Best Director – 1977

Official Nominations: Woody Allen. Steven Spielberg. Fred Zinnemann. Herbert Ross. George Lucas.

This is a bit of a no contest for me. Really it’s a three horse race, but as time goes on that Allen win looks more and more concerning. Annie Hall is likely his crowning achievement but when viewed alongside Close Encounters Of A Third Kind and Star Wars it pales by some distance. Allen very much has a style which doesn’t change from movie to movie and his films are more concerned with script than direction. The amount of effort which went into both of those sci-fi classics from all corners, the influence…. it all dwarfs the other nominees combined. This is the perfect example of the Turning Point (pun intended) in Hollywood, with the Academy as always lagging behind the populace. We have poor old Fred Zinnemann and Herbert Ross – both no strangers to Oscars – getting what amounts to little more than traditional votes. That’s not truly fair given that both their films notched up additional nominations this year and both aren’t 100% old fashioned Oscar bait, but when viewed against the modern stylings of the other three films and directors it’s clear there is a generational gap. Generational gaps are one thing, but when making my choices here it’s all about quality. The Turning Point and Julia are no doubt well directed, but they are hardly innovative, both directors have made superior movies, and there are some other notable films from the year which probably should have made the cut over those two.

We know Woody Allen is out, and that leaves Spielberg and Lucas. Spielberg already had Jaws in his pocket by this point while Lucas had American Graffiti. Any other year Spielberg would be the choice here, but Lucas unleashed a little something called Star Wars upon the world With each new year a whole slew of blockbusters and special effects bonanzas swarm through the cinema but they are so lacking in energy and originality and are so cookie cutter that it’s difficult to differentiate between one and the other. With each viewing of those, it becomes increasingly clear just what an achievement A New Hope was – from the impossible odds of getting it done on time, the often horrid conditions making it, a cast of mostly unknowns with a couple of old-school leading actors, from creating visual and sound effects and techniques never seen before, right down to the handling of story, characters, and universe – it has to be Lucas for the win.

My Winner: George Lucas

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My Nominations: George Lucas. Steven Spielberg. Robert Altman. Sam Peckinpah. Ridley Scott. David Lynch. William Freidkin. Dario Argento. Luis Bunuel.

There was a number of war epics this year and depending on your preference for scale or action or story or character, you could name any of the directors here. My vote goes for Peckinpah and his violent anti-glory Cross Of Iron which acts as a precursor to many of the more downbeat and political war films of the subsequent ten years. Regardless of which area you decide to focus on, Ridley Scott’s The Duellists is probably the most consistent war film of the year and hits all of the aforementioned boxes, showing that Scott had a handle on each and could combine them within a historical setting and a large scope. Say what you will about Lynch or Eraserhead but you won’t see a more unique and nightmarish vision in 1977 than his tale of isolation, fear, and weirdness. In a time when everyone was pre-occupied with grand battles and huge budgets, Lynch goes grainy black and white to show an industrial wasteland, a bewildered man, and a screeching mutant. William Friedkin updates The Grapes Of Wrath with his toe-curling exercise in tension Sorceror while Dario Argento perfects his colourful giallo vision and penchant for stylish violence and madness with Suspiria. Luis Bunuel’s films are more often than not experimental, and while less overt in its art That Obscure Object Of Desire pushes traditional storytelling to certain limits and beyond. Finally, Robert Altman treads more fully into experimental territory with 3 Women – a film based on a dream and given a dreamlike quality in its depiction of relationships in a town on the edge of nowhere.

I know I’m not impartial, but I think time has proven that any one of my additional nominees are more worthy than the three official ones I left off. As much as I’d be happy with any of my other picks getting the win, I think we have to still go with Beardy Magee.

My Winner: George Lucas.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Actress – 1977

Official Nominations: Diane Keaton. Anne Bancroft. Jane Fonda. Shirley Maclaine. Marsha Mason.

This is a strange one for me – obviously the Academy was going to pick Diane Keaton but for me the performance is kind of… meh? She smiles an awful lot, she sings well, but there’s too much whining to shroud the fact that there is little emotional depth. It’s a weird performance which ranges from perfectly natural in places to incredibly forced in others. It’s a pity there isn’t another truly great choice. Anne Bancroft and Shirley Maclaine are both good in The Turning Point while Jane Fonda is great in Julia as a woman trying to track down her titular childhood friend. Finally, Mason is largely overshadowed by Richard Dreyfuss in an okay performance – the general consensus is that we have 5 good actresses delivering five performances that I wouldn’t ordinarily pick.

