Best Actor – 1970

Official Nominations: George C Scott. Ryan O Neill. Mervyn Douglas. Jack Nicholson. James Earl Jones.

Well, here we are. One of the most controversial Oscar moments arrived in this category this year when George C Scott, having been awarded the win, declined to accept it and instead derided the whole ceremony as ‘a meat parade’ more interested in making money. It’s difficult to argue with him. Fear not, that’s one of the reasons I started this damn thing, so that i could pick my winners based (almost) purely on individual performance and quality. No nonsense about people who should have won in previous years, no career wins, no wins or nominations for those who campaigned hardest. The hardest part of that for me is knowing which actors etc have won or not won in later years and falling into the trap of giving awards to those who I feel deserved one.

But enough of that for now. Scott picked up the win for an iconic performance of an icon in Patton. It is Scott’s defining performance, a wide-eyed, crazed, and shouting portrayal of patriotism in war time, and it’s difficult to argue against the win. We do have two other potential winners in this category, with James Earl Jones astounding in The Great White Hope – he was already familiar with the role having won awards for his stage performances. Equally notable is Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces, perhaps uncharacteristic compared to the later roles and performances he would give, but he is undeniably charismatic and turns Bobby Dupea into a fully formed cult figure. The final two nominations are rather odd, and as much as I like both actors, there isn’t really any reason for them being nominated here. Ryan O’Neal plays a rich but kind jock hearthrob who falls in love with a smart ass working class girl. He’s fine, but you can imagine anyone else in the role. Finally, Mervyn Douglas (who had already won a supporting award and would pick up one more by the end of the decade) gets a lead nomination for what could arguably be another supporting role. In I Never Sang For My Father he plays a sort of crotchety old man who is seeing life and control slip away, and who doesn’t want his son to move away. It’s an okay performance, but it’s not one that stands any chance of winning here.

My Winner: George C Scott

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My Nominations: George C Scott. James Earl Jones. Jack Nicholson. Peter Boyle. George Segal.

This is quite tough as there honestly are not too many other notable performances this year  – I could have had Richard Harris for Cromwell, John Cassavetes for Husbands, Sutherland or Gould for MASH, but I don’t think they are as strong as what I have picked. Therefore my only additions are Peter Boyle as Joe and George Segal for Loving – two worthy additions, though only Boyle really stands a chance of winning.

My Winner: George C Scott

Who would you choice as the Best Actor of 1970? Let us know in the comments!

Best Picture – 1970

Official Nominations: Patton. Airport. Five Easy Pieces. Love Story. MASH.

1970 is most interesting in that the five Best Picture nominees are so different from each other. We have a biography, a disaster movie, a war satire, a romance, and sort-of-indie-drama. I’d be hard pushed to pick Love Story as a winner because it’s basically a Nicholas Sparks book come to life, though it is well acted. Airport doesn’t feel like a winner because it feels like a generic disaster flick looking back, but at the time it was groundbreaking and knocked open the door for so many more like it. Five Easy Pieces was never going to win, but it’s shame so few people know it because it has some exceptional performances and is more heartbreaking than Love Story. It’s a toss-up between MASH and Patton – two worthy winners in my opinion. As much as I love the music and performances of MASH… I think i prefer the series to the movie. My pick for winner goes to Patton – truly one of the best biographies and war films ever, filled with strong performances and memorable moments.

My Winner: Patton.

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My Nominations: Patton. Five Easy Pieces. The Conformist. MASH. Kelly’s Heroes. The Boys In The Band. Little Big Man.

Three of the actual films pass over to my list. Regular readers will know that I love suicide mission movies, ensemble movies where a group of misfits are forced into undertaking some impossible task. It shouldn’t surprise anyone then that Kelly’s Heroes makes my list – it is one of the most riveting war movies of the decade, the twist of course being that there is no grand scheme here, just a bunch of soldiers deciding to rob a bank. Good score, great cast, and plenty of action – it isn’t going to win any genuine awards, but it’s a lot of fun. The Conformist sees Bernardo Bertolucci writing and directing a beautifully stylized tale of a broken man’s need to be normal, whatever the cost. The Boys In The Band is perhaps William Freidkin’s first notable film, based off the controversial play mostly concerning a single location party and mostly homosexual characters – a film dated in some respects but still ahead of many current portrayals. Finally, Little Big Man was a hit thanks to a cast of new stars and slotting in nicely with the anti-establishment movement sweeping the US at the time. Funny, sad, and with a bunch of good performances, it’s surprising you rarely hear about this one any more.

