Best Cinematography – 1978

Official Nominations: Days Of Heaven. The Deer Hunter. Heaven Can Wait. Same Time, Next Year. The Wiz.

Two major front runners this year, with Nestor Almendros coming out on top for his glorious work on Days Of Heaven. Famed for his work with Truffaut his collaboration with Terence Malick recalls the natural beauty of Barry Lyndon with a preference for natural light over studio artificial and electronic lighting. I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but I love films which frequently are set during or show heavy usage of sunrise/sunsets, and Days Of Heaven is maybe the finest example of this with many key scenes filmed under those conditions. The legendary Vilmos Zsigmond followed up his 1977 win with another nomination, this time for The Deer Hunter, a film which finely balances the grotesque nature of war against the beauty of nature and the futility of the players who exist in both. From the dew and mist covered hills and sullen industry of the US, to the heightened colours and overcrowded chaos of Vietnam it drifts between sensory assault and introspective calm.

William A Fraker got his second nomination in a row – something which often happens in this category – for Heaven Can Wait. I’ve always found the Heaven scenes in this to be little different from all those standard tropes you’ve seen before in everything from Tom And Jerry to A Matter Of Life And Death and there isn’t anything out of the ordinary back on terra firma. Same Time Next Year gets nominated purely because it was nominated in other categories and as a veteran nomination for Robert Surtees, while The Wiz is notable for its staged musical numbers and transposing the world of Oz into our world but still feels like a veteran nod. It’s a tough call between the top two, and either is a worthy winner.

My Winner: Days Of Heaven

How 'Days of Heaven' Was Filmed With a Visually Impaired ...

My Nominations: Days Of Heaven. The Deer Hunter. Big Wednesday. Death On The Nile. Halloween. Superman.

Two make it over to my list, joining four personal choices. Of my personal choices, Death On The Nile seems like the most plausible possible nominee. The legendary Jack Cardiff was already a veteran and Oscar winner by this point, and with Death On The Nile he helped give the film a more authentic period feel while exploiting the usual Egyptian landmarks with typical flair. Big Wednesday is a frequently gorgeous film – most notably in the surfing and beach shots – with Bruce Surtees using his experience working with Leone and Eastwood to provide many memorable long shots. Frequent Carpenter collaborator got his first chance to work with John on Halloween – a film with a look so iconic that it remains to me what the Halloween season should look like – wide Autumnal streets which seem tame and ideal during the day, becoming a looming ominous maze under the cover of darkness. Finally, Superman saw Geoffrey Unsworth receive a posthumous BAFTA nom, but his work which laid the foundations for every Superhero movie which has followed, was overlooked by The Academy.

My Winner: Days Of Heaven

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Original Score – 1978

Official Nominations: Midnight Express. The Boys From Brazil. Days Of Heaven. Heaven Can Wait. Superman. The Buddy Holly Story. The Wiz. Pretty Baby.

After last year’s bonanza, John Williams only received a single meagre nomination this time around. Superman is another classic with several rousing themes which go hand in hand with any discussion or review of the movie. Midnight Express was one of the official winners this year, Giorgio Morodor introducing movie audiences to the joys of synths. It’s a weird one – ranging from fast tracks which sound more like a cheesy action movie and love themes which now feel dated. It still feels like a worthy win, though I never feel any of the music evokes any of the horror, despair, or feeling of the movie. The Boys From Brazil probably sounded incredibly old fashioned alongside Morodor’s new-fangled beast, with its waltzes and strings – some good pieces but lacks that core theme.

Another yearly stalwart in this category is of course Ennio Morricone – his work on Malick’s Days of Heaven is ridiculously his first official nomination. Heaven Can Wait seems to have received nominations all over the place – we know The Academy loves Warren Beatty – but they apparently went overboard this year. It does have a memorable lead theme, but I find it veers too close to cheesy daytime soap. The Buddy Holly Story was the other official winner this year – as you would expect it features plenty of early rock’n’roll hits. The Wiz is your everyday African American Adaptation of The Wizard Of Oz featuring Michael Jackson and friends. It’s not really like anything else you’ll ever see. Quincy Jones brings the noise and while he, Ross, and Jackson had all and would later make better music, it’s still interesting and has some good moments. Finally, Pretty Baby is the one film here most people won’t remember, odd given that it’s Louis Malle directing Brooke Shields as a young girl working in a whorehouse. The soundtrack is essentially all Ragtime stuff which I’m not a huge fan of.

