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Hal Ashby 
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Post Hal Ashby
A while back I was discussing one of his lesser movies on FB with a friend and he made that observation that Hal Ashby is overrated.

Today an argument can be made in favor of that point of view. 2 decades ago the opposite could be argued.

Ashby in some ways got the short end of the stick. Unlike Scorsese, De Palma or to a lesser extent Coppola, he crashed and burned when the 70s ended. Unlike Altman, he died before pulling off a comeback.

A lot of people nowadays seem to feel that his run during the 70s rivaled the aforementioned Coppola's one between 1972 and 1980. But did he?

Thoughts.

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Tue May 27, 2014 6:00 pm
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Post Re: Hal Ashby
I really like Harold and Maude, love Being There and would rate Shampoo in my top five favorite movies of all time. If he can helm something like Shampoo he has to be taken pretty seriously I suppose, but for some reason when I think of Shampoo I think of the script written by Robert Towne and Warren Beatty. For that thought alone I'd nominate him in the underrated category.

I haven't seen The Last Detail, which has Ashby directing Nicholson from a Robert Towne screenplay. That sounds like mandatory viewing! I've missed Coming Home too which also looks good. If The Last Detail and Coming Home are a good watch, which is highly likely looking at the critics comments, that would be five good-excellent films in one decade, which is pretty fucking rare.

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Wed May 28, 2014 1:36 am
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Post Re: Hal Ashby
I've only seen 'Harold and Maude' (great), 'Being There' (very good) and a biopic about Woodie Guthrie starring David Carradine, the name of which escapes me at the moment. Probably "This land is my land" or something to that effect. That was a good movie, too. 'The Last Detail', 'Shampoo' and 'Coming Home' are on my DVD rental list, because they enjoy such a great reputation. If these hold up to their reputations, it would mean that Hal Ashby directed six good to great movies in a decade, which indeed rivals the output of his contemporaries like Coppola or Scorsese.

As usual when it comes to discussing 70ies Hollywood cinema, I defer to Peter Biskind's book "Easy Riders, Raging Bull". Before starting to direct movies, he was a well-respected editor. About the time when he became a director, he embraced the counterculture lifestyle and, according to the book, was smoking weed constantly. He also lived as a bit of a recluse in some house on a beach. The drugs didn't do his professional career much good and people took advantage of him. If the book should be correct, he was director in name only on 'Shampoo', which was very much Warren Beatty's project. Finally, Ashby's use of drugs became a problem and he had trouble finishing one of his later movies, so the studio took it away from him and edited the movie themselves. Biskind writes that this broke Ashby, who was once regarded as an expert in this area.


Wed May 28, 2014 3:20 am
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Post Re: Hal Ashby
Unke wrote:
I've only seen 'Harold and Maude' (great), 'Being There' (very good) and a biopic about Woodie Guthrie starring David Carradine, the name of which escapes me at the moment. Probably "This land is my land" or something to that effect. That was a good movie, too. 'The Last Detail', 'Shampoo' and 'Coming Home' are on my DVD rental list, because they enjoy such a great reputation. If these hold up to their reputations, it would mean that Hal Ashby directed six good to great movies in a decade, which indeed rivals the output of his contemporaries like Coppola or Scorsese.

Kind of the point of the thread, no?

As usual when it comes to discussing 70ies Hollywood cinema, I defer to Peter Biskind's book "Easy Riders, Raging Bull". Before starting to direct movies, he was a well-respected editor. About the time when he became a director, he embraced the counterculture lifestyle and, according to the book, was smoking weed constantly. He also lived as a bit of a recluse in some house on a beach. The drugs didn't do his professional career much good and people took advantage of him. If the book should be correct, he was director in name only on 'Shampoo', which was very much Warren Beatty's project. Finally, Ashby's use of drugs became a problem and he had trouble finishing one of his later movies, so the studio took it away from him and edited the movie themselves. Biskind writes that this broke Ashby, who was once regarded as an expert in this area.


Well said. Some excellent points. Do you rate the cunt or not Unke?

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Wed May 28, 2014 8:40 am
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Post Re: Hal Ashby
Unke wrote:
I've only seen 'Harold and Maude' (great), 'Being There' (very good) and a biopic about Woodie Guthrie starring David Carradine, the name of which escapes me at the moment.

That would be "Bound for Glory" (aka 'The OTHER Film That Somehow Lost the Best Picture Oscar to Rocky in '76' :P ). Every film he made up through "Being There" is definitely worth seeing, including his not-yet-mentioned debut "The Landlord" (even if it is his most dated film).


Wed May 28, 2014 10:06 am
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Post Re: Hal Ashby
H.I. McDonough wrote:
Unke wrote:
I've only seen 'Harold and Maude' (great), 'Being There' (very good) and a biopic about Woodie Guthrie starring David Carradine, the name of which escapes me at the moment.

That would be "Bound for Glory" (aka 'The OTHER Film That Somehow Lost the Best Picture Oscar to Rocky in '76' :P ). Every film he made up through "Being There" is definitely worth seeing, including his not-yet-mentioned debut "The Landlord" (even if it is his most dated film).


Agreed with that assessment. The Last Detail is my personal favorite of his. But I also like Harold And Maude (thanks to my 12th grade English teacher for introducing me to that and by extension Ashby), Being There and Shampoo.

Re: the aforementioned Easy Riders Raging Bulls. I enjoyed the book. But I did not agree with Biskind's viewpoint that when the 70s were over, that was it for those directors with the exception of Scorsese, Spielberg and Altman. Sure, a good majority of them never quite had that same period of sustained accomplishment. But they still managed to make some good ones for the most part. However, that assessment is sadly true for Ashby although I suspect that if he'd lived, he'd have pulled off a comeback much like Altman did in the early 90s.

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Wed May 28, 2014 10:35 am
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Post Re: Hal Ashby
Jeff Wilder wrote:
Re: the aforementioned Easy Riders Raging Bulls. I enjoyed the book. But I did not agree with Biskind's viewpoint that when the 70s were over, that was it for those directors with the exception of Scorsese, Spielberg and Altman. Sure, a good majority of them never quite had that same period of sustained accomplishment. But they still managed to make some good ones for the most part. However, that assessment is sadly true for Ashby although I suspect that if he'd lived, he'd have pulled off a comeback much like Altman did in the early 90s.


Biskind's point is somewhat true. Many of the directors of the period never did reach the heights of their 1970s work. Bogdanovich, Coppola, Friedkin, Lucas, and Rafelson have never made anything even close to their best 70s work (this is also leaving out directors like Bob Fosse, Sam Peckinpah, and John Cassavetes who died prematurely). But I agree with you in that some of the best New Hollywood filmmakers continued to make great work after the 1970s. Woody Allen, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet, Terence Malick, Mike Nichols and Roman Polanski all made great films post-1979.

As for Ashby, I think he's incredibly underrated. Rarely do any of his films show up on a list of the greatest of all time, but they certainly belong in the same category.

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Wed May 28, 2014 11:14 am
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Post Re: Hal Ashby
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including his not-yet-mentioned debut "The Landlord" (even if it is his most dated film)


The Landlord airs Wednesday night on TCM. Not available on netflix.


Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:54 pm
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