Best Actor – 1978

Official Nominations: Jon Voight. Warren Beatty. Gary Busey. Robert De Niro. Laurence Olivier.

In the late 70s, De Niro took over from Pacino in The Best Actor official category, here gaining his third nomination. It was Jon Voight though who picked up the win in a genuinely tough category. I think all five performances here are contenders, but I would have four front-runners including Voight as the severely injured soldier Coming Home. De Niro’s performance also sees him returning home from, going to, and being in Vietnam and I feel it’s the more iconic, more rounded of the two. Gary Busey hits the big time with his superb portrayal of Buddy Holly, one of the most underrated biography performances of all time, while Laurence Olivier gets a veteran nomination as a Nazi Hunter in The Boys From Brazil. Unlike most veteran nominations, this one is deserving on its own merits. Finally, Warren Beatty is the outsider and this feels more like a ‘we love you, Warren’ nomination than anything else. A good performance sure, but not on par with the others.

My Winner: Robert De Niro

My Nominations: Jon Voight. Gary Busey. Robert De Niro. Christopher Reeve. Donald Pleasence. Jan Michael Vincent. Gregory Peck. Brad Davis. Ryan O’Neal. John Belushi.

Three make it over from the official list, joining a mixture of possible snubs and personal favourites. Christopher Reeve burst onto the scene as the only Superman who will ever matter (sorry Dean Cain), a role so all-encompassing that he could never escape it. It’s a great lead performance surrounded by a stellar cast – his comedic talents giving Clark Kent that awkward, clumsy charm while easily transitioning into the all-powerful hero figure. Also kind of playing an awkward and heroic character is Donald Pleasence as Dr Loomis in Halloween, one of the great good guys of horror cinema. the sequels have a fair bit of scenery chewing, but here Pleasence looks like he’s relishing the performance and film, having fun as this slightly manic protector of a child who wsa pure evil. Is he truly a lead though? Tough, I’m adding him.

Jan Michael Vincent didn’t really stand a chance against De Niro and Voight, but his performance in Big Wednesday shares a lot of similarities and should have been a stepping off point to much bigger things. Unfortunately, things never quite panned out that way, perhaps some critical praise would have helped. Gregory Peck goes against type and plays one of the most despicable humans ever in The Boys From Brazil – proving that everyone’s favourite wholesome figure could be much more. Brad Davis could have become a household name if he had received more high profile praise for his star making turn in Midnight Express while John Belushi became an icon after Animal House. Finally, Ryan O’Neal stars as the titular Driver in Walter Hill’s action/chase classic. When people think of Ryan O’Neal they invariably go to Love Story or Paper Moon but for me it’s The Driver which features his best performance, much against type, as the cool and detached getaway driver whose apparently obvious desires are perhaps not so obvious upon reevaluation.

My Winner: Robert De Niro

Let us know your picks in the comments!

Best Actress – 1978

Official Nominations: Ingrid Bergman. Jane Fonda. Jill Clayburgh. Ellen Burstyn. Geraldine Page.

This year it’s another fairly weak category. Fonda got her win for the underrated Coming Home, but I feel like the male performances are so strong as to make everyone else seem on a lower level. Ingrid Bergman delivers her final big screen performance, it’s good but I don’t rate it as highly as some from previous decades. Jill Clayburgh is great in An Unmarried Woman, running the gamut of emotions as her marriage, and life unravels catastrophically. The final two performances get votes more because of who the performers are rather than the performances themselves – fine again, but nothing special.

My Winner: Jill Clayburgh

My Nominations: Jill Clayburgh. Lynn Holly Johnson. Margot Kidder. Jamie Lee Curtis.

