Best Picture – 1978

Official Nominations: The Deer Hunter. Coming Home. Heaven Can Wait. Midnight Express. An Unmarried Woman.

The late 70s saw an uptake in realistic war movies – thanks to the grit and realism which filmmakers had sought to provide since the start of the decade, and when merged with the injustices of the Vietnam war, Hollywood and audiences were ready for such films. The Deer Hunter is one of the greatest War movies ever made – impeccably directed and acted, and with any number of iconic scenes. It’s incredibly tense, tragic, and draining, but also beautifully shot. For anyone not in the know, it follows a group of friends from a small industrial town who are all heading to Vietnam – we meet them before heading off and see their relationships and personalities. One gets married, they have a final bonding Deer Hunt, and then the film abruptly jumps to ‘Nam. The rest of the film deals with their part in the war, coming home to find out how the world has moved on, and each dealing with their personal changes.

Coming Home has been overshadowed by The Deer Hunter, but it’s great too and shares a lot of similarities with Cimino’s movie. There is Vietnamthere is a paralyzed guy, there’s a girl waiting at home, there’s a guy with PTSD – it’s a very strong movie but lacks the overall power of The Deer Hunter. Heaven Can Wait is another one of those ‘guy dies before his time and argues with the powers that be to send him back to Earth’ movies. We’ve all seen one of them, and this is the best version, charming, sweet, funny. On the other end of the scale is Midnight Express – as stark and chilling a prison movie as you’ll ever see. It’s not an easy watch, the direction as cold as the unfolding events – it’s about a college student buying some cheap dope in Turkey while on holiday and trying to get home. He gets caught and goes through a lot of bullshit before being imprisoned. Prison life is tough, but he meets other friendly inmates. When he gets decades added on to his sentence he decides to escape, but more terrible things happen and he eventually loses his mind. It’s one of those movies everyone should see once, but once will be enough for most.

Finally, An Unmarried Woman lightens the tone. It’s an important film for the evolution of the roles women get on screen and touches on subjects such as the sexual liberation of the time. Basically it shows a wife who has a more or less perfect American life losing it all after her husband decides to leave her. She is thrown into the world of singles again, confused and angry, but as the film progresses she learns to stand on her own. It’s good, but it has no chance of winning.

My Winner: The Deer Hunter

My Nominations: The Deer Hunter. Midnight Express. Superman. Halloween. The Driver. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers. Dawn Of The Dead. Big Wednesday. Animal House.

So, when I created my lovely top 250 films on IMDB many many years ago, no fewer than five of my nominations this year made an appearance. I don’t think I’d seen Big Wednesday at that point, or at seen it too recently to rank it. You wouldn’t think it is a John Milius film, it’s certainly his most personal, and it’s understandable that it didn’t do as well as it should have going up against the similarish Deer Hunter and Coming Home. At least Milius would get his surfing love into Apocalypse Now. Big Wednesday is a great coming of age drama about friendship – even though it is from a place and era I have no affiliation with, it still reminds you of your own youth and experience in a bittersweet way, its universal themes compatible with anyone.

Animal House wasn’t on my list either but as far as comedies go they don’t get much better or anarchic or influential. Frat Houses are not something we have any experience of in my country, and while I actually lived at home during my University years, I stayed with friends long enough to get a glimpse, a tiny glimpse of the sorts of antics the film presents – like the previous film there is a universal sense of camaraderie here which ensures the film keeps hitting the right notes with each generation. You’re unlikely to find many more comedies with as much energy and great performers as this. Superman was long seen as the greatest comic book movie ever – compare it was Marvel and DC’s efforts today and, well, there isn’t really much comparison. As much as I love it, I’ve always been more of a Burton’s Batman kind of guy – it appeared on my list, Superman didn’t. Reeve creates or restores an icon, the world had a new hero, everyone loved Lois, hated Luthor, and laughed at Jimmy, and Brando even pops up.

The Driver was on my Top 250 IMDB list, Walter Hill’s film as minimalist as it is cool – Ryan O’Neal has never been better while Bruce Dern is comically manic. I still say it’s the best car movie ever made, not that I know or care much about cars. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers is the most acclaimed version of the story, though Abel Ferrara’s retelling remains my personal favourite. This one has the best cast and the best twist, with Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartright all excelling, along with Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum. There’s just something about this idea of soulless copies, of being hunted down and not knowing who to trust or who is an alien which resonates with me and I love this version.

