Best Picture – 1972

Official Nominations: The Godfather. Deliverance. Cabaret. The Emigrants. Sounder.

1972 largely continued the successful changes which 71 started with the new breed of actors and directors coming to power. This is highlighted by The Godfather which introduced the world to some of the most powerful figures in Hollywood for the rest of the century. Many still cite this as the greatest film of all time, it is easily my pick for this year’s best film, and its influence can be seen today in a wide range of media. It is epic in every sense of the word, groundbreaking, genre-defining, and timeless. There isn’t much else I can say about it here so I’ll move onto the competition.

Boorman’s Deliverance at another time could have won the award, a deeply unsettling and frankly accurate look at one of America’s darker underbellies and at how modern civilized man can be hopeless when confronting nature or something outside of their experience. There are several monumental scenes, an effective, evocative soundtrack, tight direction, and a cast who give possibly the best performances of their careers.

On the opposite end of the scale, the dreaded Musical is still hanging in there. It even attempts to be more modern and seedy to cash in on the shifts in society and Hollywood –  to its credit Cabaret at least looks the part – Bob Fosse and Liza Minelli run the show. However, looks are one thing, music is another and here the songs are hideous. Add that to the fact that the story doesn’t do anything for me personally and it’s not a film which is going to do well in my rundown of awards.

The other two options this year stood no chance against the top three – The Emigrants and Sounder are both films no-one remembers and in addition they seem like odd nominations; the former being a Swedish film which appeared in the previous year’s Best Foreign Film category, while the latter is a very good, but small drama.

My Winner: The Godfather

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My Nominations:  The Godfather. Deliverance. Fist Of Fury. The Getaway. The Last House On The Left. Way Of The Dragon. Last Tango In Paris.

The two big shots transfer to my list, joining a quintet of classics. The Getaway is a perfect match for McQueen and Peckinpah but was a film which the critics did not love at the time. The only one of my picks I could see getting an official nomination is of course Last Tango In Paris. Perhaps it was too controversial, but either way it wasn’t going to win against The Godfather – the film would go on to receive two nominations for Best Actor and Best Director the following year. My last three choices are personal and stand not even the remotest chance of being nominated for such things, but regardless, each is a defining moment for their respective genres and a prime example of their art.

The Last House On The Left is mean, repulsive, cheap, and brilliant – gotta love those Keystone cops. It’s as shocking as The Exorcist would prove to be and while most of the performances are forgettable the violence and action will stay in your soul and stomach forever. It’s essential viewing for horror fans. Essential viewing for action movie fans are Fist Of Fury and The Way Of The Dragon – both Bruce Lee classics. In Fist Of Fury, Lee deals with racism, rival schools, and local authorities, taking them out with honour and rage in a variety of fantastic fight scenes but haunted by fatalism and futility. In Way Of The Dragon the action is moved to Rome where racism and mobsters rule and again Lee must defend those he loves and his own identity. The fights in The Colosseum are superb, Lee (who also writes and directs) commands every scene he is in, whether fighting or not. It may be the best Martial Arts movie of all time.

My Winner: The Godfather

Let us know in the comments which film you picked as the Best Picture 1972!

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Best Picture – 1971

Official Nominations: A Clockwork Orange. The French Connection. The Last Picture Show. Fiddler On The Roof. Nicholas And Alexandra.

1971 was a great year for films and for the Oscars as they mostly got everything right. With so many strong films though, only a panel of comatose cyborgs would get it wrong. William Friedkin would come to popularity (after releasing a few art-house and small films) this year with the action-packed thriller The French Connection, highly regarded as one of the best cop films ever. As well as the perfect partnership between Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider the film is famous for its breathless car chase and for being the first R rated film to win Best Film. Unlike films of just a few years before this feels modern timeless, and the script, characterizations, and story don’t feel like they have aged at all. It would be difficult to argue against this film winning the main award, but the year had a couple of other masterpieces.

