Monday, January 22, 2007


There are those rare years where everything seems to gel. The “product” released by the big Hollywood studios and the independent filmmakers is par excellence. The films of that particular year reflect the zeitgeist of the time and strike a chord with audiences everywhere.

1977 was the year that changed the way movies were made.

In the late Sixties, the “breakdown” in the studio system unleashed a fury of filmmakers who prescribed to the auteur theory. Hired guns -- mercenary filmmakers moving from studio to studio, project to project -- joined fiercely independent directors like Martin Scorcese, John Cassavetes, Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola in producing an era of the most volatile, controversial and fascinating cinematic masterpieces of the century.

The costs of production also began to escalate and studios wanted more bang for their buck. They were not only interested in awards and accolades, but in box office success. The age of the blockbuster was gestating. In 1975, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, a plagued and expensive production, reaped a bounty heretofore unseen.

Friendly rivals always, George Lucas was trying to Out-Spielberg Spielberg with his space fantasy epic Star Wars, which if you’re not familiar with, you do not live on Earth. Star Wars, of course, became the most successful franchise in the history of film with two sequels, a prequel and a Jar Jar Binks crazy straw from Taco Bell. An $11 million dollar gamble grossed $513 million in its initial release. Spielberg countered with the intellectual but no less visually spectacular Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, which grossed $300 million worldwide.

Together, they made the world safe for big budget epics.

Elsewhere, Woody Allen was tickling ribs with the decidedly small in scope, but huge on laughs, Annie Hall and you could tell by the way John Travolta used his walk, that he was a ladies’ man, no time to talk in Saturday Night Fever. Both of which made impressive returns.

In 1977, however, the summer belonged not only to Sam, but to George and Steve as well.

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