Best Actor – 1974

Official Nominations: Art Carney. Albert Finney. Dustin Hoffman. Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino.

Another of the great WTFs in the history of The Academy sees Art Carney – dead last in the category by anyone’s reckoning, winning. Having said that, it’s still a good performance, worthy of a nomination, but it’s totally a nomination and win purely for the fact he had been around so long. He plays an elderly man who with his cat whose home is taken from him. He decides to travel across America with his cat to get to LA and one of his sons, but it’s more about the journey, the people he meets, the quirky situations. I feel like this should be more of a cult movie and it feels like the sort of thing hipsters would love – good film, good performance.

Almost everything else here is legendary. Albert Finney’s performance in Murder On The Orient Express is fine again, surrounded by a stellar cast, but I think we all know the real Poirot is David Suchet. It’s one of the most famous novels and mysteries of all time, and a very successful, authentic version. Dustin Hoffman is incredible as Lenny Bruce, a performance which hurries back and forth between an energetic force of nature coming up in the world, and an addict in the throes of depression and excess. Jack Nicholson gives yet another defining performance in Chinatown as a dogged PI sucked into intrigue, romance, and danger. Finally, Pacino gets another nomination, this time in The Godfather II. You already know it, it’s fantastic. Last year for me it was between Nicholson and Pacino. That time I picked Pacino, but we’ll flip it now and give it to Jack.

My Winner: Jack Nicholson

My Nominations: Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino. Dustin Hoffman. Gene Wilder. Gene Hackman.

Three of the official nominees cross over, leaving two new choices who arguably deserve to have officially replaced Carney and Finney. Interestingly, both Wilder and Hackman appear in Young Frankenstein, but it’s Wilder’s wide-eyes, manic comedic masterclass which gets the nod, while Hackman’s geeky voyeur introvert who grows increasingly paranoid is, for me, the best thing about The Conversation. 

My Winner: Jack Nicholson

Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Actor of 1974!

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Best Actor – 1973

Official Nominations: Jack Lemmon. Marlon Brando. Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino. Robert Redford.

This is one of the few years in this category where I can’t argue against any of the choices. I mean, I won’t be picking Lemmon as winner but it’s still a terrific performance. Save The Tiger isn’t the best movie but it’s still a good find for anyone catching up on their 70s cinema and it’s difficult to picture anyone other than Lemmon in the role, thanks to his pathos and world weary everyman persona.

Even though Brando pissed off the Academy with his incident surrounding The Godfather win, he was nominated again 12 months later. Again, it’s difficult to argue against his brutal powerhouse showing in Las Tango In Paris. Nicholson continues his incredible 70s run with a film you feel doesn’t get enough attention now – The Last Detail runs the gamut from hilarious to tragic and Nicholson is alarmingly good. In the same boat is Al Pacino for Serpico – a good cop who is exposed to city wide corruption and tries to expose it all without getting cast out or hurt. Expect a lot of sudden shouts and energetic speeches, though his performance here is nowhere near top of the full Pacino volume scale as he reach later. Finally, another iconic performance by Redford in The Sting as a charming grifter who wants to learn and earn one big job, getting himself into trouble with cops and crooks along the way. Again you feel like Redford was made for the part.

My Winner: Al Pacino

My Nominations: Jack Lemmon. Marlon Brando. Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino. Robert Redford. Martin Sheen. Donald Sutherland. Harvey Keitel. Ryan O’Neal. Steve McQueen. Gene Hackman.

I copy all five official nominees over with the additional caveat that Pacino gets additional nomination for Scarecrow. He plays alongside Gene Hackman, who I also nominate – both are strong as drifters intent on starting a car wash. They meet on the road, strike up a friendship and decide upon the business venture but get into various scrapes along the way. It’s a classic cult road movie where we just watch the characters riff on each other and try to get on in the face of tragedy and hardship.

Hardship and tragedy are a common theme in the category this year – Donald Sutherland giving a convincing portrayal of grief and obsession in Don’t Look Now and Martin Sheen as the increasingly unstable, violent, and charismatic Kit in Badlands. Harvey Keitel tries to avoid violence and protect an increasingly unstable friend while hoping to be noticed by Mafia superiors – it’s a nice counter-balance to De Niro’s ‘not quite there yet’ performance. Steve McQueen gives one of his last great performances in Papillon as a wrongly convicted man planning escape from a tough prison – McQueen showing more than the mere ‘cool’ he was typically known for. Finally, a more lighter-hearted effort with Ryan O’Neal in Paper Moon. His real life daughter got the official plaudits, but O’Neal is rarely better as the con man who agrees to take an orphan to her auntie – their relationship works because it feels genuine and both show great charm.