Stanley Kubrick returned after a three year hiatus bringing one of the most famously controversial films ever made to screen. He turned Anthony Burgess’s novel into a funny, scary, futuristic vision of the world and filling it with violence, bizarre imagery, sex, and some of the most famous scenes ever committed film. Not shying away from the argot which Burgess used in the novel, Kubrick creates a flawless social commentary on youth, on fear, on paranoia, on authority and any number of other subjects. The lack of redemption which appears in the movie serves Kubrick’s typically bleak style and sets up McDowell’s character Alex as an anti-hero for the ages. The film was banned in many countries including Britain for content, for its messages, yet today it stands as a powerful look at an extreme, yet not impossible future. The cast is uniformly brilliant, McDowell is never better, the classical score is used as a plot device rather than simply background noise, and everything moves at a sickening pace.

Just as famous and proof that the musical was still dragging its tippedy tappedy heels around is The Fiddler On The Roof. Unusual for a musical is that the story is mildly interesting, Williams’ score is decent, while the songs are bouncy enough but hardly memorable. Topol gives a good performance as the poor Jewish lead but the film is largely forgettable. Also forgettable is Schaffner’s Nicholas and Alexandra. It is epic, tragic, inspiring, but lacks the strength in its cast to make it as powerful as it could have been.

That leaves Bogdanovich’s smart coming of age drama The Last Picture Show to complete the roster. Featuring all round wonderful performances, particularly from Bridges, Johnson, and Bottoms and filmed in beautiful black and white it is probably the director’s best. It is a much more simple film than the two big ones here but equally as affecting. My winner is A Clockwork Orange for its daring, for its shocks, for the visual flare, and for an engaging story which forces your brain to tick rather than tide over, though either of the other two big boys would be a worthy winner.

My Winner: A Clockwork Orange

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My Nominations: A Clockwork Orange. The French Connection. The Last Picture Show. The Big Boss. Wake In Fright. Get Carter. THX 1138. Walkabout. McCabe & Mrs Miller. The Devils.

As is generally the case I expand my search to the wider movie world, bringing in Britain, Hong Kong, and Hong Kong into the mix. The Big Boss is the first true Bruce Lee film and remains a startling introduction to his performing skills, and not just as a fighter. It’s a fairly straight film with Lee helping out his neverending group of cousins and investigating corruption and murder in a small town but it has an energy and inspired rebellious spirit like few other films. McCabe & Mrs Miller is another Robert Altman classic – he had a string of these all the way through this period – this seems just as worthy of a nomination as those which got one. With no chance of getting such honours, The Devils remains one of the most highly sought after and rarely seen controversial movies – certainly not an easy watch it nevertheless is one of a kind.

Get Carter is one of the finest British movies of the decade, and for my money one of the last truly great British films. Wake In Fright is equally one of Australia’s best – a biting satire with gripping action, machismo, violence, and a stark style while Walkabout is a joint venture between the two countries and offering a different but equally deadly glimpse of the outback. It features some gorgeous cinematography and haunting images. Finally, THX 1138 is an early George Lucas effort before he set his sights on a galaxy far, far away. His dystopian film is a world away from what we think of when we think of George Lucas movies – this is stark, cold, but bold and inventive in crafting an imaginary world. The film was dismissed upon release but has been re-evaluated over time as a near-classic, a sign of a young writer, director finding his feet, and a chilling vision of a future which seems increasingly plausible.

My Winner: A Clockwork Orange

Let us know in the comments which film of 1971 you would pick as winner of the Best Picture Oscar!

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!

Best Picture – 1969

Official Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. Anne Of A Thousand Days. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Hello Dolly. Z.

1969 saw a return to form and a return to the New Hollywood. With the new decade beckoning, Vietnam raging, and fear, paranoia, and crime rising throughout the country, many younger, more adventurous film makers were emerging. Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy was the first X Rated film to win best film, featuring rampant sex and knocking more than a few boundaries to grateful dust. Dustin Hoffman features again, his relationship with newcomer Jon Voight proving highly effective. The film has memorable music, scenes, and dialogue, and portrays small town America, New York, and innocence in a less than glamorous or appealing light. This type of thins had rarely been seen before on screen even though it was surrounded audiences daily lives. Sandwiched between this and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, is the unfortunate and quite frankly embarrassed to be there Anne Of The Thousand Days. Between two films of brutal realism, and exciting freshness,  this out of touch costume drama looks like it was made during the time it was portrayed and stands out only because there are big name actors and silly clothes. Reportedly the studio plied the Academy with champagne and lavish meals to win them over. Thankfully good sense prevailed – it’s a by the numbers drama with a fine cast, but completely out of place here.