That leaves us with two of the greatest horror movies of all time. How do you choose between two seminal classics – Halloween essentially created the slasher genre and the teen horror genre, while Dawn Of The Dead perfected every zombie cliché. I could watch both of these movies every day for the rest of my life and never get sick of them. Both are scary – in the immediate and lingering sense, both are technically brilliant, both have great performances, great music, and are defining moments for both directors. Halloween is a must watch every Halloween – no other film has nailed that sense, or essence of the season, and I’d go so far as saying no film about any season, Christmas included, has got it right. Dawn Of The Dead though… I’m not sure any other horror film has ever grabbed me so instantly and filled me with so many thoughts and ideas and questions to the extent that I’ll be thinking about it at least once a week. I love everything about this movie, even the stuff that doesn’t work, and for me it is never less than perfect.

My Winner: Dawn Of The Dead

What is your pick for the Best Film of 1978? Anything not mentioned above? Let us know 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 Picture – 1976

Official Nominations: Rocky. Taxi Driver. All The President’s Men. Bound For Glory. Network.

The mid-seventies were incredibly impressive from a quality perspective, with The Academy largely nominating the correct films. 1976 is mostly no different – there are four films here which you would be happy to pic as winner, and another which is all but forgotten. Bound For Glory is the outcast – a biography of Woody Guthrie. It’s the sort of thing The Academy always nominates, but this one while fine is oddly stale and uneventful. Sidney Lumet gets another nod after missing out the previous year, this time for the brilliant and satirical Network – a film which seems to grow in value with every passing scandal and generation. Speaking of scandals, All The President’s Men is probably still the most famous ‘media’ movie focusing on real life events, inspirational and pertinent.

As important and great as those movies are, the final two are by far the more adored and have enjoyed that status since release. Taxi Driver firmly positioned De Niro and Scorsese as greats and is one of the seminal movies of the decade, a grim and darkly comedic look at New York, and by extension, North America’s underbelly. It’s another film whose power hasn’t diminished. Finally, it’s Rocky. Say what you will about the sequels (I personally love them all), but the original remains one of the most inspiring movies ever, filled with love, hope, determination, and remains the best American Dream movie since the time it was released. Stallone, Shire, Avildson, Meredith, Young, Weathers – the music, the training, the fight, the dialogue – from a commercial, cultural, and critical standpoint one of the most important movies ever made.

My Winner: Rocky

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My Nominations: Rocky. Taxi Driver. The Omen. All The President’s Men. Network. Marathon Man.

As proof again of how strong the mid-seventies were, four of the five official nominees make my list. There are plenty of others to choose from though. In terms of critically acclaimed horror movies, The Omen seems to be one which gets forgotten alongside The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby – but it’s no less vital. Certainly more visceral in its approach thanks to the use of some spectacular, gory setpieces, Richard Donner’s classic still holds up. Finally, Marathon Man brings equally insidious thrills as Dustin Hoffman gets embroiled in the hunt for Nazi diamonds, with Schlesinger barely shying away from some of the most notoriously uncomfortable, squirming scenes of torture ever. Lovely.

My Winner: Rocky

Let us know in the comments which film of 1976 you pick as winner!

Best Picture – 1975

Official Nominations: One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest. Jaws. Dog Day Afternoon. Barry Lyndon. Nashville

Jeepers, what do you do with this category? Five undisputed classics including three which have been personal favourites for most of my life. Anything you pick here is a worthy winner, but lets go through them anyway. One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest was the official winner and only the second movie ever to win the five major categories. If you’re here then you already know the story, but just in case – Jack Nicholson’s character RP McMurphy (who people forget is actually a scumbag criminal) is moved from prison to a mental institution because he thinks he’ll have an easier time. He meets the other inmates, has a lot of fun bending the rules, and clashes with the vicious lead Nurse. It’s iconic, filled with great scenes and performances, and runs the gamut from side-splitting laughs, to shocks, and tragedy. It’s a must see.