Only Clayburgh makes it to my choices, and to be honest I’ve struggled finding a collection of worthy performances. Ice Castles isn’t the best film in the world, but it’s sweet and where it does succeed is down almost entirely to Lynn Holly Johnson’s performance as a young woman who dreams of becoming an Ice Skating champion only to suffer a freak accident. Margot Kidder became just as iconic as Lois Lane as Christoper Reeves did as Superman, a performance often overlooked. Finally, Jamie Lee Curtis makes up the numbers as one of the most famous horror movie survivors Laurie Strode, whose screams and strength and perseverance essentially created both the Scream Queen and Final Girl archetypes. She wasn’t the first, but she’s the poster girl, and for a debut performance few have become more famous.

My Winner: Jill Clayburgh

Let us know your winner 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!

1976 Academy Awards – An Introduction

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The Awards risked debauchery this year by allowing Richard Pryor on the mic, backed up by Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn, and Warren Beatty. We had our first ever posthumous acting win (Peter Finch), and the first woman (Lina Wertmuller) to be nominated in the Directing category. As usual, there were some standouts with respect to multiple nominations – both Network and Rocky received ten, and All The President’s Men grabbed eight. Which, if any, of these movies will feature heavily in my picks?

Presenting awards this year were Muhammad Ali and Sly Stallone, Louise Fletcher, Jack Nicholson and many more, while performances came from the likes of Bill Conti, Tom Jones, and Ann-Margret. The sole Honorary Award went to Pandro S Berman – one of early Hollywood’s biggest Producers.

Join us over the next few weeks as I deliver my verdict on each category, and feel free to share your picks too!

 

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1975

Official Nominations: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Barry Lyndon. The Man Who Would Be King. Profumo di donna. The Sunshine Boys.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest continued its clean sweep of the big boys with an official win here. While Kesey was originally going to work on the screenplay, he later pulled out and refused to ever see the film. The film does contain some minor and significant changes to the story, having less of an emphasis on Chief’s role, but it retains the spirit of the novel and is peppered with great one-liners and speeches. Similarly, Kubrick’s screenplay for Barry Lyndon makes a major narrative change in having an omniscient narrator, as well has having little obvious comedy which made for an initially cold experience and reception.

The Man Who Would Be King is a film and story of adventure and glory, and one of the few non-horror films that ends with a severed head in a box. Spoiler alert, I guess? There isn’t much difference from the original story aside from the usual cinematic concessions, but there are plenty of speeches peppered throughout, with the odd bit of sarcastic patriotism. The Italian original of Scent Of A Woman is another weird one – it’s ostensibly a comedy, a film about two injured soldiers returning home to kill themselves, one of whom is blind and therefore accompanied by a younger army aide. While the days tick down he decides to meet as many hot women as he can, getting the boy to spot for him but eventually deciding to, literally, smell them out himself. I never got on well with the remake, and this gives me similar feelings, though plus marks for the unusual story. Finally, The Sunshine Boys, is Neil Simon adapting his own play so if you know his work you know what you’re going to get. It has some great comic talent so no matter what the material is you know they’re going to make it crackle – luckily they have a writer at the top of his game to play off – again plus points for showing something generally unorthodox on screen – old guys bickering rather than teens – but I guess they still did things differently in the 70s.

My Winner: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

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My Nominations: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Barry Lyndon. Jaws. Picnic At Hanging Rock. Tommy.

The two big names make my list, joining two big name snubs. Jaws has many quotable one-liners and pieces of dialogue which have long since entered the public conscience – my personal favourite always being the Indianapolis speech penned by Robert Shaw, Howard Sackler, and the great John Milius. In fact, the film as a whole features a number of writers and contributions even though Benchley and Carl Gottlieb get the main credits. Picnic At Hanging Rock is an ambiguous novel and the film takes that ambiguity to the next level by instilling a dreamlike tone to the narrative. Finally, Tommy sees Ken Russell (no stranger to stories concerning music and musicians) somehow concoct a somewhat straight film from The Who’s scattered rock opera, expanding loose threads and minor lyrics into a fully formed screenplay.

