Best Make-up – 1974

My Nominations: Young Frankenstein. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Flesh For Frankenstein. The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad.

Once again there was no official award this year, so you’ll have to take my word on what was good. As would continue to be the case, the nominees mainly fall into the horror and fantasy genres – not genres which The Academy pays much heed to – but which nevertheless have created some of the finest examples of the craft. Young Frankenstein does subtle work to Peter Boyle to turn him into The Monster, but not so much that Boyle’s features and abilities are blocked. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre screams blood and guts, but there are only a few very minor scenes of such in the movie – it’s the make-up on Grampa and lighter touches on the rest of the family which transform them into something gruesomely human. Flesh For Frankenstein on the other hand goes all in on the gore effects, with viscera spilling all over the place. Finally, The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad is mainly notable for its stop motion and assorted effects, but the Make-up also gives a convincing sense of time and place.

My Winner: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Advertisements

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1974

Official Nominations: The Godfather Part II. The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravtiz. Lenny. Murder On The Orient Express. Young Frankenstein.

The Godfather Part II wins this one easily enough, though I would love to have seen Young Frankenstein getting it too. Lenny is an interesting one – the need to balance the on stage material with the off stage reality is handled well, while Murder On The Orient Express is always told well in any adaptation. The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravtiz is the offbeat choice this year, a film with an unfortunate name which I imagine would turn away most potential viewers nowadays. It’s a fun coming of age story though, with a great lead from Richard Dreyfuss, and it has its share of funny moments.

My Winner: The Godfather Part II

My Nominations: The Godfather Part II. Young Frankenstein.

There’s absolutely nothing I want to add this year – there are a number of possibilities but nothing as strong as my two picks above, so what’s the point?

My Winner: The Godfather Part II

Which film gets your vote – let us know in the comments!

Best Music (Scoring) – 1974

Official Nominations: The Godfather Part II. Chinatown. Murder On The Orient Express. Shanks. The Towering Inferno. The Great Gatsby. The Little Prince. Phantom Of Paradise.

The category continues to be divided into two, with the official winners being The Godfather Part II and The Great Gatsby. After the mess surrounding the score and snub for The Godfather, there was only one winner here. In truth the score isn’t all that different from Part I but it’s still strong enough to be the choice. Jerry Goldsmith’s Chinatown is the only other potential, a woozy score with plenty of wistful moments, a score which on its own evokes Marlowe imagery, lonely PIs and boozed up dames, and maybe the odd footchase through a dark alley.

The Murder On The Orient Express soundtrack always reminded me of a score from decades earlier, albeit done with better production values – it’s classy, has sudden dramatic outbursts, and the necessary touches of glamour and romance. Shanks isn’t about a series of prison stabbings – it’s somehow worse. It’s amusing that a movie about a killer doll gets nominated for an Oscar. Well, not quite, but it is about a puppeteer played by Marcel Marceau who, with the help of an evil doctor, can control the dead. How William Castle got Alex North to work on this I don’t know, possibly via the use of an evil doctor and puppeteer, but it’s an Oscar Nomination for a horror movie so I can’t complain. It actually isn’t that bad a film – lent authenticity by Marceau’s performance and North’s wispy stop-start score – you can imagine the notes being pulled up and down by the invisible hands of a puppeteer.

The Towering Inferno is, I always forget, another score by John Williams. Even before he made all the soundtracks you love he was knocking it out of the park. If anything, this one actually reminds me of Star Trek – there’s that sense of ambition and exploration and scope in the music. Not a lot of memorable cues though. The Great Gatsby… not a book or an adaptation or a period of time and place I’ve ever really enjoyed so I’m usually biased against such things. Thankfully the score doesn’t go too far down the sound of the period that I don’t like, but still… The Little Prince is a strange one – an unsuccessful musical with a good cast. In theory it sounds like a musical version of the story could work, and that’s coming from someone who hates musicals, but this one doesn’t work. Most of the songs are annoying and the music is forgettable – it’s not a patch on the 2015 version. Finally, Phantom Of Paradise is the weirdest one of the lot – another musical, or maybe more accurately a Rock Opera with horror elements, directed by Brian De Palma. The rock opera movie would have a more successful release the following year, but this one has its moments, possibly let down by the lack of known performers. It’s a film about a disfigured rock star who seeks revenge against an evil producer who steals all his work and gets rich. A number of the songs are good, the overall score is consistent, though none of it became a hit and the film wasn’t a huge success.