My Winner: Superman

SUPERMAN – John Williams | MOVIE MUSIC UK

My Nominations: Superman. Days Of Heaven. Midnight Express. Jaws 2. Grease. Halloween. American Hot Wax. Big Wednesday. Dawn Of The Dead. Damien: Omen 2. I Wanna To Hold Your Hand. Animal House.

Seriously people – if Pretty Baby and The Buddy Holly Story are getting nominations here, there’s no way Grease should not be nominated. I’m not a huge fan of the film, but its songs and its music are part of our culture much more than most of the films nominated. It was the highest grossing film of the year, one of the biggest selling soundtracks ever, and with some of the most famous movie songs ever – there’s no way it doesn’t get a nomination. Although it’s long forgotten, if we’re including soundtracks on the strength of their songs then we have to include American Hot Wax – it ain’t American Graffiti, but it ain’t far off. While we’re on the subject, we have to also include I Wanna To Hold Your Hand for all those Beatles songs.  And Animal House too. Jeepers.

Here’s an interesting one – I picked Jaws as my winner when it was released but I think Jaws 2 is the better score. It has everything the first one had, but some inspired additional pieces too. I’m not sure I can pick it as winner though given that so much was created for the original. Sticking with horror sequels, and Goldsmith’s work on The Omen 2, while not as effective or creepy as the first one still does enough to be worthy of another nomination. Halloween kick started a hundred horror clichés, music and musical cues among them – Carpenter’s score is one of the best horror scores ever with chilling themes which evoke not only the era but the timeless nature of the season. Speaking of timeless horror soundtracks and we have Dawn Of The Dead – much lesser known outside of horror circles than Carpenter’s work, but Goblin’s score is beloved by everyone inside the genre.

Basil Poledouris is one of the most underrated composers in history and sadly passed away without a single Academy nomination. We change that now, with his work in Big Wednesday much softer and nostalgic than his later work yet no less notable. As you may know, Jerry Goldsmith was on a roll this year – along with The Omen 2 and The Boys From Brazil,  he did Coma, Capricorn One, Swarm, and Magic, the last of which is creepy and dramatic enough to earn a nomination from me.

My Winner: Halloween

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Picture – 1978

Official Nominations: The Deer Hunter. Coming Home. Heaven Can Wait. Midnight Express. An Unmarried Woman.

The late 70s saw an uptake in realistic war movies – thanks to the grit and realism which filmmakers had sought to provide since the start of the decade, and when merged with the injustices of the Vietnam war, Hollywood and audiences were ready for such films. The Deer Hunter is one of the greatest War movies ever made – impeccably directed and acted, and with any number of iconic scenes. It’s incredibly tense, tragic, and draining, but also beautifully shot. For anyone not in the know, it follows a group of friends from a small industrial town who are all heading to Vietnam – we meet them before heading off and see their relationships and personalities. One gets married, they have a final bonding Deer Hunt, and then the film abruptly jumps to ‘Nam. The rest of the film deals with their part in the war, coming home to find out how the world has moved on, and each dealing with their personal changes.

Coming Home has been overshadowed by The Deer Hunter, but it’s great too and shares a lot of similarities with Cimino’s movie. There is Vietnamthere is a paralyzed guy, there’s a girl waiting at home, there’s a guy with PTSD – it’s a very strong movie but lacks the overall power of The Deer Hunter. Heaven Can Wait is another one of those ‘guy dies before his time and argues with the powers that be to send him back to Earth’ movies. We’ve all seen one of them, and this is the best version, charming, sweet, funny. On the other end of the scale is Midnight Express – as stark and chilling a prison movie as you’ll ever see. It’s not an easy watch, the direction as cold as the unfolding events – it’s about a college student buying some cheap dope in Turkey while on holiday and trying to get home. He gets caught and goes through a lot of bullshit before being imprisoned. Prison life is tough, but he meets other friendly inmates. When he gets decades added on to his sentence he decides to escape, but more terrible things happen and he eventually loses his mind. It’s one of those movies everyone should see once, but once will be enough for most.

Finally, An Unmarried Woman lightens the tone. It’s an important film for the evolution of the roles women get on screen and touches on subjects such as the sexual liberation of the time. Basically it shows a wife who has a more or less perfect American life losing it all after her husband decides to leave her. She is thrown into the world of singles again, confused and angry, but as the film progresses she learns to stand on her own. It’s good, but it has no chance of winning.