My Winner: Al Pacino.

Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Actor of 1973!

Best Actor – 1972

Official Nominations: Marlon Brando. Michael Caine. Laurence Olivier. Peter O’Toole. Paul Winfield.

The 1972 saw at least two of who most critics consider the ‘best actor ever’ going toe to toe – with Brando coming out on top for The Godfather – one of the single most famous performances in history. Olivier, already a Best Actor winning an million time nominee is typically brilliant in Sleuth, and yet he is overshadowed by Michael Caine who delivers a performance good enough to win any year that he doesn’t go up against Don Corleone. Peter O’Toole can make a claim for appearing on any Best Actor Ever list, here picking up one of his many nominations and certainly his most bizarre. I can’t see a film like The Ruling Class ever being made outside of the weirdest Indie House, never mind it being featured at The Oscars. Nevertheless, it leaves an impression and O’Toole is great – you can’t help but wonder if Jack Nicholson had starred instead, would he have won? Finally, Paul Winfield has a more wholesome nomination for Sounder – a little film completely lost to time but one worthy of catching, not least because Winfield gets a deserved nod.

One other notable thing to mention is that each of the nominees this year made other notable performances in different films, some of them worthy of nominations themselves – Brando has Last Tango In Paris, Winfield had Trouble Man (maybe not..), Caine had Pulp, O’Toole had Man Of La Mancha, and Olivier had Lady Caroline Lamb. There’s not many years these days where the many or any of the nominees have multiple notable movies in a single year.

My Winner: Marlon Brando

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My Nominations: Marlon Brando. Michael Caine. Robert Redford. Bruce Dern. Bruce Lee.

The five officials are good enough to be on any list, but I’ll switch things up a little more and keep the only two genuine official contenders. I’d also be tempted to include Pacino here rather than the supporting category, but lets give someone else a chance. Robert Redford had two hits this year, with Jeremiah Johnson where he stars as a veteran and mountain man and The Candidate as a Democrat asked to enter a political race against the Republican powerhouse. Both these films are wonderful Redford showcases but feel as if they have been left behind in time. Although Dern deserves a shout for The King Of Marvin Gardens it is Silent Running which gets my vote. Dern gives a one man show for much of the film, growing steadily more manic and desperate, though his wide-eyed behaviour may be too much for some. Finally, Bruce Lee also appears in a couple of hits this year – while there doesn’t appear to be a lot of difference between the two characters he plays – both are moral and driven to rage and revenge by tragedy – but you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone who commanded the screen with such vitality than Lee.

My Winner: Marlon Brando

Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Actor of 1972!

Best Actor – 1971

Official Nominations: Gene Hackman. Peter Finch. Walter Matthau. George C Scott. Chaim Topol.

There were two clear front-runners this year, with Gene Hackman picking up the win for his (arguably) career best performance in The French Connection. Missing out was Topol in Fiddler In The Roof – a full-blooded performance but one I’m never going to pick over Hackman. Peter Finch plays one third of a sexual triangle in Sunday Bloody Sunday, a million miles away from camp, while Walter Matthau is not grumpy in the forgotten, curious, and light Kotch. Finally, George C Scott is grumpy and stressed and more besides in The Hospital. As mentioned – only one winner.

My Winner: Gene Hackman

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My Nominations: Gene Hackman. Gene Wilder. Dustin Hoffman. Al Pacino. Sean Connery. Malcolm McDowell. Oliver Reed. Michael Caine. Warren Beatty. Richard Roundtree. Robert Duvall.

Only Hackman transcends reality to make it onto my list, joining a list of snubs and others. Gene Wilder seems like a major snub here, at least with hindsight – his portrayal of Willy Wonka one of the most beloved ever, commanding every scene he is in and providing many memorable moments. Similarly, Dustin Hoffman may feel aggrieved that he didn’t get a nomination for Straw Dogs – Hoffman slowly cracking then shattering. Al Pacino got off to his first major lead role in Panic In Needle Park, an interesting film raised by his performance while Sean Connery plays a more dastardly version of Bond in The Anderson Tapes. Malcolm McDowell gives a tour de force performance as Alex in A Clockwork Orange, ensuring he would have a career playing madcap characters while Oliver Reed furthered his legend with The Devils. Staying in England, Michael Caine earns another nomination from me thanks to his meanest performance in Get Carter while back in the US, Warren Beatty should feel aggrieved by not getting a nomination for Mccabe & Mrs Miller. Finally, two performances which never would have got a nomination – Robert Duvall in a rare lead role for THX 1138 and Richard Roundtree for the ground-breaking Shaft. 

