Best Animated Feature – 1977

My Nominations: The Rescuers. Wizards. Race For Your Life Charlie Brown. The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh.

1977 was something of a turning point for animated features – it was one of the first years where multiple, genuinely worthwhile films were released and stood the test of time, and it’s really the start of that happening more or less consistently. The only issue is that a lot of the notable films were either TV specials or a mixture of animation and live action, so I can’t really include those. The only thing missing is a truly strong Japanese effort. Nevertheless, we have Bakshi still experimenting – leaving behind his controversial real world efforts and conjuring a total fantasy in Wizards – a post apocalyptic tale with some great visuals, even if the story is one we’ve seen before. Race For Your Life Charlie Brown is another memorable effort in the Peanuts canon and as endearing as ever. That leaves a surprising double effort from Disney – The Rescuers is the more action packed of the two and a film which was critically and commercially successful but which has fallen by the wayside over the years. The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh is a more gentle and relaxed affair. Normally I would pick this as winner, but as it’s really a compilation of old pieces, reassembled and merged with newer bits, it probably breaks a bunch of rules.

My Winner: The Rescuers

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Let us know in the comments which Animated Feature of 1977 gets your vote!

Best Foreign Film – 1977

Official Nominations: Madame Rosa. Iphigenia. Operation Thunderbolt. A Special Day. That Obscure Object Of Desire.

Simone Signoret brings another character to life in Madame Rose, this year’s winner, a film which focuses on her last days while also recounting in part her younger days in Auschwitz. She was forced into prostitution and now runs a home for the abandoned or lost children of other prostitutes, striking up a friendship with a Muslim boy. It’s a warm film, and a good character study, but I think there are better choices here. Michael Cacoyannis finishes his Greek Tragedy trilogy with Iphigenia, a fairly faithful though ambiguous retelling of the story. If you know me, then you’ll know I love anything related to Greek or Roman mythology, especially where Troy is concerned. If I was a director and became successful enough to make whatever sort of project I wanted, The Illiad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid would be top of my list. This film follows the innocent daughter of King Agamemnon – he is heading to Troy to kick off the war but on the way offends one of the Goddesses who says he must sacrifice his own daughter before his ships will be allowed to reach Troy. If you’re into this sort of thing, then you’ll enjoy the film, but I don’t think there’s much here for non-fans.

Cult figure Menahem Golan made his most (only?) acclaimed work with Operation Thunderbolt – a film based around a real life hostage crisis. It honestly isn’t as bad as it sounds, and this is coming from someone who loves even the crappiest Cannon movie. A Special Day is in many ways the perfect Academy movie – packed with issues like sexuality, gender, based in historical fact, and topped off by starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. All it really needs is to be a musical and it would have won 8 Oscars. It’s not well-remembered now, but thanks to its cast it still has some pulling power. Loren is a bored housewife who cares for her husband and many children – she’s at home doing the usual daily crap while the rest of her family are out in support of a parade for Hitler and Mussolini. Her pet bird escapes and she finds it with one of her neighbours, a gay guy and anti-fascist. They spend the movie chatting about their lives. Again, it’s better than it sounds but with any other lead actors I would struggle to see anyone wanting to see it, as funny and honest and interesting as it undoubtedly is.

Finally, a probably the most famous film on the list is Bunuel’s final film – That Obscure Object Of Desire – a film which doesn’t entirely deviate from his surrealist leanings but is nevertheless more approachable. It follows a stormy relationship between a wealthy French guy and a much younger Spanish dancer played by both Carole Bouquet and and Angela Molina. The key is that this isn’t a younger/older version of the character – the actresses interchange seemingly at random throughout the movie which is jarring at first, then becomes amusing, then becomes normal. It’s great, and one of Bunuel’s best.

My Winner: That Obscure Object Of Desire

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My Nominations: That Obscure Object Of Desire. A Special Day. Iphigenia. Cross Of Iron. The Duellists. House. Soldier Of Orange. Suspiria.

Five films join three from the official list – Sam Peckinpah’s Cross Of Iron; an epic war movie with plenty of brutal action and some interesting casting and Hausu, a bizarre Japanese movie which should be experienced without knowing anything about it beforehand. Ridley Scott emerged with his epic The Duellists, a film about cinematography as much as its about its two feuding leads.

Paul Verhoeven continues his euro work with arguably his finest pre-Hollywood feature Soldier Of Orange, in which Rutger Hauer and his friends each split off at the beginning of WWII ending on different paths and even opposing sides. It’s one of the director’s straightest films and should appeal to anyone with a love of war movies. Finally, Dario Argento had been perfecting the Giallo form throughout the decade, crafting spellbinding set pieces of murder and mayhem and giving audiences unusual and unique visuals set against labyrinthine or nonsensical plots. Suspiria remains the most famous Italian horror movie ever, and one of the most popular non-US horror movies there is as a teenage girl goes to a ballet school and uncovers murder and witchcraft. Not many horror movies, not many movies period look like or sound like Suspiria, so it is a must for true film fans.