My Winner: The Deer Hunter

My Nominations: The Deer Hunter. Midnight Express. Superman. Halloween. The Driver. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers. Dawn Of The Dead. Big Wednesday. Animal House.

So, when I created my lovely top 250 films on IMDB many many years ago, no fewer than five of my nominations this year made an appearance. I don’t think I’d seen Big Wednesday at that point, or at seen it too recently to rank it. You wouldn’t think it is a John Milius film, it’s certainly his most personal, and it’s understandable that it didn’t do as well as it should have going up against the similarish Deer Hunter and Coming Home. At least Milius would get his surfing love into Apocalypse Now. Big Wednesday is a great coming of age drama about friendship – even though it is from a place and era I have no affiliation with, it still reminds you of your own youth and experience in a bittersweet way, its universal themes compatible with anyone.

Animal House wasn’t on my list either but as far as comedies go they don’t get much better or anarchic or influential. Frat Houses are not something we have any experience of in my country, and while I actually lived at home during my University years, I stayed with friends long enough to get a glimpse, a tiny glimpse of the sorts of antics the film presents – like the previous film there is a universal sense of camaraderie here which ensures the film keeps hitting the right notes with each generation. You’re unlikely to find many more comedies with as much energy and great performers as this. Superman was long seen as the greatest comic book movie ever – compare it was Marvel and DC’s efforts today and, well, there isn’t really much comparison. As much as I love it, I’ve always been more of a Burton’s Batman kind of guy – it appeared on my list, Superman didn’t. Reeve creates or restores an icon, the world had a new hero, everyone loved Lois, hated Luthor, and laughed at Jimmy, and Brando even pops up.

The Driver was on my Top 250 IMDB list, Walter Hill’s film as minimalist as it is cool – Ryan O’Neal has never been better while Bruce Dern is comically manic. I still say it’s the best car movie ever made, not that I know or care much about cars. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers is the most acclaimed version of the story, though Abel Ferrara’s retelling remains my personal favourite. This one has the best cast and the best twist, with Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartright all excelling, along with Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum. There’s just something about this idea of soulless copies, of being hunted down and not knowing who to trust or who is an alien which resonates with me and I love this version.

That leaves us with two of the greatest horror movies of all time. How do you choose between two seminal classics – Halloween essentially created the slasher genre and the teen horror genre, while Dawn Of The Dead perfected every zombie cliché. I could watch both of these movies every day for the rest of my life and never get sick of them. Both are scary – in the immediate and lingering sense, both are technically brilliant, both have great performances, great music, and are defining moments for both directors. Halloween is a must watch every Halloween – no other film has nailed that sense, or essence of the season, and I’d go so far as saying no film about any season, Christmas included, has got it right. Dawn Of The Dead though… I’m not sure any other horror film has ever grabbed me so instantly and filled me with so many thoughts and ideas and questions to the extent that I’ll be thinking about it at least once a week. I love everything about this movie, even the stuff that doesn’t work, and for me it is never less than perfect.

My Winner: Dawn Of The Dead

What is your pick for the Best Film of 1978? Anything not mentioned above? Let us know in the comments!

Best Director – 1978

Official Nominations: Michael Cimino. Hal Ashby. Warren Beatty/Buck Henry. Woody Allen. Alan Parker.

Michael Cimino had all the hallmarks and the origin story of becoming one of Hollywood’s great directors – his early scripts leading to films such as Silent Running and Magnum Force, gaining him enough recognition to make his first film Thunderbolt And Lightfoot to great success before making one of the great Vietnam films in The Deer Hunter. From there it all kind of fell apart, and stories about him were more about his cinematic and personal failures and shortcomings, and his part of bringing the age of the 70s auteur to an end. The fact remains that The Deer Hunter still exists and is a directorial triumph in every respect, commanding scope with depth, character with emotion, and plot with art.

