Best Cast – 1971

My Nominations: The Anderson Tapes. The French Connection. Klute. The Last Picture Show. McCabe And Mrs Miller. Nicholas And Alexandra. Walkabout. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.

Another year, and another chance to talk about my favourite category – pub time/break time/lunch time discussions over who should have won Best Film are all well and good, but this is where the real action is at. There are some undoubtedly great casts and performances this year, so lets take a look.

The Anderson Tapes is a film no-one remembers much now. Before The Conversation, before Watergate it takes a look at surveillance, with criminals, Feds, bugs, cameras etc all playing their part  – Sean Connery, Martin Balsam, Ralph Meeker, and Christopher Walken all feature. The French Connection is an obvious choice with both Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider being nominated individually and Fernando Rey as the primary villain. Klute features a masterclass by Jane Fonda, alongside Scheider (again) and Donald Sutherland while The Last Picture Show’s cast got a bunch of nominations and awards – Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Ellen Burstyn, Randy Quaid, and Cloris Leachman.

McCabe And Mrs Miler was largely snubbed this year, but we can add it here for Julie Christie, Warren Beatty, Shelly Duvall, Keith Carradine, Rene Auberjonois, while Nicholas And Alexandra featured Laurence Olivier, Jack Hawkins, Janet Suzman, Tom Baker, Michael Redgrave, Michael Jayston, Ian Holm, Curt Jurgens, Brian Cox and more. Walkabout mainly features three performers, Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil, and Luc Roeg, while Willy Wonka has a much larger ensemble lead by Gene Wilder but also with Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Julie Dawn Cole, Rusty Goffe and others.

My Winner: The Last Picture Show.

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Let us know in the comments what your winner for the Best Cast category is!

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Best Stunt Work – 1971

My Nominations: The French Connection. Vanishing Point. Shaft. Red Sun. Macbeth. Le Mans. A Fistful Of Dynamite. Evel Knievel. Duel. Dirty Harry. The Big Boss.

There’s an obvious winner here, and if you’ve looked at my nominations then you already know what it is. Let’s start in the east first – The Big Boss was the first real film to showcase Bruce Lee’s talents. It doesn’t have the scope of Lee’s later films, but it abandons the wuxia style so popular at the time for a prototype one man army style grit – the stunts are all real, dangerous, and pack a punch. Red Sun has gun fights, swordplay, a train robbery, while A Fistful Of Dynamite switches out the swordplay for explosions and motorcycles. Speaking of motorcycles, Evel Knievel features both manufactured stunts and real life jumps performed by Knievel and other performers while Le Mans does a similar job with cars, featuring plenty of real footage and simulated crashes.

Macbeth I throw in here just for having the audacity to be more visceral and charged than any other version till that point while Shaft has plenty of punches and gunshots on the way to its explosive finale. Dirty Harry features similar levels of stunts and action to Shaft while my final three picks are all car-heavy. The French Connection features a number of fights and chases, but is most notable for one of the most famous car chases in history – when a car chase enters pop culture, you know it’s good. Vanishing Point is almost entirely set in or following a car chase, and while there is just as much time spent enjoying the vastness and beauty of the US landscape the film has a throttle-down pace and plenty of skids, near misses, spins, and crashes. Finally, Steven Spielberg’s debut sees a malevolent truck causing mayhem in one long chase movie with as much suspense as stunt action.

My Winner: The French Connection.

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Let us know in the comments what your winning choice is!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1971

Don’t worry, I’m not dead! I think. I’ve been renovating my garage and internet has been off the grid for a while, but I’m back!

Official Nominations: The French Connection. A Clockwork Orange. The Conformist. The Garden Of The Finzi Continis. The Last Picture Show.

Two foreign movies unexpectedly make the grade – I’ve discussed them before and as they are both 1970 movies they won’t be in my category this year. The French Connection won this year, fictionalizing a non-fiction work by Robin Moore. The Last Picture Show is the story of any number of American youths over any number of years – an adaptation of the sort of biography by Larry McMurty. My win though goes to Kubrick’s retelling of A Clockwork Orange – enough similarities to the source material to follow the central plot and characters and dialogue, but with enough changes to make it stand on its own without harming the novel.

My Winner: A Clockwork Orange

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My Nominations: The French Connection. A Clockwork Orange. The Last Picture Show. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. Straw Dogs. The Devils. Get Carter. Johnny Got His Gun.

