Best Foreign Film – 1976

Official Nominations: Black And White In Colour. Cousin Cousine. Jacob The Liar. Nights And Days. Seven Beauties.

In honour of me being in Menorca at the time of posting, drunk on cocktails and looking at bikinis through the perverted safety of my tinted sunglasses, here is my Foreign Film post for 1976. I wrote the actual post below, probably around this time last year, but thought I’d add this troubling introduction as a ‘ha ha, I’m getting nice weather for a change’ for anyone reading who isn’t getting nice weather. Of course most of my readers are in the US, so your weather is probably great now too, so the joke’s probably on me. Still… Pina Coladas. Maybe I’ll post some pics.

After last year’s mostly morose and dark selection, this year features some lighter films and comedies. Having said that, Jacob The Liar features a group of Polish Jews in a ghetto in World War II. One of them, Jacob, is always getting into trouble but one day overhears on radio that The Russians will arrive shortly and overthrow the Nazis. This leads to hope and his friends and neighbours ask him for updates which he fabricates entirely. Focusing on World War I is Nights And Days – a film which literally takes that long to watch. It’s a sprawling epic following various generations of the same family, and well worth a watch if you can find and stomach the running time. Seven Beauties is notable for earning Lina Wertmuller the first ever Best Director nomination for a woman. It’s also a superb film, but very dark, following one Italian guy’s journey over a few years, from a bit of a lad, to protector and murderer, to inmate at an asylum, to soldier, to a concentration camp and back home. It has some great performances too, but isn’t the most pleasant watch.

Our official winner – Black And White In Colour – is again a war based movie (WWI this time) but takes a lighter approach. Well, a satirical approach at least. It earned the Ivory Coast their only win but I think there are stronger films in the category. Cousin, Cousine finally is a romantic comedy which sounds seedy but is actually genuine, witty, and weirdly charming. It follows two cousins who meet for the first time and due to their spouses having multiple affairs they spark up a relationship of their own which slowly blossoms. I’m not generally a fan of the comedies which get Oscar nominations, but this one works.

My Winner: Seven Beauties

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My Nominations: Jacob The Liar. Cousin Cousine. 1900. Fellini’s Cassanova. Kings Of The Road. The Man On The Roof. The Man Who Fell To Earth. Small Change.

Two make it over from the official list – I drop Seven Beauties due to it being a 1975 film and appearing on my list last year. 1900 is a film which so far has avoided reevaluation by critics, likely due to its Communist leanings. However, any film starring Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Burt Lancaster, Donald Sutherland, Dominique Sanda, and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci deserves another look. It’s an epic movie charting the lives of De Niro and Depardieu who come from different cultural and ideological backgrounds but stay friends. They grow, take over from their fathers or go off to war, get married etc, and eventually their two backgrounds collide. It’s a long watch, but worth it.

Cassanova sees Fellini take the famous figure and transform him from the traditional womanising icon into something more akin to a barren and soulless figure, with Donald Sutherland the unusual choice for the role. Kings Of The Road is one of the better non-US road movies and while overlong it looks wonderful and is a cult film waiting to be seen by people who love cult films. Sweden’s The Man On The Roof is a tightly wound thriller about the investigation into the murder of a high ranking cop – as the investigation continues we learn that the cop was a pretty shitty guy, leaving a trail of ruined lives and bodies in his wake. The killer is revealed fairly early and we follow his motivations and actions too. The Man Who Fell To Earth is of course now remembered for being a Nic Roeg and David Bowie vehicle, and it’s as bewildering as it is enticing while Small Change is Truffaut at his playful, vignette based best.

My Winner: 1900

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Know Your Enemy

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If many of the band’s traditional fans jumped ship after the release of their previous album, most of their new found fans left after Know Your Enemy. The band’s sort-of return to a more abrasive punk sound alienated those expecting another If You Tolerate This while the hardcore fans were disillusioned by the lack of musical focus and new-found experimentation. I’ve typically been a supporter of the album, as I am of each, but I’m not so jaded so as to not recognise its many flaws. It’s just so damn long – its sixteen main tracks making it even longer than their debut. Many of the songs repeat the same sentiments, quite a few are interchangeable musically, while the more experimental moments often fail. Apparently it was supposed to be two different albums, something which likely would have been the better option, but the record company wasn’t playing ball. So we have sixteen songs, plus one hidden track, but thankfully a few B-Sides worthy of replacing what did make the cut. First, my ranking:

