"Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000." Alain Tanner's bracing, sagacious social comedy about the tensions and friendships within a circle of radicals and dreamers compelled to take the long view of things in light of the tardy arrival of the social changes anticipated with overconfidence in the '60s. A key transitional film, reflecting the new style of affirmation in which hope springs eternal but is chastened by skeptical, worldly wise humor.
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Steven Spielberg's transporting fantasy about the first authenticated contact between human beings and humanoid extraterrestrials overcomes some rocky exposition to take inspirational wing as few big-budget spectacles ever have. A sweet, savory fulfillment of the longings for high adventure no doubt simmering in the fantasy lives of multitudes. Also an immense relief to anxious movie nuts who feared that Spielberg, the sensational young director of "Jaws," might have bitten off more than he could chew.
"Star Wars." George Lucas' exhilarating science-fiction swashbuckler, a consummate pop adventure fantasy characterized by deadpan heroics and enhanced by a thrilling John Williams score. The year's greatest commercial success, surpassing "Jaws" as domestic box-office champion.
"We All Loved Each Other So Much." Perhaps the worst title of the year but an exceptionally clever and stirring comedy conceived by the Italian writer-director Ettore Scola in collaboration with the writing team of Age-Scarpelli, the same trio responsible for "The Pizza Triangle." A bittersweet chronicle of how the vicissitudes and compromises of life, arranged for maximum comic effect by Scola and Age-Scarpelli, take their toll of three friends who diverge with high hopes at the close of World War II.
"The Turning Point." Herbert Ross and Nora Kaye nurtured this triumphant return of the woman's picture, a vivid theatrical melodrama about the conflicts between strong, willful, mature women. Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine capitalize on acting opportunities worthy of their talents and experience, while Mikhail Baryshnikov and Leslie Brown make impressive debuts in the romantic subplot about young ballet performers who become lovers.
"Sandakan 8." An unheralded import that turned out to be a dramatic powerhouse. For some reason this stirring account of the suffering and endurance of a forgotten woman of history - a Japanese peasant girl lured into prostitution in a Japanese brothel in Borneo - has failed to create a stir in established feminist circles, but its emotional impact seems over-whelming and lasting.
"The Rescuers." A fast-paced, enchanting animated feature from the Disney studio, still the tops when they care enough to put out. At once a swan song and a token of assurance for the future, since the picture was supervised by the last of the feature animation team recruited by Disney but draws on the work of a gifted group of character animators recruited a few years ago and apparently coming into their own.
"Smokey and the Bandit." The year's best live-action, feature-length cartoon and a runaway commercial hit, which should have been self-evident in a rough cut. Former stunt supervisor Hal Needham demonstrates unexpected pictorial and comic flair in this enjoyably gratuitous entertainment about a charming saddle-tramp trucker, Burt Reynolds, being chased across the South by a choleric highway patrolman, Jackie Gleason.
"3 Women." Robert Altman's fascinating dream film about the absurd, touching friendship between two ignorant young women relying on booby-trapped role models goes to pieces in thelast reel, but it's graced by wonderful performances from Shelly Duvall and Sissy Spacek and a witty, seductive expository style.
"Man on the Roff." An exciting, expert movie adaptation of one of the police thrillers by the Swedish writers Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, who used mystery stories as a pretext for social criticism. Bo Widerberg's admirably tense direction revealed an aptitude for thrillers one would never have guessed from his most famous picture, "Elvira Madigan."
"The Goodbye Girl." Neil Simon's most ingratiating orignial contrivance for the screen, an amusing throwback to the only-in-New York love story, considerably enhanced by Herbert Ross' astutely modulated direction and Richard Dreyfuss' sensational performance as a scruffy but irresistible young actor.
"The Late Show." Robert Benton's modestly conceived renewal of the detective thriller, one of the year's neatest "small" entertainments, with vivid and funny performances by Art Carney, Lily Tomlin, Bill Macy, John Considine, Eugene Roche and Joanna Cassidy.