My Winner: Chinatown

My Nominations: Chinatown. The Godfather Part II. The Phantom of Paradise. Black Christmas. Foxy Brown. Earthquake. The Taking Of Pelham 123. Blazing Saddles. Dark Star. The Sugarland Express. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Young Frankenstein.

Three of the official choices make it to my list – you should know by now my choices tend to be somewhat more eclectic.

Black Christmas has a pretty unnerving and chilling soundtrack, filled with moans and creaking and wind howls along with twist on Christmas classics. Foxy Brown on the other hand is just good, solid, sexy fun by the great Willie Hutch. John Williams was just starting to hit his stride in the early-mid 70s, as you’ll see from this list and pretty much every subsequent year. Both Earthquake and The Towering Inferno have decent central themes and much to love and quite a few similarities. Elsewhere, he also collaborated with the little known Senor Spielbergo on The Sugarland Express – a weird one which has too much wailing harmonica and not enough of the good stuff – strings, building brass, hooks, yet is great when it works.

David Shire’s The Taking Of Pelham 123 feels like a disaster score, which I suppose is apt. It’s suitably chaotic, the lead ba-dum-da-dum brass pulsating and pounding. Finally, we’ve got to have The Texas Chainsaw Massacre soundtrack (Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper) – perhaps more than any other main theme this year does it catch in your memory. Those screeching, ‘whatever they ares’ in the intro remain horrifying now, setting up a truly unique and nightmarish film – you watch and hear the opening, and you know you’re in trouble. Aside from that there is booming distortion, clashing cymbals, and other anti-music just off-putting enough to create an unequaled atmosphere.

Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Dark Star. I was going to pick The Godfather Part 2, but lets not.

My Winner: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Let us know which score gets your vote!

Best Writing (Original) – 1974

Official Nominations: Chinatown. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Day For Night. Harry And Tonto. The Conversation.

Coppola was a busy boy this year, with The Conversation and The Godfather Part II. He also wrote the screenplay for The Great Gatsby. While his entry here could have won another year, it’s up against Chinatown – one of the greatest screenplays ever written. Day For Night gets the vote for trying, successfully, something different, while Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is one of the great examples of the new feminist movement. Harry And Tonto is charming enough, but not on par with the others.

My Winner: Chinatown

My Nominations: Chinatown. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Day For Night. The Conversation. Blazing Saddles. Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia. Dark Star. A Woman Under The Influence. Thunderbolt And Lightfoot.

We only drop Harry And Tonto and add Blazing Saddles in its place for planting 1970 US speak into the Old West and being filled with the lewd, the satirical, the juvenile, and more. Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia is a violent and often confused mystery peppered with a variety of grim characters while Dark Star makes a mockery of 2001. A Woman Under The Influence is a gritt, almost overwhelming character study, while Thunderbolt And Lightfoot is a shining example of a genre which would quickly be lampooned as the decade drew to a close and beyond.

My Winner: Chinatown

Let us know which film you pick as winner!

Best Cinematography – 1974

Official Nominations: The Towering Inferno. Earthquake. Chinatown. Lenny. Murder On The Orient Express

Three period pieces and two disaster movies make up the list this year, with Joseph Biroc and Fred J Koenekamp picking up a deserved win for The Towering Inferno. Earthquake is a fun, effects filled movie but pales to the winner in most aspects, while Lenny is the least interesting looking of the period films. Murder On The Orient Express uses all of the landscape and sets inherent in the story well, while Chinatown has an almost sepia touch throughout giving a subtle sense of age.

My Winner: The Towering Inferno

My Nominations: The Towering Inferno. Chinatown. Murder On The Orient Express. The Godfather II. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Blazing Saddles.

Three make it to my list, and joining them is The Godfather Part 2 – lets face it, it’s probably going to be nominated for every applicable category. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is another unsurprising inclusion by me, a film with a look which has been mimicked countless times, but never matched – not even when Daniel Pearl returned for the remake decades later. Blazing Saddles gets on because it’s always nice to nominate when a comedy has a more or less unique look, while The Conversation has a moody, claustrophobic feel glimpsed through the narrowed lens of long distance shots. Finally, The Sugarland Express sees Spielberg make his first outing with the renowned Vilmos Zsigmond – a partnership which would eventually lead to an official win.

