Best Writing (Original) – 1976

Official Nominations: Network. Cousin Cousine. The Front. Rocky. Seven Beauties.

Two big hitters, two foreign oddities, and a Woody Allen movie that he didn’t write or direct make up the list this year. Paddy Chayefsky won his third Writing Oscar this year (an unbeaten record) for Network, a film known for its impassioned speeches and angry one-liners. More than that, the script is replete with social satire which has only become more prescient over time. Rocky is famously the script that everyone wanted to buy, but Stallone wasn’t selling unless he could star. The gamble paid off and Stallone created one of the most famous, enduring heroes of Hollywood. The story borrows heavily from notions of The American Dream and from early rags to riches stories, but updates it to modern day and does so with such charm that it’s impossible to not love.

It’s not often that foreign movies get nominated in this category, but we got two this year – a sign that the daring indie movement of Hollywood was being mirrored elsewhere. Cousin Cousine has a knack for understanding and representing forbidden and budding romance while Seven Beauties is a dark, long spanned tale of one despicable character living through an even more despicable landscape which both shapes and nurtures him. Finally, The Front is a movie about the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1950s made by people who were blacklisted – while good, while funny, and while an interesting subject, it feels like an apologetic nomination.

My Winner: Network

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My Nominations: Network. Rocky. Seven Beauties. Murder By Death. The Omen. Silent Movie. Taxi Driver.

Three Official choices make my list, joining a couple of spoofs, a horror classic, and a hefty snub. If we start with the snub, it seems unusual in retrospect that Taxi Driver was not nominated, given the reverence it has received over the years. I think that it deserves a nod over one of the foreign movies, definitely over The Front. It’s an incisive look into a character’s moral viewpoint of a dirty world and quotable dialogue is scattered from page to screen. Murder By Death is that rare Neil Simon comedy that I fully enjoy, riffing on those mansion mysteries of old while I find that Silent Movie is one of the more clever comedy screenplays of the era despite the fact that only a single word is spoken. Finally, The Omen’s impact on film and on popular culture should not be underestimated, providing successive generations who vaguely preach ignorance from behind the pulpit with misinformation they purport as truth, and fans with a succession of lines to quote at each other.

My Winner: The Omen

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Art Direction – 1976

Official Nominations: All The President’s Men. The Incredible Sarah. The Last Tycoon. Logan’s Run. The Shootist.

A clear front-runner and winner this year with All The President’s Men being set in the familiar locations of a bustling workplace and real life DC hotspots. The newsroom was entirely recreated for the film, but you wouldn’t know it given how realistic it all feels, while everything from the lighting to the costumes feel sweaty and tangible and at once closing in and expanding with possibility. Logan’s Run gets the Sci-Fi nod and is one of the more unique (for the time) visions of a possible future. Cheesy now, I’ve always had a fondness for the sets and the overall look. The Last Tycoon is probably famed now more for its authentic setting than the plot or performances while I’m not sure anyone remembers (or needs to remember) The Incredible Sarah. Finally, The Shootist is a now underrated Don Siegel Western featuring John Wayne – his last role – his character bemoaning the end of ‘The Old West’ and the film representing loss in both its look and plot.

My Winner: All The President’s Men

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My Nominations: All The President’s Men. The Last Tycoon. Logan’s Run. 1900. Bugsy Malone. Carrie. Marathon Man.

I add everything from musicals to horror movies to the three copied from the Official Nominations. 1900 is an epic in every sense, and if there is one thing most epics have in common it is a painstaking attention to detail, with Bertolucci and co showcasing the skills learned in previous stylized films such as The Conformist. Bugsy Malone, as much as I hate it, has a very specific look and feel which suits the malarkey of the story and its gimmick perfectly. Carrie is an exercise in stylized editing and post-menstrual pressure with both home and school rarely shown to be anything more than different levels of hell, while Marathon Man uses shadow and light to torment the viewer like few other films.

My Winner: All The President’s Men

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Original Score – 1976

Official Nominations: The Omen. Obsession. The Outlaw Josey Wales. Taxi Driver. Voyage of The Damned. Bound For Glory. A Star Is Born. Bugsy Malone.

The category is still separate this year – The Omen and Bound For Glory picking up the official wins. What’s that? A horror movie actually winning an Oscar? I know, right? It’s well deserved and it’s easily the most recognizable and iconic film score here, a classic of horror soundtracks. Bernard Herrmann received a posthumous nomination for Obsession – you’d think this was just a nod to recognize a body of work, but it’s another great soundtrack. It’s all the more amazing when you remember he was also nominated for Taxi Driver this year – two terrific scores in his last months on the planet – not bad. The Outlaw Josey Wales has an underappreciated score while Voyage Of The Damned is surprisingly NOT about a ship filled with demonic, hypnotic albino children – the soundtrack is fine.

Bound For Glory appears to have been nominated and won more for what is represents than what it is, I’m surprised one of the other two nominations didn’t get the vote. Bugsy Malone is one of my most disliked films of all time…. I’ve just hated it since the moment I first clasped eyes on it, and the music is a large part of that. A Star Is Born is entirely unnecessary.

