Again, the links are to those I’ve written something substantive about…

1970 Two Mules for Sister Sara (Don Siegel) (over Patton and Kelly’s Heroes)

1971 Dollars (Richard Brooks) (over Billy Jack, Klute, A New Leaf and The Last Picture Show)

1972 The Harder They Come (Perry Hanzell) (over Bad Company, The Candidate, Sounder and What’s Up Doc?)

1973 Paper Moon (Peter Bogdanovich) (very close run over American Graffiti)

1974 The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola…his best, and most prescient, movie by a long measure) (over Chinatown)

1975 Night Moves (Arthur Penn) (over Jaws, One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest and Shampoo)

1976 The Bad News Bears (Michael Ritchie) (Good year. Nothing close)

1977 Heroes (Jeremy Kagan) (Lean year. And, despite TV-Movie-of-the-Week production levels, nothing close…Please don’t watch any version that doesn’t include “Carry On, Wayward Son” over the closing credits.)

1978 I Wanna Hold Your Hand (Robert Zemeckis) (over American Hot Wax and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith)

1979 The In-Laws (Arthur Hiller) (over Norma Rae)

I’ll try to keep ’em rolling tomorrow. The picking’s are about to get…a bit slimmer.

NO TIN SOLDIER (Tom Laughlin, R.I.P.)

Grim week: Last rites for Eleanor Parker (who shouldn’t be missed in Scaramouche and Escape From Fort Bravo), Joan Fontaine (who lost her nearly century long Battle of the Permanently Feuding Sisters Who Would Not Die with Olivia De Havilland) and Peter O’Toole, whose legend needs no explanation.

So I’ll take the occasion to say a word for Tom Laughlin, the auteur (in the truest sense of the word since he was writer/director/producer/star) of the Billy Jack franchise, which produced the most successful independent film in history and also created the distribution model (usually credited to Jaws) that emphasized opening weekends and saturation advertising.

Mixed blessing that.

He also ran for president a lot. It probably says enough about his politics that the Liberals-Who-Do-Not-Liberate called him a fascist (don’t they always?) and the Conservatives-Who-Do-Not-Conserve called him a communist (don’t they always?). Having noted that much, I’ll leave that part alone.

What I will say is that I re-watched Born Losers and Billy Jack in close succession a couple of years back. It was the first time I had seen either in a very long time and I found it striking that they caught–and retained–the tenor of their troublesome times more faithfully than a whole lot of other things that were (and are) taken a whole lot more seriously.

More than pretty much anything, really. Give or take Let It Bleed and There’s a Riot Goin’ On.

Nothing better demonstrates how closely Laughlin tapped into the Zeitgiest than the fact that when he and his wife were looking for theme music for Billy Jack, she played him a record that had been a minor hit a few months before and he said something along the lines of “How did they know we were making this movie?” For some contractual reason, a version by Coven (quite good) was used in the film.

But I always liked this version, the one Laughlin heard first, the best.