My Winner: The Godfather Part II

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

Best Animated Feature – 1974

My Nominations: The Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat

While there were a few animated films released this year, most were made for TV or simply not very good – meaning we only have a single nominee who therefore becomes our winner. The Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat is arguably better than the original, though most critics dismissed it as more of the same, or simply lacking the initial shock value or wit of the first one. Either way, both are an acquired taste.

My Winner: The Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat

Best Foreign Film – 1974

Official Nominations: Amarcord. Cat’s Play. The Deluge. Lacombe, Lucien. The Truce.

Not a great year for the category, officially or otherwise. Amarcord got Fellini the win, but it’s a 1973 movie so it’s off my list. Joining it is Cat’s Play. The Deluge is way too long, The Truce is decent, which leaves Malle’s Lacombe, Lucien as the clear winner – a heartening and cynical tale about a boy trying to join La Resistence but finding it more difficult than he would have thought. It would be my winner here regardless.

My Winner: Lacombe, Lucien.

My Nominations: The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz. Murder On The Orient Express.  Stone. The Four Musketeers. Lacombe, Lucien.

Only my winner makes it over to my list, joining a random quartet. Stone is the only one here which stood zero chance of ever being nominated, but it’s probably the most enjoyable of the bunch, at least for someone like me. It’s an Australian biker movie, part cop movie, part suspense, all action, and very low budget. The characters all have cool names like Undertaker, The Gravediggers, Captain Midnight so you should know what to expect just from that information. It’s about a biker gang whose members (ahem) are being hacked up, so a bad-ass cop decides to go undercover and investigate by joining the gang. Naturally the line between cop and biker blurs. It’s great fun.

Also a lot of fun is The Four Musketeers. I’ve no idea how many movies there have been about the French sword fondlers, but this is one of the best. It’s a direct sequel, bringing back the cast and director Richard Lester – as it was meant to be a single film starring The Beatles, there’s quite a lot of humour and energy, but when they released there was too much footage and story they split the movie into two parts. The cast includes Christopher Lee, Fay Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain, Oliver Reed, Charlton Heston and more. Speaking of ensemble casts Murder On The Orient Express, recently re-imagined with Johnny Depp, sees Michael York (also from The Four Musketeers), Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Ingrid Bergman, Vanessa Redgrave, Lauren Bacall, Albert Finney and many more all gallivanting around a train in one of the greatest whodunits.

Finally, The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz, sees Richard Dreyfuss as a bored Canadian kid who gets a crap job in a hotel and his escapades at pissing people off and trying to earn his own plot of land. It’s weird but much better than it sounds.

My Winner: Stone

Let us know in the comments which movie of 1974 you pick as the Best Foreign Film!

Best Director – 1974

Official Nominations: Francis Ford Coppola. John Cassavetes. Bob Fosse. Roman Polanski. Francois Truffaut.

It’s always unfortunate for the other nominees when they come up against such a sure-fire clear winner. No-one stood a chance against Coppola here, and rightly so, but each of the other directors and their films are notable. Not only did Coppola unleash The Godfather Part II, but he also gave us The Conversation – either film would be strong enough to win in this category, but when he directed both in one year – fuggetaboutit. John Cassavetes directs possibly his most straightforward film, and yet it’s probably his most dense featuring an, at times, incredible lead performance from Gina Rowlands. It’s a character study at heart, yet takes shots at wider society and its expectations, and Cassavetes directs it at his least experimental, most personal.

Bob Fosse’s Lenny likewise feels like the least Fosse film from a directorial standpoint, yet all his usual interests are present an accounted for, and it’s bolstered by another wonderful lead performance. Truffaut’s Day For Night is as experimental as you would assume, yet not so much that it is a detriment to the story or alienating to the viewer. It’s not quite a love letter to cinema, as much as it is a pervert’s eye view of the unseen parts of film-making. Finally, Roman Polanski loses out in Chinatown – a clear winner any other year such is its majesty.

My Winner: Francis Ford Coppola

My Nominations: Francis Ford Coppola. John Cassavetes. Roman Polanski. Francois Truffaut. Tobe Hopper. Mel Brooks. John Guillerman.

If you’ve read my previous posts for this year, then you’ll be expecting my additional nominees – Tobe Hopper for his horrific The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in which every trick in the book is used to get under the skin, and every aspect of film-making is twisted so that the viewer is repulsed. Mel Brooks on the other hand balances script and performance manically in both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein to elicit wild giggles from anyone fortunate enough to stumble upon either film – another fine example of a double effort by one director. Finally, John Guillerman ensures that the disaster movie reaches its peak, making The Towering Inferno more than mere spectacle but filling it with tense drama, action, and even laughs.

