 3 West End Road in the wealthy Georgica Pond neighborhood of East Hampton, New York. The film was screened at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival but was not entered into the main competition.

Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer also directed, and Susan Froemke was the associate producer. The film’s editors are credited as Hovde (who also edited Gimme Shelter and Salesman), Meyer and Froemke.

In 2010 the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. In a 2014 Sight and Sound poll, film critics voted Grey Gardens the joint ninth best documentary film of all time.

Background

Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (1895–1977), known as “Big Edie”, and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale (1917–2002), known as “Little Edie”, were the aunt and the first cousin, respectively, of former US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The two women lived together at the Grey Gardens estate for decades with limited funds in increasing squalor and isolation.

The house was designed in 1897 by Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe and purchased in 1923 by “Big Edie” and her husband Phelan Beale. After Phelan left his wife, “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” lived there for more than 50 years. The house was called Grey Gardens because of the color of the dunes, the cement garden walls, and the sea mist.

Throughout the fall of 1971 and into 1972, their living conditions—their house was infested by fleas, inhabited by numerous cats and raccoons, deprived of running water, and filled with garbage and decay—were exposed as the result of an article in the National Enquirer and a cover story in New York Magazine after a series of inspections (which the Beales called “raids”) by the Suffolk County Health Department. With the Beale women facing eviction and the razing of their house, in the summer of 1972 Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill provided the necessary funds to stabilize and repair the dilapidated house so that it would meet village codes.

Albert and David Maysles became interested in their story and received permission to film a documentary about the women, which was released in 1976 to wide critical acclaim. Their direct cinema technique left the women to tell their own stories.

Original Trailer

‘Paris is Burning’ 1990

This is a documentary of ‘drag nights’ among New York’s underclass. Queens are interviewed and observed preparing for and competing in many ‘balls’. The people, the clothes, and the whole environment are outlandish.

Paris Is Burning is a 1990 American documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it. Some critics consider the film to be an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, and a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America.[2][3]

In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Critical Reception

Upon release, the documentary received rave reviews from critics and won several awards including a Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, a Berlin International Film Festival Teddy Bear, an audience award from the Toronto International Film Festival, a GLAAD Media Award, a Women in Film Crystal Award, a Best Documentary award from the Los Angeles, New York, and National Film Critics’ Circles, and it also was named as one of 1991’s best films by the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, Time magazine, and others.

Paris Is Burning failed to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature that year, adding to a growing perception that certain subjects and treatments were excluded from consideration for Oscars, and leading, in part, to a change in how documentaries are nominated for the Academy Awards.

More than two decades later, Paris Is Burning remains an organizing tool for gay and trans youth; a way for scholars and students to examine issues of race, class, and gender; a way for younger ball participants to meet their ancestors; and a portrait of several remarkable Americans, most of whom have died since the film’s production.

Some people have criticized Paris Is Burning. In Is Paris Burning?, bell hooks questioned Livingston’s depiction of the drag balls, arguing that it reduces them to mere spectacle: “Much of the film’s focus on pageantry takes the ritual of the black drag ball and makes it spectacle. Ritual is that ceremonial act that carries with it meaning and significance beyond what appears, while spectacle functions primarily as entertaining dramatic display… Hence it is easy for white observers to depict black rituals as spectacle.” hooks, a feminist writer who is not LGBT-identified, also questioned the political efficacy of the drag balls themselves, citing her own experimentations with drag, and suggesting that the balls themselves lack political, artistic, and social significance. Judith Butler based some of her book, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”, on this film.