Hal Ashby

April 7, 2011

Hal Ashby

For me, Ashby is the unsung hero of American films in the 70’s. In my opinion, he’s the only director with a perfect record of that era. But when the studio went corporate in the 80’s, he was done and only did a couple more weak pictures as a for-hire director before he died.

The Landlord – I saw this once on television while living in Chicago (probably on WGN). You may find an old VHS for sale. It’s a nice little film. Beau Bridges is a pretty decent actor when he wants to be. Gordon Willis’ photography is always great.
Harold and Maude – Cult favorite and I believe it was a hit. My least favorite Ashby probably because I’m not the biggest Cat “Yusuf Islam” Stevens fan. A very original script by Colin Higgins who made the pretty funny Foul Play and Nine to Five.
The Last Detail – great Nicholson film before he really took off. And Randy Quaid (before he became a cartoon) could really act. Early Carol Kane too.
Shampoo – They just don’t make movies like this anymore. I miss the 70’s Hollywood. See a young Carrie Fisher, pre-Star Wars, play a teenage nymphette.
Bound For Glory – Kung Fu (David Carradine) is folk hero Woody Guthrie. Haskell Wexler won his 2nd cinematography Oscar. The dust storm effect still looks better than the cgi garbage of The Mummy movies.
Coming HomeJon Voight could act once. Maybe his last great role (well, I guess there was Runaway Train a couple years later). Everyone was good in this film, even Jane Fonda.
Being There – came out in ’79 and marked the end of several eras. The end of the auteur in studio based films. Peter Sellers last great performance (probably should’ve won the Oscar, but it went to Dustin Hoffman for Kramer vs. Kramer (not a bad performance either)). The end of Hal Ashby’s streak.

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