Hal Ashby tackles America’s involvement in Vietnam with similar skill but lacks the scope and the mingling of beauty and horror of Cimino’s film. Buck Henry, an experienced performer and writer teamed with first time director Warren Beatty for Heaven Can Wait – a combination of their respective star power and writing credentials. It was a stepping stone for Beatty with regards to being a director and shows a natural talent for character and comedy. In Interiors, Woody Allen apes one of his heroes (Ingmar Bergman), not always successfully, getting the style and performances right, but not necessarily the subject matter and tone. Finally, Alan Parker moves briefly away from music-based movies to make the bleak and sometimes gut-wrenching Midnight Express. It’s difficult to leave your stamp on a film which is supposed to be devoid of colour and life, but Parker managers just that, allowing brief flickers of hope to be snatched away by nightmarish reality.

My Winner: Michael Cimino

My Nominations: Michael Cimino. Hal Ashby. Alan Parker. John Carpenter. George A Romero. Franklin J Schaffner. Terence Malick. Claudia Weill. Randal Kleiser. Philip Kaufman. Richard Donner.

I think Cimino is always going to be my winner here, even though I add a few directors who made films this year I love more than The Deer Hunter. The first of those is George A Romero, who makes his opus in Dawn Of The Dead, expanding upon the universe and lore he invented and popularized in Night Of The Living Dead. The obvious satire on consumerism and on American Gung Ho culture is at times on the nose, but it’s the more vicious undercurrent of hopelessness when trapped in paradise which is more subtle and effective. His use of colour and gore to make something hyper-real to the extent that it becomes like a comic book, the polarizing, multi-faceted arguments which punctuate the script from the first moment to the last, the dialogue, music, action, and perhaps most of all the sheer fun of it all rescued the horror genre from the hands of studio execs and gave it back to the people who actually cared about it.

Keeping within the horror genre, a new master was rising, name of Carpenter, and his seminal slasher Halloween forever changed the game. Not only did it create an endless supply of knock-offs but it reminded studios and young filmmakers that it was possible to make a hit, and a great film, with little money, some experience, and a lot of will. Halloween ranks among the most watchable and fun horror movies ever – Carpenter throws every trick in the book at the wall and most of them stick, but more than that he shows an assured skill and confidence behind the camera, ensuring the film is a truly cinematic, communal experience. It plays upon our inherent voyeurism yet forces us to become more than passive, and it retains that unspoken Carpenter quality which makes the film timeless and addictive.

Moving gradually away from horror, Franklin Schaffner crafted another ambiguous sci-fi thriller in The Boys From Brazil  – the story of escaped Nazis, their genetic experiments, and the people hunting them, a premise begging not to be taken seriously but made effective thanks to the casting and direction. Similarly, Philip Kaufman’s remake of Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers is seen by most as the definitive version of the tale of terror, the growing paranoia less in your face than the original but more sinister, twisted, and twisting. Terence Malick returned after a five year break with Days Of Heaven, a typically beautiful yet detached film while Randal Kleiser makes what is arguably the atypical modern musical with Grease. Claudia Weill and her film Girlfriends exudes an indie cool and understanding of the subject matter often lacking from the bigger budget efforts. Finally, Richard Donner essentially creates the superhero movie genre with Superman – a film which still ranks near the top of that genre.

I’ve picked Cimino for the Official win, so lets give someone else a chance.

My Winner: John Carpenter

Let us know in the comments who you pick as Best Director of 1978!

Best Foreign Film – 1978

Official Nominations: Get Out Your Handkerchiefs. The Glass Cell. Hungarians. Viva Italia! White Bim Black Ear.

1978 is interesting in that it’s the first year in a while that doesn’t have an obvious ‘big’ movie – one that everyone recognises no matter if they’ve seen it or not. None of the films are standouts either, unfortunately. White Bim Black Ear is three hours worth of man and dog – it’s basically a Russian version of The Littlest Hobo. The Glass Cell is about a guy who has been wrongfully imprisoned for years and has heard rumours about his wife’s unfaithfulness. He leaves prison a more paranoid and dangerous man – his stay turning an innocent man guilty. Viva Italia! ranks among the most bizarre choices for an Oscar – an episodic Italian comedy with multiple directors and featuring short films about things like having sex with a monkey, corrupt cops letting a bunch of terrorists go free because they have rich families, and plenty of mini character studies about lies, sex, religion etc. It’s an Italian Monty Python film with at least twelve fewer laughs.

Hungarians is an average drama about a bunch of migrants who have fairly good conditions in Germany during World War II but find that when they go home they can’t escape a War which tarnishes and changes everyone. This year’s official winner – Get Out Your Handkerchiefs – is another Gerard Depardieu vehicle. He plays a man who decides his wife’s depression can only be cured by another man’s cock, so he picks one at random to have sex with her. The woman then has sex with a child and the men go to prison. France, eh?

