Best Cast – 1970

First, apologies for my absence last week – I was gallivanting around the countryside and couldn’t be arsed doing any internet things. Now, this:

My Nominations: Airport. Catch-22. Cromwell. Five Easy Pieces. Kelly’s Heroes. The Kremlin Letter. MASH. Ryan’s Daughter.

Another of my favourite categories, in that it has been unsullied by Academy rules and politics, this one you are free to choose between ensemble performance, a smaller group of strong performances within a larger cast, or simply having a stellar cast performing together. Pick what you like, basically. With the 70s, many of my most favourite performers, and some of the most respected of all time, began coming to the fore meaning we have films with these up and comers reaching their peak in films alongside past masters and veterans. The historical epic was given way to smaller director led films, though there was still plenty of room for films with ensembles thanks to the disaster movie.

Airport surely kicks things off having both a large cast of stars and a couple of acting awards and nominations. The cast includes Burt Lancaster, Helen Hayes, Dean Martin, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, George Kennedy, and Jacqueline Bisset, and doesn’t only feature them in minor roles. Likewise, Catch-22 goes for big names with Alan Arkin, Orson Welles, Anthony Perkins, Martin Sheen, Bob Newhart, Jon Voight, Art Garfunkel, Martin Balsam, Bob Balaban, and others as military misfits. MASH gives its key players bigger roles – from Donald Sutherland to Elliot Gould, Tom Skerritt to Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall to Carl Gottlieb. On the smaller side of things, Five Easy Pieces features strong outings from Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Susan Anspatch and The Kremlin Letter has Bibi Andersson, Orson Welles, Max Von Sydow, Richard Boone, Nigel Green and more.

My final three choices are more of the same – Kelly’s Heroes brings together old pals Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas once again, Cromwell sees Timothy Dalton joining Richard Harris, Alec Guiness, Patrick Wymark, Charles Gray and others while Ryan’s Daughter has Sarah Miles, Robert Mitchum, Trevor Howard, and John Mills hamming things up.

My Winner: MASH

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It’s a toss-up between the ensembles, so in the end it may come down to who you prefer or which film you like more. Let us know in the comments which film of 1970 you would give the Best Cast Award to!

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Best Stunt Work – 1970

My Nominations: Brewster McCloud. They Call Me Trinity. Catch-22. Little Big Man. Kelly’s Heroes. Tora Tora Tora.

We return to one of my favourite awards, namely because it has never been an official award, and also because stunts are one of those things which draw you to Cinema at a young age – a good stunt will stay in your mind just as much as a powerful line of dialogue or piece of acting. Many people will tell you that, for practical stunts, the 1970s are the finest decade. Certainly we saw an explosion of car chases and stunts, and not only on the big screen, but also through hit TV shows which continued into the 80s, such as CHiPs, Knight Rider, The A-Team, The Dukes Of Hazard etc etc. There’s something unique about the stunts of this era – the way they were filmed, up close, from multiple angles, with realism, and with plenty of slow mo. And they always seemed to take place on some dusty LA highway or desert road. Brewster McCloud has a plethora of stunts, from the aforementioned car chases and crashes to fisticuffs, well placed bird crap, and a boy flying like Icarus. Little Big Man features some stunts which deserve to be more well known and are visually iconic if not part of the public consciousness – the horsework and leaping from carriages here is second to none. They Call Me Trinity doesn’t come near the iconic status of the other films, but is still an underrated and very funny spaghetti western with plenty of action.

Our last three movies are three standard war movies each with their own flavor of action and stunts – Tora Tora Tora most notable of course for its aerial scenes – the same can be said for Catch-22, while Kelly’s Heroes is a more traditional mixture of gunplay, tanks, explosions, and punch-ups.

My Winner: Brewster McCloud

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1970 you would hand the Best Stuntwork Award to!

Best Visual Effects – 1970

Official Nominations: Tora Tora Tora. Patton

Tora Tora Tora is the more action packed movie and has more obvious effects work – dated now of course, but fair for the time. Patton isn’t a film you think of when you think Visual Effects, but I get that they wanted to keep their nominations to certain types of movies.

