Movies as Art: Our Review of ‘The Movies: The Seventies’

Posted in TV, What's Streaming? by - August 08, 2021
Movies as Art: Our Review of ‘The Movies: The Seventies’

Tom Hanks’ Playtone production company and CNN take us through the decades of North American film. They do it with the new docuseries The Movies. It breaks up movie history into six episodes. These episodes tackled The Golden Age, The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, The Nineties, and The 2000s to Today. Each installment runs just shy of ninety minutes. And it promises a look back at some of the films and the influences that created them.

The series launches with ‘The Seventies’. And it takes a look at the shift in Hollywood productions that had the big, colorful films of the 60s. The next decade, in contrast, had smaller budget films that allowed for more character and story experimentation. A number of them served as a grittier reflection of a world that was confronting the Vietnam War. Films moved away from escapism to harsher, dirtier realms, asking uncomfortable questions, and served as a mirror of the viewer.

The decades’ movies dealt with issues from flawed heroes to troubling social injustices. And the episode takes a look at the films that came from that time. It showed how they re-shaped the movie making industry, even as they began the climb to the first blockbuster, 1975’s Jaws.

It’s easy to watch this episode (and no doubt the series) and gripe about the films that were left out. Why wasn’t such and such mentioned? Where’s this? What about that? Genre films like horror and sci-fi suffer from this. Although thankfully, I was happy to see that Blaxploitation films are brushed on, with a nod to the wonderful Pam Grier. They only mention the big titles (or at least those that became big, and created a lasting impact). But it was these big films that would have drawn movie-goers to those others that didn’t make the cut in this episode.

I’m not going to lie, the series already hooked me as soon as I saw that Hanks was a part of it. And I love looking back at films, and remembering the time period when these films came out, giving them context. Yes, some of the big, popular films of the seventies haven’t aged well (Grease and Animal House are prime examples), but they were products of their time, and understanding the context, and seeing them that way shows not only how filmmaking has progressed, but gives us a glimpse of who we were then, and who we are now.

There are a number of films that it shows throughout the episode, most of which I’ve seen. There are also some that I will track down and watch for the first time. (And no doubt, I wonder how I missed them). You may want to keep a running notepad throughout the series to jot down a title or a reference to follow up on later.

There are talking head segments with countless recognizable artists, Hanks, Spielberg, Fuqua, Wright, Scorsese, DeNiro, as well as vintage interviews, and clips from the time. All of it combine in a wonderfully sleek package that serves as an educating time capsule for cinephiles new and old.

It’s fascinating to watch the transition that takes place in the 70s. The decade started out with gritty, realistic, dark, smaller films that were the culture at the time (Mean Streets, Sugarland Express). And it ended with more hopeful, big budget films as the decade closes (Star Wars, Superman: The Movie).

The episode flows more organically than chronologically. It slides back and forth through the years following themes and ideas, but it works. Though seeing it laid out in a timeline worked well for the two towering horror movie docs. Those docs are In Search of Darkness I and II (which are absolute must watches!) so there’s a good argument for both sides.

But that also leads to why put The Seventies episode first? I think to increase audience reach and appeal. Even the passing film fan will recognize a lot of these titles, and it’s a good way to draw them in. It brings viewers forward to modern times before taking them back to the beginning with the final two episodes, The Golden Age and The Sixties.

The series is very much about North American filmmaking. And while other films are mentioned in passing, this is very much a celebration of the Hollywood box office. This may bother some jaded cinephiles. But it’s a sleek, gorgeous looking production that delighted me with clips of films loved and moments recalled.

New episodes drop every Tuesday for six weeks, beginning August 10, on Hollywood Suite. And I cannot wait to see what is (and isn’t) mentioned in The Eighties – my decade!!

Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

This post was written by
TD Rideout has been a movie fan since the moment he first encountered Bruce the Shark in 1975. As passionate about cinema as he is popcorn movies, his film education is a continuing journey of classics new and old. He is at his most comfortable with a book, a drink, his partner and his dog.
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