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Top Ten 1970s

for discussion & Oscar-break fun

The Tuesday Top Ten will get more article-like soon once we're clear of Oscar-Night Mania but since it was so fun to discuss the 1930s in brief recently, let's talk about the other greatest American cinematic decade for a minute, the 1970s. Like all of you I know I have holes in my viewing but off the top of my head here are my 10 favorites from that much obsessed-over decade.The order is semi random beyond the top three which are always my top three from that decade though the order has occasionally varied.


  1. Manhattan (Woody Allen)
  2. Cabaret (Bob Fosse)
  3. Nashville (Robert Altman)
  4. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)
  5. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese)
  6. Network (Sidney Lumet)
  7. Annie Hall (Woody Allen)
  8. All That Jazz (Bob Fosse)
  9. Carrie (Brian de Palma)
  10. Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman)
  11. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola)

    oops i cheated... I forgot Carrie when I was typing it up.  


With apologies to: Klute, Three Women, Jaws, McCabe and Mrs Miller, and The Godfather (I know it's supposed to be everyone's favorite... but I'm allowed to think it's brilliant without personally loving it) and whatever else I forgot. I'm sure I did! And with a warm hug/shout out to four sentimental childhood favorites: Star Wars, Grease, Breaking Away and Superman.

Your Turn! I'd love to hear your list... especially if you want to champion something you think is criminally underseen or underdiscussed. Maybe it'll give others rental ideas. Hell, maybe it'll spur me on to finally see it. 

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Reader Comments (91)

...Our lists are incredibly similar. And our names are the same. And we have basically the same opinions about everything. I think maybe one of us got into a time machine at some point and there's some Primer-type shizz going on.

1. Nashville
2. Annie Hall
3. Cabaret
4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
5. All That Jazz
6. Days of Heaven
7. Manhattan
8. 3 Women
9. Alien
10. Grey Gardens

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNate B.

Apocalypse Now
Taxi Driver
Annie Hall
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Tree of Wooden Clogs
The Godfather
Star Wars

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Apocalypse Now
Taxi Driver
Annie Hall
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Tree of Wooden Clogs
The Godfather

(Screwed up on the last one. Don't quite love Star Wars that much.)

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I feel the same way about "Being There" that Nathaniel does about "The Godfather." I think "Being There" is genius (or is it just stupidly genius?!?) but I don't personally love it.

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCash

In no particular order:

Dog Day Afternoon
Love and Death
Cries and Whispers
Apocalypse Now
Harold and Maude
Texas Chain Saw Massacre
A Clockwork Orange
Scenes From A Marriage
Young Frankenstein

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

1.) Apocalypse Now
Slap Shot
Mean Streets
The Last Picture Show
Annie Hall
Days of Heaven
The Godfather Parts I & II (I like to cluster these two even as I heavily favor Part II much more)
Barry Lyndon
Close Encounters of the Third Kind

In Contention: Life of Brian, Manhattan, Amarcord, Badlands, American Graffiti, Cabaret, Nashville, The Last Waltz, Taxi Driver, Carrie & All the President's Men

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

1. Stalker
2. Love
3. The Ascent
4. Barry Lyndon
5. The Last Picture Show
6. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
7. The Spirit of the Beehive
8. Days of Heaven
9. Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
10. Scenes from a Marriage

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

1. Network
2. Annie Hall
3. The Godfather Part II
4. Alien
5. Manhattan
6. The Exorcist
7. Taxi Driver
8. All the Presidents' Men
9. The Last Picture Show
10. Days of Heaven

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

McCabe and Mrs Miller is my #2 movie of all-time.

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJason Cooper

I haven't seen nearly enough to warrant a definitive top ten list but I'll list a few favourites that haven't been mentioned yet:

- American Graffiti
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Serpico
- The Sting
- THX 1138

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

TOP 10
Dog Day Afternoon
Taxi Driver
New York, New York
A Clockwork Orange
Mean Streets
The Sting
Angst essen Seele auf
(Ali: Fear Eats the Soul)
(TOP 20)
Next Stop, Greenwich Village
Pasqualino Settebellezze
(Seven Beauties)
The Last Waltz
The Deer Hunter
The Godfather I/II
Superman I/II

Annie Hall / Interiors / Lovers and Other Strangers / Looking for Mr. Goodbar (Diane Keaton four-pack)
The Last Waltz

