My Nominations: The French Connection. Vanishing Point. Shaft. Red Sun. Macbeth. Le Mans. A Fistful Of Dynamite. Evel Knievel. Duel. Dirty Harry. The Big Boss.
There’s an obvious winner here, and if you’ve looked at my nominations then you already know what it is. Let’s start in the east first – The Big Boss was the first real film to showcase Bruce Lee’s talents. It doesn’t have the scope of Lee’s later films, but it abandons the wuxia style so popular at the time for a prototype one man army style grit – the stunts are all real, dangerous, and pack a punch. Red Sun has gun fights, swordplay, a train robbery, while A Fistful Of Dynamite switches out the swordplay for explosions and motorcycles. Speaking of motorcycles, Evel Knievel features both manufactured stunts and real life jumps performed by Knievel and other performers while Le Mans does a similar job with cars, featuring plenty of real footage and simulated crashes.
Macbeth I throw in here just for having the audacity to be more visceral and charged than any other version till that point while Shaft has plenty of punches and gunshots on the way to its explosive finale. Dirty Harry features similar levels of stunts and action to Shaft while my final three picks are all car-heavy. The French Connection features a number of fights and chases, but is most notable for one of the most famous car chases in history – when a car chase enters pop culture, you know it’s good. Vanishing Point is almost entirely set in or following a car chase, and while there is just as much time spent enjoying the vastness and beauty of the US landscape the film has a throttle-down pace and plenty of skids, near misses, spins, and crashes. Finally, Steven Spielberg’s debut sees a malevolent truck causing mayhem in one long chase movie with as much suspense as stunt action.
My Winner: The French Connection.
Let us know in the comments what your winning choice is!
Official Nominations: Fiddler On The Roof. The French Connection. The Last Picture Show. Nicholas And Alexandra. Summer of ’42.
A decent bunch to choose from this year, with Oswold Morris picking up the official win for Fiddler On The Roof. It’s okay, with a few particular shots which stand out but it isn’t something I feel should get the win, especially given the competition. The French Connection is a much better choice, the gritty style perfected and peppered with some scenes made more iconic by the camera work. The Last Picture Show with it’s gorgeous black and white’s giving a feel of both nostalgia and a sense of an era fading away is another fine choice, while Nicholas And Alexandra is the expected epic nomination of the year. Summer Of ’42 falls into a similar bracket with The Last Picture Show, except offering heated colour and shots which spread into the distance like a summer’s day which never wants to end.
My Winner: The French Connection
My Nominations: The French Connection. Summer of ’42. The Last Picture Show. A Clockwork Orange. Dirty Harry. Duel. A Fistful Of Dynamite. Vanishing Point. Walkabout.
I have to add a bunch of classics to my list – A Clockwork Orange being iconic for a variety of reasons, including John Alcott’s cinematography. Cinematography isn’t the first thing to pop into the mind when you think of Dirty Harry but it features consistently strong work throughout, while Duel is a film which relies heavily on how the camera moves and what it allows us to see. A Fisftul Of Dynamite is Leone and Western, this time with Giuseppe Ruzzolini helping out while Vanishing Point allows for free-flowing shots of cars and the stripped away highways of America. Finally, my winner is Walkabout with Nicholas Roeg showcasing the outback as equally dangerous, haunting, hypnotic, beautiful – a freedom which could swallow you whole.
My Winner: Walkabout
Let us know in the comments which film of 1971 you would pick as the winner of Best Cinematography!