My Winner: Tora!Tora!Tora!

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My Nominations: Tora!Tora!Tora! Beneath The Planet Of The Apes. Kelly’s Heroes.

It’s a new decade and the first decade where computer generated wizardry would come to the fore. That is in a few years time though, so for now we are making do with those maestros of puppets and pyrotechnics. As such, we look to War and Action movies for spectacle – sci-fi and horror were out of popularity at this point. It’s slim pickings this year, even with the various War movies – Kelly’s Heroes and BTPOTA both feature fairly standard effects.

My Winner: Tora!Tora!Tora!

Let us know in the comments which film of 1970 has the best Special Effects!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1970

Official Nominations: MASH. Airport. Lovers And Other Strangers. I Never Sang For My Father. Women In Love.

There are a few films I’m surprised to see missing out this year, especially when they are exactly what typically get nominated. Larry Kramer and Ken Russell crafted the script for Women In Love, a largely faithful adaptation which balances theme presented via dialogue with performance and visuals. I Never Sang For My Father is a little film which says a lot, again the screenplay allows room for performance rather than relying entirely on obtuse or emotive outbursts while Lovers And Other Strangers is just the sort of light distraction some people desired in 1970. Airport and MASH were always going to be the forerunners, and MASH is the more deserving winner.

My Winner: MASH

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My Nominations: MASH. Airport. Women In Love. Little Big Man. Patton. The Boys In The Band. Cromwell. The Magic Christian. Dodesukaden. The Conformist.

Yeah, I’m putting Patton here – it’s where it should be. I add two offbeat choices in Kurosawa’s Dodesukaden, perhaps the strangest film he ever directed (about people who live in a dump/junk yard) and The Magic Christian which brings together one of the oddest casts ever seen on film to make an episodic skit-show adaptation. Cromwell probably deserved a nomination but by this point audiences were not so interested in historical epics, The Boys In The Band would have been a bold nomination, and Little Big Man was a bit of a snub. Finally – The Conformist – a film as dense in theme as it is beautiful.

My Winner: MASH

Let us know in the comments which film you would award the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for 1970!

Best Writing (Original) – 1970

Official Nominations: Patton. Five Easy Pieces. Joe. Love Story. My Night At Maud’s.

Patton was a deserving winner this year thought it doesn’t sit so nicely with me given that it’s a biopic – biopics to me, especially those which strive to be as close to reality as possible, never feel original. You have Patton’s entire life to pull from – his own speeches, witness testaments etc etc, so this isn’t something which was simply pulled from nowhere. Hell, it was even based on a couple of biographies. Obviously it was well written, but I don’t know if it belongs here. Carole Eastman on the other hand crafted her original Screenplay for Five Easy Pieces the more traditional way. It’s not one which is famously quotable, but I put that down to fewer people having seen it over the years. Everyone knows Love Story, but it’s really only here for a couple of soppy one-liners that don’t really make sense. My Night At Maud’s is a film all about the script and dialogue given that the action is largely replaced with text. As a foreign film it’s a strange nomination as it never stood a chance at winning and was probably seen by a small circle outside of the critics. It’s a good screenplay though but not one I would choose over some of the other films. Joe is the final nomination and it gets my win. It’s interesting because it is both dated and yet mirrors much of what is happening in North America and across the world today. Norman Wexler’s scripts were always of their time and never shied away from delving into the grittier points of subculture – the Academy would never pick it, I’m still surprised it was even nominated, but it gets my vote.

My Winner: Joe

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My Nominations: Five Easy Pieces. Joe. The Aristocats. Brewster McCloud.

I add three to my list – The Aristocats probably shouldn’t be here as it’s not even that interesting a movie but it’s fairly unique for Disney. Brewster McCloud is just funny, will make you laugh guaranteed, and is a precursor to a lot of movies which would come in a few years time. Any pick is fine, but when humour works, go with humour.

My Winner: Brewster McCloud

Let us know in the comments which film gets your vote for Best Original Screenplay of 1970!