George Roy Hill’s BCATSK features Robert Redford and Paul Newman in their career defining, and probably best performances. The outlaws are portrayed in a sympathetic light, Bacharach’s famous song ensuring that we come to love these characters before they are inevitably frozen in sepia and bullets at the end. The many dreamlike sequences serve to both interrupt and strengthen the film showing that the director wasn’t sure to go for an all out adventure or merge with his prior aesthetic. Gene Kelly’s directed Hello, Dolly! is another Streisand musical, this time devoid of any music of note while Gavras’ Z is a stark, funny, and gripping thriller dealing with the assassination of a Greek politician. This one has largely become forgotten over the years but comes highly recommended for all lovers of freedom, common sense, and good movies.

Three very good films then this year, one of which has gone on to iconic status, one which is still highly revered, and one which should be re-consumed. It’s a tight one, but my choice as winner goes to Midnight Cowboy.

My Winner: Midnight Cowboy

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My Nominations: Midnight Cowboy.  Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Easy Rider. The Italian Job. The Wild Bunch. Z

I take the three main picks from the official list and add another three iconic films. Nothing says 1960’s counter-culture like Easy Rider and while it has dated more than some of the other movies in the list its importance cannot be underestimated. With Hopper, Fonda, and Nicholson, a realism and style which had never been mainstream before, and an assured and honest look at part of the country and its people which had been largely ignored by cinema, it is vital viewing. Not quite as influential but just as essential and a hell of a lot more fun is The Italian Job – some of the biggest names in British culture appear in this caper, probably the best of its type, and it is filled with quotable dialogue and memorable scenes all while moving at top speed. My final pick is one of the greatest Westerns ever made, a defining moment for the genre while simultaneously acting as a nail in the coffin for a genre which had dominated for the last couple of decades. Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch has the smarts to merge standard Western plot fare with ultra modern and vibrant techniques and sensibilities – the editing, the soul-searching, and of course the stylized violence are all significant. Peckinpah depicts a world filled with aging men well past their best days, yet still trying to survive using their old wits as time marches on with increasing brutality.

My Winner: The Wild Bunch.

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What is your pick for the Best Picture of 1969? Do you pick something from my list, or the official one, or something different entirely? Let us know in the comments!

Best Picture – 1968

Official Nominations: Oliver! Funny Girl. The Lion In Winter. Rachel Rachel. Romeo And Juliet.

1968 is a let down after such a groundbreaking year in ’67. Considering 2001: A Space Odyssey was not even nominated we can safely assume that the panel was either drunk or had been replaced by singing jellyfish. We have fallen back on the old familiar face of musicals and costume dramas, and although these are some of the best, that is like picking a favourite episode of Tellytubbies. The irony is that aside from the failed nominations, 1968 is one of the great years for groundbreaking movies.

Great performances, nifty sets, and some annoying brain drilling songs stop Oliver! from being a complete bare-ass towel slap. Much of Dickens’s darker stuff was removed as these sorts of musicals are largely aimed at children and idiots, and the film is at least 40 minutes too long. At least much of it looks grim, although then again being a homeless orphan surrounded by rapists and murderers has never looked so appealing.

Funny Face is another musical, this time starring Barbara Streisand and as such should never be spoken of again. The Lion In Winter is an Anthony Harvey directed costume drama featuring a strong cast and some ‘wonderful’ sets and costumes. The actors quickly chew these to pieces though and the film is forgotten. Paul Newman’s Rachel, Rachel is the only film worth speaking about at length here, although it isn’t really worth speaking about. It features strong female characters in a variety of situations and has some fine performances. Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is probably the best version of the story, bright, tragic, with a decent score and even some nudity thrown in. This is overall an extremely poor year for nominations and I’m struggling to pick a winner. Just to annoy as many people as possible though, I’ll go for Rachel, Rachel. It has no singing.

My Winner: Rachel, Rachel.

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My Nominations: 2001- A Space Odyssey. Bullitt. Night Of The Living Dead. Once Upon A Time In The West. Planet Of The Apes. The Producers. Rosemary’s Baby.