My Winner: The Glass Cell

My Nominations: Watership Down. The Glass Cell. Drunken Master. The Demon. La Cage Aux Folles. The Green Room.

It says a lot that I’m having to include certain films here that wouldn’t normally make the cut. The Glass Cell is the only one which makes it over to my list, joining two from France, two from Asia, and one from Britain. Drunken Master isn’t one of the best Martial Arts movies, but it is certainly one of the most influential. Jackie Chan had been blending buffoonery with action for a while but it was in Drunken Master that both sides were honed and the audience ‘got it’. The Demon is maybe Yoshitaro Nomura’s most famous film, an uncharacteristically bleak drama which tears at the fabric of the traditional Japan family and examines the results of selfish, petty acts. La Cage Aux Folles is frequently funny yet more dated than most comedies of the time while Truffaut’s La Chambre Verte is a surprisingly touching and thought-provoking look at one man’s coping/obsession with death. My winner is the ever-young, ever-shocking Watership Down  – a film that I am not as enamoured with as most but one which remains more or less unique in its ability to scar and teach.

My Winner: Watership Down

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Supporting Actor – 1978

Official Nominations: Christopher Walken. Bruce Dern. Richard Farnsworth. John Hurt. Jack Warden.

As strong as this category is, Christopher Walken is the clear winner for me. Walken had already been appearing in movies for over a decade, but it’s his heartbreaking, devastating turn as the damaged Vietnam vet, Nick, who is so traumatized by his experience that he forces himself to relive them over again afterwards. He isn’t yet going full Walken, but the early twitches and vocal acrobatics are there, yet it is a performance grounded in reality and delivered with an uncanny force leading to one of the most famous climaxes in Cinema.

Bruce Dern plays another man damaged by the war and returning home to find his former life shattered. It’s another strong performance characterized by Dern’s singular approach and in another year would be a worthy winner. Richard Farnsworth had been an uncredited actor and stunt performer for decades but finally broke through with a surprise performance and nomination in the little remembered Comes A Horseman. It’s not a role overly vital to the plot or significance of the film but it’s nice to see a professional getting recognised and being allowed to take that next step with great success.

Jack Warden is always a commanding presence in any film, his brand of stern authority and comedy merging to great results in many cases – here he also gets to show a softer side. Finally, John Hurt gets a nomination for Midnight Express as a shriveled addict who befriends the lead character. In theory any of the supporting cast could get a nomination here, but Hurt plays the character who stays longest in our memory.

My Winner: Christopher Walken

My Nominations: Christopher Walken. John Hurt. Gary Busey. John Savage. Gene Hackman. Michael Jackson.

Two of the official boyos make it onto my list to craft a very motley crew. Along with his official Best Actor nomination this year, I stick Busey into the Supporting sphere thanks to yet another Vietnam coming of age film – Big Wednesday. Busey is one of the lead trio, in a role that would perhaps inspire the rest of his career as ‘the crazy one’. It is more grounded than what he would later deliver, but it’s a clear jumping off point. John Savage continues the nominations for The Deer Hunter, justifiably getting some of the attention usually reserved for Walken and De Niro. His turn as the eventually paraplegic Steven is one of the many reasons why the film is still held in such high regard.

Gene Hackman has another stab at comedy after being mainly known for his serious roles in dramatic thrillers. His Lex Luthor is joyfully maniacal and suitably camp – Superman was never meant to be a ‘dark’ or ‘gritty’ story (sorry Release The Snyder Cut fans) given it’s about a wholesome corn-fed fella flapping about the sky in fetching spandex. Hackman plays it a level of sophistication above the 60s Batman TV series, but with knowing smirks – one suspects he wasn’t aware that the film was going to be such a success. Finally, keeping things in a pseudo-camp vein is The Wiz – a jived up retelling of The Wizard Of Oz. Not content with being one of the best, most successful singers and dancers in the world at the time, Michael Jackson tried his hand at acting. Honestly, based on his performance here it’s unfortunate he never attempted much more subsequently as he is arguably the best reason for watching the film.

My Winner: Christopher Walken

Let us know in the comments who you pick as your Best Supporting Actor of 1978!

