Hal Ashby

..and why not?

The best Ashby film is:

The Landlord
0
No votes
Harold and Maude
4
36%
The Last Detail
3
27%
Shampoo
1
9%
Bound for Glory
0
No votes
Coming Home
0
No votes
Being There
2
18%
Second Hand Hearts
0
No votes
Lookin' to Get Out
0
No votes
Let's Spend the Night Together
0
No votes
Solo Trans
0
No votes
The Slugger's Wife
0
No votes
8 Million Ways to Die
0
No votes
Ashby sucks
1
9%
 
Total votes: 11

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Davey the Fat Boy
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Hal Ashby

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 19 Feb 2007, 21:07

Like a lot of people my age, Harold and Maude was the first "art" movie I saw and loved. Though it is fashionable to knock it these days as greeting card philosophy masquerading as profundity, I have to say that I still find a good number of the ideas in it to be meaningful in my life.

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Though it hasn't held up as the "best movie ever" (which is what the 12 year old version of myself might have called it), it still retains a place among my favorite films - and I suspect not purely out of nostalgia. To this day there is still no moment in any film that registers with me any more personally as when Maude says, "You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world's sorrow comes from people who are "this" - yet allow themselves to be treated as "that". But if Colin Higgins' dialogue often sits at the center of any discussion of Harold and Maude, Ashby's direction cannot be overlooked. Among his most deft touches was revealing Maude's past as a Holocaust survivor by wordlessly flashing on the tattoo of her "number" for a split second without ever bringing the subject up again. It is hard to imagine any of today's filmmakers showing thi kind of restraint.

If Harold and Maude provided an entry into the world of art movies for me, Hal Ashby was the first director that mattered to me. It seemed for a long time that he simply could no wrong. Consider this run of films:

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Later on I'd go back and discover his first film, The Landlord (starring Beau Bridges) was also worthy of the films listed above - perhaps better than most of them in fact.

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After Being There his career faultered badly. His next two films were reviewed so badly that even I did not see them ("Second Hand Hearts" and "Lookin' to Get Out"), then he made a bad Rolling Stones concert film of a bad Rolling Stones tour ("Let's Spend the Night Together"), a Neil Young concert film circa Trans, a weak Neil Simon film ("The Slugger's Wife") and finally capped off his film career with a somewhat triumphant comeback in "8 Million Ways to Die."

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Since his death, his reputation as a "great" director has suffered. Though most of his core films are still highly regarded, often credit for their success is given to collaborators and stars like Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson. Ashby is seen as a talented craftsman who managed to attach himself to good projects. I submit that nothing is further from the truth. Hal Ashby was a master storyteller and deserving of a place among his generation's finest filmmakers. Most importantly, I feel that without Hal Ashby, many of us may never have seen films as anything more than entertainment. Surely that's worthy of respect.

Thoughts?
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Sneelock

Postby Sneelock » 19 Feb 2007, 22:41

It's hard to start talking about him without feeling sad about it. I guess both of his last two pictures were taken out of his hands and cut by the production company. Him, an academy award winning editor, not allowed to supervise the cutting of his own films. that had to be a blow.

now, it's a good bet that Ashby brought a lot of that on himself. legend has it that he took WAY too many goofballs and became very difficult to do business with.

anyway, we still have his films and I agree that the light doesn't shine on his work near as brightly as it should.

I voted "Last Detail" just because I really like it as a whole. I like how the film captures it's time and what the film has to say.

Here's what I really liked about Ashby - energy. the only guy I can really compare him to is Cassavetes. there's something in the air that those guys seem to get in the can. Cassavetes seemed to value that energy above narrative concerns. I feel like Ashby used it like other directors used locations. there's a palpable nervous energy in his films and I think he uses it to remarkable effect in his very best.

for now, I guess I'll say I think 'The Last Detail' is his very best.

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Davey the Fat Boy
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Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 20 Feb 2007, 13:16

Funny - I still can't bring myself to vote. I love all of these films deeply.

I've almot pulled the trigger a few times for Coming Home, but that's largely an instinct to defend it from attacks nobody here has bothered to make. I do think it has strong claims to being his best film though. But so do several of the others.
“Remember I have said good things about benevolent despots before.” - Jimbo

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kath
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Postby kath » 20 Feb 2007, 13:45

for me, it's between harold and maude and being there. i loved coming home, the last detail, and shampoo, but they just didn't suck me in and make my brain bubble over as much. frankly, of the three i've just listed, the last detail is the only one i still want to watch.

hard to choose. harold and maude hit me earliest, although being there wasn't far behind.

harold and maude represents one of my fave examples of a soundtrack fitting a movie, enriching it. cat is perfect, somehow.

in being there, shirley mcclaine's performance alone makes me lose a few innards laughing.

hm.

harold and maude. some of those suicide scenes... at the opening... in the swimming pool... were just brilliant.

kath
a closet ruth gordon fan anyway

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Mr Maps
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Postby Mr Maps » 20 Feb 2007, 13:48

Quite a wide variety of really great films and to be honest, I didn't realise they were all by the same director.
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