  1. Epicentre
  2. Ocean Spray
  3. The Year Of Purification
  4. Found That Soul
  5. Let Robeson Sing
  6. Freedom Of Speech Won’t Feed My Children
  7. Baby Elian
  8. My Guernica
  9. The Convalescent
  10. Intravenous Agnostic
  11. So Why So Sad
  12. His Last Painting
  13. We Are All Bourgeois Now
  14. Dead Martyrs
  15. Miss Europa Disco Dancer
  16. Royal Correspondent
  17. Wattsville Blues

Then, a better edit of the album:

  1. Found That Soul
  2. Ocean Spray
  3. Intravenous Agnostic
  4. So Why So Sad
  5. The Year Of Purification
  6. My Guernica
  7. The Convalescent
  8. The Masses Against The Classes
  9. Epicentre
  10. Baby Elian
  11. Freedom Of Speech Won’t Feed My Children
  12. We Are All Bourgeois Now

Finally, my ideal version of the album, restored to 17 tracks – it’s still a bit excessive and I’d probably drop Track 17 altogether, but it’ll do:

  1. Found That Soul
  2. Ocean Spray
  3. Intravenous Agnostic
  4. Locust Valley
  5. So Why So Sad
  6. The Year Of Purification
  7. Fear Of Motion
  8. My Guernica
  9. Just A Kid
  10. The Convalescent
  11. The Masses Against The Classes
  12. Epicentre
  13. Masking Tape
  14. Baby Elian
  15. Little Trolls
  16. Freedom Of Speech Won’t Feed My Children
  17. We Are All Bourgeois Now

What is your ranking of the songs on Know Your Enemy? What songs would you drop or replace? Let us know in the comments!

Best Picture – 1976

Official Nominations: Rocky. Taxi Driver. All The President’s Men. Bound For Glory. Network.

The mid-seventies were incredibly impressive from a quality perspective, with The Academy largely nominating the correct films. 1976 is mostly no different – there are four films here which you would be happy to pic as winner, and another which is all but forgotten. Bound For Glory is the outcast – a biography of Woody Guthrie. It’s the sort of thing The Academy always nominates, but this one while fine is oddly stale and uneventful. Sidney Lumet gets another nod after missing out the previous year, this time for the brilliant and satirical Network – a film which seems to grow in value with every passing scandal and generation. Speaking of scandals, All The President’s Men is probably still the most famous ‘media’ movie focusing on real life events, inspirational and pertinent.

As important and great as those movies are, the final two are by far the more adored and have enjoyed that status since release. Taxi Driver firmly positioned De Niro and Scorsese as greats and is one of the seminal movies of the decade, a grim and darkly comedic look at New York, and by extension, North America’s underbelly. It’s another film whose power hasn’t diminished. Finally, it’s Rocky. Say what you will about the sequels (I personally love them all), but the original remains one of the most inspiring movies ever, filled with love, hope, determination, and remains the best American Dream movie since the time it was released. Stallone, Shire, Avildson, Meredith, Young, Weathers – the music, the training, the fight, the dialogue – from a commercial, cultural, and critical standpoint one of the most important movies ever made.

My Winner: Rocky

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My Nominations: Rocky. Taxi Driver. The Omen. All The President’s Men. Network. Marathon Man.

As proof again of how strong the mid-seventies were, four of the five official nominees make my list. There are plenty of others to choose from though. In terms of critically acclaimed horror movies, The Omen seems to be one which gets forgotten alongside The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby – but it’s no less vital. Certainly more visceral in its approach thanks to the use of some spectacular, gory setpieces, Richard Donner’s classic still holds up. Finally, Marathon Man brings equally insidious thrills as Dustin Hoffman gets embroiled in the hunt for Nazi diamonds, with Schlesinger barely shying away from some of the most notoriously uncomfortable, squirming scenes of torture ever. Lovely.

My Winner: Rocky

Let us know in the comments which film of 1976 you pick as winner!

The Innkeepers

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Ti West has been making ripples in the horror world for almost twenty years, with a number of low budget indie entries being well received in the horror community – with The House Of The Devil the praise went farther afield. With The Innkeepers, Ti West tells an updated version of the classic haunted house story, moving the action to a hotel in the midst of closing down, and featuring much of his trademark humour, character focus, and building of tension.