This is a tough one, but I think it’s between Wilder and McDowell for me.

My Winner: Gene Wilder

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Who do you pick as the Best Actor of 1971? Let us know in the comments!

Best Actor – 1970

Official Nominations: George C Scott. Ryan O Neill. Mervyn Douglas. Jack Nicholson. James Earl Jones.

Well, here we are. One of the most controversial Oscar moments arrived in this category this year when George C Scott, having been awarded the win, declined to accept it and instead derided the whole ceremony as ‘a meat parade’ more interested in making money. It’s difficult to argue with him. Fear not, that’s one of the reasons I started this damn thing, so that i could pick my winners based (almost) purely on individual performance and quality. No nonsense about people who should have won in previous years, no career wins, no wins or nominations for those who campaigned hardest. The hardest part of that for me is knowing which actors etc have won or not won in later years and falling into the trap of giving awards to those who I feel deserved one.

But enough of that for now. Scott picked up the win for an iconic performance of an icon in Patton. It is Scott’s defining performance, a wide-eyed, crazed, and shouting portrayal of patriotism in war time, and it’s difficult to argue against the win. We do have two other potential winners in this category, with James Earl Jones astounding in The Great White Hope – he was already familiar with the role having won awards for his stage performances. Equally notable is Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces, perhaps uncharacteristic compared to the later roles and performances he would give, but he is undeniably charismatic and turns Bobby Dupea into a fully formed cult figure. The final two nominations are rather odd, and as much as I like both actors, there isn’t really any reason for them being nominated here. Ryan O’Neal plays a rich but kind jock hearthrob who falls in love with a smart ass working class girl. He’s fine, but you can imagine anyone else in the role. Finally, Mervyn Douglas (who had already won a supporting award and would pick up one more by the end of the decade) gets a lead nomination for what could arguably be another supporting role. In I Never Sang For My Father he plays a sort of crotchety old man who is seeing life and control slip away, and who doesn’t want his son to move away. It’s an okay performance, but it’s not one that stands any chance of winning here.

My Winner: George C Scott

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My Nominations: George C Scott. James Earl Jones. Jack Nicholson. Peter Boyle. George Segal.

This is quite tough as there honestly are not too many other notable performances this year  – I could have had Richard Harris for Cromwell, John Cassavetes for Husbands, Sutherland or Gould for MASH, but I don’t think they are as strong as what I have picked. Therefore my only additions are Peter Boyle as Joe and George Segal for Loving – two worthy additions, though only Boyle really stands a chance of winning.

My Winner: George C Scott

Who would you choice as the Best Actor of 1970? Let us know in the comments!

Best Actor – 1969

Official Nominations: John Wayne. Richard Burton. Dustin Hoffman. Peter O’Toole. John Voight.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the late 60s saw a troubling shift for Hollywood as the old guard of musicals and costume dramas became less popular and the demand for more realistic, gritty, and dramatic films was heightened. The Academy still sought to perpetuate the old ways by offering some strange choices of films as their nominees and winners. In this category this year, we see a list of five legends – some existing and some who would later cement their titles, but it’s quite amusing to see them getting confused about what is considered ‘Old Hollywood’ and awarding John Wayne with a win. Part justified for his performance, part political based on his popularity and past works, it seems like an unusual choice. Wayne is good, but Wayne is Wayne, eye-patch or nor.

Peter O’Toole seems like another example of this pandering to the old ways – a good performance wavering between stiff and charming, but in a film which few will remember. Richard Burton’s nomination is another unusual choice – a film few will think of when they think of him, and a film whose success at the Oscars appeared to be part of a vicious marketing campaign more than anything else. The final two nominations then are for the same movie, with Hoffman and Voight giving two of their finest performances as a pair of hustlers looking to make a fast buck and exploit a cold and uncaring world by undertaking seedy dealings – it’s the Anti-American dream and it’s difficult to pick a winner out of the two, Hoffman the more obvious of the two due to the more hyperactive character veering between street wisdom and desperation.

My Winner: Dustin Hoffman

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My Nominations: Jon Voight. Dustin Hoffman. Michael Caine. Robert Redford. Paul Newman. David Bradley. Oliver Reed. William Holden. Helmut Berger.

