Hal Ashby was one hell of a film maker that most young people may have never heard of. In the ’70s he made a handful of remarkably funny, touching and insightful films that were uniquely different and anarchistic.
Harold and Maude (1972)
A unique offbeat black humor/romance between a suicidal rich kid played by Bud Court, and an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor with an incredible vest of life. Ruth Gordon’s Maude is one of the most hilarious roles ever. Cats Steven’s tunes underscore much of the film’s love of life.
The Last Detail (1973)
A comedy/drama that concerns two career Navy guards who have to transport a young sailor charged with stealing a small sum of money. What should be a quick jaunt turns into an unforgettable weekend of partying and showing a kid moments of joy before he faces a long prison term in a Marine lockup. The film contains one of Jack Nicholson’s greatest early roles. Robert Towne’s screenplay is nearly flawless.
Coming Home (1978)
This very serious take on the Vietnam War focuses on the home front as Jon Voight, a bitter paralyzed vet, discovers the anti-war cause and falls in love with the wife of a Marine colonel (Jane Fonda). Both Voight and Fonda won Oscars for their powerful performances, resulting in the film having a much stronger anti-war sentiment than the more popular Deer Hunter in that same year.
Being There (1979)
Being There featured one of the last performances of the great Peter Sellers. This political satire revolves around a simple gardener named Chance whose childlike views of life are interpreted by people around him as so deeply full of wisdom that he becomes counsel to the President.