Sara Paxton and Pat Healy are the two leads and take up most of the running time together. They have a certain chemistry which will be familiar to anyone forced to work in a confined space day in day out with the same person or group of people. As characters, they hit if off and clash like an affable old married couple, and as actors we believe that they have been through some boring shit together. They are twenty-somethings working purely to pay the bills and for something to do, with marginally grander schemes and hopes, biding their time in an old Hotel in its final weekend before closure. Aside from their shared flitting aimlessness, both are amateur ghost enthusiasts and have been hoping to record some paranormal activity in their last night on the job – the hotel having a history of spooky encounters and a sordid past. Stumbling upon their relative seclusion and ghost-hunting is a faded Hollywood starlet played by Kelly McGillis (in another interesting horror role for the actress). She just wants a room for the night and doesn’t want to be disturbed, especially by Paxton’s Claire who is a bit of a fangirl. Luke (Healy) and Claire use their ghost-hunting equipment and soon begin to pick up creepy voices and music before the apparitions reveal themselves.

While not West’s breakthrough movie, this is the one which garnered him the most critical attention and became his biggest hit. The film has an old-fashioned horror feel, a subtle, creeping approach to scares, and using atmosphere over jumps and gore. The script and direction are light and playful both honouring the history of haunted house movies while giving them a modern gloss and respect. Once the second half reveals come and the mythology of the house is made known, the scares come faster after the largely comedic, slacker style first half. The three main performances are solid and likable, Paxton and Healy are easy to relate to, and even though there’s nothing new here it feels fresh, especially in an era of loud bang scares and CG blood spatter. It isn’t going to change anyone’s life, but it’s a fun movie for those who don’t mind a bit of backstory and set up before the pay-off.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Innkeepers!

 

Best Music (Song) – 1976

Official Nominations: Evergreen. A World That Never Was. Ave Satani. Come To Me. Gonna Fly Now.

This year we have three (well, two) of the most highly regarded movie songs ever. Any list of top hundred songs of cinema will include them. Evergreen was the winner this year – it’s one of those aforementioned songs. It’s certainly… nice, but it’s not very good? Streisand’s vocals are too powerful, too overwrought. It’s one of those meandering songs that goes nowhere, and the fact that it’s such a simpering old school musical ballad when this version of A Star Is Born is supposed to be based in the world of Seventies rock never sat well with me. The other big song is of course Gonna Fly Now – it’s my immediate winner, and it should be your’s too. Just listen to that intro – if it doesn’t make you want to go out and punch a pile of tramps, run like the devil is chasing you, and charge up the nearest flight of steps, then I don’t know what to say to you. The only thing is that it feels more like an instrumental than a ‘song’. Either way, there’s no way this loses to Evergreen.

Ave Satani is the third great song here – it’s a fantastic one to play in the car to scare the kids or anyone crossing at the lights if you blast the volume. It’s pure metal and it will give you the shits if you listen alone at night. Oh yes, there’s two other songs here – songs no-one remembers from films no-one remembers. Fine fine, some will of course remember The Pink Panther Strikes Again and Come To Me is actually a decent song, a little bland but I’d certainly pick it over Evergreen. A World That Never Was sounds like the intro song to some cheesy one season sitcom, possibly about a friendly bin who helps a suburban white family get over their middle class problems.

My Winner: Gonna Fly Now

My Nominations: Gonna Fly Now. Ave Satani. Born To Have It All. I Never Dreamed Someone Like You. Livin’ In The Land Of Oz.

I add Born To Have It All from Carrie. If someone can explain to me why this wasn’t picked, but Evergreen was, that’d be great. This is basically the same song, except much more honest and heartbreaking. I Never Dreamed Someone Like You gets nominated too, less sad, but better melodies. Livin’ In The Land Of Oz is satirical, funny, still pertinent now, and funky as hell.