Next up is Jaws. Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t seen Jaws. Brody, Quint, Hooper, Orca, ‘we’re gonna need a bigger boat’ etc. Even if you don’t watch movies, you watch Jaws. Dog Day Afternoon also features iconic moments and is led by a blistering Al Pacino performance – when people begin watching Pacino movies, this film is one you’ll want to see as soon as possible, but it’s great for other reasons too – funny moments, an air of inevitability, and the general anti-establishment tone controlled by Sidney Lumet mean it’s a cult classic.

Barry Lyndon is Stanley Kubrick’s return, this time a period piece about the adventures of the titular character. Perhaps overlong and not as controversial or immediately engaging as some of his more popular work, it is nevertheless one of the most beautifully shot films ever. Finally, it’s Nashville. Possibly my least favourite film here, but when you look at the other four that isn’t a negative statement – it’s another masterstroke by Altman. In any other year any of these films would be in contention for a win, the fact that I enjoy it even though it’s a musical is a testament to its quality. It’s hilarious with a touch of the surreal, and bolstered by a bunch of good performances. For my win, I go with the one I know and love best.

My Winner: Jaws

My Nominations: One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest. Jaws. Dog Day Afternoon. Barry Lyndon. Nashville. The Holy Grail. Picnic At Hanging Rock

As great as the nominations are this year, there aren’t too many obvious choices to add or replace. Having said that, I add two personal favourites which never stood a chance of ever getting nominated. Monty Python And The Holy Grail is sheer British anarchy at its finest, turning comedy, and film, on its head in a parade of songs, violence, silliness, fourth wall breaking, and general inspired nonsense while Picnic At Hanging Rock is another symbol of the creativity emerging from Oz in the 70s. It’s an ambiguous mystery with definite beauty, a haunting score and the sort of tension only experienced inside the heart of darkness.

My Winner: Jaws

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Picture – 1974

Official Nominations: The Godfather Part 2. Chinatown. The Conversation. Lenny. The Towering Inferno.

One the most renowned and brilliant years for the Best Picture, you would think that any year any of those nominated could be winner. The Godfather Part 2 got the official win, and how can you possibly argue against it? Coppola, Pacino, De Niro, the survivors from the first film, ‘you broke my heart’, ‘just enough to wet my beak’ etc. It’s glorious.

Chinatown is glorious too, just slightly less so. Polanski, Nicholson, Dunaway, Robert Towne – all doing career best work. It doesn’t even sound remotely interesting on the surface – a private investigator is hired to look into a man who is an engineer for some LA water company. As the plot unravels more and more mysteries emerge, leading to threat, violence, sex… it’s Chinatown. The Conversation is interesting primarily because Coppola made and released it in the same year as he did The Godfather II – how is that even possible? To be honest I’m not a huge fan of The Conversation – Hackman is good, his character is interesting, but the plot and repetition leave me mostly cold. I’m in the minority.

Lenny is Bob Fosse’s least regarded major work, but my favourite of his, probably to do with the lack of singing and dancing. It still deals with a lot of dark subject matter like his other movies do – the price of fame, addiction, relationships – and it features a terrific Dustin Hoffman performance as the great comedian. We finish with one of the finest disaster movies ever, and arguably the most tense and action packed. As was the case with these, the cast is packed with stars – Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Fred Astaire, Robert Vaughn etc are among those trapped or involved with the world’s tallest building going up in flames. As difficulty as the category is, there’s still a clear winner.

My Winner: The Godfather Part 2

My Nominations: The Godfather Part 2. Chinatown. Blazing Saddles. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Young Frankenstein.

The Mid-Seventies choices are difficult to argue with, but nevertheless there are a few films I feel deserved a nomination too. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is primary among those, but it’s a films which stood zero chance of garnering a single nomination – the film was simply too brutal, too shocking for its time, going beyond even what The Exorcist achieved. It is a film which retains that quality even today, in a world where more extreme, more bloody, more disgusting films are released yearly, yet few if any of those match the sheer force which surrounds The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. From the all too real performances, the grainy , gritty look, the crawling, uncomfortable soundtrack, it’s a film which doesn’t beg to be recognised – it kicks down your door, lashes you to a hook, and forces you to watch. Blazing Saddles is an altogether lighter affair, yet it’s equally groundbreaking, a satirical affair which is both whip smart and blazingly funny, while Mel Brooks somehow achieves a double nomination with Young Frankenstein – a film which drops the satire and heightens the farce.