My Winner: Jane Fonda

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My Nominations: Diane Keaton. Carrie Fisher. Shelly Duvall. Jane Fonda. Isabelle Hupert.

A ha! I pick Diane Keaton anyway, but not for Annie Hall – for Looking For Mr. Goodbar. Shelly Duvall is not far behind with her manic portrayal of a woman on the verge in 3 Women, while Isabelle Hupert shines again in The Lacemaker – one of her more successful earlier roles. Finally, Carrie Fisher entered the hearts and minds of millions as the feisty Princess Leia, a woman who defined a decade and a genre. Any of the performances here are worthy of the win, but as I’m a selfish so and so and this is my little slice of the internet, it’s going to be Fisher FTW.

My Winner: Carrie Fisher.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Actor – 1977

Official Nominations: Richard Dreyfuss. Woody Allen. Richard Burton. Marcello Mastroianni. John Travlota.

Richard Dreyfuss became the youngest Best Actor winner this year for The Goodbye Girl. In all honesty, it isn’t the greatest selection of performances. Obviously Woody Allen gets a nomination for Annie Hall but he’s essentially playing the same character he always does. If you’re going to nominate his acting for any film, I suppose it’s going to be this one. We follow this with two veteran nominations – Richard Burton in Equus – fine, but hardly his best performance, and Marcello Mastroianni – again it was bound to happen sooner or later, but again not his best performance. That means it’s between Travolta and Dreyfuss. I’m not a big fan of either movie – romantic comedies and musicals are basically my two least favourite genres so there’s a certain amount of bias I would need to overcome to pick one of those two. There’s no doubting the pedigree of these movies and performances, but they’re not something I’d go out of my way to watch again. Saturday Night Fever is certainly the more iconic of the two films and Travolta’s full-blooded performance made him a star, while Dreyfuss shows keen comic ability and makes a fairly generic comedy more entertaining.

My Winner: John Travolta

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My Nominations: John Travolta. Richard Dreyfuss. Keith Carradine. Harvey Keitel. Rutger Hauer. Roy Scheider. Mark Hamill.

Only Travolta makes it over to my list. But what’s this, you say? Richard Dreyfuss is there too? Yes, that’s because of a little film called Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Carradine and Keitel get nods for their work on The Duelists while Rutger Hauer continues his sterling European work in the superb Soldier Of Orange. Roy Scheider keeps his 70s streak running with the tense and exciting remake Sorceror, while a young Mark Hamill introduces the world to Luke Skywalker, capturing perfectly the wide-eyed innocence and wonder of every kid who wants to be a hero. My bias is showing again.

My Winner: Mark Hamill

Who do you pick as the Best Actor of 1977? Let us know in the comments!

1977 Academy Awards – An Introduction

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The 50th Academy awards show was again marred by controversy with Vanessa Redgrave using her victory speech to thank those who ‘stood firm’ against fascism in all its forms, while Paddy Chayefsky later retorted that the ceremony was not a platform for political propaganda. Just so all you millennials are aware that political/celebrity standoffs aren’t a new thing and were going on while you were still swimming in your daddy’s nutsack. Elsewhere, a little movie called Star Wars won a few awards alongside Annie Hall, while Julia, Turning Point, and Close Encounters of The Third Kind earned a bunch of nominations. I think you can guess where my votes will be going.

Honorary Awards went to Margaret Booth, Charlton Heston, and Walter Mirisch while Sammy Davis Jr and Marvin Hamlisch performed a tribute for the many performers who died in 1977. Presenters included C3PO and R2D2, Olivia Newton-John, and Jon Voight.

Join me in the next few weeks to see which awards went to which movies, and feel free to leave your comments and picks too!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1977

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

10: Hausu (Japan)

9: Rabid (Canada/USA)

8: Sorcerer (USA)

7: Soldier Of Orange (Netherlands)

6: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (USA)

5: Martin (USA)

4: Eraserhead (USA)

3: Suspiria (Italy)

2: The Spy Who Loved Me (UK)

1: Star Wars Episode IV (USA)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Four (including the top grossing film)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One

Remember to report back on Thursday for my favourite films of 1978!