Best Actor – 1978

Official Nominations: Jon Voight. Warren Beatty. Gary Busey. Robert De Niro. Laurence Olivier.

In the late 70s, De Niro took over from Pacino in The Best Actor official category, here gaining his third nomination. It was Jon Voight though who picked up the win in a genuinely tough category. I think all five performances here are contenders, but I would have four front-runners including Voight as the severely injured soldier Coming Home. De Niro’s performance also sees him returning home from, going to, and being in Vietnam and I feel it’s the more iconic, more rounded of the two. Gary Busey hits the big time with his superb portrayal of Buddy Holly, one of the most underrated biography performances of all time, while Laurence Olivier gets a veteran nomination as a Nazi Hunter in The Boys From Brazil. Unlike most veteran nominations, this one is deserving on its own merits. Finally, Warren Beatty is the outsider and this feels more like a ‘we love you, Warren’ nomination than anything else. A good performance sure, but not on par with the others.

My Winner: Robert De Niro

My Nominations: Jon Voight. Gary Busey. Robert De Niro. Christopher Reeve. Donald Pleasence. Jan Michael Vincent. Gregory Peck. Brad Davis. Ryan O’Neal. John Belushi.

Three make it over from the official list, joining a mixture of possible snubs and personal favourites. Christopher Reeve burst onto the scene as the only Superman who will ever matter (sorry Dean Cain), a role so all-encompassing that he could never escape it. It’s a great lead performance surrounded by a stellar cast – his comedic talents giving Clark Kent that awkward, clumsy charm while easily transitioning into the all-powerful hero figure. Also kind of playing an awkward and heroic character is Donald Pleasence as Dr Loomis in Halloween, one of the great good guys of horror cinema. the sequels have a fair bit of scenery chewing, but here Pleasence looks like he’s relishing the performance and film, having fun as this slightly manic protector of a child who wsa pure evil. Is he truly a lead though? Tough, I’m adding him.

Jan Michael Vincent didn’t really stand a chance against De Niro and Voight, but his performance in Big Wednesday shares a lot of similarities and should have been a stepping off point to much bigger things. Unfortunately, things never quite panned out that way, perhaps some critical praise would have helped. Gregory Peck goes against type and plays one of the most despicable humans ever in The Boys From Brazil – proving that everyone’s favourite wholesome figure could be much more. Brad Davis could have become a household name if he had received more high profile praise for his star making turn in Midnight Express while John Belushi became an icon after Animal House. Finally, Ryan O’Neal stars as the titular Driver in Walter Hill’s action/chase classic. When people think of Ryan O’Neal they invariably go to Love Story or Paper Moon but for me it’s The Driver which features his best performance, much against type, as the cool and detached getaway driver whose apparently obvious desires are perhaps not so obvious upon reevaluation.

My Winner: Robert De Niro

Let us know your picks in the comments!

Best Supporting Actress – 1978

Official Nominations: Maggie Smith. Dyan Cannon. Penelope Milford. Maureen Stapleton. Meryl Streep.

One thing that has been reinforced as I go through these Oscar posts is the fact that some of these performers and directors – even though they were nominated for, and in some cases won – the most prestigious award in all of entertainment, have all but disappeared from public consciousness. This happens almost every year, and you can tell in the Awards in recent years that there will be that nominated performer who most people will never hear from again. Then again, providing that person still works, all it takes is one more appearance in a hit movie or show, or one more appearance in something ‘important’ to put them back into the hearts and minds of the masses. I always used to assume that once you made it, you had made it for life. And while that is true to some extent – they can’t ever take away what you achieved – it doesn’t mean you’re going to be remembered. This is even more prevalent in music – look at some of the artists of the 1930s-1960s – people who sold millions of copies, toured the world, and had numerous number 1 albums and songs – almost no-one today knows they exist.

Which brings me back to this category – Meryl Streep everyone knows, and the same goes for Maggie Smith. Maybe without Downton Abbey she’d have fallen by the wayside. Aww balls, there’s a Downton Abbey movie coming out this year (time of writing, 4.07pm GMT 26th March 2019) so she’s bound to get a stupid Oscar Nomination for it, assuming she’s in it. Maureen Stapleton… most more dedicated film fans will know her but if you only watch recent stuff then obviously you will be less familiar. The other two nominees; you’d struggle to find anyone on the street who would know who they are. Case in point – Dyan Cannon was married to Carey Grant and was nominated for three Oscars, yet she’s not exactly a household name. She did have a prominent return in the late 90s with a recurring role in Ally McBeal – that show that made idiots want to be lawyers. She has a definite comic flair, hence her nomination this year in Heaven Can Wait. Penelope Milford is even less well known, due to appearances in lesser films, and on stage. Nevertheless, she netted Coming Home yet another acting nomination this year as the sister to one of the returning vets who has to deal with the fallout of their trauma.

