Best Cinematography – 1979

Official Nominations: Apocalypse Now. 1941. All That Jazz. The Black Hole. Kramer Vs Kramer.

While there are notable films here, it’s not even close – the winner is Apocalypse Now. Even disregarding the conditions and hardships which went hand in hand with the shoot, the film stands alone as maybe the most stunning looking war film of its era. From the hyper-real napalm flames against the ghastly greens, to Kurtz and Willard’s shadow encased scenes at the other end, Vittorio Storaro vision perfectly encapsulates the madness and horror of that particular war. 1941 is an altogether different war movie, a forgotten ensemble comedy directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s memorable for certain action and effects sequences and feels like a worthy nomination for Fraker who continued his late 70s run of nominations. All That Jazz looks authentic, The Black Hole throws a lot of tricks into a fancy 2001 esque ending, while Kramer Versus Kramer probably doesn’t warrant a nomination alongside the more uniquely shot films here.

Official Winner: Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now Final Cut Release Date Set for August – /Film

My Nominations: Apocalypse Now. Alien. All That Jazz. Dracula. Mad Max. Nosferatu. Star Trek. The Warriors.

Two of the official picks make it over to my list where I add a few brazen oversights. Alien is one of the most visually stunning films of the year, and of the decade. Derek Vanlint didn’t work on many movies in his career, but his work on Alien has stood the test of time, offering a tasteful impression of true isolation and the terror which can creep from such. Gilbert Taylor’s work on Dracula serves to highlight the enticing and seductive nature of the character with brighter splashes of decadent colour stepping away from the more Gothic or bleak visuals of past adaptations.

As I’ve mentioned on other posts regarding Mad Max, the film holds a unique place in my mind as being this bizarre assault on the senses and an unnerving, crazed look at a potential future. David Eggby’s work is one of the central forces behind the atmosphere this film instils and exudes, with the film existing in this strange place between epic and low budget grime. Nosferatu does more than ape the original, with long-term Herzog collaborator Jorg Schmidt-Reinwein heightening the contrast between darkness and shadow and the misty, dying light. Star Trek repeats the trick Star Wars pulled a couple of years earlier, while The Warriors elevates a B movie action story to cult status thanks in part to Andrew Laszlo’s filming notable for the subway lighting and haunted street imagery which for years made me think that’s exactly what New York looked like.

My Winner: Apocalypse Now

Best Original Score – 1979

Official Nominations: A Little Romance. Star Trek. The Champ. 10. The Amityville Horror. All That Jazz. Breaking Away. The Muppet Movie.

A Little Romance and All That Jazz were the winners this year, the former netting Georges Delarue his Oscar. It’s a suitably twee, gentle, unassuming score for a cutesy coming of age romance. Star Trek finally hit the big screen this year with Jerry Goldsmith providing the epic music – most notably the central theme. Dave Grusin’s theme doesn’t adequately match the emotional content of the movie while 10 by Henry Mancini is perfectly bland.

The Amityville Horror gets the rare horror nomination. Music for the genre wasn’t quite starting to copy itself yet, but you can grab many moments from prior classics here, saved mostly by Schifrin’s pedigree. The strings sound creeping, not creepy – there’s some insect like about the way they jab quickly and I like how the brass mimics the string notes. The love theme is pretty good too. If you know me by now, you’ll know my feelings on anything called All That Jazz. Breaking Away is another film which features mostly adaptations while The Muppet Movie is as fantastic as you would expect, though it’s the songs which stand out rather than the other music.

My Winner: Star Trek

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My Nominations: 1941. Alien. Apocalypse Now. The Black Stallion. Mad Max. Moonraker. Nosferatu The Vampire. Quadrophenia. Rocky II. Star Trek. Zombie Flesh Eaters. Stalker.