My Winner: Suspiria

Let us know your winners in the comments!

Best Cinematography – 1977

Official Nominations: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Islands In The Stream. Julia. Looking For Mr. Goodbar. The Turning Point.

Movies about dance, or Musicals and Costume Dramas in general historically tend to do well in this category but I find them often too stage driven rather than using the camera in innovate ways or truly capturing a landscape or a scene – for that reason The Turning Point is out, even it was shot by a guy who knew his stuff, also shooting Ben Hur and The Sting. Julia fares bettershot by the great Douglas Slocombe who worked on everything from The Lavender Hill Mob to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Looking For Mr Goodbar seems like an odd choice in this category and more of an apology to Fraker for missing out on Bullitt and Rosemary’s Baby. Islands In The Stream (that is what we are) is more in line with what I think of when discussing cinematography, what with it and its protagonist’s obsession with the sea. My winner of course has to be the legendary Vilmos Zsigmond who reunites with Spielberg for Close Encounters Of The Third Kind – that rare sci-fi movie which is both set on Earth yet features stunning visuals and iconic shots.

My Winner: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

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My Nominations: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Star Wars. A Bridge Too Far. Cross Of Iron. The Duellists. Saturday Night Fever. Sorcerer. Suspiria.

Only my winner makes it over to the list and would be a good pick for winner here too, but I think I’ll change it up and spread the love. Star Wars, beyond the scenes in space and on ships, showcases a number of planets and places portraying a varied and vibrant universe. Scenes on Tattooine and beyond have become iconic and often mimicked. A Bridge To Far is a war epic in every sense and Geoffrey Unsworth uses his vast experience of battle work and innovation here. Cross Of Iron takes a more violent approach with John Coquillon’s exterior work being particularly notable. The Duellists is often, justifiably, compared to Barry Lyndon in terms of story and filming look and tone and much of that is due to Frank Tidy’s contribution while Saturday Night Fever paints an accurate depiction of the neon sleaze and pumped up momentary glory of the late 70s Disco scene.

Sorceror relies heavily on its taught direction and tight performances but also on its depiction of overbearing cities, rain and sweat drenched forests, and a camera that never wants to rest. Finally, Dario Argento and Luciano Tovoli create a horror film like no other with his dreamlike Suspiria, a film with a visual palette of extremes which never fails to startle newcomers and continually impress critics.

My Winner: Suspiria

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Best Picture – 1977

Official Nominations: Star Wars. Annie Hall. The Goodbye Girl. Julia. The Turning Point.

This year was all about Star Wars and Annie Hall – one movie about a bunch of weird-talking, hair-covered, funny-looking characters, and the other about Luke Skywalker and chums. Annie Hall picked up the win and is generally considered Woody Allen’s finest work, honing his dialogue, quirks, and romantic plot into something palatable for the masses. Star Wars meanwhile, is possibly the single most significant film ever, single-handedly changing the movie landscape, the movie business, for ever more. I think you already know what my winner is.

Your average movie goer won’t know the other three even though each is worth seeing, depending on your preferences. The Turning Point was incredibly, and inexplicably, nominated for 11 Oscars, but didn’t win any setting a record. It’s about ballet – all these former dancers and lovers and new dancers and lovers and all of the drama between them, and based on a true life story. The Goodbye Girl is about the relationship between dancer and actor and is held together by an Oscar winnig Richard Dreyfuss performance – it’s another unusual choice for Best Picture nomination, but it’s still good. Finally, Julia sees Jane Fonda Vanessa Redgrave’s friendship divide into separate lives and journeys, with Nazi drama and Jason Robards and Meryl Streep all popping up – again a good film but an odd choice in the category.

My Winner: Star Wars

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My Nominations: Star Wars. Eraserhead. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. The Duellists. High Anxiety. Sorceror. Suspiria.

You know, for such an important year in Cinema – namely due to the release of Star Wars – there aren’t many genuine contenders for the top prize. Therefore Star Wars is the only one which makes it to my list and joins a handful of personal favourites and some which you feel could have been nominated. Eraserhead was, and still is, too bizarre to have ever received a nomination in this category, but it is a singular film, a unique vision, and is just as powerful today as it was then – people are still talking about it and being influenced by it. Close Encounters feels like the one that could have been nominated, and the more conservative voter may have gone for it over Star Wars. The Duellists also feels like a film which could have been nominated, though maybe Ridley Scott needed another film under his belt before its release; it has all the hallmarks of the sort of film the Academy loves to nominate, with the caveat being that this one is actually good. My final trio had no chance of being nominated – Friedkin’s Sorceror mostly ignored upon release and only receiving its due credit in recent years as a pure exercise in tension, Argento’s Susperia is gory horror so wasn’t going to be mentioned at all, even if it is one of the most visually stunning movies ever made, and High Anxiety wasn’t topical enough while being one of the most clever and funny Brooks efforts.