Only two of the official nominees make it over to my list, both from Midnight Cowboy. Michael Caine gets the nod for another early iconic performance in The Italian Job – a film which has still not made much of an impact in the States, bizarre considering the Brit Invasion of the 1960s. Fellow Brit Oliver Reed is great alongside a strong leading cast in Women In Love, while a young David Bradley looked set to be one of the next big things after a memorable performance in Kes which received glowing reviews. Outside of Britain, Helmut Berger makes a definite impression in the shocking and dark The Damned as one of the most reprehensible figures in cinema – unfortunately it’s a film few people have seen. Back in the US, Robert Redford gets my pick over Paul Newman in BCASK and William Holden is ostensibly the lead and figurehead in The Wild Bunch, leading his men with a weary guile from one near miss to inevitable demise.

My Winner: Helmut Berger

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Who is your pick for the best Actor of 1969 – any of the above, or someone else entirely? Let us know in the comments!

Best Actor – 1968

Official Nominations: Cliff Robertson. Alan Arkin. Alan Bates. Ron Moody. Peter O’Toole

Cliff Robertson picked up the official win this year for the title role in Charley, based off Flowers For Algernon. It’s a decent enough performance although contemporary audiences will likely feel uncomfortable watching the outdated but honest portrayal of a mentally handicapped person trying to ‘better himself’. The win was controversial as many outlets and detractors saw it as another example of the soliciting of votes rather than a deserving victory. Alan Arkin does well in an early role, ironically similar to that of Robertson but in an altogether darker movie while Alan Bates does his best Russian impression in The Fixer. Ron Moody stands out in posibly the most recognizable performance of Fagan while Peter O’Toole is rather plain in the rather plain Lion In Winter.  All of the films nominated for Best Actor this year were based on a book or a play in another sign of Hollywood clinging to the old ways.

My Winner: Ron Moody

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My Nominations: Steve McQueen. Christopher Lee. Lee Marvin. Toshiro Mifune. Duane Jones. Charles Bronson. Zero Mostel.

An entirely different line-up for me this year, with 7 nominees making up my list. Although McQueen also starred in The Thomas Crown Affair this year, it is his commanding and cool performance in Bullitt which garners his nod. McQueen did a lot of preparation for the role, rattles off the dialogue in a matter of fact, whip-smart way, and of course did many of the stunts himself. Christopher Lee takes on a rare good guy role in The Devil Rides Out, one of countless similar horror films he starred in, but one whose quality stands over most of the others. Lee commands as expected, and gives as regal and refined a performance in a horror movie as you’re ever likely to see. Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune both get nods for the same movie as they star as two shipwrecked soldiers on opposing sides in WWII who must work together to survive. Marvin gets more screen time as a lead than many other more well known performances, while Mifune gives probably his best performance outside of his Japanese movies. Duane Jones gives a timeless, earnest, and yes, regal performance in Night Of The Living Dead inadvertently becoming a counter culture and civil rights icon while Charles Bronson has possibly his best role in Once Upon A Time In The West. Finally, Zero Mostel is hilarious as the greedy, scheming Bialystock in The Producers. This is a tough choice for me as I feel all are worthy winners.

My Winner: Charles Bronson

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Who is your pick for Best Actor of 1968? Let us know in the comments!

Best Actor – 1967

Official Nominations: Rod Steiger. Warren Beatty. Dustin Hoffman. Paul Newman. Spencer Tracy

An excellent list of nominees, each deserving of the win, with Rod Steiger picking up the official trophy for his gritty portrayal of a Southern White Cop whose life and beliefs and put in turmoil by the appearance of a Black Detective. Warren Beatty gives one of his most charismatic and iconic performances as Clyde Barrow while Paul Newman runs a gamut of emotions as the similarly iconic Luke. Spencer Tracey shines in his last role, with filming completing a couple of weeks before his death, while newcomer Dustin Hoffman was cast perfectly, and shockingly as the awkward, drifting graduate Ben.

My Winner: Dustin Hoffman

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My Nominations: Warren Beatty. Dustin Hoffman. Paul Newman. Rod Steiger. Sydney Poitier. Alain Delon.

I’ve added two obvious choices to my list – Sydney Poitier for either Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner or In The Heat Of The Night (my preference being the latter) and Alain Delon for Le Samourai where he perfects the art of the cold, solitary assassin.

My Winner: Dustin Hoffman

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Who is your pick for the Best Actor of 1967? Let us know in the comments!

Best Actor – 1966

Official Nominations: Paul Schofield. Alan Arkin. Richard Burton. Michael Caine. Steve McQueen.