Chart Music Through The Years: 1977

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here – https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

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Duh duh duh duhhh/daaah/do do do dooooh/doooh/do do do dooooh/doood/duh duh da duuuh! That’s right, it’s the year of Figrin D’an, Doctor Cornelius Evazan, Jek Tono Porkins and all their buddies from memorable Space Saga Star Warriors! Everyone was humming along to the theme tune by John Williams and quoting their favourite quotes – ‘Luke, put down that Ewok and get over here and EAT YOUR PEAS’ is of course the one everyone remembers to this day. Unfortunately, I was seemingly neither alive nor conceived in 1977, and as such my memories of the year are entirely fabricated or borrowed. Did it even happen? We may never know.

As I can’t possibly comment on what I was doing in 1977 without creating a confusing paradox that not even Year 2977 version of me would understand, I’ll have to rely on other avenues to share with you what was happening in the year between 1978 and that other one. According to websites, 1977 was one of the most important years of computer development, seeing both the Commodore PET being unleashed and fruit based overlords Apple Computers being ‘incorporated’. Roots reminded us that slavery was wrong, Morph began his squishy stop-motion animation antics, the Tenerife disaster seeing two airplanes colliding became the worst disaster in aviation history, and Spain put Franco behind them. In the music world it was a year of massive highs and lows; Elvis died, along with three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marc Bolan, Bing Crosby, and Charlie Chaplin. The Bee Gees released the biggest selling album of all time up to that point in Saturday Night Fever, Led Zeppelin embarked on a farewell US Tour, The Sex Pistols released their only studio album, and Studio 54 opened its doors. But what of the charts? Let your eyes slip out of their sockets and down the screen if you wish to see my thoughts.

1. David Soul: Silver Lady

Looking at this top 10, there are only four entries I recognise, including a twist on the duh duh duh duuuhh duuuh! David Soul is mostly remembered by me for sliding over car bonnets and killing vampires. He seems to have had a singing career too. Lets have a listen. A groovy introduction. Disco was of course hitting its peak around this time, so everyone wanted a slice, even Vampire Slayers. There’s also a country and rock and motown twist, so it’s all a little unusual. Soul’s vocal talents fall apart in the chorus as the backing singers drown him out entirely. I like the verses though, interesting lyrics and a whole bunch of instruments thrown in – nice changes in melodies too, going back and forth between major and minor. A decent song I’ve never heard before.

2. La Belle Epoque: Black Is Black

I’ll assume this has nothing to do with Public Enemy. Ah right, it’s Black is Black, not Black is Back. Disco throbbing. Like farts in a bath. Actually, more like lowering your ass into the water in the toilet, and then farting. Multi voices. Unnecessary ‘wooo!’. Fast paced and funky, but it sounds like pretty generic Disco stuff. Still, it’s not bad. It is cheesy and horribly dated, mostly due to the vocals. Bizarre drum and synth breakdown in the middle. Quite a long one this. Apparently it’s a cover. Disastrous spoken part. Maybe the original is good as there are good moments here, hidden under a series of unfortunate decisions.

3. Baccarra: Yes Sir I Can Boogie

Right, three disco songs in a row? This is serious. It was truly a plague and as much as Punk was trying to make an impact, it was never going to seriously impact the charts. Anyway, I know this one, doesn’t everyone? It opens like some simpering ballad, turns into a breathy orgasm, leading into verses with ‘ha ha, listen to their accents’ singing. I never noticed the accents before, I thought they were just putting it on in the chorus, not that I’d paid any attention. It’s a strange one, with talky verses, and a catchy chorus. The lyrics are a complete nonsense. I’d always just assumed this one was okay, but it’s actually pretty bad. I mean the chorus is fine, but it’s so ridiculous and cheesy that I’m almost embarrassed for it. Don’t point at it, just tell it to go away.

4. Rod Stewart: You’re In My Heart

Rodney Stewart – rock music for women who neither understand nor like rock music. I didn’t recognise this from the name, but I have heard it before. It’s your typical light ballad aimed at dropping pants as much as making moneys, but it doesn’t come alive until the chorus. It hardly stretches Rodney’s vocals, and it doesn’t stretch anyone’s intelligence. It does have some weird violin stuff going on and the chorus is fine, but there’s an awful lot of crap in there too.