Three official choices make it over and join five others. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory gets rid of much of the frumptious dialogue of Dahl’s novel but keeps the spirit of wonder while allowing Gene Wilder free reign. Dahl wrote the main script but David Seltzer made many changes to it – adding songs, developing Slugworth – so much so that Dahl disowned the film. Straw Dogs is a very loose adaptation of an earlier novel, keeping some basic ideas and character names but streamlining into a tale of breakdown and revenge while The Devils takes a book which many would have deemed unfilmable and makes a movie which is now almost unwatchable due to availability. Get Carter is a mostly faithful retelling of Jack’s Return Home with plenty of hardass English gangster speak that actually makes sense (unlike that recent Cockney muck), while Johnny Got His Gun sees Dalton Trumbo re-write and film his own novel with the stark visuals heightening the anti-war sentiment and peppered with one-liners you’ll see quoted on many a comments sections today.

My Winner: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

Best Writing (Original) – 1971

Official Nominations: The Hospital. Investigation of A Citizen Above Suspicion. Klute. Summer Of ’42. Sunday Bloody Sunday.

At least two films which seem like obvious choices, with Klute being the one most people remember today and getting my vote. The official winner was The Hospital, all but forgotten now, saw Paddy Cheyevsky getting his second Oscar. It moves between hilarity, insanity, frustration, merging dark topics with both realism, lightness, and farce. Investigation of A Citizen Above Suspicion is a great movie and just as satirical as The Hospital though with the more unlikely story of a cop killing a woman and leading the investigation by planting evidence and leading everyone else a merry dance for his own amusement. Summer Of 42 is the sort of nostalgic movie which always goes down well with critics and audiences – ironically the book adaptation was released before the movie and became a huge hit too. Finally, Sunday Bloody Sunday is the Academy further accepting more fringe works, with Penelope Gilliatt’s script an honest portrayal of sexuality without being infatuated, obsessive, or pandering.

My Winner: Klute

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My Nominations: The Hospital. Investigation of A Citizen Above Suspicion. Klute. Summer Of ’42. Sunday Bloody Sunday. Dirty Harry. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. THX 1138. Vanishing Point.

Oddly, I’m happy with all of the official choices – they’re all good and all deserve a nomination. They all pale (from a quotable perspective) in comparison to Dirty Harry – a film which would continue to influence the dialogue in action movies and thrillers up to today. Not quite as influential and with dialogue not as absorbed into the public consciousness is Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, though it’s on a similar level. Vanishing Point has an iconic speech and further quotable lines but is a lesser seen movie now, while THX 1138 gets credit for creating an interesting vision of the future, though does borrow from previous works of a similar vein.

My Winner: Dirty Harry

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Best Original Score – 1971

Official Nominations: Summer Of 42. Mary Queen Of Scots. Nicholas And Alexandra. Shaft. Straw Dogs. Fiddler on The Roof. Bedknobs And Broomsticks. The Boy Friend. Tchaikovsky. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.

This year we had two categories for score – Best Original Score (Dramatic) and Best Original Song Score or Adaptation. The had no clue what they were doing in other words. We’ll stick them all in a single category. Summer Of ’42 was winner of the Dramatic Category. Michel Legrand’s classy central theme is a fine mixture of strings and smooth jazz which evokes an easy nostalgia without too much sentiment. The rest of the soundtrack largely follows a similar smooth style and features variants on the main theme. John Barry’s surprisingly tender score for Mary, Queen Of Scots features Vanessa Redgrave’s vocal talents and a softer approach than you may expect given the subject matter while Richard Rodney Barrett’s Nicholas And Alexandra has similarly tender moments but feels more grand.

Shaft is clearly the odd one out in the category, with nothing else sounding remotely like it. Issac Hayes fills the score with modern funk sounds while retaining an old world jazz feel. The final entry in the Dramatic division is Jerry Fielding’s Straw Dogs – a score which begins softly, almost idyllic, but builds with notes of tension and becomes increasingly pounding and violent, obviously echoing the film. Fiddler On The Roof, and most of the other soundtracks on the adaptation front don’t really deserve to be here as they are so populated by spoken parts or actual songs, but fine. John Williams won the Oscar for Fiddler – the music isn’t that great and most of the songs are standard musical fluff. Bedknobs And Broomsticks is not a film I have ever enjoyed, too cloying and sentimental and the music does nothing for me aside from making me want to leave the room if it’s on, while The Boy Friend is an odd Ken Russell adaptation with songs from the 1920s, an era which again does little for me. Tchaikovsky is weird too as it features music from the composer as filtered by Dimitri Tiomkin. My pick, and is there really any other choice, is Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory by Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley, and Walter Scharf. The songs and the music inspire such wonder in successive generations as few soundtracks ever have before or since, and remain timeless.

My Winner: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

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My Nominations: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. Shaft. 200 Motels. A Clockwork Orange. A Fistful Of Dynamite. The French Connection. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song. THX 1138.