Best Animated Feature – 1970

My Nominations: The Aristocats. 30,000 Miles Under the Sea. The Phantom Toll Booth

In the seventies we were still so ‘early’ in the lifecycle of animated movies that Disney essential owned the market. As the decade progressed, Japan would see increased output of increasing quality and a few more companies would begin to emerge. MGM’s The Phantom Tollbooth has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes but was not a success and MGM’s animation studio closed soon after. I prefer this to the similar (in style) Bedknobs and Broomsticks. 30,000 Miles Under The Sea is another early Toei Animation fantasy with plenty of action, but I think we all know what the winner here will be. The Aristocats is a minor Disney movie though fairly unique with its animal characters and musical approach.

My Winner: The Aristocats.

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Let us know in the comments which animated feature of 1970 you would pick as winner!

Best Score – 1970

Official Nominations: Love Story. Airport. Cromwell. Patton. I Girasoli. Let It Be. The Baby Maker. A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Darling Lili. Scrooge.

This year the category was again split in two – with Love Story winning in the ‘Not A Musical’ category, and Let It Be winning the Best Score or Adaptation category. It’s not surprising that Love Story won here – the main piano theme by is synonymous with tragedy and has been used in other media, usually for comedy purposes. It’s a great piece, it feels a little Western, tragic in nature, haunting, sweet, but also quite weird or alien. While none of the other pieces reach these heights of being recognizable many of them are nice and simple and memorable for anyone who has seen the film, running the gamut from pastoral love themes to barren sadness. Alfred Newman’s soundtrack is tense and pulsating – a lot of bass and a high tempo, interrupted by stabbing high strings, while also giving a sense of the rushing, bustle, and escapism suggested by airports. The soundtrack does have other notable moments – a lazy love theme staving off the tension of the flight and landing. Frank Cordell’s theme for Cromwell is surprisingly operatic and reminds me of the later The Omen and even the even later Conan The Barbarian while Jerry Goldmsith works his magic once again on Patton. His knack for brief cues and refrains is superb, and everyone will recognise those fading, recurring triple notes which open the movie while the stirring strings and flutes lurk in. The whole soundtrack is rousing, passionate, patriotic, but doesn’t celebrate in war – remembering the tragedy and sacrifice. Our last nomination in this side of the category comes from Italy – I Girasoli or The Sunflower sees Henry Mancini lending some heartfelt sadness to the tragic drama – the main theme shares a lot with that of Love Story. 

Let It Be speaks for itself, a collection of songs which appear on the album of the same name, albeit in different forms, along with covers and songs from other albums. A Boy Named Charlie Brown shouldn’t really be here given that it came out in 1969 while The Baby Maker is a bizarre choice on the surface – Fred Karlin’s soundtrack peppered with hippy folk sensibility, rock freakouts, and light flute notes. The final nominations are less surprising – with both Darling Lili and Scrooge being musicals. Musicals being what they are, I tend to think of the actual songs before the soundtrack so neither stand out for me from an incidental point of view. Let It Be easily wins in the second category for me, but the first is much more difficult as each is a worthy choice.

My Winner(s): Patton and Let It Be

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My Nominations: Patton. Let It Be. Love Story. Cromwell. The Aristocats. The Bird With The Crystal Plummage. Gimme Shelter. Woodstock. Kelly’s Heroes. MASH. Zabriskie Point.

I bring only three over to the dark side – if Let It Be gets nominated, then so surely must Gimme Shelter and Woodstock – both featuring great music and performances from some of the most important bands of all time. I have to throw The Aristocats in there because, even though I’m not a huge fan of the film or of Jazz, it is a film about music and has a certain vibe and energy to it. A much easier nomination would be MASH – aside from the obvious Suicide Is Painless theme, there are other mini compositions which bring humour to the military standards. Another obvious one for me is Zabriskie Point – another soundtrack featuring popular artists of the time, but one which blends songs with instrumental pieces. Lalo Schifrin brings the funk to Kelly’s Heros – a carefree swagger characterized by Eastwood and Co in the movie while Ennio Morricone got it together with Dario Argento long before Goblin did, and in doing so created something creepy and beautiful (if a little similar to Rosemary’s Baby in places).

My Winner: Patton.

Let us know in the comments which Score of 1970 you would pick as winner!