My Winner: Francis Ford Coppola

Let us know in the comments who your pick is for the Best Director of 1974!

Best Picture – 1974

Official Nominations: The Godfather Part 2. Chinatown. The Conversation. Lenny. The Towering Inferno.

One the most renowned and brilliant years for the Best Picture, you would think that any year any of those nominated could be winner. The Godfather Part 2 got the official win, and how can you possibly argue against it? Coppola, Pacino, De Niro, the survivors from the first film, ‘you broke my heart’, ‘just enough to wet my beak’ etc. It’s glorious.

Chinatown is glorious too, just slightly less so. Polanski, Nicholson, Dunaway, Robert Towne – all doing career best work. It doesn’t even sound remotely interesting on the surface – a private investigator is hired to look into a man who is an engineer for some LA water company. As the plot unravels more and more mysteries emerge, leading to threat, violence, sex… it’s Chinatown. The Conversation is interesting primarily because Coppola made and released it in the same year as he did The Godfather II – how is that even possible? To be honest I’m not a huge fan of The Conversation – Hackman is good, his character is interesting, but the plot and repetition leave me mostly cold. I’m in the minority.

Lenny is Bob Fosse’s least regarded major work, but my favourite of his, probably to do with the lack of singing and dancing. It still deals with a lot of dark subject matter like his other movies do – the price of fame, addiction, relationships – and it features a terrific Dustin Hoffman performance as the great comedian. We finish with one of the finest disaster movies ever, and arguably the most tense and action packed. As was the case with these, the cast is packed with stars – Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Fred Astaire, Robert Vaughn etc are among those trapped or involved with the world’s tallest building going up in flames. As difficulty as the category is, there’s still a clear winner.

My Winner: The Godfather Part 2

My Nominations: The Godfather Part 2. Chinatown. Blazing Saddles. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Young Frankenstein.

The Mid-Seventies choices are difficult to argue with, but nevertheless there are a few films I feel deserved a nomination too. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is primary among those, but it’s a films which stood zero chance of garnering a single nomination – the film was simply too brutal, too shocking for its time, going beyond even what The Exorcist achieved. It is a film which retains that quality even today, in a world where more extreme, more bloody, more disgusting films are released yearly, yet few if any of those match the sheer force which surrounds The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. From the all too real performances, the grainy , gritty look, the crawling, uncomfortable soundtrack, it’s a film which doesn’t beg to be recognised – it kicks down your door, lashes you to a hook, and forces you to watch. Blazing Saddles is an altogether lighter affair, yet it’s equally groundbreaking, a satirical affair which is both whip smart and blazingly funny, while Mel Brooks somehow achieves a double nomination with Young Frankenstein – a film which drops the satire and heightens the farce.

My Winner: The Godfather Part 2

Let us know in the comments what you pick as the Best Film of 1974!

Best Supporting Actress – 1974

Official Nominations: Ingrid Bergman. Valentina Cortese. Madeline Kahn. Diane Ladd. Talie Shire.

Few arguments this time with the nominations, the obvious choice to drop though being Valentina Cortese for the now little known Truffaut classic Day For Night. Diane Ladd follows Burstyn’s lead in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore – being essentially a road movie, there are any number of notable supporting performances, but they are all fairly small, yet each stands out in its own way, a testament to the quality of the cast and the director. Madeline Kahn featured in both of the Mel Brooks hits this year, but it’s Blazing Saddles where she got a deserving nomination, while Talia Shire further bolsters the foundations laid out previously as Connie Corleone tries to grow out of the shadow of her family. Finally, Ingrid Bergman picked up her third Oscar for Murder On The Orient Express, a performance which is almost entirely focused on a single scene, but it’s one which will stay in the viewer’s mind.

My Winner: Talia Shire

My Nominations: Ingrid Bergman. Madeline Kahn. Diane Ladd. Talie Shire. Valerie Curtin. Margot Kidder.

I only add two further nominations to the four carried over – Valerie Curtin as the shy counterpoint to Diane Ladd in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Margot Kidder for her… well, I don’t want to spoil Black Christmas now, do I?

My Winner: Talia Shire