Mr. Movie's take on films that forever changed movies -- What are yours?

Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comJune 26, 2014 

"BUTCH CASSIDY and the SUNDANCE KID": The 1969 film, which co-starred Robert Redford, right and Paul Newman, left, was named to the National Film Registry.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS — NYT

I'm always asked how and why I became a movie critic. It wasn't just for the free movies. After about 6,000 of them in the past 24 years, a free movie doesn't have the same appeal it used to. Some weeks I see a movie or two a day.

I was doing radio news in the late 1970s the first time I saw Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. It looked like great fun and a real challenge, and inspired me to pursue film critique as a career a decade later.

The first movie I remember reviewing is Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Other things pushed the desire. Movies themselves, for example. I'd come out of flicks and, ignoring the yawns, drive whoever was with me nuts with critiques of acting, directing and the plot.

At the time, I had no outlet. Today, I do.

I also have to note here that I love debate. When I review a film, it is just my opinion. I'm not God; I'm just one person. That your opinion is different than mine is wonderful. You should post what you think of my reviews online. The address is below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Here are four of my favorite films. These are movies I talk about incessantly and today am privileged to finally get to review. All four were trendsetters that -- in retrospect -- changed how their genres have been done since.

If you haven't seen them, check Netflix or your local video store and get these.

Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy was the first and only X-rated movie to get a best picture Oscar. It also deservedly won best director and screenplay. Director John Schlesinger set new and dramatic standards of realism for the character study. He pioneered cinema tricks, techniques and music montages that have influenced filmmakers since.

Wrapped around one of the most haunting soundtracks in movie history, not only was the story of two con men compelling, but the acting of Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight also set new, high standards for the craft. Both were nominated for best actor Oscars. They -- like Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus -- were so good it that was impossible to pick.

Turns out neither got the statuette. John Wayne took home the award for True Grit.

Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man

I love science fiction. Among my favorites are classics like The Time Machine, The Invisible Man and King Kong. None, however, were better than Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man.

In the 1960s, Charlton Heston was more famous for playing Moses and Ben-Hur than having his gun ripped from his cold, dead hands. Packed with excellent effects and terrific plot twists, the two films transported me into an unimaginable future and set the standards for what good sci-fi would become going forward.

Based on books that were not close to as good as the movies, Heston was never better and gave pitch perfect performances in both as doomed loners battling unrelenting, insurmountable enemies.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a radical departure from the western movie format. Paul Newman was already a big star, and Robert Redford's star was rising. The Sundance Kid put Redford on the A-list map and was so important to his career that Redford named his famous film festival after the character.

Set as the 19th century turns to the 20th, it follows the two outlaws and their gang, and their desperate and failed attempt to hold back change and the future. The chemistry between Redford and Newman was so good that a couple of years later they -- along with director George Roy Hill -- did The Sting.

In 1969 and 1970, the film was incredibly popular. I worked at a drive-in theater in my late teens and early 20s. We showed Butch Cassidy nightly to a field packed with cars for more than two-years.

-- We all have favorite films. What is one of yours and -- equally as important -- why? Let Mr. Movie know on his blog at www.tricityherald.com/arts/mrmovie.

-- Transformers: Age of Extinction opens June 27. Franchise director Michael Bay changes directions, dumps Shia LaBeouf and casts Mark Wahlberg as the film's hero. I wasn't able to catch a screening so you'll have to read my review at www.tricityherald.com/arts/mrmovie.

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