Best Score – 1970

Official Nominations: Love Story. Airport. Cromwell. Patton. I Girasoli. Let It Be. The Baby Maker. A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Darling Lili. Scrooge.

This year the category was again split in two – with Love Story winning in the ‘Not A Musical’ category, and Let It Be winning the Best Score or Adaptation category. It’s not surprising that Love Story won here – the main piano theme by is synonymous with tragedy and has been used in other media, usually for comedy purposes. It’s a great piece, it feels a little Western, tragic in nature, haunting, sweet, but also quite weird or alien. While none of the other pieces reach these heights of being recognizable many of them are nice and simple and memorable for anyone who has seen the film, running the gamut from pastoral love themes to barren sadness. Alfred Newman’s soundtrack is tense and pulsating – a lot of bass and a high tempo, interrupted by stabbing high strings, while also giving a sense of the rushing, bustle, and escapism suggested by airports. The soundtrack does have other notable moments – a lazy love theme staving off the tension of the flight and landing. Frank Cordell’s theme for Cromwell is surprisingly operatic and reminds me of the later The Omen and even the even later Conan The Barbarian while Jerry Goldmsith works his magic once again on Patton. His knack for brief cues and refrains is superb, and everyone will recognise those fading, recurring triple notes which open the movie while the stirring strings and flutes lurk in. The whole soundtrack is rousing, passionate, patriotic, but doesn’t celebrate in war – remembering the tragedy and sacrifice. Our last nomination in this side of the category comes from Italy – I Girasoli or The Sunflower sees Henry Mancini lending some heartfelt sadness to the tragic drama – the main theme shares a lot with that of Love Story. 

Let It Be speaks for itself, a collection of songs which appear on the album of the same name, albeit in different forms, along with covers and songs from other albums. A Boy Named Charlie Brown shouldn’t really be here given that it came out in 1969 while The Baby Maker is a bizarre choice on the surface – Fred Karlin’s soundtrack peppered with hippy folk sensibility, rock freakouts, and light flute notes. The final nominations are less surprising – with both Darling Lili and Scrooge being musicals. Musicals being what they are, I tend to think of the actual songs before the soundtrack so neither stand out for me from an incidental point of view. Let It Be easily wins in the second category for me, but the first is much more difficult as each is a worthy choice.

My Winner(s): Patton and Let It Be

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My Nominations: Patton. Let It Be. Love Story. Cromwell. The Aristocats. The Bird With The Crystal Plummage. Gimme Shelter. Woodstock. Kelly’s Heroes. MASH. Zabriskie Point.

I bring only three over to the dark side – if Let It Be gets nominated, then so surely must Gimme Shelter and Woodstock – both featuring great music and performances from some of the most important bands of all time. I have to throw The Aristocats in there because, even though I’m not a huge fan of the film or of Jazz, it is a film about music and has a certain vibe and energy to it. A much easier nomination would be MASH – aside from the obvious Suicide Is Painless theme, there are other mini compositions which bring humour to the military standards. Another obvious one for me is Zabriskie Point – another soundtrack featuring popular artists of the time, but one which blends songs with instrumental pieces. Lalo Schifrin brings the funk to Kelly’s Heros – a carefree swagger characterized by Eastwood and Co in the movie while Ennio Morricone got it together with Dario Argento long before Goblin did, and in doing so created something creepy and beautiful (if a little similar to Rosemary’s Baby in places).

My Winner: Patton.

Let us know in the comments which Score of 1970 you would pick as winner!

Best Art Direction – 1970

Official Nominations: Patton. Airport. Tora Tora Tora. The Molly Maguires. Scrooge.

This, like Best Costume Design, is always a difficult one to argue against. You can add films to your list of nominations till the cows come home (damn cows always going AWOL), but generally the official nominations are fine. Patton picked up the win in 1970 and it’s expected. Airport is a close second, Scrooge as a period piece looks grimy and authentic. Tora Tora Tora is more notable for its Cinematography, while The Molly Maguires is the most likely choice to drop though it still looks good.

My Winner: Patton

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My Nominations: Patton. Airport. The Conformist. Cromwell. On A Clear Day We Can See Forever. Ryan’s Daughter.

I bring over a few new options to spice things up – a music, two historical epics, and The Conformist which remains one of the most beautiful movies of the Seventies. Cromwell is a watchable warts and all (ahem) drama while Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter is as big, bold, and excessive as you would expect while lacking the subtlety of his earlier work. Minnelli’s films always look gorgeous – I’m not a fan of the music or musicals in general, but there’s a definite style and love of how cinema should look, exemplified in On A Clear Day We Can See Forever.

My Winner: The Conformist

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!