I have long argued that the decade of the 1970s was a golden age for filmmaking. Think about some of the Best Picture winners during the decade: Patton, both Godfathers, The Sting, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Annie Hall. Even more astounding, think about some of the films that did not win Best Picture: (a mere sampling) The Way We Were, The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, The Last Detail, Jaws, M*A*S*H, Dog Day Afternoon, Chinatown, Love Story, and the list goes on. In 1976 alone, the non-winners included: All the President's Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and The Omen (the latter two were not even nominated for Best Picture).

Why were the 1970s so golden? It was a fortuitous end of an era. For years, great talents learned and labored under the efficient but stifling studio system. In addition, these artists operated within the restrictive Hays production code, which policed motion picture content to insure "wholesome entertainment" (read the code here). When old Hollywood collapsed, the restrictions evaporated and a new generation emerged. These screenwriters and filmmakers, generally trained under the discipline of the ancien regime, felt free to experiment outside the old envelope, and their genius flowered. The results are the plethora of masterpieces cited above.

An aside: What happens when a generation emerges without training and no deeply embedded sense of propriety to which they must conform and against which they must inevitably rebel? Now appearing at your local video store. Sadly, there is a big difference in the ability to bend and/or break through the old standards and having no standards at all. Our current generation of filmmakers suffers from too much freedom and a palpable lack of cultivation.

I mentioned the non-winners from 1976. Do you remember the winner? Rocky.

Rocky was not an especially rebellious film. Of course, there is coarse language and implicit sexual intimacy outside of marriage; there are sympathetic criminals, and there are times when right and wrong is not clearly defined. But, in its essence, Rocky is the classic underdog narrative; it is a plot that goes back to the beginning of story telling and the halcyon days of Hollywood. In fact, in an almost quaint fashion, Rocky tells the utterly contrived tale of a club fighter who gets a title shot and, more importantly, an opportunity to reclaim his life.

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