An almost entirely different roster this year, starting with John Williams and Steven Spielberg up to their old tricks. 1941 doesn’t seem like their typical collaboration but still features plenty of great selections with a military feel. It’s that man Goldsmith again – remember he did Star Trek this year too – with the inspired and creepy score for Alien. Not only are their chilling parts which must work even without having seen the movie, but it inspires a sense of wonder and adventure too. Apocalypse Now merges original pieces with period hits and classic music to create a truly hallucinatory whole – merges genres, overlapping with snippets of gunfire, rotors, and warfare. The Coppola love continues with the underrated score of The Black Stallion – Carmine bringing the grace and class.

Over on the other side of the world the score for Mad Max is every bit as chaotic and unhinged as the film with booming brass blasts and thunderous percussion almost blocking out any trace of melody. Moonraker has a score better than the film it blesses, Barry’s familiar strains working oddly well for the unusual setting. Also working against the odds is Popol Vuh’s soundtrack for Nosferatu The Vampire, a work of electronica, chanting monks, sitars, each finely tuned to unsettle. Quadrophenia is The Who’s best opus – far better than Tommy and I much prefer the film too. This one has the much better songs, and the much better overall score. Bonus points for the movie being on as my wife was giving birth to our second child. Rocky II expands upon the original score in a few ways, though I do feel a little dishonest including it because it reuses so many pieces and motifs from the first film. Those are modified enough to suit the sequel and the original pieces are just as good as anything from part 1 – Bill Conti bringing the goods again.

Star Trek brought the famous series to the big screen, feeding off the success of Star Wars. Jerry Goldsmith indeed took inspiration from the music of Williams as well as expanding upon the original TV series themes to create a majestic score in its own right, as mentioned above. Tarkovsky’s Stalker joins him once more with Eduard Artemyev for another unearthly score, mixing oriental string instruments with strange mechanical synth. Finally, ahem, Zombie Flesh Eaters. Seriously, it has a great soundtrack. It’s really creepy, elevating the film itself and working as a great standalone – all threatening beats and epic synths along with random weird noises.

My Winner: Star Trek

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Supporting Actress – 1979

Official Nominations: Meryl Streep. Jane Alexander. Barbara Barrie. Candice Bergen. Mariel Hemmingway.

We have another selection of crap to wade through this year – highlighted by the fact that Meryl Streep was nominated (and won) here instead of being in the Lead category. That’s purely because they wanted both Field and Streep as winners. In any case, Streep is the the choice here. She is joined by another Kramer Vs Kramer star – Jane Alexander – as the neighbour who, at different times, befriends both Kramer and Kramer. She’s good, as she always is. Barbara Barrie as the mum in Breaking Away is another puzzler – it’s a veteran nomination without her really being a veteran in the movie sense, and the role and the performance aren’t anything out of the ordinary. It’s another case of The Academy liking a particular film, then chucking a pile of awards at at.

The final two nominations are not something I would personally ever choose, with Bergen being a mostly one-joke unlikable character, played with conviction of course, and Hemmingway coming across as the latest unfortunate victim of Woody Allen’s filthy games. The performance is okay. As much as Streep shouldn’t be in this category, she’s the only choice.

My Winner: Meryl Streep

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My Nominations: Jessica Lange. Meryl Streep. Talia Shire. Pat Evison.

No-one makes it over to my list this year. Is that a first? If The Academy is going to put Meryl here, then I’m going to put Jessica Lange. Know that I’ll be grasping and reaching a little this year. It’s more of a supporting role than Streep’s. Lange plays the Angel Of Death in All That Jazz who watches over Gideon in his final moments, often in surreal scenes. But wait, Meryl Streep is on my list – for a different movie – The Seduction Of Joe Tynan – one of those forgotten political dramas that was going out of vogue. Streep plays a married woman who begins an affair with Joe Tynan – it’s Streep so you know what you’re getting, even if it isn’t one of her most memorable performances. Talia Shire I nominate because she’s still great as Adrian in the Rocky sequel (and there isn’t much else to choose from) and Evison I nominate for the little known Australian movie Tim where she stars as Mel Gibson’s protective mother. A crap year all round, so pick whoever you like really.

