Best Cast – 1972

My Nominations: Deliverance. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex. The Getaway. The Godfather. Junior Bonner. The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean. The Poseidon Adventure.

It’s time again for one of my favourite categories of the year. Here I can typically nominate films which would never normally get a nominations, although this year most of the films I have picked are fairly obvious choices. Deliverance is a terrific ensemble piece with the four central cast members descending into hell with the help of some memorable backup players. EYAWTKAS is a Woody Allen ensemble piece featuring himself in multiple roles but also esteemed performers like Lynn Redgrave and Anthony Quayle and new stars such as Burt Reynolds and Gene Wilder.

The Getaway and Junior Bonner saw Sam Peckinpah and Steve McQueen working together in the same year, the former also featuring Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson and others with the latter also seeing Johnson as well as Joe Don Baker and the great Ida Lupino. TLATOJRB sees a massive case led by Paul Newman, Anthony Perkins, Victoria Principal while also featuring New Beatty, Jacqueline Bisset, John Huston, Ava Gardner, Richard Farnsworth and more. Also going for numbers is The Poseidon Adventure – Shelly Winters, Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Albertson and others. My clear winner though has to be The Godfather – even as an ensemble piece the minor performers stand out or get iconic scenes. We have some of the most famous performances ever and some of the best actors ever – Pacino, Brando, Duvall, Shire, Keaton, Cann, Cazale, as well as Sterling Hayden, Gianni Russo, Richard Castellano, Alex Rocco, Simonetta Stefanelli and many more.

My Winner: The Godfather.

Where’s Al?

Let us know in the comments which film of 1972 you think has the Best Cast!

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Best Writing (Adapted) – 1972

Official Nominations: The Godfather. Cabaret. The Emigrants. Pete ‘n’ Tillie. Sounder.

As much as you would have expected The Godfather to sweep the board, this was one of the few awards it actually won, Coppola and Puzo completely transforming and bringing to life Puzo’s saga. Cabaret isn’t a film I typically think of having a memorable screenplay, based on a musical which was based on a novel which was probably based on a comic etc etc. The Emigrants is 1971 so shouldn’t be here, Pete ‘n’ Tillie is a fairly dark and sad comedy based on two novels, while Sounder is an emotive, less violent retelling of the source.

Official Winner: The Godfather

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My Nominations: The Godfather. Sounder. Deliverance. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex. Fritz The Cat. The Getaway. Jeremiah Johnson. The Poseidon Adventure. Sleuth.

Two from the official list join a large batch of others, including Woody Allen’s one of a kind adaptation of Doctor Reuben’s book. Elsewhere, Walter Hill gives The Getaway a modern and streamlined, action-packed treatment and James Dickey adapts his own Deliverance yet the writer of its most famous line remains disputed. Fritz The Cat has controversy in almost every department – its screenplay taking elements and actual parts from the comics as well as delivering brand new stories – all the while retaining an anarchic satirical sense. John Milius was beginning to make a name for himself (in more ways than one) and his screenplay for Jeremiah Johnson shows his flair for dialogue coming to fruition. Sleuth is one of the most well-written films ever but it’s not all that different from the source material, while The Poseidon Adventure gets rid of much of the sex and controversy to make a purely enjoyable disaster romp.

My Winner: The Godfather

Let us know your pick for the Best Adapted Screenplay of 1972!

Best Costume Design – 1972

Official Nominations: Travels With My Aunt. The Godfather. Lady Sings The Blues. The Poseidon Adventure. Young Winston.

It’s a weird one. In a year that Cabaret gets nominated for almost everything, it fails to get nominated for one of the most obvious categories. All the stranger is the fact that Lady Sings The Blues is nominated over it. The Academy seemed determined to make sure Travels With My Aunt won something, so here we are. The Poseidon Adventure gets a nomination for sheer scope and detail and Young Winston gets a period piece nod too. None of the films here stand out for any obvious reason, so when in doubt go with The Godfather.

