The Utne Reader List

Big AcclaimThe 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 StartSugarland 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 SoulChulas 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 FunBlood 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 StorySlacker(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 InjusticeThin 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 WeirdParis, 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 HeartLone Star(1996). Complex John Sayles film of murder, rekindled romance, and race relations over two generations on the Mexico-Texas border.Big CheeseRed 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 InfluenceTexas Chainsaw Massacre(1974). Prototypical psychokiller splatter film that spawned sequels, parodies, and countless cultural references; think “leather mask.”Big AmbitionsWhole 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 WayGiant(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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