Maggie Smith won her second Oscar this year for California Suite in which she ironically plays a down on her luck actress who has just received her first Oscar nomination. For me, not a huge fan of Neil Simon’s work, it’s an okay film and an okay performance in a weak year for actresses. Meryl Streep then, in one of her true breakout roles, even though she’d already been good before this. As much as I love The Deer Hunter, Streep doesn’t have all that much to do in the film and it’s a fairly bland role. She isn’t weak by any means, but this is a film about the male performances and if it was any smaller name here instead of Streep, you’d forget her. That leaves Maureen Stapleton for Interiors. Woody Allen movies aren’t usually my thing, and while Stapleton gets plenty of mileage out of the loud and uncouth woman trope, it’s again not something I would pick. A weak year then, so most people will go with their preference. Smith seems like the most obvious choice.

My Winner: Maggie Smith

My Nominations: Maggie Smith. Linda Manz. Brooke Shields. Dyan Cannon.

I go for a couple of child performances this year. Brooke Shields, as the young girl being brought up in a whorehouse, is particularly strong but it probably deserves to be in the Best Actress category. The year is weak though, so I’m adding it here. Linda Manz is the young sister of our anti-hero in Days Of Heaven and acts as the narrator so we see the film technically through her eyes – potentially making her a contender for lead too. I don’t know anymore – it’s a good performance in a bad year.

My Winner: Brooke Shields

Best Actress – 1978

Official Nominations: Ingrid Bergman. Jane Fonda. Jill Clayburgh. Ellen Burstyn. Geraldine Page.

This year it’s another fairly weak category. Fonda got her win for the underrated Coming Home, but I feel like the male performances are so strong as to make everyone else seem on a lower level. Ingrid Bergman delivers her final big screen performance, it’s good but I don’t rate it as highly as some from previous decades. Jill Clayburgh is great in An Unmarried Woman, running the gamut of emotions as her marriage, and life unravels catastrophically. The final two performances get votes more because of who the performers are rather than the performances themselves – fine again, but nothing special.

My Winner: Jill Clayburgh

My Nominations: Jill Clayburgh. Lynn Holly Johnson. Margot Kidder. Jamie Lee Curtis.

Only Clayburgh makes it to my choices, and to be honest I’ve struggled finding a collection of worthy performances. Ice Castles isn’t the best film in the world, but it’s sweet and where it does succeed is down almost entirely to Lynn Holly Johnson’s performance as a young woman who dreams of becoming an Ice Skating champion only to suffer a freak accident. Margot Kidder became just as iconic as Lois Lane as Christoper Reeves did as Superman, a performance often overlooked. Finally, Jamie Lee Curtis makes up the numbers as one of the most famous horror movie survivors Laurie Strode, whose screams and strength and perseverance essentially created both the Scream Queen and Final Girl archetypes. She wasn’t the first, but she’s the poster girl, and for a debut performance few have become more famous.

My Winner: Jill Clayburgh

Let us know your winner in the comments!

1978 Academy Awards – An Introduction

51st Academy Awards - Wikipedia

The 51st Academy Awards found the world in a post-blockbuster, post Star Wars world. Although there was successful fantasy/sci-fi in the form of Superman and Heaven Can Wait, most of the winners and nominees focused on real people or events – The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, Midnight Express etc. Rest assured that these and more will be featured in my personal picks.

Johnny Carson led the proceedings, with Robin Williams and Woody Woodpecker (!), Mia Farrow, and Francis Ford Coppola among those presenting awards. Performances from Donna Summer, Barry Manilow, and others livened up the show while King Vidor, Laurence Olivier, Walter Lantz, and Leo Jaffe were given Honorary awards. A special award was given for the Visual Effects of Superman while the Musuem of Modern Art  Department Of Film was also honoured, for some reason.

Join me over the next few weeks as I share my picks in each category, and don’t forget to leave your thoughts and choices in the comments!