My Winner: The Godfather Part 2

Let us know in the comments what you pick as the Best Film of 1974!

Best Picture – 1973

Official Nominations: The Exorcist. American Graffiti. The Sting. Cries And Whispers. A Touch Of Class

This was another year where we have clear front-runners and a couple of films which stood no chance of winning. A Touch Of Class is a strange one – a British film which is part sex romp, part drama, part comedy. There’s another, superior British film this year which deserved a nomination over this – this is a well acted, if unsubstantial film which doesn’t come close to the overall quality of the big boys in this category. The other no hoper is Cries And Whispers – Bergman’s most successful film in the US since the early sixties. It’s great, disconcerting, and visually gripping, but like most Bergman films it is slow, subtle, and quite ‘talky’ and yet filled with deafening silence – things which tend to not sit well with most audiences.

Out of the big boys, The Exorcist is the least likely to be picked by The Academy – it’s a horror movie, but it was also incredibly controversial, arguably the most controversial movie ever made at the time, but massively successful too. Lets get this out of the way now – it’s the film I’ll be picking as winner. Not only because I am a massive horror fan and because it is one of the best, most famous horror movies ever, but because it has retained unique power over the decades, has many genuinely shocking scenes, and at least a trio of terrific performances, not to mention the writing and direction. The contest was always between the two remaining films – an up and coming American film maker who finely crafts a piece of nostalgia which reminded the world of a simpler time, with gentle rock and roll, big cars, milkshakes, guys and gals, and all the rest of it – the Academy loves that shit. Audiences loved it too, and I’m fairly fond of it if not as enamored as most – maybe it’s a generational thing but I still prefer Dazed And Confused and Everybody Wants Some!!! A cast of relatives newbs and kids maybe swung the choice towards the more established crew of The Sting. The Sting is of course a classic and we can hardly argue with it being the winner – Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Robert Shaw, under the guidance of George Roy Hill? Academy Gold. The music, the costumes, the story all come together perfectly to establish yet another must see 70s movie.

My Winner: The Exorcist

My Nominations: The Exorcist. American Graffiti. The Sting. Don’t Look Now. Enter The Dragon. Mean Streets. Serpico. The Wicker Man

Those three big shots of course make it to my list. It was a fantastic year for cinema with another batch of undisputed classics ready to pick up the win too. Enter The Dragon – no chance of being nominated, but arguably the most famous martial arts movie ever. The scope of the fight scenes was unprecedented, Lee is at his best, the supporting cast are memorable, and it’s badass all around. Mean Streets is Scorsese at his most loose and visceral, a movie with a documentary feel and with dialogue and action which feels unscripted, it has several great performances and moments but each of the main players involved were yet to fully hone their skills. Serpico on the other hand finds a team at the top of their craft – Pacino and Lumet in particular making a tough cop drama as influential today as it was then.

Over to Britain for my final two picks, and another two horror movies. Don’t Look Now is another Nicholas Roeg masterpiece of paranoia and grief – one which I think I appreciate more than I love. There is a coldness and a distance to it which holds me back from being overly enthusiastic, but it’s so well acted, gripping, chilling, and haunting to behold that there are few films like it. It’s another essential horror movie but one with meticulous art-house sensibilities which continue to frustrate new fans who believe it is some by the numbers slasher or psychological drama. Finally, The Wicker Man. Possibly Christopher Lee’s best performance, same for Edward Woodward, same for (naked) Britt Ekland.

My Winner: The Exorcist.

Let us know which film you choose as the Best Picture of 1973!

Best Picture – 1972

Official Nominations: The Godfather. Deliverance. Cabaret. The Emigrants. Sounder.

1972 largely continued the successful changes which 71 started with the new breed of actors and directors coming to power. This is highlighted by The Godfather which introduced the world to some of the most powerful figures in Hollywood for the rest of the century. Many still cite this as the greatest film of all time, it is easily my pick for this year’s best film, and its influence can be seen today in a wide range of media. It is epic in every sense of the word, groundbreaking, genre-defining, and timeless. There isn’t much else I can say about it here so I’ll move onto the competition.