1966’s Best Actor category saw a number of big hitters jostling with newer stars. Schofield picked up the official win for a reprisal of the role he perfected on stage in A Man For All Seasons. I’m not a fan of this sort of crossover, and though obviously it is a classy performance, he won’t be getting my vote. Alan Arkin became one of the only actors in history to get a Best Actor nomination for his first full performance, and would go on to continued success over the next 6 decades, his performance in The Russians Are Coming ensuring many more hit roles. Richard Burton picked up his 5th acting nomination, but yet again lost out, while Michael Caine cemented his credibility and standing after Zulu and The Ipcress File, with Alfie. Steve Mcqueen rounded up the nominations with a rarely talked about war film The Sand Pebbles where he drifts between anti-hero and anti-villian, gaining his only Academy nomination.

My Winner: Steve McQueen

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My Nominations: Steve McQueen. Alan Arkin. David Hemmings. Clint Eastwood. Donald Pleasance. Marlon Brando

Only McQueen and Arkin make it over onto my list this time around, and I’ve added a trio of legends, and one who just missed out on legendary status. David Hemmings has appeared in some huge films, but never really made that lasting impression, one film, one character who propelled him into eternal stardom. Blow-Up remains his finest moment, a combination of perfect actor discovered for perfect role, with the perfect director in place to achieve the perfect performance. Clint Eastwood meanwhile had been honing his skills in Italian Westerns in recent years to get work, and in ’66 his stardom exploded thank to the mega-hit The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Eastwood commands the screen in every scene, and gives a stunning lesson on how to convey a hundred thoughts and emotions with the barest of movements and fewest of words. Brando pops up again in 66 with The Chase, an unusual, and long-forgotten film dealing with racism and corruption in the wake of a prison break. My final pick is for Mr Pleasance in Cul-De-Sac, another forgotten one, this time by Roman Polanski. Pleasance is excellent as an already paranoid man decaying further into madness.

My Winner: Clint Eastwood.

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Who is your pick for Best Actor of 1966 from the Official Nominations, or from my nominations – or are there any performances from 1966 you feel are better? Let us know in the comments!

Best Actor: 1965

Official Nominations: Lee Marvin. Laurence Olivier. Rod Steiger. Oskar Werner. Richard Burton.

Lee Marvin picked up a surprising win this year for his dual role as opposing gunslingers in Cat Ballou. An odd little comedy, it opened up a variety of new roles for Marvin. Previously known for his hard-ass characters, his performance here was strong enough that he was offered a wider array of roles.  Laurence Olivier this year did what he did best, bringing a literary character to life. This time it is Othello, but the film is cheap mess and Olivier loses all credibility for pulling an Al Jolson, complete with blackface, deep voice, and what appears to be a ‘funky’ walk. Rod Steiger notched up another Oscar nomination for his gripping performance in the brave The Pawnbroker. Steiger accurately depicts the life of a Holocaust survivor who is so withdrawn and scarred that he can only find solace in the darkest pits of NYC. Richard Burton and Oskar Werner both starred in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, but while Burton was nominated for his performance, Werner picked up the nod for Ship Of Fools (which also featured Lee Marvin…). Fools is more of an ensemble piece, so the nomination for Werner doesn’t feel quite right, though his performances in both films are fine.

My Winner: Lee Marvin.

My Nominations: Michael Caine. James Stewart. Marlon Brando. Lee Marvin. Max Von Sydow.

Only Marvin makes the grade for me this year, with a quartet of Hollywood giants being added to the list. Caine’s performance as Harry Palmer is a wonderful contrast to the image of the spy presented by Sean Connery. Caine fully embraces his Cockney heritage and plays the spy as a grizzled Sergeant focussed on when his next paycheck is will arrive. Brando excels in Morituri, a little remembered film with many interesting ideas. Brando plays a German pacifist during WWII who is blackmailed into helping the Allied forces into destroying a Nazi ship, and shows a range of skills and restraint in the role. Jimmy Stewart starred in 3 films this year, though only The Flight Of The Phoenix and Shenandoah are worth mentioning.Stewart gets my vote for the former, as the pilot of the famous aircraft who reluctantly leads a ragtag group of survivors. It’s an unusual film for Stewart, but one worth watching due to many fine performances, Stewart’s leading the way. Finally, Max Von Sydow bursts onto the US scene with the little known character Jesus, in The Greatest Story Ever Told. A messy film in many ways, Von Sydow carries the ensemble cast and breezes his way into the all action world of Hollywood.

My Winner: Michael Caine

Let us know in the comments section who your pick for the Best Actor of 1965 is.