Official Nominations: Jack Lemmon. Marlon Brando. Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino. Robert Redford.
This is one of the few years in this category where I can’t argue against any of the choices. I mean, I won’t be picking Lemmon as winner but it’s still a terrific performance. Save The Tiger isn’t the best movie but it’s still a good find for anyone catching up on their 70s cinema and it’s difficult to picture anyone other than Lemmon in the role, thanks to his pathos and world weary everyman persona.
Even though Brando pissed off the Academy with his incident surrounding The Godfather win, he was nominated again 12 months later. Again, it’s difficult to argue against his brutal powerhouse showing in Las Tango In Paris. Nicholson continues his incredible 70s run with a film you feel doesn’t get enough attention now – The Last Detail runs the gamut from hilarious to tragic and Nicholson is alarmingly good. In the same boat is Al Pacino for Serpico – a good cop who is exposed to city wide corruption and tries to expose it all without getting cast out or hurt. Expect a lot of sudden shouts and energetic speeches, though his performance here is nowhere near top of the full Pacino volume scale as he reach later. Finally, another iconic performance by Redford in The Sting as a charming grifter who wants to learn and earn one big job, getting himself into trouble with cops and crooks along the way. Again you feel like Redford was made for the part.
My Winner: Al Pacino
My Nominations: Jack Lemmon. Marlon Brando. Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino. Robert Redford. Martin Sheen. Donald Sutherland. Harvey Keitel. Ryan O’Neal. Steve McQueen. Gene Hackman.
I copy all five official nominees over with the additional caveat that Pacino gets additional nomination for Scarecrow. He plays alongside Gene Hackman, who I also nominate – both are strong as drifters intent on starting a car wash. They meet on the road, strike up a friendship and decide upon the business venture but get into various scrapes along the way. It’s a classic cult road movie where we just watch the characters riff on each other and try to get on in the face of tragedy and hardship.
Hardship and tragedy are a common theme in the category this year – Donald Sutherland giving a convincing portrayal of grief and obsession in Don’t Look Now and Martin Sheen as the increasingly unstable, violent, and charismatic Kit in Badlands. Harvey Keitel tries to avoid violence and protect an increasingly unstable friend while hoping to be noticed by Mafia superiors – it’s a nice counter-balance to De Niro’s ‘not quite there yet’ performance. Steve McQueen gives one of his last great performances in Papillon as a wrongly convicted man planning escape from a tough prison – McQueen showing more than the mere ‘cool’ he was typically known for. Finally, a more lighter-hearted effort with Ryan O’Neal in Paper Moon. His real life daughter got the official plaudits, but O’Neal is rarely better as the con man who agrees to take an orphan to her auntie – their relationship works because it feels genuine and both show great charm.
My Winner: Al Pacino.
Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Actor of 1973!