Boorman’s Deliverance at another time could have won the award, a deeply unsettling and frankly accurate look at one of America’s darker underbellies and at how modern civilized man can be hopeless when confronting nature or something outside of their experience. There are several monumental scenes, an effective, evocative soundtrack, tight direction, and a cast who give possibly the best performances of their careers.

On the opposite end of the scale, the dreaded Musical is still hanging in there. It even attempts to be more modern and seedy to cash in on the shifts in society and Hollywood –  to its credit Cabaret at least looks the part – Bob Fosse and Liza Minelli run the show. However, looks are one thing, music is another and here the songs are hideous. Add that to the fact that the story doesn’t do anything for me personally and it’s not a film which is going to do well in my rundown of awards.

The other two options this year stood no chance against the top three – The Emigrants and Sounder are both films no-one remembers and in addition they seem like odd nominations; the former being a Swedish film which appeared in the previous year’s Best Foreign Film category, while the latter is a very good, but small drama.

My Winner: The Godfather

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My Nominations:  The Godfather. Deliverance. Fist Of Fury. The Getaway. The Last House On The Left. Way Of The Dragon. Last Tango In Paris.

The two big shots transfer to my list, joining a quintet of classics. The Getaway is a perfect match for McQueen and Peckinpah but was a film which the critics did not love at the time. The only one of my picks I could see getting an official nomination is of course Last Tango In Paris. Perhaps it was too controversial, but either way it wasn’t going to win against The Godfather – the film would go on to receive two nominations for Best Actor and Best Director the following year. My last three choices are personal and stand not even the remotest chance of being nominated for such things, but regardless, each is a defining moment for their respective genres and a prime example of their art.

The Last House On The Left is mean, repulsive, cheap, and brilliant – gotta love those Keystone cops. It’s as shocking as The Exorcist would prove to be and while most of the performances are forgettable the violence and action will stay in your soul and stomach forever. It’s essential viewing for horror fans. Essential viewing for action movie fans are Fist Of Fury and The Way Of The Dragon – both Bruce Lee classics. In Fist Of Fury, Lee deals with racism, rival schools, and local authorities, taking them out with honour and rage in a variety of fantastic fight scenes but haunted by fatalism and futility. In Way Of The Dragon the action is moved to Rome where racism and mobsters rule and again Lee must defend those he loves and his own identity. The fights in The Colosseum are superb, Lee (who also writes and directs) commands every scene he is in, whether fighting or not. It may be the best Martial Arts movie of all time.

My Winner: The Godfather

Let us know in the comments which film you picked as the Best Picture 1972!

Best Picture – 1971

Official Nominations: A Clockwork Orange. The French Connection. The Last Picture Show. Fiddler On The Roof. Nicholas And Alexandra.

1971 was a great year for films and for the Oscars as they mostly got everything right. With so many strong films though, only a panel of comatose cyborgs would get it wrong. William Friedkin would come to popularity (after releasing a few art-house and small films) this year with the action-packed thriller The French Connection, highly regarded as one of the best cop films ever. As well as the perfect partnership between Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider the film is famous for its breathless car chase and for being the first R rated film to win Best Film. Unlike films of just a few years before this feels modern timeless, and the script, characterizations, and story don’t feel like they have aged at all. It would be difficult to argue against this film winning the main award, but the year had a couple of other masterpieces.

Stanley Kubrick returned after a three year hiatus bringing one of the most famously controversial films ever made to screen. He turned Anthony Burgess’s novel into a funny, scary, futuristic vision of the world and filling it with violence, bizarre imagery, sex, and some of the most famous scenes ever committed film. Not shying away from the argot which Burgess used in the novel, Kubrick creates a flawless social commentary on youth, on fear, on paranoia, on authority and any number of other subjects. The lack of redemption which appears in the movie serves Kubrick’s typically bleak style and sets up McDowell’s character Alex as an anti-hero for the ages. The film was banned in many countries including Britain for content, for its messages, yet today it stands as a powerful look at an extreme, yet not impossible future. The cast is uniformly brilliant, McDowell is never better, the classical score is used as a plot device rather than simply background noise, and everything moves at a sickening pace.

