Best Cast – 1979

My Nominations: 1941. Alien. Apocalypse Now. Kramer Vs Kramer.

Steven Spielberg’s 1941 is one of the least remembered in his filmography, and in line with this curio is quite the unusual cast, containing comedy masters, new faces, and veterans – Dan Akroyd and John Belushi, Toshiro Mifune and Warren Oates, Nancy Allen and Tim Matheson, along with Spielberg favourites and many many more – John Candy, Lorraine Gary, Robert Stack, Patty LuPone, Michael McKean, James Caan, Ned Beatty, Christopher Lee, Mickey Rourke, Dick Miller, John Landis, Sam Fulller – you get the idea.

Alien is one of the great centralized ensemble casts, an an example of of each actor bringing each character fully to life (only to be killed off). Sigourney Weaver is the standout, but John Hurt and Ian Holm aren’t far behind, without forgetting Skerritt, Cartwright, Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton. Apocalypse Now is in a similar vein, but has the added benefit of the central group coming into contact with a variety of other characters – any film with Dennis Hopper, Marlon Brando, and Martin Sheen is always going to make a category like this, but then we also throw in Laurence Fishbourne, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall. Kramer Vs Kramer is hard to avoid given both leads received Oscars.

My Winner: Alien

40 Years Ago: The 'Alien' Cast Gets an Actual Terrifying Surprise

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Best Stunt Work – 1979

My Nominations: Apocalypse Now. Escape To Athena. Mad Max. Moonraker. The Warriors.

There’s no getting away from Apocalypse Now, even its stunt work is top notch in those small set piece moments. Escape To Athena is a movie I loved as a kid and treated it as a James Bond spin-off as it features Roger Moore arsing about with guns. There’s a tonne of your typical 70s War action and there’s a great motorbike chase later on. It’s a lot of fun. Mad Max doesn’t go all out crazy in the stunt department when compared with the sequels, but it does still contain some epic 70s era car and bike goodness – Australia seemed to take a few more risks in their approach in this regard – they had less money and possibly spectacle, but many of the stunts look more dangerous and real and come across as more thrilling. Moonraker isn’t the greatest Bond movie, but it still has its share of memorable stunts – my favourite being the cable car fight. There’s also falling out of an airplane, an unusual chase through Venice, and of course the Space scenes. Finally, The Warriors is peppered with mini riots and alley and subway gang fights and chases which are deliberately messy.

My Winner: Mad Max

Mad Max Movies: Stunts by Guy Norris and Grant Page | NFSA

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Best Visual Effects – 1979

Official Nominations: Alien. 1941. The Black Hole. Moonraker. Star Trek.

The reason Star Trek didn’t win this award, apart from Alien being the obvious winner, is simply because Star Wars had raised the game so much and Star Trek doesn’t make that next leap. With the pedigree involved – Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra et al, it is an effects bonanza, but alongside the revelations of Alien it seems meek. Steven Spielberg movies were beginning to get shoehorned into categories such as this rather than admitting their overall quality. In truth the film isn’t one of his best, and the Visual Effects are notable. Also notable is Disney’s first attempt at stealing Star Wars – The Black Hole has plenty of good effects which look great when you’re a kid, while Moonraker gets a nod for it’s floating and laser shooting. Alien has to be the winner – its effect and setting by and large aiming for realism rather than the fantastical, and among all of the Star Wars copycats it goes for something completely different, and succeeds.

My Winner: Alien

fx alien miniature 1979 special effects Science Fiction Movies practical effects Richard J Anobile martinlkennedy •

My Nominations: Alien. 1941. The Black Hole. Moonraker. Star Trek. Phantasm.

Although obviously low budget and ropey in places, the effects in Phantasm are so fresh and imaginative that they overshadow more expert and money-laden ones in bigger movies. It’s the only other film I nominate this year, but it hasn’t a hope against Alien. 

My Winner: Alien

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Make-Up – 1979

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My Nominations: Alien. Apocalypse Now. Dracula. Hair. Mad Max. Nosferatu. Star Trek. Zombie Flesh Eaters.

We’re really on the precipice of peak Make-Up now, with the official aware still a couple of years away. Yet look at some of these nominees and think of how iconic they are in terms of film history and this category. Apocalypse Now may not seem like a Makeup movie at first, think of both Kurtz and Willard’s later arrivals in the film, one camouflaged in muck and ooze, the other adorned in sweat and shadow, along with all of the crazed followers of Kurtz and the many painted soldiers Willard meets heading up river. Mad Max would really amp things in sequels but even in the original there are notable effects to make certain characters look more monstrous or off-putting. Frank Langella’s Dracula is one of the more seductive takes on the eternal creature, but elsewhere there are plenty of ghostface and fanged loons dripping or hunting blood.

