Best Art Direction – 1970

Official Nominations: Patton. Airport. Tora Tora Tora. The Molly Maguires. Scrooge.

This, like Best Costume Design, is always a difficult one to argue against. You can add films to your list of nominations till the cows come home (damn cows always going AWOL), but generally the official nominations are fine. Patton picked up the win in 1970 and it’s expected. Airport is a close second, Scrooge as a period piece looks grimy and authentic. Tora Tora Tora is more notable for its Cinematography, while The Molly Maguires is the most likely choice to drop though it still looks good.

My Winner: Patton

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My Nominations: Patton. Airport. The Conformist. Cromwell. On A Clear Day We Can See Forever. Ryan’s Daughter.

I bring over a few new options to spice things up – a music, two historical epics, and The Conformist which remains one of the most beautiful movies of the Seventies. Cromwell is a watchable warts and all (ahem) drama while Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter is as big, bold, and excessive as you would expect while lacking the subtlety of his earlier work. Minnelli’s films always look gorgeous – I’m not a fan of the music or musicals in general, but there’s a definite style and love of how cinema should look, exemplified in On A Clear Day We Can See Forever.

My Winner: The Conformist

Best Foreign Film – 1970

Official Nominations: Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion. First Love. Hoa-Binh. Paix Sur Les Champs. Tristana.

Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion was a worthy winner this year, a film which was touted for a remake starring Pacino and Walken – a lost classic no doubt. Gian Maria Volonte is a very bad cop – he has just murdered a woman and out of boredom, curiosity, and general psychopathic tendencies, he becomes involved in the case to mess with evidence, plant clues, and lead the rest of the force along by a leash. It’s twisting and turning and definitely a film with politics and satire which would have translated well in America. First Love is a straight adaptation of the Russian short about a teenager’s obsession with the girl next door and the secrets he unravels. Good cast but an ordinary enough film. Hoa-Binh is a French movie about a boy growing up in Vietnam in the war – it’s timely and non-judgmental aside from the obvious War Is Bad mantra, while Paix Sur Les Champs is about young love and old hate. Finally Tristana is another film watchable mainly because of the cast as we follow a young orphan who tries to live her own life but struggles to find freedom – I make it sound worse than it actually is but you’ll only watch if you’re a Bunuel or Deneuve fan.

My Winner: Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion

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My Nominations: Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion. The Wild Child. Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders. Dodesukaden. The Conformist. The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis.

Only the official winner converts to my list. The Conformist is here too  – you already knew that. The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis is an interesting look at how some people can choose to ignore or manage to avoid full scale horror for more personal issues, and then how the two worlds collide. The Wild Child takes a subject which always inspires a morbid yet natural curiosity – that of a child abandoned by human civilization and raised entirely in ‘the wild’ – and gives us a dark and touching film, with Truffaut writing, directing, and why the hell not, starring. Dodesukaden is a strange one for Kurosawa – a film with multiple characters and stories converging on a town built in a dump (junk yard in US?) and was a critical failure, but it is funny, offbeat, and still showcases Kurosawa’s singular eye. Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders is one of the most bizarre horro movies you’ll ever see, but one of the most unique and daring too – it’s basically ‘girls go crazy when they hit puberty’ – but this leads to a myriad of vampires, witches, and wacky adventures. Go ahead and remake this, Hollywood, I dare ya. No seriously, I’d really love to see an up to date version of this.

My Winner: The Conformist

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Let us know in the comments what your favourite foreign film of 1970 is!

Best Original Song – 1970

Official Nominations: For All We Know – Lovers And Other Strangers. Whistling Away The Dark – Darling Lili. Till Love Touches Your Life – Madron. Pieces of Dreams – Pieces Of Dreams. Thank You Very Much – Scrooge.

The official winner of 1970, For All We Know, is known more popularly thanks to The Carpenters’ version, but Larry Meredith’s original is just as lovely. Whistling Away The Dark is a vain attempt to keep the old Hollywood Musical tradition alive – it actually isn’t too bad a song and keeps the whining of old at bay – it’s melancholy and tearfully hopeful, haunting but doesn’t quite hit all the marks for me. Till Love Touches Your Life is a bizarre song for a fairly average Western, a song with a sprinting guitar line and with strings and vocals which swell as the song progresses. Many big voice vocalists have covered this one as it lends itself to huge gulps of air. Pieces Of Dreams has been a difficult one to nail down as so many people have covered it – it’s an okay song crafted by Michel Legrand but nothing special. Thank You Very Much is another average one, lyrics better than the music as it’s all about Scrooge being dead while he thinks he is being praised.