Just as famous and proof that the musical was still dragging its tippedy tappedy heels around is The Fiddler On The Roof. Unusual for a musical is that the story is mildly interesting, Williams’ score is decent, while the songs are bouncy enough but hardly memorable. Topol gives a good performance as the poor Jewish lead but the film is largely forgettable. Also forgettable is Schaffner’s Nicholas and Alexandra. It is epic, tragic, inspiring, but lacks the strength in its cast to make it as powerful as it could have been.

That leaves Bogdanovich’s smart coming of age drama The Last Picture Show to complete the roster. Featuring all round wonderful performances, particularly from Bridges, Johnson, and Bottoms and filmed in beautiful black and white it is probably the director’s best. It is a much more simple film than the two big ones here but equally as affecting. My winner is A Clockwork Orange for its daring, for its shocks, for the visual flare, and for an engaging story which forces your brain to tick rather than tide over, though either of the other two big boys would be a worthy winner.

My Winner: A Clockwork Orange

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My Nominations: A Clockwork Orange. The French Connection. The Last Picture Show. The Big Boss. Wake In Fright. Get Carter. THX 1138. Walkabout. McCabe & Mrs Miller. The Devils.

As is generally the case I expand my search to the wider movie world, bringing in Britain, Hong Kong, and Hong Kong into the mix. The Big Boss is the first true Bruce Lee film and remains a startling introduction to his performing skills, and not just as a fighter. It’s a fairly straight film with Lee helping out his neverending group of cousins and investigating corruption and murder in a small town but it has an energy and inspired rebellious spirit like few other films. McCabe & Mrs Miller is another Robert Altman classic – he had a string of these all the way through this period – this seems just as worthy of a nomination as those which got one. With no chance of getting such honours, The Devils remains one of the most highly sought after and rarely seen controversial movies – certainly not an easy watch it nevertheless is one of a kind.

Get Carter is one of the finest British movies of the decade, and for my money one of the last truly great British films. Wake In Fright is equally one of Australia’s best – a biting satire with gripping action, machismo, violence, and a stark style while Walkabout is a joint venture between the two countries and offering a different but equally deadly glimpse of the outback. It features some gorgeous cinematography and haunting images. Finally, THX 1138 is an early George Lucas effort before he set his sights on a galaxy far, far away. His dystopian film is a world away from what we think of when we think of George Lucas movies – this is stark, cold, but bold and inventive in crafting an imaginary world. The film was dismissed upon release but has been re-evaluated over time as a near-classic, a sign of a young writer, director finding his feet, and a chilling vision of a future which seems increasingly plausible.

My Winner: A Clockwork Orange

Let us know in the comments which film of 1971 you would pick as winner of the Best Picture Oscar!

Best Picture – 1970

Official Nominations: Patton. Airport. Five Easy Pieces. Love Story. MASH.

1970 is most interesting in that the five Best Picture nominees are so different from each other. We have a biography, a disaster movie, a war satire, a romance, and sort-of-indie-drama. I’d be hard pushed to pick Love Story as a winner because it’s basically a Nicholas Sparks book come to life, though it is well acted. Airport doesn’t feel like a winner because it feels like a generic disaster flick looking back, but at the time it was groundbreaking and knocked open the door for so many more like it. Five Easy Pieces was never going to win, but it’s shame so few people know it because it has some exceptional performances and is more heartbreaking than Love Story. It’s a toss-up between MASH and Patton – two worthy winners in my opinion. As much as I love the music and performances of MASH… I think i prefer the series to the movie. My pick for winner goes to Patton – truly one of the best biographies and war films ever, filled with strong performances and memorable moments.

My Winner: Patton.

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My Nominations: Patton. Five Easy Pieces. The Conformist. MASH. Kelly’s Heroes. The Boys In The Band. Little Big Man.