For the first time (I think) my list of Nominations does not feature any from the Official List, and each one of them is infinitely stronger, more important, and more entertaining than those actually selected. It is a mystery still why a number of these movies were not nominated and their absence must go down as some of the biggest snubs in Oscar history. 2001 is frequently cited as the greatest sci-fi movie of all time, one of the most influential films ever made, and is rarely far from the top of any fan or critic’s best overall movie. Similarly, Once Upon A Time In The West is regarded as one of the finest Westerns ever made, Rosemary’s Baby is a landmark in horror, and The Producers remains an endearing satire. From a purely entertainment perspective, Planet of The Apes is hard to beat – a great adventure led by a strong cast and ideas and closed with one of cinema’s most shocking twists, while Bullitt is another Steve McQueen vehicle featuring memorable performances, music, and car chases. If I’m choosing with my heart though, there can only be one winner this year for me, and that is George A Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead. Made on a shoestring with a bunch of amateurs and friends, more than any other horror film of its generation pulled the genre from the old world into the new – nothing is black or white, the main character can die, and sometimes the good guys don’t win. It is as powerful and haunting a horror movie as you will ever see and certain moments will live with you till you’re in the grave. AND BEYOND!

My Winner: Night Of The Living Dead.

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Best Picture – 1967

Official Nominations: In The Heat Of The Night. Bonnie And Clyde. Doctor Dolittle. The Graduate. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

As mentioned in my Awards summary post, this year marked a major shift in US culture, and in the movies which viewers wanted to see. There is one obviously out of place film here while every other entry deals with tougher stuff, from racism to violence to sexual taboos, all mirroring the shifting landscape of the time. Four of these films are superb, while Doctor Dolittle is a light, fluffy, yet still enjoyable piece – a very strong year. Doctor Dolittle went notoriously over budget and wasn’t well received critically or commercially, which makes it an extremely strange choice for Best Picture nominee – it’s almost as if The Academy just had to throw a musical in there to try to cling on to the past, or have something a little brighter amidst all of the chaos. Why they didn’t go for The Jungle Book if that was the case, remains a mystery – the story goes that Fox executives lavished Academy members with gifts in order to recoup losses and gain some positivity for the film. Nevertheless, some of the songs are fun, the locations and animals are pretty, and the performances are okay, but it is entirely out of place alongside the other features.

Official winner, In The Heat of The Night, is a timely piece given the subject matter and the race relations crisis in the US at the time. A startlingly frank and mature piece, the film deals with racism face on and doesn’t shy away from any controversy, featuring a number of iconic quotes and scenes. One of the first films to deal with an African American in a true position of power, in an honest fashion, it has a great script and fantastic performances – a worthy winner. Also dealing with racial issues, and also starring Sidney Poitier is Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner – ostensibly a comedy, but a revealing one given the subject matter of interracial marriage which was still illegal in many States of the US in 1967. A fine film with fine performances, it feels a little dated now and much of the comedy is too soft and of its time to hit the mark with current audiences. An altogether more fiery relationship can be seen in Bonnie And Clyde, ironically a film which does not feel as dated given the period depicted. A taboo blasting film, one which spoke to a younger generation of movie -goer, touching upon sex and violence in ways never depicted on screen before, and with two searing performances by its leads, it remains a classic, fast paced drama, filled with vitality. The final nomination also spoke to a New Generation of post-adolescents and depicting that hope of a lifetime for may – to be seduced by an older woman. Although it was handled in a humourous fashion, the writers discuss sex, seduction, infatuation with both youth and experience in a way that had never been seen before. Luckily the script is tight and the direction strong, and it is so filled with iconic moments that critics couldn’t fail to be charmed. Hoffman and Bancroft lead the strong cast, helping to make this my winner.

My Winner: The Graduate

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My Nominations: The Graduate. Bonnie And Clyde. Cool Hand Luke. In The Heat Of The Night. The Dirty Dozen. The Fearless Vampire Killers. Wait Until Dark. You Only Live Twice.