My Winner: Jessica Lange

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Supporting Actor – 1979

Official Nominations: Melvyn Douglas. Robert Duvall. Justin Henry. Micky Rooney. Frederic Forrest.

The most notable thing about this category this year is in the age differences of the nominees – Melvyn Douglas won for Being There at age 79 and Justin Henry for Kramer vs Kramer at age 8. It’s difficult on the surface to see how an 8 year old could be nominated, but then you see his performance and get it – he’s fully committed and even though his parents probably still brushed his teeth for him, he achieves something few of us ever will. You get the sense he understands the character and he’s convincing. Douglas, there’s an argument for him being the lead in Being There depending on how you view the film, plays a dying businessman and adviser to the President who strikes up a friendship with the simple-minded Peter Sellers. It’s a gentle comedy and a quiet veteran performance.

Robert Duvall would normally be the sure-fire winner; it’s Apocalypse Now and he delivers one of the most famous, quotable speeches in movie history, strutting around topless as bombs drop and bullets whiz by. The problem is, it’s short a small role – pivotal and iconic, but he’s not on screen for long. Then again, he’s just so damn good. Mickey Rooney is another veteran nod – he’s good but doesn’t deliver anything out of the ordinary, while Frederic Forrest (also in Apocalypse Now) got a deserved nomination for The Rose as the driver who gets it on with Bette Middler’s ill-fated character. I’m torn between two here, but when I factor in who is the most memorable….

My Winner: Robert Duvall

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My Nominations: Robert Duvall. Justin Henry. Frederic Forrest. Marlon Brando. Ian Holm.

Look, we get it. Brando spurred you. It hurts. Get over it. There’s no way he doesn’t get nominated for Apocalypse Now – it just makes the whole thing look like a sham. Of course we know it is, but they could be less obvious. Brando as Kurtz – similar to Duvall’s Kilgore – isn’t on screen for a long time, but manages to squeeze more intensity and a more memorable performance into a few minutes than many actors do their entire careers. There’s iconic, then there’s Brando. My only other addition is Ian Holm for Alien, a performance played so straight that the revelation behind his character is still a shocker for newcomers. It’s one of the best quietly creepy performances you’ll ever see, with Holm calculating every word and movement to the extent that, when you watch it again knowing the twist, you’re looking for clues. This is a close one out of the main three, and any is a worthy winner.

My Winner: Ian Holm

Best Director – 1979

Official Nominations: Robert Benton. Bob Fosse. Francis Ford Coppola. Peter Yates. Edouard Molinaro.

Kramer vs Kramer was the runaway success of 1979, not only picking up the Best Picture win but also the Best Director one, even though there are at least two better choices up front and with hindsight. Benton was always a better writer than he was director and with Kramer vs Kramer he played both hands. Striking gold with some heavy-hitting performances, it’s undoubtedly a good film but not one which lends itself to any particular flair from the director’s chair. Especially not when face with Apocalypse Now and All That Jazz – two grueling shoots by all accounts and which likely couldn’t have been pulled off by anyone else. As self-indulgent as All That Jazz is, Fosse commands every facet of what we see and hear, while Coppola somehow pulls together a manic shoot, huge cast, and film with a singularly impressive scope to reveal one of the finest, most iconic war movies ever.

The final two nominees don’t stand a chance – as good as Breaking Away is, you get the impression that any number of directors of the time could have made just as good as film as Yates does, while Molinaro’s farcical, fast-moving comedy doesn’t have the appeal for a Western audience.

My Winner: Francis Ford Coppola

Apocalypse Now (1979)

My Nominations: Bob Fosse. Francis Ford Coppola. Ridley Scott. George Miller. Werner Herzog.