Nosferatu takes a more demonic, animalistic approach to its antagonist, and is memorable as the original version from decades earlier. Hair, as the name suggests, would have been a sure fire nominee if this category had already existed with early awards more focused on hair and costume and base makeup rather then the outlandish. Speaking of the outlandish, Zombie Flesh Eaters features such delights as a zombie fighting a shark and a wooden splint through the eye – it’s great. Star Trek features the expected array of aliens with less of the hokey nature of the original series. Finally, Alien features arguably the greatest original creature in the history of cinema – but does it class as Makeup? We don’t have a Best Creature Design category yet, so in lieu of that ever happening, it’s getting my vote. Beyond that, it has plenty of great, squirting stuff going on.

My Winner: Alien

Best Art Direction – 1979

Official Nominations: All That Jazz. Alien. Apocalypse Now. The China Syndrome. Star Trek.

A decent list of nominees for a change, with The Academy fully embracing genre movies. They still picked the musical for the win, but what are you gonna do. All That Jazz deserves a nomination of course, but it pales in comparison to Alien. The set design of the Nostromo and beyond in Alien takes the work of 2001 and Star Wars to the next level. The film looks both futuristic and familiar, advanced and run down, human and alien. It’s the obvious winner.

Apocalypse Now succeeds in every level – Art Direction is no exception, while Star Trek advances upon the work of the series and takes inspiration from the big hits of the interim. Finally, The China Syndrome is the Chernobyl of 1979, and as such is tense and authentic.

My Winner:  Alien

Ridley Scott's Alien Created Its Own Genre 40 Years Ago | Consequence of Sound

My Nominations: All That Jazz. Alien. Apocalypse Now. Star Trek. Dracula. Escape From Alcatraz.

I add a number of notable choices to my list. 1979’s Dracula is an exercise in style and eroticism more than anything else, with a style not truly replicated until Coppola’s 90s effort. Escape From Alcatraz is impressive due to the work to authentically recreate and capture the look and feel of Alcatraz just before its closure.

My Winner: Alien

Let us know in the comments what you pick as winner!

Best Costume Design – 1979

Official Nominations: All That Jazz. Agatha. Butch And Sundance: The Early Days. The Europeans. La Cage Aux Folles.

A runaway winner this year, not because of the overwhelming quality of All That Jazz, but because the other entries just aren’t that exciting. Butch And Sundance is an okay aside to the main course original, Agatha and The Europeans are stock dramas, and La Cage Aux Folles is just nominated for a laugh.

My Winner: All That Jazz

Film Freak Central - All That Jazz (1979) [The Criterion Collection] - Dual-Format Edition


My Nominations: All That Jazz. Alien. Apocalypse Now. The Muppet Movie. Hair. Mad Max. Star Trek. The Warriors.

I steer clear of period dramas, as I tend to do, by adding a variety of war epics and sci-fi classics. Apocalypse Now doesn’t look like a nominee here until the second half once Kurtz’s camp is revealed while Hair has fun with the era garb. Alien is revolutionary in multiple respects – if it doesn’t quite meet that title in terms of Costume Design, it still stands apart from most space movies of the time, including Star Trek which admittedly deals with and portrays a larger universe. Mad Max effectively shows us a world just tipped over into the end times – it has past the point of no return but many inhabitants haven’t quite realised it, with a contrast between those already adapting and those who never will conveyed through costume. The Warriors depicts different gangs through their choice of clothing, while no other movie of the year probably had as much time, dedication, and love spent on costume as The Muppet Movie. 

My Winner: The Muppet Movie

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1979

Official Nominations: Kramer Vs Kramer. Apocalypse Now. La Cage Aux Folles. A Little Romance. Norma Rae.

Kramer Vs Kramer continues its winning streak by picking up the Adapted Screenplay Award. I’m not much of a fan of films which spend a considerable amount of their running time in Court, but the intensity, integrity, and emotion of the performances keeps things interesting. Time has passed so the legal stuff is hit and miss and the dialogue is plain rather than quotable. Apocalypse Now is the very definition of quotable, with a number of speeches and one-liners becoming iconic, definitive moments of Cinema, turning yet another school-kid-hated-text into something monumental. La Cage Aux Folles is a funny enough story but it seems strange it was ever nominated here given some of the ‘crass’ material. Norma Rae is a much more credible nomination – The Academy loves a heart-warming underdog story, and if it’s a biography – all the better. Finally, A Little Romance is a little seen film with a terrific cast which almost never works, a saccharine script which probably only works on a specific person at a specific place in their life.

My Winner: Apocalypse Now

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Critical Essay | by GoPeer | GoPeer | Medium

My Nominations: Apocalypse Now. Escape From Alcatraz. Nosferatu The Vampyre. Quadrophenia. Scum. The Warriors.

