Official Nominations: The Exorcist. American Graffiti. The Sting. Cries And Whispers. A Touch Of Class
This was another year where we have clear front-runners and a couple of films which stood no chance of winning. A Touch Of Class is a strange one – a British film which is part sex romp, part drama, part comedy. There’s another, superior British film this year which deserved a nomination over this – this is a well acted, if unsubstantial film which doesn’t come close to the overall quality of the big boys in this category. The other no hoper is Cries And Whispers – Bergman’s most successful film in the US since the early sixties. It’s great, disconcerting, and visually gripping, but like most Bergman films it is slow, subtle, and quite ‘talky’ and yet filled with deafening silence – things which tend to not sit well with most audiences.
Out of the big boys, The Exorcist is the least likely to be picked by The Academy – it’s a horror movie, but it was also incredibly controversial, arguably the most controversial movie ever made at the time, but massively successful too. Lets get this out of the way now – it’s the film I’ll be picking as winner. Not only because I am a massive horror fan and because it is one of the best, most famous horror movies ever, but because it has retained unique power over the decades, has many genuinely shocking scenes, and at least a trio of terrific performances, not to mention the writing and direction. The contest was always between the two remaining films – an up and coming American film maker who finely crafts a piece of nostalgia which reminded the world of a simpler time, with gentle rock and roll, big cars, milkshakes, guys and gals, and all the rest of it – the Academy loves that shit. Audiences loved it too, and I’m fairly fond of it if not as enamored as most – maybe it’s a generational thing but I still prefer Dazed And Confused and Everybody Wants Some!!! A cast of relatives newbs and kids maybe swung the choice towards the more established crew of The Sting. The Sting is of course a classic and we can hardly argue with it being the winner – Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Robert Shaw, under the guidance of George Roy Hill? Academy Gold. The music, the costumes, the story all come together perfectly to establish yet another must see 70s movie.
My Winner: The Exorcist
My Nominations: The Exorcist. American Graffiti. The Sting. Don’t Look Now. Enter The Dragon. Mean Streets. Serpico. The Wicker Man
Those three big shots of course make it to my list. It was a fantastic year for cinema with another batch of undisputed classics ready to pick up the win too. Enter The Dragon – no chance of being nominated, but arguably the most famous martial arts movie ever. The scope of the fight scenes was unprecedented, Lee is at his best, the supporting cast are memorable, and it’s badass all around. Mean Streets is Scorsese at his most loose and visceral, a movie with a documentary feel and with dialogue and action which feels unscripted, it has several great performances and moments but each of the main players involved were yet to fully hone their skills. Serpico on the other hand finds a team at the top of their craft – Pacino and Lumet in particular making a tough cop drama as influential today as it was then.
Over to Britain for my final two picks, and another two horror movies. Don’t Look Now is another Nicholas Roeg masterpiece of paranoia and grief – one which I think I appreciate more than I love. There is a coldness and a distance to it which holds me back from being overly enthusiastic, but it’s so well acted, gripping, chilling, and haunting to behold that there are few films like it. It’s another essential horror movie but one with meticulous art-house sensibilities which continue to frustrate new fans who believe it is some by the numbers slasher or psychological drama. Finally, The Wicker Man. Possibly Christopher Lee’s best performance, same for Edward Woodward, same for (naked) Britt Ekland.
My Winner: The Exorcist.
Let us know which film you choose as the Best Picture of 1973!