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!

Stripes

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I think I have come to a shocking revelation; I’m not a huge Bill Murray fan. Sure I like him, and I enjoy plenty of the movies he has been in – particularly in the early days, but he’s rarely laugh out loud funny for me. Stripes is another good Billy Murray movie where he is supported by an terrific comedy cast – it is those guys who evoke the most laughter from me and I always get that gnawing suspicion that this film, and even a few other Murray classic might have been better with someone else in his place. Blasphemy, I know! I’ve no idea who that other person may be but still, that suspicion rears its head, chomping away at me and saying everyone else is laughing, why aren’t you laughing you weirdo? Stripes is one late 70s, early 80s cult comedy classic that had always somehow passed me by – while plenty of the films made around the same time by the same cast, writers, directors are ones I grew up with, Stripes is a film I only came to in recent years.

Murray plays a deadbeat taxi driver who loses his job, girlfriend, and apartment after a particularly bad day – in classic Murray fashion this all drifts off his back in a carefree way. Looking for something to pass the time rather than any higher notion, he encourages his friend (Harold Ramis) to join the army with him. As this is the 80s, they set off and hi-jinks ensue. We meet a variety of cadets and commanders, as portrayed by some of Hollywood’s finest and a fair few up and coming comedy stars – Warren Oates, PJ Soles, Judge Reinhold, and John Candy are some of the recognizable faces. Like any other number of movies of similar ilk, we get training skits showing how Ramis and Murray rub against authority but eventually, and nonsensically, they complete training and are sent on a top secret mission.

To the film’s credit, it resolves the conflict between maintaining a semblance of plot while the slacker skits are played out – the comedians are given free-rein, but only as much as the plot will allow. The plot is by the by, but it’s enough to keep us engaged whereas a series of unrelated bits would have just fallen flat. The comedy mixes slapstick with deadpan slacker humour, light satire, visual gags, and mini stand-up routines. It doesn’t go the juvenile way of Police Academy though there are moments of raunch and sex comedy, and the general tone is one of playful anarchy. If it was one I grew up with, like the aforementioned cop series, or some of John Candy’s hits, then I’m sure I would hold more fondness for this, but watching as a new customer it gets a few laughs, chuckles, and holds the attention, but not much more than that.

Is Stripes one of your favourite comedy’s? How do you think it ranks alongside other comedies of the time and subsequent slacker type movies? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To Madonna – Bedtime Stories!

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Greetings, Glancers! The last time we spoke of Madonna, she had released her most controversial and sexually charged album to date – Erotica. It was fine, and while I loved many of the ideas, most of the music didn’t make my nuts tingle. With Bedtime Stories, Madonna wanted to remind fans and the population at large that she wasn’t merely some orgasmic vixen but that she had other layers and furrows – like we all have. As you would expect, the album was yet another major success and proceeded to break new ground for Madonna while influencing later artists. But what do I think of it? Looking at the track list I see the album garnered four singles, though only one of them I can remember from the name; I’m sure once I hear some of the others I will remember them too. As always, listen along, weep at my thoughts, and drop your comments below!

Survivor‘. Beeps. Drum sounds. Voices. I don’t think I’ve heard this, but it’s very 90s RnB. Different sound from anything she had so far. It’s quite plain and tame actually. I don’t think the melodies would lodge in my head.

Secret‘. Guitar. Noise. Vocals. Better melodies. I was about to type that I don’t recall this, but the chorus sounds familiar, pretty sure I have heard that piece at least. I do like the different direction of sound, but neither of these two songs are emotional or melodic enough to grab me on first listen.

I’d Rather Be Your Lover‘. Portishead. Falls apart at vocals. Better in verses. Sexy without being as obvious as the last album. It doesn’t make the melodic impact again. Disaster rap. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t recognise many of the song names, possibly that’s because the album didn’t have any obvious hits that I would remember 20 years after the fact – and we tend to most readily remember songs with melodies which have an impact.

Don’t Stop‘. 90s RnB pop beats. Oh dear. Terrible lyrics. No, absolutely awful lyrics. This one is trying to be sexy, I think, but it’s juvenile and clueless. Nothing positive to say about this one I’m afraid. There’s about 100 seconds of material here, yet the song is almost five minutes long. Sort it out.

Inside Of Me‘. Sex breath. Let your mind conjure some images from that phrase. At least this one feels sexy. A strange girly voice. Better melodies. Lyrics don’t appear to be about sex, more about sadness and hope. This is the best song yet, though that isn’t saying much. Still, it’s another good Madonna song that I wasn’t aware of.

Human Nature‘. Screeching RnB. Express yourself, don’t repress yourself. Yes, but more importantly – don’t be a dick about it. Sweary lyrics. Another new voice. A reaction to the public reaction to her last album? Or related to some relationship? So, good lyrics, silly music, melodies of no consequence.

Forbidden Love‘. More slow, smooth beats. Even though I don’t like a lot of these songs, the Production is always right on the money for the period. It’s another case of bland versus followed by a marginally better chorus. She sings with a more traditional Madonna voice this time around. The first part of the chorus hints at something great, but it fizzles out. This is one of the better songs on the album so far.

Love Tried To Welcome Me‘. Hiss. Strings. Good? Guitar. Jangles. Promising. Smooth RnBeats. I feel like this would have had more impact if it had a different production or backing music. It’s already stripped back, but those beats don’t really work. This one is quite sad, quite good, and the chorus is fine. Doesn’t reach the heights. Feels like a good one for a rainy day window view.

Sanctuary‘. Words. Familiar melody. More beats. Odd pipes. Bass. Quite unusual, though quite nice. Mysterious. A lot of songs on the album don’t feel like Madonna songs, maybe because these are not straightforward, simple pop songs like we are used to. More spoken words. The melodies are a little repetitive here, but still hypnotic.

‘Bedtime Story’. Throb sounds. Sex sounds. Portishead again. More threatening tone. Back beat. Feels like a centerpiece. There’s the dated beats. It does feel sort of dreamy in a warm, sultry, heroin snuggly way. It’s all monotone though. I don’t mind this one, has the shadows, has the nice dark tone I love for night driving with the warm air grooving, or drifting off to sleep in a daze.

‘Take A Bow’. Ah, I know this one. It’s quite sweet. It feels like a tacked on song to the end of a darker album. Still it ends up being a highlight for me. It’s quite funny how different this is in tone from everything else. I like this one – I can’t see it changing anyone’s world, but there is an innocence, a Michael Jackson vibe, and easy hooks.

Looking at the cover art and with the backlash from her previous album I was expecting this to be a more mainstream, melodic, pop-based affair, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a dance album, ‘bedtime’ simply means sex, and none of the songs really work as obvious singles, outside of the final track. Credit for continuing to experiment and try different things but it’s not to my tastes. Most of the songs are too… empty? There isn’t any emotion or enough variance – experiment all you want, but you still need something to pull people in and keep them. The album was a success so clearly I’m in the minority. Since when has anyone listened to me anyway?

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Bedtime Stories. Is this one of Madonna’s best, or are you a n’fan (not a fan)? Next up it’s ah… it’s Evita. Don’t cry for me, but I really don’t know much about the music from it, aside from the pun I just made. I think I’ll listen only to the actual songs, not the other guff that is probably included too. Adios!

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!