Three of the official winners come over to my list of nominations, joining a mixture of action, horror, drama, and comedy. Cool Hand Luke missing out on an official nomination always seemed like a strange snub,especially given its successes in other categories and with it being up against Doctor Doolittle. Cool Hand Luke is as iconic a 60s movie as any other you could name, and another which taps into the new wave of rebellion and desire for change which was sweeping the nation. Iconic moments, performances, and dialogue along with a good soundtrack and story which is both tragic and hopeful, it’s one which remains fresh and relevant today. Packing in the action and bringing together a ragtag group of outlaws and rebels to undertake a dangerous mission a la The Seven Samurai is the always enjoyable The Dirty Dozen – a film packed with stars which follows one of my favourite movie tropes – the identification of a select group, their training, and their mission – and its one of the best of its type. Polanski continues a fine run of form with The Fearlesss Vampire Killers, one of the original modern horror comedies which blends satire with farce, and animation with dreamlike fairytale visuals.Keeping on the horror side is an underrated one which apes Hitchcock more successfully that most which try – Terence Young’s Wait Until Dark. Featuring some of the most tense moments committed to film, it’s a shame this one is lesser known but inevitable that it will be remade, though who could top Hepburn, Arkin, and Crenna? My final nomination, and a controversial choice, is one of my favourite James Bond films – You Only Live Twice. Action packed, filled with great music and one liners, some of the best Production Design and set pieces in the series, strong bad guys, girls, and gadgets, it’s my selfish pick for the Best Film of 1967.

My Winner: You Only Live Twice.

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Do you agree with my picks? What is your favourite film of 1967? Let us know in the comments!

Best Picture – 1966

Official Nominations: Alfie. A Man For All Seasons. The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? The Sand Pebbles

1966 saw Beatlemania and a love of all things British making an impact on The Academy. It was the height of the Swinging 60s, and for a brief moment, London seemed like the Capital of the world again. Lewis Gilbert and Michael Caine teamed up to make one of their most popular films (Alfie) respectively, yet it now seems like an overly camp, overly out-of-time curio. Okay performances, but it’s possibly best viewed as a relic of a long lost era. Zinneman’s unfortunately uninspired A Man For All Seasons reeks of stage adaptation, though good performances save it from being unwatchable. Even with this British invasion, the final three films officially nominated are distinctly North American affairs. Jewison’s The Russians Are Coming (I won’t say it twice) is a daft farce, full of funny and ridiculous moments which Kafka would have been proud of, while Nichols’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? is a groundbreaking film mostly because of its adult content. Full of shocking language and innuendo for the time, as well as frank discussions about sex, the script is a powerful and engaging series of arguments and insults delivered well by the unexpected cast of Burton, Segal, Mason, and the beefed up Taylor. Viewers wondered if this was what Burton and Taylor were really like. In addition to this it must be noted that it is the only film ever to have been nominated in every category in which it was eligible. My winner though goes to the All-American The Sand Pebbles, by Robert Wise. The gung-ho cast of Steve McQueen, Mako, Attenborough, Crenna, and more make this a winner even though it is overly long and has the typical inaccuracies we come to expect when Hollywood speaks of the past. Even though Woolf is the best film here, I’ll go against the grain.

My Winner: The Sand Pebbles

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My Nominations: Blow Up. Born Free. Fahrenheit 451. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Torn Curtain. The Sand Pebbles. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Out of the official nominations, only The Sand Pebbles and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? get The Spac Hole’s Seal Of Approval. Added to my list of nominations are a selection of worldwide hits, most of which are rightly held up as classics today. Arguably Antonioni’s best film, Blowup merged Italian flair and lust with the exuberance of the British swinging sixties, all wrapped up in a boundary-pushing story of existentialism and murder. The sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll proved to be a hit with audiences and forced Hollywood to realise that the world had moved on, and was no longer only interested in white picket fences, singing and dancing, and dogs being swept away from Kansas. Bringing a different flair to Bradbury’s under-appreciated vision of the future, Truffaut’s Farenheit 451 does a decent job of capturing the fears of the story whilst delivering poignant visuals. Like Antonioni, this was Truffaut’s first English film. Keeping with the English theme, Hitchcock returns with Torn Curtain, a typically tight political thriller which few people speak of when regarding the Director’s best work. It may not be his best, but it is a highlight of his twilight career. In a completely different type of film, Born Free is a timeless tale of love, dedication, and nature, and is a movie which deserves to be shown to children yearly, just like The Snowman or It’s A Wonderful Life. My winner though has to be Leone’s masterpiece. After a few brilliant attempts, he cements everything that he set out to do to the Western genre, and gives us arguably the genre’s finest film. Violent, gritty, stunningly beautiful, and with iconic performances and a sharp script, it is one of the all-time greats.

My Winner: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

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What do you think is the best film of 1966? Or more importantly, what is your favourite of 1966? Let us know in the comments!