Aside from my two official nominees, we bring over the obvious snub of Ridley Scott whose Alien still ranks as one of the most influential science fiction and horror movies of all time. The unique thing about Alien is that it is still both timeless and terrifying today – age has not taken away any of its charm, and everything from the script to the performances to the effects still pack an authentic punch. Indeed, much of the effects and make-up work here look less dated than Prometheus and its sequel. It’s a character piece as much as it is a creature feature, a Lost World story as much as it is a straight horror and Scott packs the cast with skilled performers who have never been more authentic. George Miller’s Mad Max is difficult to categorize – it’s a road movie, a thriller, a violent action movie, an apocalyptic tale, a revenge tragedy, a story about one man and one world’s descent into madness. Perhaps the broad stroke description of a stylized depiction of the final days of humanity as a cop on the verge of insanity hunts down a roving biker gang is best. In any case, Miller imbues the film with a unique and dizzying atmosphere and offers an array of tricks to disorient and thrill the viewer. Finally, Herzog’s take on Nosferatu is as gripping as it is off-putting, as beautiful as it is ghastly, with the lead character’s violence shown through necessity while portraying it a lonely addict.

My Winner: Francis Ford Coppola

Best Animated Film – 1979

*Apologies for fans of these posts for the lack of consistency recently – work, babies, Christmas – it’s all happening at once these days, but we should be resuming our regular programming shortly.

My Nominations: The Castle Of Cagliostro. Galaxy Express 999.

1979 saw an unusually high number of animated features being released around the world, perhaps the most notable being the first directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The Castle Of Cagliostro is an entertaining, fast moving entry in the long-running series featuring the charming acrobatic thief Lupin. While it doesn’t have many of the trademarks we would come to learn of from Miyazaki, it is still energetic and drawn with detail, with a story easy enough to follow for any age or country of audience. Japan pumped out a number of animated movies this year, the most successful being Galaxy Express 999, an oddly slow sci-fi adaptation where humans have achieved a degree of immortality by transporting their minds into mechs. Although many films were released this year, the best of these were TV movies featuring the likes of The Flintstones and Bugs Bunny and are therefore exempt from my voting – most of the other films don’t meet the standard of quality of the two nominations.

Art of Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro

My Winner: The Castle Of Cagliostro

Best Actress – 1979

Official Nominations: Sally Field. Jill Clayburgh. Jane Fonda. Marsha Mason. Bette Midler.

Clayburgh and Fonda are back again from last year, along with Mason from the year before that – Mason doesn’t leave much of an impression on me in Chapter Two – the film itself is instantly forgettable, and Clayburgh and Fonda’s performances aren’t as strong or interesting as 1978 – Starting Over and The China Syndrome not exactly being exceptional. That leaves the two more iconic roles – Sally Field, who picked up the official win as Norma Rae, and Bette Midler as ‘not Janis Joplin’ in The Rose. I love both of these and either would be a winner in any of the last three years. I’m not a huge fan of either actress, but there’s no getting away from how good they are here, both are full-blooded, couldn’t give any more, energetic performances and while they are a product of their time they haven’t lost any of their power.

My Winner: Bette Midler

Bette Midler Breakout Film The Rose Being Adapted into a Broadway Musical | Broadway Buzz | Broadway.com

My Nominations: Bette Midler. Sally Field. Isabella Adjani. Sigourney Weaver. Natasha Kinski.

1979 was not the most interesting year for me where the Best Actress category was concerned – I take my two favourite performances from the Official category and add a couple of oversights. I was tempted to add Meryl Streep here for her dual performances in Manhattan and The Seduction Of Joe Tynan – but both are supporting roles. Isabella Adjani gets a nomination for one of the more sexual and seductive takes on Lucy Harker rather than the usual passive damsel – Nosferatu being vital watching for all Horror fans, while Natasha Kinski’s Tess is one of the better examples of a 19th Century heroine being brought kicking and screaming into the 20th Century. My winner is an example of a supporting character becoming the lead, and while her performance in the sequel is perhaps more worthy of the win she is my standout favourite this year. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley broke down many barriers and expectations for what an actress could portray on screen and almost single-handedly created a generation of female characters who could command a movie and drive a plot.