My Winner: The Omen

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My Nominations: The Omen. Obsession. The Outlaw Josey Wales. Taxi Driver. Rocky. 1900. Assault On Precinct 13. Burnt Offerings. Carrie. The Missouri Breaks. Silver Streak. The Tenant.

How was Rocky not nominated here? It got a nomination for Best Song (and should have won) but was left out here – ridiculous considering it’s probably the only other score from the year that still lives on today. 1900 has some of the great Morricone’s most tender work while Assault On Precinct 13 kick started a terrific run of scores by Carpenter – this one being incredibly influential to later hip hop and synth led acts. In a move that you’ll see increasingly here, we have another horror film getting a nomination for Best Score – Burnt Offerings – with it’s lonesome ‘no-one walks here’ piano lead a world away from the shattering apocalyptica of The Omen. Going in yet another direction for horror soundtracks is Carrie –  I almost wasn’t going to nominate this one as it’s quite twee and cheesy, but upon further reflection I think it’s more like Cannibal Holocaust in that it lulls us falsely. Carrie is essentially a tragedy, and the main theme sounds like it should be from some tear-jerking melodrama instead of scenes of nude showering teens and pig’s blood carnage.

Away from horror and we have John Williams leaving his mark yet again, this time in The Missouri Breaks which has a couple of great pieces featuring guitar and harmonica. Silver Streak sees Mancini in fine form, again working wonders on a zany comedy, while The Tenant is quiet, lurking, threatening. I don’t really know where to go with this one – three undisputed classics and a bunch which aren’t far behind – a great year. You know what? If they can split the category, then so can I, for absolutely no reason at all – The Omen got the win above, therefore…

My Winner: Rocky. Assault On Precinct 13.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Visual Effects – 1976

Official Nominations: King Kong. Logan’s Run.

We didn’t quite get official nominations this year, but we did get two separate special achievement awards for the films mentioned above. King Kong isn’t exactly the leap forward in effects that the original was and of course it has dated, as has Logan’s Run. The animatronics give Kong emotive expressions and character while Logan’s Run has lots of anti gravity, flashing lights, and holograms.

My Winner: King Kong

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My Nominations: King Kong. Logan’s Run. Carrie. The Omen.

Next year is the biggie, the start of modern effects as we know them, or at least it is the major turning point. There aren’t too many films which rely on visual effects or have something new or unique aside from the official winners this year. Carrie mixes visual effects with De Palma’s editing and directing to make for a powerful ending. The Omen has some of the all time great movie deaths, thanks to some sterling effects work – set-pieces which still retain their power and shock value today.

My Winner: The Omen

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Animated Feature – 1976

My Nominations: The Twelve Tasks Of Asterix. Once Upon A Girl.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been a huge fan of Asterix (or Tintin). I don’t think this has anything to do with them being French, they simply never appealed to me. Twelve Tasks is probably the Asterix film I’m most familiar with while Once Upon A Girl is another late 70s animated perv-fest if you’re into that sort of thing (aren’t we all?). Slim pickings this year.

My Winner: The Twelve Tasks Of Asterix

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Let us know your winner in the comments!

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!

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!

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

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!

Best Supporting Actor – 1976

Official Nominations: Jason Robards. Ned Beatty. Burgess Meredith. Laurence Olivier. Burt Young.

This is a horrible year in that it’s a horrible choice – anyone is a good winner. Hold on, that actually makes it good, not horrible. It’s difficult to decide though. I think we can drop Young because I prefer Meredith from Rocky. Robards and Beatty are great, but Beatty’s role is too small when viewed alongside the others – Robards picked up the official win for All The President’s Men. Finally, Laurence Olivier goes WAY against type in Marathon Man as a Nazi and a fan of the old ultra-torture. He is terrifying, and in any other year deserves the win. However, my love for Rocky means that Meredith gets my win.

My Winner: Burgess Meredith

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My Nominations: Jason Robards. Ned Beatty. Burgess Meredith. Laurence Olivier. Burt Young. Darwin Joston. Carl Weathers. Harvey Keitel.

All the official nominees make it to my list so lets look at the extras. Now, if Burt Young and Burgess Meredith get nods for Rocky, then there’s no way my man Apollo Creed shouldn’t be there too, with Carl Weathers doing his very best impersonation of Ali, with a little more pizzazz. Harvey Keitel is another dirty piece in Scorsese’s grimy puzzle, playing a scumbag pimp who clashes with De Niro’s Taxi Driver – not quite reversing the roles from Mean Streets but definitely allowing Keitel to expand his horizons a little. Finally, making a large statement (but sadly one which he would never build upon) is Darwin Joston as Napoleon in Assault On Precinct 13 – the chain-smoking criminal who gets all the best lines and snarls and charms his way past cops, secretaries, and faceless goons alike.

My Winner: Burgess Meredith

Let us know who pick to be the Best Supporting Actor of 1976!