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Since it's favorites, not best and I'm a disaster movie junkie some of my picks are a bit less critically acclaimed and more populist. In no particular order:

1. All the President's Men
2. Chinatown
3. Three Days of the Condor
4. The China Syndrome
5. The Poseidon Adventure
6. The Towering Inferno
7. The Last of Sheila
8. Dog Day Afternoon
9. What's Up. Doc?
10. Airport

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

1. Stalker
2. Alice in the Cities
3. (nostalgia)
4. Barry Lyndon
5. Scenes from a Marriage
6. Autumn Sonata
7. Celine and Julie Go Boating
8. The Mother and the Whore
9. Lacombe, Lucien
10. Frenzy

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Where is Chinatown ;n; ?
1 Chinatown
2 The Exorcist
3 One Flew Over The Cockuu's Nest
4 Annie Hall
5 Alien
6 The Godfather II
7 Taxi Driver
8 A Clockwork Orange
9 Kramer vs Kramer
10 Carrie

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMauricio V.

I just watched The French Connection for the first time last night and I was BLOWN AWAY by that chase scene. Wowzers.

1. Alien
2. Network
3. Star Wars
4. Grease (I'm not ashamed. I mean Grease IS the word.)
5. Badlands
6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
7. Jaws
8. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
9. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
10. The French Connection

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrady

1) The Godfather
2) Barry Lyndon
3) The Conversation
4) The Conformist
5) Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
6) Apocalypse Now
7) Sorcerer
8) Sleeper
9) McCabe and Mrs. Miller
10) All That Jazz

With apologies to the dozens of other masterpieces from the decade.

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterroark

I haven't seen that many 70's films but I realized my list is kinda disturbing...

1. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom
2. The Rocky Horror Show
3. A Clockwork Orange
4. Carrie
5. Cabaret
6. Taxi Drive
7. The Holy Mountain
8. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
9. Eraserhead
10. Apocalypse Now

Almost there..

The AristoCats, Star Wars, El Topo, Annie Hall, The Last Picture Show

Hate The Godfather, love Pacino.

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChecko

Something for Everyone
The Turning Point
Family Plot
Death in Venice
Paper Moon
Death in the Nile
Les Choses de la Vie
Sunday BloodySunday

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTrippy Trellis

The 1970s *might* be my favorite decade for movies. The 50s and 60s are both very close though.

My top 10 of the 70s:

1. Taxi Driver
2. Manhattan
3. Death in Venice
4. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
5. Harold and Maude
6. Apocalypse Now
7. The Godfather Part II
8. The Phantom of Liberty
9. Chinatown
10. Jaws

It pained me to leave out the following: Cries and Whispers, The Godfather, Eraserhead, Nashville, Days of Heaven

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin


Harold and Maude
Dog Day Afternoon
The Conversation
Blazing Saddles
Murder on the Orient Express

With much love for Star Wars, Young Frankenstein, Annie Hall, The Exorcist, Paper Moon, Clockwork Orange and Don't Look Now.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

1. The Deer Hunter (severely underrated)
2. All the President's Men
3. The Godfather Part II
4. Taxi Driver
5. Dog Day Afternoon
6. Manhattan
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
8. Chinatown
9. Star Wars
10. Apocalypse Now
- Cries & Whispers (too amazing not to include somewhere. I want a remake with Tilda Swinton, Nicole Kidman, and Cate Blanchett)

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDrew C

I find it profoundly disturbing that no one's mentioned Picnic at Hanging Rock yet. I didn't think it fell under the underseen/underappreciated heading, but maybe I'm wrong.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe K

The 70s are my favorites. This is almost harder than the 30s!

Annie Hall
Dog Day Afternoon
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Harold and Maude
The Outlaw Josey Wales
The Wicker Man
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Superman: The Movie
The Man Who Would Be King
All the President's Men
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Young Frankenstein
Soylent Green
The Lion in Winter
The Spy Who Loved Me
The Sting
Murder on the Orient Express
Three Days of the Condor
Robin and Marian

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Drew: That may be the coolest thing anyone has ever said anywhere.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

Annie Hall
Barry Lyndon
Cries and Whispers
Last Tango in Paris
Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom
The Trilogy of Life (I'm cheating I know...)