My Winner: Sigourney Weaver

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Foreign Film – 1979

Official Nominations: The Tin Drum. The Maids Of Wilko. Mama Turns 100. A Simple Story. To Forget Venice

1979 continues the decade’s downturn in quality as the years progressed – like last year there isn’t a standout choice or one film which most people will be aware of. The Tin Drum was the winner this year, but I find it a little impenetrable and overlong, following a few generations of a Polish family from the late 19th Century into WWII. It also has some dubious scenes involving an underage performer. Similarly, Wajda’s The Maids Of Wilko doesn’t do much for me, the well acted story of a man returning to the home of some sisters he used to tutor, only to discover them changed. Mama Turns 100 is typical comedy crap, To Forget Venice is the same, except for romance. My Winner then is A Simple Story – Romy Schneider is a women who gets pregnant, has an abortion, then deals with the suicide of one of her co-worker’s husbands. Again it’s hardly exceptional, but well-acted and not as annoying as some of the others here.

My Winner: A Simple Story

A Simple Story (1978 film) - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia

My Nominations: Love On The Run. Mad Max. The Marriage Of Maria Braun. Life Of Brian. Meatballs. Nosferatu The Vampire. Quadrophenia.

There isn’t a huge list of quality films to choose from this year, so we fall back on middling work from masters. Truffaut’s Love On The Run continues and concludes his Doinel series of films, this one being a montage movie as the character meets up with various past lovers as he tries to embark on his next relationship. The Marriage Of Maria Braun is Rainer Werner Fassbinder on better form following a woman’s perpetual on and off relationship with a soldier during and after WWII. Life Of Brian is more manic banter from the Monty Python lads, while Meatballs introduced the world to Ivan Reitman and Bill Murray who would both go on to better things.

Werner Herzog continued his partnership with Klaus Kinski in the memorably grim and beautiful Nosferatu remake while The Who would bring another album to life with the gritty, star-studded Quadrophenia. Keeping things British is the always controversial Scum, about a place where ‘bad boys went’ – there was one near my house when I was young and my parents were always threatening me with being dropped off there. I don’t think they ever saw Scum. Vengeance Is Mine is Japan bringing the US gangster movie style and maturity to their own shores with a twist, but my vote goes to one of the greatest Australian movies of them all – Mad Max. Australia had several notable films this year but Mel Gibson and George Miller’s apocalyptic road movie is an exercise in unease and roaring V8s.

My Winner: Mad Max

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Actor – 1979

Official Nominations: Dustin Hoffman. Jack Lemmon. Al Pacino. Roy Scheider. Peter Sellers.

It seems appropriate that the final Awards of the decade should end with such a 70s looking list. Dustin Hoffman got his win as the sympathetic Daddy Kramer, another extension of the everyman characters he had been playing for much of the decade and becoming one of his most famous roles. It’s difficult to argue against him getting the win, even if I’m not the biggest fan of the film. The same could be said for any of the nominees in this category this year – Jack Lemmon would have felt like a veteran nomination, but for the fact he had already been nominated several times, and won twice by this point. Lemmon is the power plant worker who believes something is amiss and that a meltdown is imminent, tries to convince first his management and then the general public that the plant is not safe. Lemmon was also best as an Everyman, here is frustration growing steadily and convincingly – it’s easy to see why the public may not be able to tell if his character is genuine or has lost his mind.

Al Pacino grabs another vote for one of his lesser known 70s works, this time as the jaded and fiery Defence Attorney who ends up defending a Judge he has a difficult past with. As it’s Pacino, you know you’re going to get plenty of grandstanding and explosive speeches, and that’s precisely what he delivers – while not letting the sympathetic side of the character down. Roy Scheider basically plays Bob Fosse in All That Jazz – a workaholic and pressure addict who refuses to stop or accept when enough is enough. He fully embraces his many vices and Scheider is perfect for the role – just intense enough without becoming something to be lampooned, and jittering all the way to his character’s inevitable conclusion. Finally, Peter Sellers feels like the bonus nominee here, not someone who really stood a chance against the other four. Having said that, it may be his best role, if not best performance, because while it lacks the obvious silliness of his more renowned work, this one feels more true to who he wanted to be as a performer. The character is ideal for him – a simple-minded, simple gardener who somehow becomes advisor in The White House. Honestly you can take any of these choices and not be concerned.

