I Found It At the Movies: 1978—Straight Time (Ulu Grosbard)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1978: Straight Time (Ulu Grosbard)

Straight Time is one of these small-scale crime movies from the seventies that I absolutely love. It has great production value (including incredible cinematography by The French Connection‘s Owen Roizman), a great cast (Dustin Hoffman, Harry Dean Stanton, M. Emmet Walsh and Gary Busey) and a grit and grime that recalls some of the early great B noir films. It also boasts one of the greatest heist scenes ever put on film. In fact, I rank it right up there with the famous ones from Rififi and Heat.

It’s cliché, but I’ll go ahead and say it: They don’t make movies like this anymore. It has a mainstream cast and crew but a dark, indie mindset. And it’s neither post-modern nor ironic; instead, it’s earnest, hard-hitting stuff. Give me Straight Time, give me Night Moves, give me The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. They have honesty and artistry, plus a certain pedestrian quality, that puts them among my favorite of all crime films.

What moviemakers can learn: I like finding stylistic similarities and differences between movies. Rumor has it that Michael Mann worked at length on this movie before finally leaving the team. Compare and contrast Straight Time with Mann’s own heist movie, Thief, that he would make three years later.

Other contenders for 1978: There are still some titles I need to see from this year. These include: Eric Rohmer’s Perceval le Gallois, Paul Schrader’s Blue Collar, Paul Mazursky’s An Unmarried Woman, Fred Schepisi’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and Karel Reisz’s Who’ll Stop The Rain. At some point I’ll need to revisit Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, as it’s one I’ve struggled with in the past. Meanwhile, from this year, I really like François Truffaut’s La chambre verte. I love John Carpenter’s Halloween and Ermanno Olmi’s The Tree of Wooden Clogs. And my closest runner-up is Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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