"Between the Lines." The year's best showcase for young talent, an amiable if thinly written romantic comedy about the staff of a Boston "underground" weekly on the verge of making a transition to the big time. The responsiveness of director Joan Micklin Silver to young performers chiefly benefits John Heard, Jeff Goldblum, Lindsay Crouse, Jill Eikenberry, Lewis J. Stadlen and Bruno Kirby.
"Outrageous." The most interesting low-budget sleeper of 1977, a sentimental but distinctive account of the freindship between two resilient misfits, a female impersonator and a schizophrenic young woman, impressively played by Craig Russell and Hollis McLaren. A Canadian production shot by an American, Robert Bender, with an intriguing flair for settings and characterization.
"The Best Way To Get Ahead." Claude Miller, a former assistant to Francois Truffaut, made a remarkable directing debut on this neglected ironic comedy about the ghastly misunderstanding that develops between a brusque young man, Patrick Dewaere, and a shy young man, Patrick Bouchitey, employed as counselors at a boy's summer camp. Photographed by the splendidly adept and subtle Bruno Nuytten, who also did "Going Places" and appears to have the quickest, drollest eye in contemporary cinematography.
"Short Eyes." The definitive new prison picture, a vivid adaptation of Miguel Pinero's stinging play about the systems of caste and self-esteem operating behind bars. There are several outstanding performances, but Bruce Davison's portrayal of a panicky, white-collar child molester is probably the year's finest single example of dramatic acting.
"Iphigenia." Michael Cacoyannis' adaptation of Euripides' tragedy "Iphigenia at Aulis" inflates the brilliantly incisive text with pictorial spectacles, but when the text and the principal performers - the beautiful amateur Tatiana Papamoskou as the doomed Iphigenia and the beautiful professional Irene Papas as her enraged mother Clytemnestra - assert themselves, the emotional effect is shattering.
"Pumping Iron." An amusing showcase for the personality of champion bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, observed in preparation for the defense of his title.
"Harlan County, U.S.A." The year's most interesting serious feature documentary, a partisan but complexly revealing account of a prolonged strike in a Kentucky coal-mining district with a long, bitter legacy of labor-management conflict.
"A Bridge Too Far." An absorbing large-scale war epic, derived from Cornelius Ryan's book about an Allied airborne mission during World War II and "insured" with an all-star cast, overshadowed by the relatively unknown British actor Edward Fox, who contributes a marvelous charismatic performances as a British officer, Gen. Horrocks, whose leadership qualities you really believe in.
"Julia." The prestige women's picture of 1977, an all-too-faithful adaptation of Lillian Hellman's anecdote about a reunion with an enigmatically noble girlhood idol. The most nebulous of inspirational stories, which may be the source of its appeal to some, distinguished by Jane Fonda's observant impersonation of Hellman, whom she envisions as a tensed-up, habitually insecure aspirant toward nobility and fame.
"Anne Hall." Woody Allen's attempt to modulate from gratuitous farce to tender romantic comedy was a great success with the public, the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics, but the change of tune still sounds flat to some of us. As the sweet, perpetually flustered heroine, Diane Keaton evidently "arrived" as a star. One doubts that her Annie is truly a characterization, but it is a sentimental touchstone for audiences.
"Bound for Glory." A prestige movie prevented from springing to life by director Hal Ashby's sentimental preoccupation with '30s pictorial reveries. Nevertheless, worth seeing for Haskell Wexler's photography and the performances of David Carradine and Melinda Dillon as Woody Guthrie and his wife.
"Slap Shot." The most energetic exponent of the contemporary school of Hollywood raunch. An invaluable period piece in the ongoing chronicle of film business doublethink, revealing a simultaneous inclination to insult the audience while pandering to it. Paul Newman's enjoyable performance as a scheming hockey coach adds class to the show, and one can hope he will finally win a long overdue Oscar. Ditto for Shirley Maclaine on the strength of "Turning Point."