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJose

01. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
02. Jeanne Dielman
03. Barry Lyndon
04. Days of Heaven
05. Five Easy Pieces
06. The Candidate
07. Carrie
08. The Traveler
09. Assault on Precinct 13
10. Alien

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

This is how I feel today. Tomorrow the list might look different.

Taxi Driver
Godfather II and I
The Conformist
Apocalypse Now
Aguirre, Wrath of God
Don't Look Now
The Exorcist
Mean Streets
ALT: Chinatown

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert A.

Mind you, I was born in 93 so I haven't seen many 70s films, but on my list would definitely be ...

Cabaret (number 1 for sure)
Annie Hall
Taxi Driver
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Rocky Horror Picture Show

I also LOVED Grease as a child, and probably still do, but I'm not sure I'd put it on my list. Also, I've seen The Godfather, but I feel the same way as you Nathaniel. It's great, but I was like ehh ... wish Cabaret would've gotten best picture

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I have many in common with you, particularly Apocalypse Now, Nashville, Carrie, The Conversation, Jaws... Plus Chinatown, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Herzog's Nosferatu, A Clockwork Orange, Autumn Sonata and Alien.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

Hmmmm...I was a child in the 70's, so I definitely have some nostalgia for some of the Disney-fantasy/sci-fi movies that probably didn't age well. So incorporating stuff from my formative years combined with "classics" that I caught later on, I'd pick these:

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
What's Up, Doc?
Young Frankenstein
Star Wars
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Celine and Julie Go Boating
Annie Hall
Harold and Maude

And save some additional slots for my runners-up: Superman, Dog Day Afternoon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, La Cage Aux Folles, Kramer vs. Kramer, The Last Picture Show, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Jaws, and Chinatown.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDback

1) The Godfather I & II

Annie Hall
The Beguiled
Cries and Whispers
Don't Look Now
The French Connection
Taxi Driver

Special Citation to the films of John Waters and 1970's "The Honeymoon Killers."

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

1. cabaret
2. annie hall
3. harold & maude
4. all that jazz
5. hair
6. picnic at hanging rock

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

1. Lady Sings the Blues
2. Claudine
3. Network
4. What's Up, Doc?
5. The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3
6. Dog Day Afternoon
7. Alien
8. Let's Do It Again
9. Norma Rae
10. Carrie

Honorable Mentions: Death on the Nile, Grease, The Poseiden Adventure, Silver Streak, Sounder

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNewMoonSon

Can I throw in a mention of the other film Meryl Streep was shooting at the same time as Manhattan: Kramer vs. Kramer since its not on anyone's list so far.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRami

To avoid clustering my entire Top 10 with films made by Fassbinder (I'd have to include at least three), I'll make two Top 10s, one for English language films and one for non-English language films, so my love for the greatest director of all times (according to humble me) isn't quite that obvious.

(And don't complain, most of you posted only an American Top 10 anyway...)

Both in chronological order:
in English:
Harold and Maude
The Last Picture Show
The Godfather
F for Fake
Don't Look Now
A Woman Under the Influence
Taxi Driver
Annie Hall

other languages (four by Fassbinder, two each by Herzog and Bunuel):
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Day for Night
Scenes From a Marriage
World on a Wire (made for TV, but my pick for best film of the decade)
Fear Eats the Soul
The Phantom of Liberty
Chinese Roulette
The Marriage of Maria Braun

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

My fav:

1. Chinatown (Polanski)
2. The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich)
3. Mean Streets (Scorsese)
4. Network (Lumet)
5. Un Flic (Melville)
6. The American Friend (Wenders)
7. The Kremlin Letter (Huston)
8. Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
9. The French Connection (Friedkin)
10. Dawn of the Dead (Romero)

A few more that no one seems to have seen, but I love, love, love

1. Hustle (Aldrich)
2. The Mattei Affair (Rosi)
3. State of Siege (Costa-Gavras)
4. The Day of the Jackal (Zinneman)
5. Christ Stopped At Eboli (Rosi)
6. The Hired Hand (Fonda)
7. Smile (Ritchie)
8. The Whole Shotin Match (Pennell)
9. Lucky Luciano (Rosi)
10. The Big Fix (Kagan)
11. The Nickel Ride (Mulligan)
12. Save the Tiger (Avildsen)
13. Many Wars Ago (Rosi)
14. Man On A Swing (Perry)
15. The Serpent's Egg (Bergman)

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph B.