Official Winner: The Godfather

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My Nominations: The Godfather. Cabaret. Poseidon Adventure.

There isn’t really anything additional this year that I would want to add, aside from Cabaret.

My Winner: The Godfather

Let us know in the comments which film you choose to win Best Costume Design!

Best Original Score – 1972

Official Nominations: Limelight. Images. Napoleon And Samantha. The Poseidon Adventure. Sleuth. Cabaret. Lady Sings the Blues. Man of La Mancha.

Limelight won the Dramatic category this year – a bit of a nonsense given that the film was made and released twenty years earlier, so this is clearly a pat on the back win for Charlie Chaplin. It’s quite a lovely score, dreary and downbeat in places, exuberant and uplifting in others – deserving of a win and nomination in its own right, but not just because LA had to wait 20 years before seeing the film – you’re not the boss of the world LA. Images is an almost forgotten Robert Altman psychological horror movie with a score by John Williams – one which has a lot in common with Carpenter’s score for Halloween – lots of haunting piano melodies, creeping strings, and jump-scare percussion, a fantastic soundtrack which so few remember. Similarly, Napoleon And Samantha is a weird film which no-one remembers – Michael Douglas, Jodie Foster, and Johnny Whitaker have scary adventures with a pet lion, involving cougars and crazy people. It’s as weird and entertaining as it sounds, but the soundtrack is fairly by the numbers. John Williams strikes again with The Poseidon Adventure – a much larger scope soundtrack than his other nominee but not as powerful, even if it does have plenty of interesting tracks and moments, even a bit of funk. John Addison’s score for Sleuth is a lot of fun, playful and mysterious.

And so on to the adaptation round. Cabaret was the winner this time round – at least it strived to create new music for the movie which was not there on the screen. Unfortunately the era, style, and songs are not my thing and I can’t listen for long. Musicals man, even when they’re good, they’re crap. Lady Sings The Blues is a little better – better songs anyway, but still not something I would ever pick, while Man Of La Mancha is very old school – fine, but nothing out of the ordinary.

My Winner: Images

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My Nominations: Images. Aguirre, The Wrath Of God. Deliverance. The Final Comedown. The Getaway. The Godfather. The Last House On The Left. Last Tango In Paris. Silent Running. Super Fly. Way Of The Dragon.

An almost entirely different, and superior, list for me with only Images making it over. This was actually a good year for Scores, even on the official list, but as there are so many others which I felt were better or more notable, most of the officials get cut. Aguirre has a hymnal, soothing score, akin to stumbling upon the gates of Heaven, all wall of sound organs and voices, quite haunting and beautiful, reminiscent of Pink Floyd I’ve always found – even the later guitar tracks are very Floyd. Deliverance is of course famous for the dueling banjos scene and music – taken from a much earlier recording, but it also has some sparse blue grass sections, renditions of other older pieces, and some rare synth moments – it mostly sounds like a rollicking good time, betraying what happens on screen. The Final Comedown is another entry in the funk blues rock scores of the decades, this one less well known but just as groovy and accomplished as the bigger hits. The Getaway sees funk maestro Quincy Jones in a slower and more soulful mood while Silent Running has plenty of pastoral and percussive moments aside from the obvious Joan Baez tunes.

The Godfather has one of the most famous scores of all time, yet was controversially not nominated after it appeared that some of the pieces had popped up in earlier Rota scores. We know they make up the rules as they go along, and this was one particular piece of bullshit which I am rectifying – there’s no way this doesn’t get nominated. With more European flavor is Last Tango In Paris by Gato Barbieri, as sumptuous and regal and tragic as you could wish for. On the other side of the scale is The Last House On The Left which, when heard on its own sounds like some late evening hippy dream, with David Hess and Stephen Chapin using folk tones to lull us into disbelief, and jaunty, circus, chase music to counter the vicious and disturbing antics on screen. Superfly is notable for having a soundtrack that made more money than the film itself, Curtis Mayfield crafting a classic of the genre – not many instrumentals though, so does that break the (my) rules? Finally, one of my all time personal favourite soundtracks, but one which is superb all round by the great Joseph Koo.