My Winner: Gonna Fly Now

Ranking The Manics Songs – This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours

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I’ve always had a strange relationship with their fifth album. I think I appreciate the songs more than I enjoy them, beyond the ones I genuinely love. I love the craftsmanship and the ideas, but the lack of energy and the fact that most of the second half just feels like dirge after dirge creates an unfair view of the whole. Few of the songs are outright bad – they’re just not songs I choose to listen to repeatedly, not over the many many better songs they have. Here’s my list:

  1. Ready For Drowning
  2. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
  3. Tsunami
  4. The Everlasting
  5. Nobody Loved You
  6. You Stole The Sun From My Heart
  7. My Little Empire
  8. Black Dog On My Shoulder
  9. You’re Tender And You’re Tired
  10. Born A Girl
  11. Be Natural
  12. I’m Not Working
  13. SYMM

The bottom five songs – those I feel mostly ambivalent about and their ranking could change dependent on the weather. SYMM I’ve softened more on over the years, the other four I still like as standalones – when listening to the album as a whole though, it’s during that second half run where it drags. Like Everything Must Go – there aren’t a slew of great B-Sides to replace those with. Most of the B-Sides, while nice experiments, aren’t appealing to me. The band’s recent revisionist re-releases of their own albums has seen them replacing their own songs with B-Sides they preferred – TIMTTMY being one of the victims of this. Because of that, I’m going to nick a song from the previous album’s era and slap it in here. Here’s my take on what they album could have been:

  1. The Everlasting
  2. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
  3. You Stole The Sun From My Heart
  4. Ready For Drowning
  5. Tsunami
  6. My Little Empire
  7. Prologue To History
  8. Sepia
  9. Born A Girl
  10. You’re Tender And You’re Tired
  11. Black Dog On My Shoulder
  12. Montana/Autumn 78
  13. Nobody Loved You

There you have it, my take on another great album. What’s yours? Let us know in the comments!

Best Supporting Actress – 1976

Official Nominations: Beatrice Straight. Jane Alexander. Jodie Foster. Lee Grant. Piper Laurie.

This should be fairly straight-forwards. Beatrice Straight was your official winner this year, but she’s the first to get dropped from my list – nothing wrong with the performance, but it’s clearly a veteran nod and she’s only in the film for a handful of minutes. Lee Grant is next to go – Voyage Of The Damned a strange film in that it has a superb case but was pretty much ignored by critics and audiences and has never found a following. It feels like a timely film deserving of being retold in today’s climate of political inhumanity and immigration paranoia. Grant is good, but nothing out of the ordinary. I feel similar about Jane Alexander in All The President’s Men. That leaves the two best picks – Jodie Foster as the young, very young, prostitute in Taxi Driver – as brave a performance as you’re every likely to see, and obvious from the first moment that she would become a star. Finally, Piper Laurie as Carrie’s mother is a terrifying vision of closet religion or Christian zealotry, using her past sins and guilt to drive her daughter to murderous insanity. After a fifteen year break from the industry, it’s one of the finest return performances in movie history.

My Winner: Piper Laurie

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My Nominations: Piper Laurie. Jodie Foster. Billie Whitelaw.

If we’re nominating people for very small roles, then one of the most memorable supporting performances of 1976 is that of Billie Whitelaw as Damien’s Nanny in The Omen. Indeed, it’s the only addition I’m making this year – the creepy nanny trope has been around for decades, but Whitelaw’s performance is the pinnacle. To keep things fair, I’ll give Foster the win this time around.

My Winner: Jodie Foster

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Everything Must Go

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Like The Holy Bible before it, the task of rearranging Everything Must Go to make it better (in your own personal opinion), is unenviable. That was never the main intent of these posts, and just something which happened along the way. More on that later. The task of ordering my favourites is still difficult, but much easier than on their previous album. Here is my list:

  1. A Design For Life
  2. No Surface All Feeling
  3. Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky
  4. Further Away
  5. Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier
  6. Interiors
  7. Removables
  8. Australia
  9. Enola Alone
  10. The Girl Who Wanted To Be God
  11. Kevin Carter
  12. Everything Must Go

It’s another case of me wanting to drop the title track, but you can’t really do that without needing to come up with a new album title. With this album there are quite a few songs which people would want to switch out for others – just in my case it’s some of the more well known tracks I would maybe replace. The main problem here is that most of the B-Sides of this era I rank as similar to the album tracks I would want to replace:

  1. Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier
  2. A Design For Life
  3. No-One Knows What Its Like To Be Me
  4. Enola Alone
  5. Hanging On
  6. Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky
  7. First Republic
  8. Removables
  9. Interiors
  10. Australia
  11. Sepia
  12. Further Away
  13. All Surface No Feeling

Let us know what, if anything, you would change about this classic album and what your personal ranking is!