1. The Godfather (1972)
2. Star Wars (1977)
3. The Godfather Part II (1974)
4. Rocky (1976)
5. Apocalypse Now (1979)
6. American Graffiti (1973)
7. The Deer Hunter (1978)
8. Jaws (1975)
9. The Conversation (1974)
10. The French Connection (1971)

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean T.

I get a bit touchy when people proclaim the 70s the best movie decade (when the 30s, 40s, 50s, and - outside of Hollywood - the 60s are demonstrably stronger). But I love it when people talk about 70s movies they love.

The only thing that upsets me about your list is the absence of The Last Picture Show.

1. Annie Hall
2. The Last Picture Show
3. Cries and Whispers
4. The Conformist
5. Chinatown
6. Cabaret
7. The Godfather
8. Tristana
9. Days of Heaven
10. Five Easy Pieces
11. Taxi Driver (I'm sorry, mine has to go up to 11).

Honourable mentions: The Story of Adele H, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Aguirre Wrath of God, Barry Lyndon, Manhattan etc etc.

In terms of criminally underseen and underdiscussed - apart from the transfixing, psychologically precise, phenomenally acted Story of Adele H above - I offer you:

- Thieves Like Us (Altman, 1974 - that whole criminal lovers on the run in the Depression Era formula just doesn't fail)

- Love on the Run (Truffaut, 1979 - the final part of the Antoine Doinel series, and to me, intensely moving - I don't understand why it isn't better regarded, considering the slightly hollow middle chapters are so beloved)

- Christ Stopped at Eboli (Rosi, 1979 - every individual frame is a work of art, but the way they are put together is just poetry - and this is a perfectly straightforward story)

- Bad Company (1972)

- Deep End (1970)

- Bill Douglas trilogy: My Childhood/My Ain Folk/My Childhood (strange, deeply personal and jaw-droppingly beautiful, all three of them)

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergoran

1. All That Jazz (Fosse)
2. Days of Heaven (Malick)
3. Manhattan (Allen)
4. Taxi Driver (Scorsese)
5. Alien (Scott)
6. Picnic at Hanging Rock (Weir)
7. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper)
8. Newsfront (Noyce)
9. Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet)
10. American Graffiti (Lucas) or The Holy Mountain (Jodorosky)

Big honourable mentions to Halloween, What's Up Doc?, Carrie, The Sting, Cabaret, Last Picture Show, Eraserhead, New York New York, Interiors, Nashville, Godfather Parts I & II, My Brilliant Career, and The China Syndrome.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Nathaniel, I know I am getting annoying with my Cassavetes-Rowlands pimping, but now you really asked for it. I am not even listing any movies except for Cassavetes to concentrate the power of my recommendation:

1 - A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (best. film. ever / best.performance.ever)
2 - Opening Night
3 - The Death of a Chinese Bookie
4 - Minnie And Moskowitz
5 - Husbands

Now, serious, my top 10 would be something like:


I've told you a million times why.

2 - The Ascent

I'm obsessed by this war movie, an ice-cold ultrableak brutal movie by a female director named Larisa Shepitko. She makes Kathryn Bigelow looks like Nancy Meyers. She died in a car crash, only 41 (Her husband made what is arguably the best movie of the 80's, Come and See, another pitch-black brutal war movie made from the point of view of people.

3 - Nashville

That ending. That faces.

4 - That Most Important Thing: Love

The best performance by Romy Schneider in a terrific and emotional love story about a porn star (not really a star) and a photographer.

5 - L'Innocente, by Luchino Visconti

Visconti's last movie, a sumptuous period piece melodrama about an aristocratic couple and their lovers. They decide to reconnect, but it obviously ends in tragedy (I am Love took a lot from this movie). Laura Antonelli is incredible in this movie.

6 - The Marriage of Maria Braun

Douglas Sirk was alive! (The 70's were great for post-modern melodrama)

7 - Opening Night

A terrible vivisection of an actress that fear being too good portraying a woman that is coming to terms with getting old, because she is not ready to get old. She is a diva, but is gonna try to sabotage her own performance drinking a lot.

8 - Amarcord

Our lives and our memories. SO. BEAUTIFUL.