Three of the actual films pass over to my list. Regular readers will know that I love suicide mission movies, ensemble movies where a group of misfits are forced into undertaking some impossible task. It shouldn’t surprise anyone then that Kelly’s Heroes makes my list – it is one of the most riveting war movies of the decade, the twist of course being that there is no grand scheme here, just a bunch of soldiers deciding to rob a bank. Good score, great cast, and plenty of action – it isn’t going to win any genuine awards, but it’s a lot of fun. The Conformist sees Bernardo Bertolucci writing and directing a beautifully stylized tale of a broken man’s need to be normal, whatever the cost. The Boys In The Band is perhaps William Freidkin’s first notable film, based off the controversial play mostly concerning a single location party and mostly homosexual characters – a film dated in some respects but still ahead of many current portrayals. Finally, Little Big Man was a hit thanks to a cast of new stars and slotting in nicely with the anti-establishment movement sweeping the US at the time. Funny, sad, and with a bunch of good performances, it’s surprising you rarely hear about this one any more.

My Winner: Patton.

Let us know in the comments what you would pick as your best film of 1970!

Best Picture – 1969

Official Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. Anne Of A Thousand Days. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Hello Dolly. Z.

1969 saw a return to form and a return to the New Hollywood. With the new decade beckoning, Vietnam raging, and fear, paranoia, and crime rising throughout the country, many younger, more adventurous film makers were emerging. Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy was the first X Rated film to win best film, featuring rampant sex and knocking more than a few boundaries to grateful dust. Dustin Hoffman features again, his relationship with newcomer Jon Voight proving highly effective. The film has memorable music, scenes, and dialogue, and portrays small town America, New York, and innocence in a less than glamorous or appealing light. This type of thins had rarely been seen before on screen even though it was surrounded audiences daily lives. Sandwiched between this and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, is the unfortunate and quite frankly embarrassed to be there Anne Of The Thousand Days. Between two films of brutal realism, and exciting freshness,  this out of touch costume drama looks like it was made during the time it was portrayed and stands out only because there are big name actors and silly clothes. Reportedly the studio plied the Academy with champagne and lavish meals to win them over. Thankfully good sense prevailed – it’s a by the numbers drama with a fine cast, but completely out of place here.

George Roy Hill’s BCATSK features Robert Redford and Paul Newman in their career defining, and probably best performances. The outlaws are portrayed in a sympathetic light, Bacharach’s famous song ensuring that we come to love these characters before they are inevitably frozen in sepia and bullets at the end. The many dreamlike sequences serve to both interrupt and strengthen the film showing that the director wasn’t sure to go for an all out adventure or merge with his prior aesthetic. Gene Kelly’s directed Hello, Dolly! is another Streisand musical, this time devoid of any music of note while Gavras’ Z is a stark, funny, and gripping thriller dealing with the assassination of a Greek politician. This one has largely become forgotten over the years but comes highly recommended for all lovers of freedom, common sense, and good movies.

Three very good films then this year, one of which has gone on to iconic status, one which is still highly revered, and one which should be re-consumed. It’s a tight one, but my choice as winner goes to Midnight Cowboy.

My Winner: Midnight Cowboy

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My Nominations: Midnight Cowboy.  Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Easy Rider. The Italian Job. The Wild Bunch. Z

I take the three main picks from the official list and add another three iconic films. Nothing says 1960’s counter-culture like Easy Rider and while it has dated more than some of the other movies in the list its importance cannot be underestimated. With Hopper, Fonda, and Nicholson, a realism and style which had never been mainstream before, and an assured and honest look at part of the country and its people which had been largely ignored by cinema, it is vital viewing. Not quite as influential but just as essential and a hell of a lot more fun is The Italian Job – some of the biggest names in British culture appear in this caper, probably the best of its type, and it is filled with quotable dialogue and memorable scenes all while moving at top speed. My final pick is one of the greatest Westerns ever made, a defining moment for the genre while simultaneously acting as a nail in the coffin for a genre which had dominated for the last couple of decades. Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch has the smarts to merge standard Western plot fare with ultra modern and vibrant techniques and sensibilities – the editing, the soul-searching, and of course the stylized violence are all significant. Peckinpah depicts a world filled with aging men well past their best days, yet still trying to survive using their old wits as time marches on with increasing brutality.

My Winner: The Wild Bunch.

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What is your pick for the Best Picture of 1969? Do you pick something from my list, or the official one, or something different entirely? Let us know in the comments!