AFI 100: The Last Picture Show

Plowing through all of these old movies, I expected most to be tame and staid. Perhaps the rest are, but The Last Picture Show sure ain’t. Larry McMurtry meditation on sex and death in a small, Southern town is pretty much just a hodgepodge of scandals all intertwined into a two hour narrative. The black and white cinematography and stilted delivery of lines in the first 15 minutes made me think this movie has been made shortly after the day in which it is set, 1951, but it rapidly becomes far more risque than that era would have allowed. (In reality, it was made in 1971–a fact that became apparent to me when I started recognizing actors, such as an impossibly young Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd.) Featuring a stellar performance by Ben Johnson, a fine balance of humor and pathos, and the most awkward sex scene I’ve seen on film, I can see why The Last Picture Show (just barely) made the AFI 100 list. 7.5/10 … but I’ll throw in another .5 for Cybill Shepherd’s cans.

The next film in the AFI 100 Project will be Bringing Up Baby.

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14 comments.

  1. That last part made me laugh out loud!
    Jules
    House of Jules

  2. Plowing through all of these old movies, I expected most to be tame and staid.

    A lot of people seem to have that opinion, and I hope the list proves you wrong… I always say, hey, the classics got to be classics because they’re GOOD! People LIKE them!

    In fact, I think 7 or 8 of my personal top 10 movies are on the top 100 list. I think you’re going to have a great time.

  3. I have none of your old-movie prejudices, but I was still totally surprised by “The Last Picture Show,” which I’d always assumed would be boring; I love Jeff Bridges’ line about how he’s a better cocksman.

  4. You’ll dig Bringing Up Baby. Anything with Cary Grant and/or Katherine Hepburn is a winner.

  5. If *TLPS* had the most awkward sex scene you’ve ever seen, you must have missed *Ghost World*.

    *TLPS* is a a great, great film. On the other hand, I can’t stand *Bringing Up Baby*.

  6. You’re making me feel impossibly old discovering all these ‘classics’. Like the ‘classic’ car show I went to this past summer only to discover that I’d owned a lot of them. Sigh, walk into the lights Norma…

  7. No! Take it back to the video store now! It would be so sad to get turned off old movies before you’ve seen some of the fantastic ones you still have in red. Get Philadelphia Story if you want to see those actors. Better yet, start with It Happened One Night or All About Eve or Cabaret or French Connection or, Hell, every other one in red is great (except Swing Time — another embarassment with fabulous actors). Okay. Fine. Do it your own damned way. But don’t say I shoulda warned you . . .

  8. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve *never* understood what people see in Bringing Up Baby. That whole comedy of escalation/annoyance genre is, well… annoying. If the wonderful Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant can’t pull it off, then why bother.

    And yet… it makes so many lists.

    [shakes head]

  9. I have to disagree with the Bringing up Baby detractors. I think it’s one of the best from the “Screwball Comedy” period.

  10. Katherine Hepburn and the PUNCHing of the WORDs as they TUMble of her MOUTH.

    Love it.

  11. It’s important to try to view a movie with the mindset of the time it was made. The Last Picture Show is sort of laughable now but when it was released, it was SHOCKING to lots of people. Bringing Up Baby and almost every Howard Hawks movie I’ve seen are a hoot!

  12. What’s Up Doc? Is a great example of a screwball comedy. Happens to be a favorite. I think Bogdonovich directed it and The Last Picture Show but I could be wrong.

  13. I’ve been going about watching the classics in a much more haphazard way, but you’ve inspired me to be more systematic.

    I just saw All About Eve, and it’s fantastic. You should make that the next on your list.

  14. “Bringing up baby”? Funny — I don’t remember swallowing baby….