9 - The Godfather

The best screenplay of the 80's and a perfect direction, and perfect actors. It's like the epitome of American classical narrative.

10 - Manhattan

The best Woody movie until Husbands and Wives.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Alice Doesn't Live here anymore (Always amazes me. Every time I watch it. Devastating)
Logan's Run (I'm over 30. If I was in this movie I'd be dead)
A Star is Born (I know, I know. It's Nostalgia for me more than anything else)
The Boys in the Band (let's have a salad)
Outrageous (Simply amazing Craig Russell)
Woodstock (Incredible. Just Incredible)
The Stepford Wives (So much spookier than you'd think)
New York New York (Liza's so good here. The weird miscast tension between her and De Niro)
Paper Moon (I saw this as a child, and maybe I shouldn't have, but I love it still. So affecting)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail ('tis but a flesh wound)

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnnyBS

I don't think anyone has mentioned Saturday Night Fever, and there is a reason that we still have to see John Travolta's face on Tabloid covers. It is a really good movie. Just avoid the PG version, if it is still floating around. It's not just a disco movie.

p.s. The Little Prince. It's weird.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnnyBS

I must admit, I've never loved the '70s like I do some decades, although they're a fascinating period for film - so dark and confrontational and unpredictable. And Woody Allen. Of course, despite this, my top spot goes to Grease, which has never lost its strident charm and casual attitude and those. songs. people. Below that, I'd put the colder, more bracing classics Cries and Whispers, Alien, The Conversation (I've always had a fascination for the use of sound in cinema, so that's like my catnip), Assault on Precinct 13, Taxi Driver, The Godfather, and Halloween (took me some time to appreciate this, but it really is so grippingly masterful). Throw in the sublime screwball of What's Up, Doc? and Allen's inspired, deeply perceptive Annie Hall, and hey, I think I've realised I might love the decade fully after all.

(Shoutouts to Dog Day Afternoon, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Last Picture Show, The Day of the Jackal, Chinatown and A Woman Under the Influence, any of which could muscle into the top ten if I just had time for second viewings.)

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Three favorites that I think are often really overlooked:

The Emigrants (Jan Troell, 1972) Story of European emigrants to US in the 19th century. Nominated for best picture alongside The Godfather, this is really hard to see these days. Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow are amazing in it. A bit gruelling in places, but with a hefty emotional payoff and some beautiful moments (the first time they see the ship that will take them to America, there terror at the approach of the first train they've ever seen).

Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette, 74) Two girls, one haunted house. Really long, but joyous and funny. The best Nouvelle Vague film hands down.

Over the Edge (Jonathan Kaplan, 1979) - A great 'youth in revolt' movie, incredibly undervalued these days. It has an amazing sense of place and of the injustices that rankle with young teenagers.

Along with those, a four-pack of Altman:
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Thieves Like Us
Three Women

Shelley Duvall is the best thing that happened in the seventies - fact.

A few other favorites:
Five Easy Pieces (Rafelson, 1970)
Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet, 1975)
Alien (Scott, 1978)
All That Jazz (Fosse, 1979)

And the Godfathers! And Frenzy! and Paper Moon! And Halloween! And Rocky Horror! And The Tenant! Too many...

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaika

Oh - and all the Woody Allens! And Sounder! and Claudine! and... and... and...

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaika

Amarcord (Fellini)
Autumn Sonata (Ingmar Bergman)
Cabaret (Bob Fosse)
Ludwig (Luchino Visconti)
Man of marble (Andrzej Wajda)
Patton (Franklin J. Schaffner)
Socrates (Roberto Rosselini)
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Vittorio De Sica)
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)
The trojan women (Michael Cacoyannis)

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJosé

I just realized i forgot DOG DAY AFTERNOON. Jesus, 70s, you are too much!

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

And discreet charm of the bourgeousie

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

1. the Godfather.
2. cabaret
3. the last picture show
4. young frankenstein
5. annie hall
6. american graffiti
7. chinatown
8. Five Easy Pieces
9. the way we were
10. Network.


February 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

and "paper Moon"...plus, of course, "Dog Day Afternoon," i am known for occasionally coming out of my office & yelling "ATTICA!!!" - of course everyone is so young, they don't know what Attica means or where it came from. crazy old jimmy.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

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