My Winner: For All We Know – Lovers And Other Strangers.

My Nominations: Something In The Air – The Magic Christian. Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat – The Aristocats. You Don’t Know What’s Going On – Joe. Suicide Is Painless – MASH. Crumbling Land – Zabriskie Point.

I have picked five different songs from five films separate from the official picks. Thunderclap Newman’s Something In The Air is a bit of a cheat as it wasn’t expressly written for any movie, but it features so heavily in The Magic Christian that it feels like it was written for the movie. Everybody Wants To Be A Cat starts slowly but features a breathless, barnstorming finish. You Don’t Know What’s Going On feels exactly like the sort of song that The Academy would nominate – it has an unusual, interesting flavour which hadn’t really been seen in movies before. Exuma’s performance is tribal and powerful, and the chorus is infectious. Suicide Is Painless (even though the Manic Street Preachers version is superior) is a haunting, tuneful, soulful ballad, and it’s a mystery why it wasn’t nominated. Say what you will about Zabriskie Point, but it has a pretty good soundtrack, with Crumbling Land being maybe the most interesting – a unique foray into Country music by Pink Floyd. It feels more like a typical late sixties folk song to be honest, but its strange rhythms and vocals make it memorable.

My Winner: Suicide Is Painless – MASH

Let us know in the comments which song of 1970 you would pick!

Best Director – 1970

Official Nominations: Franklin J Schaffner. Robert Altman. Federico Fellini. Arthur Hiller. Ken Russell.

Schaffner picked up the win for Patton this year – one of the most legendary biopics of all time. We all know The Academy loves biopics, good or bad, but this at least is one of the best. While Scott gets the plaudits nowadays, Schaffner keeps in control of the epic scope and of course it was his decision to memorably open with Patton’s speech. Robert Altman made Brewster McCloud this year, but when you also make MASH in the same year, only one of those is going to be remembered. Another war film with a large scope and cast, it is different from Patton in many ways, but Altman is able to leave his stamp on the film. Fellini gets a nomination for Satyricon a year after it was release in Europe, Ken Russell gets the same for Women In Love, while Arthur Hiller has a nomination handed to him by virtue of how successful Love Story was. If we drop Hiller from the list, it’s a tough toss-up between the remaining directors. We can drop Fellini and Russell simply because their movies came out the previous year – Women In Love also receives further official nominations this year. That leaves our two war films.

My Winner: Robert Altman.

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My Nominations: Franklin J Schaffner. Robert Altman. George Seaton. William Freidkin. Mike Nichols. Jean Pierre Melville. Bernardo Bertolucci. Bob Rafelson. John Huston.

I’m removing Ken Russell and Fellini from my list, partly because their movies were released in previous years and so that I can free up some more space. Seaton and Rafelson get nominations for two movies which were heavily nominated elsewhere but missed out here – Airport and Five Easy Pieces respectively. Freidkin takes controversial subject matter off the stage and onto film, again proving how adept he was at adapting theatrical work, getting the maximum power from scenes filmed in essentially small spaces. Mike Nichols took his first hit with Catch-22 – a film released at the wrong time when Patton and MASH grabbed the limelight, but it’s an adaptation worth re-visiting. John Huston returned to the world of spies with the altogether more serious film The Kremlin Letter, a stark and dense vision of a twisting world. We continue to move away from the US for my final nominations – to France for Melville’s La Cercle Rouge, another heavily stylized thriller, probably overlong, but which build’s to one of cinema’s finest heist scenes. To Italy finally for The Conformist as Bertolucci extravagantly shows us one man’s journey through life in a turbulent time, crafting a visual treat unlike anything else released in 1970.

My Winner: Bernardo Bertolucci.

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Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Director of 1970!

 

Best Supporting Actress – 1970

Official Nominations: Helen Hayes. Karen Black. Lee Grant. Sally Kellerman. Maureen Stapleton.