Only my choice of winner makes it over to my own nominations where I add five films which never stood a chance of picking up a genuine nomination. Quadrophenia may be the most interesting of these seeing as the film is adapted from the album of the same name. I generally enjoy when bands are so overblown that they decide to branch into film – it almost never works well, and it works even less when it’s the story of an album rather than some standalone story which just happens to feature the band. Quadrophenia works so well because it is a time-honoured tale of adolescence, a coming of age story set against the Mods vs The Rockers and featuring music from The Who’s best album. The dialogue, while trenched in the era and place, is not a barrier to modern or foreign viewers and features the gritty realism you would expect from British cinema but as a whole it is less kitchen sink drama and more an energetic quest of rebellion and purpose.

Escape From Alcatraz is one of the finest prison break movies, dispensing with such tired devices such as love interests and exhaustive dialogue, and instead doubles down on the bare essentials – clever inmate decides to escape from inescapable prison. An odd choice for this category then, but the screenplay takes the core details from the true life story and transforms it into a taut and streamlined action thriller. Keeping on the topic of streamlining – the original novel of The Warriors deals more heavily in the main characters’ motivations while also exploring modern notions of family, sexuality, machismo, and the very nature of the gangs themselves. Hill and Shaber’s film is more minimalist in theme and plot and instead succeeds as a quotable proto-Western, a road movie on foot, a cross-country chase from one end of a city to another, and the fantasy of a possible future of laws based on codes of honour rather than ticker tape, bureaucracy, and entrenched white ideals.

Scum doesn’t make for pleasant viewing, but that’s precisely the point. It’s as hard hitting as it needs to be, with a gavel thud of violence and language which raises the bar over the original BBC version. Nosferatu adds precious dialogue and characterisation over the original and while the general outline of the Dracula story should be familiar to all viewers, there are enough changes to satisfy experienced fans of that story, from the portrayal of the lead characters, to their respective conclusions.

My Winner: Apocalypse Now

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Writing (Original) – 1979

Official Nominations: Breaking Away. All That Jazz. And Justice For All. The China Syndrome. Manhattan.

As strange as it may seem, this is both a very 70s selection of films and a very Oscar selection of nominees. You know you’re getting a court movie (And Justice For All), you know they’ll do anything to get a musical in there (All That Jazz), you know they’ll go for a Woody Allen (Manhattan), you know they’ll go for an All American Coming Of Age story (Breaking Away), and you know they’ll throw in a topical political thriller (The China Syndrome). There’s nothing wrong with any of these choices and they’re all good films with solid screenplays – it’s that there are no real surprises in the choices or the films themselves. Any is as worthy a winner as any other, but I’ll stick with my personal favourite.

My Winner: And Justice For All

You're out of order!”: …and Justice for All (1979) — The After Movie Diner

My Nominations: And Justice For All. Alien. The Jerk. Mad Max. Life Of Brian.

I punt for the more interesting choices, again there was no way The Academy would have ever voted for any of these – possibly Alien due to its unavoidable success is the front-runner of the ‘could have been nominated’ category. While it’s not the most quotable movie in the world, it does a stellar job of world and character building and somehow presents itself as a truly grounded and realistic science fiction horror movie rather than the more operatic and fantastical offerings of the preceding years. There are also plenty of surprises and revelations within the script which have reverberated through Cinema in the decades since. The Jerk is silly and vulgar and just the antidote to the usual sour-faced drama or up-market comedy The Academy usually goes for, while Life Of Brian pulls off the same trick while also being highly quotable, controversial, and ridiculous. Finally, Mad Max flips notions and expectations of US action movies and apocalyptic dramas over, and knocks them rolling fourteen times down a dusty lost highway. The characters are rarely given a voice to be heard over the growl of engines, a personality beyond a name, or emotions beyond merely trying to survive in a bewildered thousand yard stare fashion.

My Winner: Alien

Let us know in the comments which film you would pick as winner!

Best Cinematography – 1979

Official Nominations: Apocalypse Now. 1941. All That Jazz. The Black Hole. Kramer Vs Kramer.

While there are notable films here, it’s not even close – the winner is Apocalypse Now. Even disregarding the conditions and hardships which went hand in hand with the shoot, the film stands alone as maybe the most stunning looking war film of its era. From the hyper-real napalm flames against the ghastly greens, to Kurtz and Willard’s shadow encased scenes at the other end, Vittorio Storaro vision perfectly encapsulates the madness and horror of that particular war. 1941 is an altogether different war movie, a forgotten ensemble comedy directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s memorable for certain action and effects sequences and feels like a worthy nomination for Fraker who continued his late 70s run of nominations. All That Jazz looks authentic, The Black Hole throws a lot of tricks into a fancy 2001 esque ending, while Kramer Versus Kramer probably doesn’t warrant a nomination alongside the more uniquely shot films here.

Official Winner: Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now Final Cut Release Date Set for August – /Film

My Nominations: Apocalypse Now. Alien. All That Jazz. Dracula. Mad Max. Nosferatu. Star Trek. The Warriors.