My Winner: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Foreign Film – 1975

Official Nominations: Dersu Uzala.  Letters From Marusia. The Promised Land. Sandakan No.8. Profuma di Donna.

Of all the Kurosawa films, you’d think Dersu Uzala would be pretty far down the list. It’s not an immediate masterpiece like Seven Samurai, but it’s still great. It’s based on the life of an educated Russian explorer and the nomadic hunter of the title – how these two men work and learn and get older together and come to a mutual respect in a harsh but beautiful wilderness. It you know anything about how Kurosawa directs and frames, then you think of a Russian wilderness you can imagine what how Kurosawa would film it. It’s a lovely, poignant, tragic story too which will remind viewers of something like Ikiru.  Letters From Marusia is pretty tragic too, a film based on a real life event when a town of miners decided to strike for better working conditions. Knowing that this could lead to military intervention from their government, they try to defend themselves. The Promised Land isn’t the most exciting film Wajda ever made, but it is stark and uncompromising, following the lives of three friends trying to set up a business and make loadsa money. Interestingly it has a similar ending to the previous film nominated. Sandakan No. 8 is another stark one, taking a damning look at the way women, or at least prostitutes can be treated in the country. It’s about a young girl sold into prostitution, and how she grows up in the business becoming disillusioned with life and people and how she can’t reintegrate into society once she comes home.  Finally, Profuma di donna is the original version of Scent Of A Woman. It’s actually pretty similar, except it’s in the 70s and in Italy. I’m not a huge fan of either film though.

My Winner: Dersu Uzala

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My Nominations: Dersu Uzala. Deep Red. Furtivos. Graveyard Of Honour. Inserts. Katie Tippel. The Land That Time Forgot. The Man Who Would Be King. Monty Python And The Holy Grail. The Passenger. Picnic At Hanging Rock. Seven Beauties. The Story Of Adele H. Tommy.

Yikes, what a year. There’s a whole host of great films here, a few I didn’t include and a few I haven’t seen which would likely warrant inclusion. My list does of course include guilty pleasures, but if you enjoy them more than those genuinely nominated that’s good enough for me. Only Kurosawa’s film makes it to my list, but there’s no shortage of classics to accompany it. Staying in Japan we have Kinji Fukasaku’s seminal Yakuza thriller Graveyard Of Honour about the torrid life of one gangster, featuring a number of stunning stunts. Staying in the East we have Picnic At Hanging Rock, one of Australia’s finest films of the decade, haunting, ambiguous, beautiful.

The Land That Time Forgot is a bit of cheat given it’s a joint US/UK production, but I include it here anyway as it is one of the most entertaining films of the era and maybe the best example of the Lost World genre ever committed to screen. Dated now, and not exactly filled with acting greats, it’s nevertheless a personal favourite. Another exciting US/UK venture is The Man Who Would Be King in which John Huston makes a rollicking, if overlong epic while Monty Python And The Holy Grail sees the Python group unleashes their unique brand of insanity upon the world. Tommy is maybe the best, certainly the most regarded, movie based on an album.

Elsewhere in Europe, Antonioni shows off in his films about abandonment and escape – The Passenger features shots and camerawork which still power to wow in today’s world of digital trickery. Paul Verhoeven gives us the life of Katie Tippel in typically sexualized style while Inserts examines in humourous style the options available (porn) for silent actors when talkies became popular – two films which were fairly shocking for the time but never found a worldwide audience. Furtivos is one of Spain’s best films and is crying out to find a new audience – an uncomfortable, uncompromising drama about a deceptive hunter and his monstrous mother, while Seven Beauties is similarly controversial as we follow the life of an Italian scumbag who will do anything to survive – another film which deserves a look by modern viewers. Finally, The Story Of Adele H is Truffaut’s biography of one of Victor Hugo’s daughters as she becomes obsessed with a man, following him around the world in an entirely unrequited path of destruction.

My Winner: Monty Python And The Holy Grail

Let us know your winning pick in the comments!