My Winner: Patton.

Let us know in the comments what you would pick as your best film of 1970!

1970 Academy Awards – An Introduction

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Phew, we’ve finally made it to the 70s! We’re firmly into the ‘New Hollywood’ phase now, with many of the new and up and coming directors, writers, and performers having already made a impact and yet more popping out of the woodwork. The 43rd Academy Awards were of course the subject of some controversy with George C Scott becoming the first person to reject his award and launching into a tirade about the ceremony. Scott’s Patton was the big hit of the night with 7 awards and 10 nominations, while Airport and Love Story were not far behind.

As always, we got a roster of hosts and performers – John Huston, Steve McQueen, Goldie Hawn, and Maggie Smith were among those handing out awards, while Petula Clarke and Glen Campbell entertained. Will Patton reign supreme in my selections, or will there be a new pretender to its crown? Stay tuned over the coming weeks to find out!

Best Cast – 1969

My Nominations: The Wild Bunch. Midnight Cowboy. Anne Of The Thousand Days. Battle Of Britain. Butch Cassidy And The Cassidy Kid. The Italian Job. Marlowe. Marooned. Oh What A Lovely War. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. True Grit.

As always with this category, we have a bonanza of possibilities, and as always your personal preference may come down to the cast who give the most consistently strong performances regardless of size, or the cast which includes the most big hitters popping up in worthwhile roles.

This year we have a mixture of epics with large and varied casts, to smaller productions with a few main players. The Wild Bunch falls into the first category, a Western which sees the likes of William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Warren Oates, and Strother Martin all giving performances which cover fury, violence, futility, despair, and camaraderie. On the flip side we have Midnight Cowboy with Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight giving defining performances with Sylvia Miles, Bob Balaban, and Ruth White backing them. BCATSK takes this a little further with Katherine Ross holding her own alongside Robert Redford and Paul Newman – with support from Strother Martin, Cloris Leachman and others.

Anne Of The Thousand Days is another historical costume drama, so as expected you have an ensemble of classically trained actors hamming it up – Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, Anthony Quayle, and Irene Papas included. Battle Of Britain went all out in crafting a recognizable ensemble – Laurence Olivier, Ian McShane, Trevor Howard, Michael Caine, Robert Shaw, Susannah York, Christopher Plummer, Curt Jurgens are just a few of the familiar faces popping up in roles of varying degrees. Keeping the end up for the Brits again is Michael Caine in The Italian Job, and joining him are Noel Coward, Benny Hill, John Le Mesurier and many more.

Marlowe is a hard boiled American affair led by James Garner, but Rita Morena, Jackie Coogan, and of course Bruce Lee all appear in memorable roles. Marooned sees Richard Crenna, Gene Hackman, and James Franciscus trapped in space while Gregory Peck tries to bring them back to earth safely, while True Grit features John Wayne as a pirate cowboy. Strother Martin is there again of course, along with Kim Darby, Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall, and Glen Campbell. They Shoot Horses Don’t They features Susannah York again, with Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern, Gig Young, Bonnie Bedalia and other dancing around and getting sweaty and stressed, while Oh What A Lovely War throws as many stars at us as possible – Miss Yorke once more (though Strother Martin is notably absent), a bunch of Redgraves, Ralph Richardson, Olivier, Maggie Smith, John Gielgud, Ian Holm etc etc. Take your pick. My winner is for the ensemble with the most meaningful performances.

My Winner: The Wild Bunch

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1969 you would choose as the winner of Best Cast, along with your reasons!

 

Best Stunt Work – 1969

My Nominations: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. The Wild Bunch. The Battle Of Britain. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Marlowe. The Italian Job. Downhill Racer.