Two of the official picks make it over to my list where I add a few brazen oversights. Alien is one of the most visually stunning films of the year, and of the decade. Derek Vanlint didn’t work on many movies in his career, but his work on Alien has stood the test of time, offering a tasteful impression of true isolation and the terror which can creep from such. Gilbert Taylor’s work on Dracula serves to highlight the enticing and seductive nature of the character with brighter splashes of decadent colour stepping away from the more Gothic or bleak visuals of past adaptations.

As I’ve mentioned on other posts regarding Mad Max, the film holds a unique place in my mind as being this bizarre assault on the senses and an unnerving, crazed look at a potential future. David Eggby’s work is one of the central forces behind the atmosphere this film instils and exudes, with the film existing in this strange place between epic and low budget grime. Nosferatu does more than ape the original, with long-term Herzog collaborator Jorg Schmidt-Reinwein heightening the contrast between darkness and shadow and the misty, dying light. Star Trek repeats the trick Star Wars pulled a couple of years earlier, while The Warriors elevates a B movie action story to cult status thanks in part to Andrew Laszlo’s filming notable for the subway lighting and haunted street imagery which for years made me think that’s exactly what New York looked like.

My Winner: Apocalypse Now

Best Original Score – 1979

Official Nominations: A Little Romance. Star Trek. The Champ. 10. The Amityville Horror. All That Jazz. Breaking Away. The Muppet Movie.

A Little Romance and All That Jazz were the winners this year, the former netting Georges Delarue his Oscar. It’s a suitably twee, gentle, unassuming score for a cutesy coming of age romance. Star Trek finally hit the big screen this year with Jerry Goldsmith providing the epic music – most notably the central theme. Dave Grusin’s theme doesn’t adequately match the emotional content of the movie while 10 by Henry Mancini is perfectly bland.

The Amityville Horror gets the rare horror nomination. Music for the genre wasn’t quite starting to copy itself yet, but you can grab many moments from prior classics here, saved mostly by Schifrin’s pedigree. The strings sound creeping, not creepy – there’s some insect like about the way they jab quickly and I like how the brass mimics the string notes. The love theme is pretty good too. If you know me by now, you’ll know my feelings on anything called All That Jazz. Breaking Away is another film which features mostly adaptations while The Muppet Movie is as fantastic as you would expect, though it’s the songs which stand out rather than the other music.

My Winner: Star Trek

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My Nominations: 1941. Alien. Apocalypse Now. The Black Stallion. Mad Max. Moonraker. Nosferatu The Vampire. Quadrophenia. Rocky II. Star Trek. Zombie Flesh Eaters. Stalker.

An almost entirely different roster this year, starting with John Williams and Steven Spielberg up to their old tricks. 1941 doesn’t seem like their typical collaboration but still features plenty of great selections with a military feel. It’s that man Goldsmith again – remember he did Star Trek this year too – with the inspired and creepy score for Alien. Not only are their chilling parts which must work even without having seen the movie, but it inspires a sense of wonder and adventure too. Apocalypse Now merges original pieces with period hits and classic music to create a truly hallucinatory whole – merges genres, overlapping with snippets of gunfire, rotors, and warfare. The Coppola love continues with the underrated score of The Black Stallion – Carmine bringing the grace and class.

Over on the other side of the world the score for Mad Max is every bit as chaotic and unhinged as the film with booming brass blasts and thunderous percussion almost blocking out any trace of melody. Moonraker has a score better than the film it blesses, Barry’s familiar strains working oddly well for the unusual setting. Also working against the odds is Popol Vuh’s soundtrack for Nosferatu The Vampire, a work of electronica, chanting monks, sitars, each finely tuned to unsettle. Quadrophenia is The Who’s best opus – far better than Tommy and I much prefer the film too. This one has the much better songs, and the much better overall score. Bonus points for the movie being on as my wife was giving birth to our second child. Rocky II expands upon the original score in a few ways, though I do feel a little dishonest including it because it reuses so many pieces and motifs from the first film. Those are modified enough to suit the sequel and the original pieces are just as good as anything from part 1 – Bill Conti bringing the goods again.

Star Trek brought the famous series to the big screen, feeding off the success of Star Wars. Jerry Goldsmith indeed took inspiration from the music of Williams as well as expanding upon the original TV series themes to create a majestic score in its own right, as mentioned above. Tarkovsky’s Stalker joins him once more with Eduard Artemyev for another unearthly score, mixing oriental string instruments with strange mechanical synth. Finally, ahem, Zombie Flesh Eaters. Seriously, it has a great soundtrack. It’s really creepy, elevating the film itself and working as a great standalone – all threatening beats and epic synths along with random weird noises.

My Winner: Star Trek

Let us know your winner in the comments!