Only two make it to my list. A Clockwork Orange I understand not being included by many people, given that the majority of the soundtrack is existing work – if Tchaikovsky can get nominated, then so can this. There are some original pieces here, but few films have used music so dramatically and emphatically as this one. The French Connection features a lot of echo, repeated notes, spontaneous jazz, and near out of tune moments – there’s something ‘off’ about it, an unsettling tone which heightens the surrounding mystery. Morricone does it again in A Fistful Of Dynamite – a soundtrack with many obvious nods to the past spaghetti westerns, but plenty of moving moments of its own, with great use of whistling, strings, and operatic voices again. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song sees an unknown Earth, Wind, And Fire merged funk and jazz to craft a soundtrack which was released before the movie in a neat advertising stunt, while 200 Motels saw Frank Zappa and co freaking out in style. Lalo Schifrin’s score for THX 1138 is suitably creepy and futuristic – lots of voices mingled together with ultra low rumbling bass and piercing strings to give an epic operatic feel. Any of these are worthy winners.

My Winner: THX 1138

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Original Song – 1971

Official Nominations: Theme From Shaft – Shaft. The Age Of Not Believing – Bedknobs And Broomsticks. All His Children – Sometimes A Great Notion. Bless The Beasts And Children – Bless The Beasts And Children. Life Is What You Make It – Kotch.

You know you’ve entered the 1970s when you hear those opening cymbols and guitars from the Shaft Theme. As iconic a song as you’re ever likely to hear, I had the pleasure of seeing Hayes play it live. It’s a rarity for a movie such as Shaft to receive any notice from The Academy, but the quality of the music is unavoidable and it is a deserving winner. Now, just compare that with The Age Of Not Believing, a cynical attempt at cashing in on the success of Mary Poppins. The lyrics are good, but the music, melody, and performance are all dreadful. It is quite clear that the world has moved on from such songs when paired with Shaft. All His Children is another weird choice, a dreary old Country Western song that sounds ridiculous alongside Shaft. Bless The Beasts And Children is a long forgotten song and film, but in both cases it feels like they should be cult hits – a coming of age outsiders tale, and a gorgeous performance by The Carpenters over a fairly average song. Life Is What You Make It is a touching song from a touching film, but let down by that old style vocal performance I despise.

My Winner: Theme From Shaft

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My Nominations: Diamonds Are Forever. Theme From Shaft. The Candy Man. Pure Imagination. I’ve Got A Golden Ticket.

Joining Theme From Shaft is one of the most famous Bond songs. Diamonds Are Forever is timeless and iconic, and features one of Shirley Bassey’s most incredible performances, though my favourite part has always been the eerie intro. My final three picks are all from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory – film etched into the minds of every British person who grew up in the 70s or 80s. It was played every year in my school towards the end of term, and rarely a month passes where it isn’t shown on TV. The Candy Man may be the most famous track worldwide, due to various covers and popping up in The Simpsons etc. It’s a saccharine, juicy, light and joyful song. Pure Imagination is exactly as the name suggests, a wistful, beautiful song with a dreamlike quality which instantly transports you back to your childhood. I’ve Got A Golden Ticket is another fun, hook-laden track, a song of celebration and hope. The film has a number of other memorable songs, but these three are the strongest.

My Winner: Theme From Shaft.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Costume Design – 1971

Official Nominations: Nicholas And Alexandra. Bedknobs And Broomsticks. Death In Venice. Mary, Queen Of Scots. What’s The Matter With Helen.

Two obvious picks with two big costume dramas – three other normals. Take your pick between Yvonne Blake and Antonio Castillo’s Nicholas And Alexandra and Margaret Furse’s Mary, Queen Of Scots. 

My Winner: Nicholas And Alexandra

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My Nominations: Nicholas And Alexandra. Mary, Queen Of Scots. A Clockwork Orange. McCabe And Mrs Miller. Red Sun. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

Along with the costume dramas I add three should-have-beens, and one never-would-have-been. A Clockwork Orange may not at first glance seem as visually arresting as some of Kubrick’s other work, but the attention to detail in costume and set design is paramount. A Clockwork Orange wouldn’t be see unnerving without the pale, iconic, almost jumpsuit look of Alex and his droogs often as a counterpoint to the more stylized 70s flair of everyone else. McCabe And Mrs Miller is of course a gorgeous movie with the costumes a huge part of the overall tone, while the characters in Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory appear as extensions of their clothing – from the drab look of Charlie and his grandfather to the exuberant red festive attire of Veruca, not to mention Wonka and the Oompa Loompas. Finally, lets add Red Sun as it doesn’t get mentioned enough.

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My Winner: A Clockwork Orange

Let us know your winner in the comments below!