5. Danny Mirror: I Remember Elvis Presley.

There’s obvious cash-ins, and then there’s this. Elvis, one of the most famous people to have ever lived, was only dead a matter of moments before this catastrophe was shat onto the airwaves. What a stupid fucking title. Who the hell is Danny Mirror? He appears to be doing an impression of Elvis, and I can’t quite tell if this some sick joke or an extremely misguided dedication. Written to sound like a half-assed Elvis ballad, it’s lyrics are a mixture of Elvis name-checks and the sort of thing you say at a funeral for the pet budgie. I cannot fathom how this was ever allowed to be, never mind how it made it into the charts. People are morons. That is the only reason for this mistake’s existence. It may have made more sense five or ten years later, but only marginally.

6. The Emotions: Best Of My Life

Aah right. I know this one. Yes it’s more Disco, but this seems to have more of a touch of class to it. The vocals are vastly superior to anything else we’ve heard on today’s list, but the verses are directionless. Famous chorus though, it’s good, but not great. It’s short and to the point too.

7. Meco: Star Wars Theme

Right, I’ve been dreading this. Star Wars is one of my favourite movie series ever, and has some of my favourite music ever. Someone had the bright idea of going ‘this thing is popular, and this thing over here is popular too, so maybe if they fuck, there will be born an uber-popular!’ They were right, but they were also so so wrong. If you’ve heard literally any Disco song, and if you’ve heard the Star Wars theme, then you don’t need to listen to this as it’s exactly as you’re imagining now. Except it has added blaster noises.

8. The Stranglers: No More Heroes

Another one that I recognised immediately from looking at the list, this one manages to merge punk with some strange not-Disco synth noises. Good song, nifty solo in the middle, and as much as the synth does its hardest to distract and take over, it all blends together well. That post-solo rambling reminds me of similar work by The Doors, but even more manic.

9. Ram Jam: Black Betty

Of course I knew this from seeing the name, it’s one that still got regular plays at the rock clubs I used to frequent. I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but I still liked it – just not as much as most others seemed to. In that sense it hasn’t really aged, still has a timeless classic rock feel to it, and will continue to get revellers on their feet thanks to the incessant beat. It’s funky, catchy, and has plenty of interesting breakdowns. I believe most of the time this was played in clubs though, much of the guitar solo and weird drums parts were edited out leaving basically only ‘woah black betty, bam a lam’ for two minutes.

10. Elvis Presley: Way Down

With my rant above you’d maybe assume I’m some big Elvis geek. I’m not – at the time of writing I’ve never heard a single Elvis album, and I only know the obvious big hits. I’ve never gone out of my way to listen to anything else by him. I don’t recognise the name of this song, but I may know it once I hit play. Apparently this was the last song he released before his death. It starts out with a Disco flavour, and a little bit of Country guitar and honkey-tonk going on – basically an Elvis song influenced by Disco. We get Gospel backing vocals in the chorus. There’s some way down vocals going on too. Nothing too exciting for me here, but an okay foot-tapper.

A fairly accurate representation of 1977 then – Disco, Elvis, a little bit of punk, and more Disco. There are other genres not represented here of course, and there were a whole host of classic albums released in 1977 which have little in common with anything on this list – Low (David Bowie), Animals (Pink Floyd), Rumours (Fleetwood Mac),  The Idiot and Lust For Life (Iggy Pop), The Clash, Exodus (Bob Marley And The Wailers), Motorhead, Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, Bat Out of Hell (Meat Loaf), and more. With that in mind, I now present my stunning list of an alternative Top 10 songs from 1977 which you should probably listen to. Now.

1. Dogs – Pink Floyd

2. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac

3. White Riot – The Clash

4. My God – Alice Cooper

5. Jamming – Bob Marley And The Wailers

6. Lust For Life – Iggy Pop

7. ‘Heroes’ – David Bowie

8. You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth

9. God Save The Queen – The Sex Pistols

10. Spread Your Wings – Queen

What are your memories of 1977, music based or otherwise? Were you there? Do you wish you were? Let us know in the comments!