The Utne Reader List

Twelve BIG Texas Films

| By Chris Dodge, Utne Reader

Big Acclaim The Last Picture Show (1971). Two Oscars (and eight nominations) went to this black-and-white Peter Bogdanovich film from Larry McMurtry’s novel about small-town Texas in the 1950s. Big Start Sugarland Express (1974). Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical release features a jailbreak, a hijacking, Texas state troopers, and a couple whose desperate maneuver to retrieve their child stirs public sympathy. Big Chicano Soul Chulas Fronteras (1976). Inspirational Les Blank documentary about Tejano culture, focusing on the hair-raisingly wonderful music of Flaco Jimenez, Lydia Mendoza, and other conjunto greats.
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Big Fun Blood Simple (1984). Black humor meets noir in the Coen brothers’ entertaining and diabolical first feature about a contract killing gone awry; Roger Ebert called it a film that will make the squeamish squeam. Big Shaggy Dog Story Slacker (1991). The camera follows Austin eccentrics through bars, crash pads, and down the street as they theorize about conspiracies, deconstruct Scooby-Doo, advocate a weapons giveaway program, and fondly remember presidential assassin Leon Czolgosz. Big Injustice Thin Blue Line (1988). Errol Morris’s documentary about a man wrongly convicted of killing a Dallas cop in 1976; wild score by Philip Glass. Big Weird Paris, Texas (1984). Long and leisurely Wim Wenders/Sam Shepard co-production about an amnesiac reconnecting with his estranged family; a road movie in part, augmented by Ry Cooder’s slide guitar music. Big Heart Lone Star (1996). Complex John Sayles film of murder, rekindled romance, and race relations over two generations on the Mexico-Texas border. Big Cheese Red River (1948). Lots of camp value in this Howard Hawks–directed Western saga starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift (his first film) on a cattle drive north from Texas. (Disclaimer: It was shot in Arizona.) Big Influence Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Prototypical psychokiller splatter film that spawned sequels, parodies, and countless cultural references; think "leather mask." Big Ambitions Whole Wide World (1996). Biopic about pulp fiction author Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, who courted a belle by promising her the best sunsets in Texas. Big in Every Way Giant (1956). Nearly three-and-a-half hours long, this is the sprawling, ambitious they-don’t-make-them-like-that-anymore kind of movie, with 23-year-olds Liz Taylor (playing a grandmother) and James Dean (as a ranch hand who strikes oil).

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