BCATSK is of course known for for the cliff jump scene – impressive at the time but it has of course been surpassed many times in the decades since. There are plenty of other great stunts and action in the movie, from the gripping train introduction to the various shoot outs, fights, and even Paul Newman’s whimsical bike antics. Similarly, The Wild Bunch is filled with shoot outs, more train action, and horse falls aplenty. Battle Of Britain has all the explosions and action you would expect from a war film – a Guy Hamilton war film no less, but where it raises the game is with the exceptional aerial set pieces – some of the best you’ll ever see in terms of scale, pace, and realism. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I have always felt to be one of the more action-lite Bond movies, but it has its fair share of stunt too – the Piz Gloria ski slope scenes are memorable. Speaking of ski stunts, Downhill Racer also has excellent snow action, though the focus is much more on realism than Bond’s fun and games. Marlowe’s nomination goes almost single-handedly to Bruce lee, whose demolition of James Garner’s office is both humourous and a sign of things to come for the Chinese star – though there is also standard gun action towards the end of the film. Finally, The Italian Job has car chases galore which have become iconic, at least in Britain.

My Winner: Battle of Britain

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1969 you think deserves the Best Stunt Work award!

 

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1969

Official Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. Anne Of The Thousand Days. Goodbye Columbus. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. Z.

As the turbulent 1960s drew to a close, filmmakers were continuing to trawl through recent and distant history’s literary works for something they could transform into a cinematic experience which modern audiences would want to see. Waldo Salt’s adaptation of Midnight Cowboy stays roughly in touch with the source material by James Leo Herlihy – keeping the tone of outsiders finding companionship where they could – it proved to be a hit with critics and movie-goers, picking up the official win. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They is a more absurd and existential take on American culture, with James Poe and Robert Thompson’s script taking the key ideas and themes of McCoy’s original but allowing room for the actors to transform the characters and for Pollack to accentuate the mania. Based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos, Costa Gavras and Jorge Semprun’s adaptation is just as unflinching in its rage and realism, merging dark humour with prescient political debate. Philip Roth isn’t the first name you think of when it comes to romantic comedies, but his novella Goodbye, Columbus is naturally more of a satire on the wealthy – with Arnold Schulman loosely adapting one particular facet of that collection for the screen. Finally, Anne Of The Thousand Days is adapted from Maxwell Anderson’s earlier play into an overlong and not interesting enough film by Bridget Boland, John Hale, and Richard Sokolove.

My Winner: Z

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My Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. Z. The Assassination Bureau. Army Of Shadows. Castle Keep.

Michael Relph and Wolf Mankowitz adapt Jack London’s (and Robert Fish’s) unfinished novel The Assassination Bureau, Ltd for the screen, moving the action to Europe and giving it a slightly more humourous tone. Joseph Kessel’s semi-fictional Army Of Shadows is an uncompromising and unsentimental view of the French Resistance, with Melville’s movie presenting events in a matter of fact way. My final personal nomination is for Castle Keep – another Sydney Pollack movie with a screenplay by Daniel Taradash and David Rayfiel. Based off William Eastlake’s novel, the film is an entertaining, thought-provoking, and ultimately surreal siege movie featuring a ragtag group of soldiers defending a castle filled with priceless art in WWII.

My Winner: Z

Let us know in the comments what your pick is for the Best Adapted Screenplay of 1969!

Best Writing (Original) – 1969

Official Nominations: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. The Damned. Easy Rider. The Wild Bunch.

William Goldman’s screenplay for BCATSD picked up the official win this year, and it’s difficult to argue against the win. The easy dialogue couple with the charm of the actors ensures that the film is quotable and doesn’t feel dated. BACATAA has a name too long to type repeatedly, but Mazursky peppers his frank script with a lot of modern humour which was a revelation for audiences at the time. Even more shocking, for the handful who saw it, was The Damned with its explicit sex and discussions on power, corruption, and politics. Easy Rider too was a revelation, with Fonda, Hopper, and Southern’s script striking a chord with America’s youth like no movie before or since with much of the dialogue being ad-libbed on the spot.

My Winner: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

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My Nominations: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Easy Rider. The Italian Job. Medium Cool. Take The Money And Run. The Wild Bunch.

I add a few notable films to my list – The Italian Job is of course extremely quotable, Medium Cool is a timely piece and relevant today as the quest for morality and integrity within journalism rages on. Take The Money And Run is one of Woody Allen’s earliest hits, more manic than what he would later produce.

My Winner: The Italian Job

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1969 do you think has the Best Original Screenplay.