Unusually, Helen Hayes was the first person to win in both Lead and Supporting categories with her win for Airport this year. I would have assumed such an event occurred much earlier, but there ya go. Airport is a strange one – it’s not a film, or perhaps more accurately, it’s not a genre that you think of when you think of award winning performances. The Hayes win is a strange one, clearly The Academy handed the award to her for years of service, but then she already had one so…

At the other end of the road was Karen Black, just staring out on her career and having already cemented herself as something of a potential cult icon thanks to her appearance in Easy Rider. In Five Easy Pieces she gets to truly show her chops – no mean feat when she was doing it alongside Jack Nicholson. She is Nicholson’s bit on the side for the duration of the movie, using her sexually, reluctantly dragging her along wherever he goes, and while we see her through his eyes for most of the film Black’s performance stands out on its own in showing a woman with flaws and dreams as much as Bobby. Lee Grant also received a veteran nomination, though her career had been on the rise in recent years. The Landlord is another interesting one, a low budget discourse on racial tension and the desire of the young to be free of the expectations of the old, funny and sad together. Grant’s performance is okay, not a huge role, but fine. Sally Kellerman got a strange nomination for an ensemble piece where the men are the major focus, and Maureen Stapleton received her second nomination as the wife of Airport’s central antagonist. All fine performances, but there’s one clear winner here.

My Winner: Karen Black.

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My Nominations: Karen Black. Susan Anspach. Tuesday Weld. Susan Sarandon.

Only Karen Black makes it over to my list, and joining her is her Five Easy Pieces co-star Susan Anspach – a temptress and escape for Jack Nicholson’s character but one who refuses to be part of is roaming. Tuesday Weld is a different sort of temptress for a different sort of man in I Walk The Line, while Susan Sarandon makes a decent entrance as the runaway daughter of a man sick of counter-culture in Joe. Yeah, I couldn’t think of too many other performances this year I loved.

My Winner: Karen Black.

Let us know in the comments who you think should have won the Best Supporting Actress award for 1970!

Best Supporting Actor – 1970

Official Nominations: John Mills. Richard S Castellano. Chief Dan George. Gene Hackman. John Marley.

John Mills was always going to get nominated or be a winner eventually, and this was his year. It’s a bit of an embarrassing performance and it’s an odd one out in any normal year – this year though we have some strange/interesting nominations. Speaking of, Chief Dan George at the ripe old age of 71 got his most famous part alongside Dustin Hoffman in in Little Big Man, opening doors for other Native American performers. Similarly, Castellano hit the big time in Lovers And Other Strangers, while Gene Hackman was on the rise and could do no wrong getting another nomination in I Never Sang For My Father. Finally, John Marley, a veteran of big and small screen ensures another nod for Love Story as Jenny’s dad.

My Winner: Chief Dan George

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My Nominations: Chief Dan George. Gene Hackman. George Kennedy. Leonard Frey. Robert Duvall.

Only two from the main list, and I’m struggling to pull over any additional strong supporting performances. Kennedy was in three films this year, but we’ll give him the nomination for Airport. Leonard Frey would find greater success the following year, but he’s very good in The Boys In The Band. This is probably a good place to give MASH it’s acting nomination so we’ll hand it to Robert Duvall for an early, surly performance.

My Winner: Chief Dan George

Let us know in the comments who you would pick as the Best Supporting Actor of 1970!

Best Actress – 1970

Official Nominations: Glenda Jackson. Jane Alexander. Ali Macgraw. Carrie Snodgrass. Sarah Miles.

The official winner this year was Glenda Jackson for Women In Love – a contentious decision in many eyes. I’ve never had a problem with the performance and Jackson was a perfect fit, bringing a sexual prowess and theatrical force to create a whirlwind whole. Jane Alexander is fine in The Great White Hope, bringing her Tony Award winning performance to the screen alongside her stage colleague James Earl Jones – Jones is the one you pay attention to here though. Ali Macgraw’s nomination is a strange one – Love Story was a huge success so I guess all the buzz around her and the movie was enough to entice everyone – it’s an okay performance, but nothing you would ever pick. Carrie Snodgrass burst onto the screen with her sort-of-debut Diary Of A Mad Housewife – a frustrated and ironically funny performance in a strangely depressing comedy (notable for an early appearance by Alice Cooper and friends). Finally, David Lean returned with another epic in Ryan’s Daughter – a film much maligned at the time but which still garnered a nomination for Sarah Miles – it’s fine, but feels like a pity nomination.

My Winner: Glenda Jackson.

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My Nominations:  Glenda Jackson. Carrie Snodgrass. Eva Marie Saint. Jenny Agutter. Candice Bergen.

This was a pretty poor year for leading actress performances in all honesty. I’m adding Eva Marie Saint for Loving because I like the idea of her being nominated instead of some of the official ones – it’s as good a performance as those anyway. In that vein, I’m also nominating Jenny Agutter for The Railway Children – not a film I love, but a good performance by someone I do. That means I just need one more to round up to five aaaand, why not – Candice Bergen in the graphic Soldier Blue.

My Winner: Glenda Jackson

Let me know in the comments who your pick for the Best Actress of 1970 is!

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!