1975 Academy Awards – An Introduction

The 48th Academy Awards ushered in the era of the blockbuster, with Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws earning all of the money but a host of nominations and wins too. There were several films which had high numbers of nominations – One Flew over The Cuckoo’s Nest leading the way with nine, closely followed by Barry Lyndon with seven and Dog Day Afternoon with six. Rest assured that each of these will feature heavily in my personal picks, along with some other interesting selections.

We had five hosts this year – George Segal, Goldie Hawn, Gene Kelly, Robert Shaw, and Walter Matthau while presenters included Roy Scheider, Ben Johnson, Isabelle Adjani, and Gore Vidal. Performing for the crowd this year were John Williams, Diana Ross, and Keith Carradine amongst others, while Mary Pickford, Mervyn LeRoy, and Jules C Stein picked up Honorary Awards.

Join us over the next few weeks to see what I picked in each category, and be sure to leave you own – the world is (n’t) watching (!).

1974 Academy Awards – An Introduction

The 47th Academy Awards had a very masculine, mafia-based tone, what with hosts including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, and Sammy Davis Jr, and The Godfather II and Chinatown picking up several nominations and wins. You can expect both of those movies to lead the way in my personal picks, with hopefully a few surprises along the way.

Jean Renoir, Howard Hawks, and Arthur B Krim were the honorary winners this year, while other categories were presented by Lauren Bacall, OJ Simpson, Goldie Hawn, Warren Beatty, and many more. The four hosts performed music, along with Aretha Franklin and Frankie Laine.

Join us over the next few weeks to see where my wins go, and feel free to share your own picks!

1973 Academy Awards – An Introduction

The 46th Academy Awards were notable for honouring movies which were both alarmingly modern and groundbreaking, and those which unashamedly recalled the past. As if this needed any further proof outside of the films nominated, a man broke ground by becoming the first streaker at the ceremony, unashamedly recalling that ancient tradition of being naked in public. There were two main players this time, with one clear winner – The Sting claiming seven wins from 10 nominations and The Exorcist earning only two wins from 10. The ceremony also saw the largest age gap yet between winners, when young Tatum O’Neil became the youngest ever winner vesus John Houseman’s veteran win.

The awards were hosted this year by John Huston, Burt Reynolds, Diana Ross, and David Niven. Presenters this year included Linda Blair, Alfred Hitchcock, Katherine Hepburn, and Jack Lemmon, while Jodie Foster, Telly Savalas, Peggy Lee, and Liza Minelli were some of the performers on the night. Honorary Awards went to Henri Langlois, Lew Wasserman, Groucho Marx, and Lawrence Weingarten.

At a high level I can see switch in the balance between The Sting and The Exorcist in my personal picks, and I expect several gritty dramas and surprising horror movies to feature heavily. What will your picks be? Join us over the next few weeks to share!

 

Academy Awards 1972 – An Introduction

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The 45th Academy Awards were marred by multiple controversies – The Godfather having it’s nomination for Best Score removed, Brando boycotting the whole thing, and Cabaret getting the most nominations without winning Best Picture. It was another year where lessons from past years were seemingly forgotten, with strange nominations in the face more obvious and deserving choices. There were even some strange choices for the wins. Both of the two aforementioned led the way for wins and nominations meaning other films were unrepresented, especially in the wins category. Edward G Robinson and Charles S Boren received Honorary Awards.

Carol Burnett, Charlton Heston, Michael Caine, and Rock Hudson hosted the show, which also saw James Coburn, Billy Dee Williams, Julie Andrew, John Wayne and other presenting. Meanwhile, Michael Jackson, John Williams, and a host of Disney Characters all performed music.

At least one of the two big winners will also be a big winner in my picks while the other may be sorely disappointed. There will be plenty of surprise nominations in some of the major categories and the usual mix of personal favourites popping up. Join us in the next few weeks to see what makes the cut!