My Winner: Star Wars

Let us know your picks and thoughts in the comments!

Best Supporting Actress – 1977

Official Nominations: Vanessa Redgrave. Melinda Dillon. Leslie Browne. Quinn Cummings. Tuesday Weld.

It’s another unimpressive list on the surface, with Vanessa Redgrave finally walking away with her win as Julia. Part of me knows it’s a win due to her other performances over the years, but it remains a good showing for the actress. The unfortunately named Quinn Cummings only appeared in a couple of movies, in The Goodbye Girl she’s okay in the role of annoying smartass child while Leslie Browne is a real life dancer thrown into the deep end with a role in The Turning Point which required a better actress. Melinda Dillon is the petrified mother from Close Encounters who sees a UFO and goes on an obsessive romp around the country with Richard Dreyfuss – again decent, but not sure it’s award worthy, while Tuesday Weld plays Diane Keaton’s sister in Looking For Mr Goodbar and is good enough to hold her own.

My Winner: Vanessa Redgrave

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My Nominations: Joan Bennett. Barbara Bach. Sissy Spacek.

I’m not sure any of this year’s performances are genuinely good enough to warrant a nomination and I don’t personally love them enough to pick them myself, which is what these posts are all about. In that case it’s a new batch of nominees. You could just as easily take Alida Valli for Susperia, but I think Joan Bennett edges it for me – two old Hollywood matriarchs lending class to the otherwise creepy proceedings. It’s not often anyone mentions Bond girls for awards, but Barbara Bach was one of the first Bond girls who stood out from the pack, as a character and as a performer – her Agent XXX every bit the spy as Bond himself. Sissy Spacek gets a nod from me for her performance in 3 Women. Normally I wouldn’t say any of these performances are strong enough to win, but it’s slim pickings. When in doubt, go with your favourite.

My Winner: Barbara Bach

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Supporting Actor – 1977

Official Nominations: Jason Robards. Mikhail Baryshnikov. Alec Guinness. Peter Firth. Max Schell.

It’s not planned – I promise. It’s just that, again, I fnd the Star Wars nominee to be the best choice. Any new readers to these Oscars posts, just remember that these are simply my personal preferences, not based off Oscar history or buzz or necessarily who was ‘best’. Just which one I would have liked to win. It gets even more personal with My Nominations, but I try not to just add any old crap for the sake of it – I just don’t adhere to the Oscar rules or tropes.

But yes, Star Wars wins again for me here. Alec Guinness reportedly wasn’t a fan of the movie or script, but he plays the role straight and perfectly characterizes the old, wise hermit with a long detailed history. It’s Obi Wan Kenobi – everyone knows him. Can the average person on the street name any of the other characters nominated this year? Dashiell Hammett maybe. Jason Robards officially won as Hammett this year – he’s the love interest of of the woman searching for the missing title character. There’s a huge section of the film he’s not part of – not always a problem when this is a supporting role considering some have won for single scenes in the past. He’s solid but the issue with the movie is that we mainly care about the women. Max Schell was also nominated here, but it’s an even smaller role and feels like it was a shoehorned nomination. Peter Firth holds his own against Richard Burton in Equus – a film with enough controversy surrounding it that someone was always going to be nominated. He’s good but who doesn’t think of Harry Potter when they think of this role now? Finally, Mikhail Baryshnikov was nominated because he was the most famous dancer in the world. Even when there’s no Musical worth nominating, The Academy still has to force a dancer (or two in this year’s case) into the running. He shouldn’t be here – he’s better in Sex And The City. 

My Winner: Alec Guinness

My Nominations: Alec Guinness. Richard Gere. Raf Vallone. Jeroen Krabbe. Bruno Cremer. Harrison Ford.

Only Guinness makes it over to my personal list. The interesting thing about voting for someone because the character is iconic, is where do you cut off? Richard Kiel is the very essence of iconic, but would you vote him for The Spy Who Love Me? Guinness is good, quietly so, as befitting the character. Honestly, this was a great year for leading male performances – but supporting not so much. Most of those I nominate I don’t feel would have made the cut in other years, and are more to encourage you to watch the films as they have been underrepresented. Raf Vallone as a vengeful millionaire in The Other Side Of Midnight and Richard Gere as the abusive Tony in Looking For Mr. Goodbar. Maybe I should nominate Kiel?

Taking things down a more legitimate path, Jeroen Krabbe supports Rutgar Hauer as another passionate Resistance member in Soldier Of Orange, and Bruno Cremer as the straight man and negotiator on the run in Sorcerer. If Guinness is nominated in support, it only seems fair that Harrison Ford joins him for his Han Solo. He adds the roguish charm and sense of grounded cynicism to counter all of the fantasy going on, and in many scenes it’s him who catches the eye. Lets balance things and go with Ford this time.

My Winner: Harrison Ford

Let us know in the comments who you would pick as winner for Best Supporting Actor of 1977!

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!