Watched Journal: December 2023

When I learned of Ryan O'Neal's death, I just so happened to be watching his 1979 boxing comedy with Barbara Streisand, 'The Main Event', on a Friday evening in early December. O'Neal had passed away at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer. Although O'Neal's career had fizzled in the '80s, he was, after Warren Beatty, my favorite movie star of all time. I will always remember O'Neal as the handsome golden blonde during his prime in the '70s. As a leading man, O'Neal was not so much an acting powerhouse but a muse for the camera, whose intense beauty saturated every scene. In his strongest roles, his eyes were more powerful than any dialogue. 

This is especially true in 'Barry Lyndon', the Stanley Kubrick epic where O'Neal plays the titular social climber turned aristocrat. Kubrick, always aiming for a certain vibe, found the perfect look in O'Neal. In lieu of O'Neal's passing, I revisited the film on Criterion's excellent Blu-ray. Experiencing the lush cinema of Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon' is like watching a neoclassic painting come to life with O'Neal the piercing figure on horseback.

Compared to the ornate 'Barry Lyndon', Walter Hill's 1978 caper, 'The Driver', is an exercise in stark minimalism. A simple plot about a nameless getaway driver (O'Neal) pursued by a rogue detective (Bruce Dern) is the set-up for one of the best neo-noirs of the '70s. 'The Driver' is my favorite O'Neal film, he's perfect as the brooding silent type, moving in the shadows of the L.A. underworld, patiently waiting for the next score. 

I had first watched 'The Driver' in the summer of 1999, after being obsessed with the PlayStation game, Driver, and then reading about a film with the same name from 1978. Impossible to see in those days, I recorded when it aired on Speedvision's after midnight 'Lost Drive-In' series hosted by Bruce Dern. Watching my taped VHS, I quickly realized that the Driver game lifted several scenes and concepts from Hill's film, which does have a videogame-like mission centric plot to it. This is probably why I still revisit the movie every 6 months or so, usually late at night, eager to cruise with O'Neal behind the wheel.


What I watched in December:


12-3: Sweet Revenge (1976, Jerry Schatzberg) [TCM]

12-4: Slither [TCM]

12-7: Insiang [TCM]

12-8: May December [Netflix], The Main Event [TCM]

12-9: Napoleon [AMC Madison Yards]

12-12: Lynch/Oz [Criterion]

12-13: Breathless (1969, Godard) [TCM]

12-14: The Killer (2023, Fincher) [Netflix]

12-15: Aquaman [MAX], The Driver (1978, Hill) [Studio Canal 4K UHD]

12-17: Rebecca (1940, Hitchcock) [Criterion Blu-ray]

12-19: A Bridge Too Far [Roku]

12-20: Barry Lyndon [Criterion Blu-ray], Master Gardener [Hulu]

12-21: The Creator [Hulu]

12-29: Saltburn [Prime]


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