My Winner: Dustin Hoffman

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My Nominations: Dustin Hoffman. Al Pacino. Roy Scheider. Peter Sellers. Martin Sheen. Klaus Kinski. Phil Daniels.

As much as I’d like to put Mel Gibson here for Mad Max, I think the performance grows more in the sequel. It seems odd, especially in retrospect, that Martin Sheen wasn’t nominated here for Apocalypse Now. Possibly it’s a case of him being overshadowed somewhat by other performances in the film – with both Brando and Duvall stealing their scenes. But Sheen’s is the performance which holds the entire process together – we see the war and the journey through his eyes and he becomes increasingly crazed as the insanity around him intensifies. Klaus Kinski, in a year with a few notable vampire performances, delivers one of the all time best performances as a fanged monster. Obviously he is more visually horrific than the more romantic take on the creatures, but that doesn’t make him any less convincing, intriguing, seductive, or sympathetic – a credit to what Kinski was able to convey. Finally, Phil Daniels gives what I think is one of the finest British big screen performances of the decade in Quadrophenia – it’s authentic as hell, powerful on a number of emotional levels, and it is arguably one of the best performances focusing on teen rebellion, angst, and alienation. No-one else is ever going to go for him, so I will.

My Winner: Phil Daniels

Let us know in the comments who you pick as Best Actor of 1979!

Best Original Song – 1979

Official Nominations: It Goes Like It Goes. I’ll Never Say Goodbye. It’s Easy To Say. Rainbow Connection. Through The Eyes Of Love.

There’s only one winner here, surely, and it ain’t It Goes Like It Goes which picked up the official win. That song is a little odd, a ballad which starts with this strange minor key intro before dropping into a faux-Joni Mitchell dance. It’s another one of those Oscar songs that goes absolutely nowhere and is mostly forgettable. Melissa Manchester became the first person to be nominated in the same year for two songs from two films – I’ll Never Say Goodbye is belted out but terrible while Through The Eyes Of Love is much better and fits the sentimental nature of Ice Castles (which I’ve always had some fondness for). It’s Easy To Say from 10 is understated but not very interesting. The undisputed winner is of course Rainbow Connection – still not a great song, but sweet, endearing, and light years ahead of anything else in the category.

My Winner: Rainbow Connection.

A Frog, a Banjo, and an Indelible Message: Making “The Rainbow Connection”  | Vanity Fair

My Nominations: Rainbow Connection. Moonraker. Aquarius. Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. Fantasy. Goodbye Friends. Get Out And Stay Out. Four Faces. Joker James. The Rose. In The City.

Fantasy is from Robert Altman’s forgotten A Perfect Couple – there’s a number of decent ballads and soft rock songs on its soundtrack so you can pick any from it. Goodbye Friends is from the same soundtrack, maybe the standout song as it feels like a more traditional musical number and moves through different tones and stages. Three songs are added to the soundtrack of Quadrophenia, and they’re all great. I’m biased though as I love the original album so finding these bonus extras is always a treat. Get Out And Stay Out is good but a little too repetitive to win. Four Faces is great but feels pretty different from the rest of the soundtrack, while Joker James is very old school The Who in the chorus with verses having their late 70s vibe. You can’t not include The Rose here, perhaps the most gaping miss from the Official Nominations, with Bette Middler blasting it out. Not typically my sort of thing but it works damn well. So much so that I also allowed it to be one of my Wedding songs – played while going up the aisle/completing the service etc. In The City from The Warriors was later covered by The Eagles – Joe Walsh’s original still feels like quintessential US 70s Rock.

My Winner: Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life