My Winner: The Godfather

Let us know in the comments which film of 1972 had the best score!

Best Art Direction – 1972

Official Nominations: Cabaret. Lady Sings The Blues. The Poseidon Adventure. Travels With My Aunt. Young Winston.

You’d be forgiven for thinking The Godfather wasn’t released this year. Regardless, Cabaret was a cert to win this one. Lady Sings The Blues has no chance against it, neither does Young Winston, and Travels With My Aunt shouldn’t be here. The Poseidon Adventure is in with a shot here – it never would have been officially picked but as I prefer it to Cabaret and due to the scope and invention on display it gets my win.

Official Winner: The Poseidon Adventure

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My Nominations: The Poseidon Adventure. Cabaret. The Godfather. Last Tango In Paris. Silent Running. Sleuth. Solaris.

Only two of the official choices make it to my list, a list which rights a few wrongs. The Godfather is in – obviously, as is Last Tango In Paris. Also worthy of inclusion is Sleuth – any film which can turn a play mostly set in a single location into something extravagant is worth your attention. My final two picks fall under a loose ‘intelligent sci-fi’ sub-type, with Solaris and Silent Running both boasting great sets, design, and attention to detail. There’s only one winner for me though.

My Winner: The Godfather.

Let us know in the comments which film of 1972 you would give the Best Art Direction Oscar to!

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!

Top Ten Tuesdays – Robert De Niro

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It’s Tuesday again, and that means it’s time to look at ten films by one of my favourite performers – this time around I check out Robert De Niro, one of the finest actors of all time and someone who has perhaps more iconic performances in history. There are so many films I have not been able to discuss here, and while recent movies have not been as well received, for over thirty years he has been at the top of his game. I haven’t given much thought to the list order below, it’s a mixture of favourite De Niro performances and favourite films that he has been a part of, but really the numbers are not important.

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein

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I may get a lot of stick for this one, considering some of the much more acclaimed films I haven’t included in my list. De Niro transforms himself once again and maybe becomes the most un-De Niro of his career. Unsurprising given the character he plays here (The Monster) but he still manages to bring power, gravitas, and emotion to the role. I’ve always enjoyed this version of the story – much of it comes down to the look of the film, but you have a strong central cast in Branagh, De Niro, and Bonham Carter. The film retains a bleak tone, and a truly gothic approach, ensuring it is an authentic vision of Shelley’s masterwork.

Cop Land

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Although more famous for Stallone’s performance, De Niro also puts in another heartfelt character examination as he plays an unusually (for him) good, plain cop wanting to shut down corruption within the force. In this ensemble film with some terrific actors, De Niro stands out primarily because of how normal he is when compared to the characters he is more known to play.

Ronin

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Ronin is one of the best films ever to not really be about anything – it’s one big mis-direct for most of the movie as we follow a group of mercenaries, led by De Niro who are tasked with hunting down some mysterious briefcase for the IRA. Throw in some intrigue, back-stabbing, Russian mob, political nonsense, action, and some of the best car chases ever filmed and you have a riveting film which is endlessly watchable. There is a brilliant cast each unleashing strong performances, and De Niro leads the way tricking the viewer, his companions, and his enemies.

The Deer Hunter

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This one cemented De Niro as a long-lasting talent and features some of his most gruelling work, both physically and emotionally. We follow De Niro and his friends starting out as casual workers and hunters who are abruptly ripped out of their simple lives to the horrors of Vietnam. De Niro’s Mike is one of many characters who change dramatically throughout the course of the film, though De Niro is possibly the one who tries to hold on to his previous life most dearly even though he resorts to brutality to survive. It’s a startling, powerful film with a superb cast, and allows De Niro opportunity once again to craft another iconic figure.

Heat

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De Niro plays the villian in Michael Mann’s opus, but it is the duality between his desire for a normal life, his need for one last score, and his obsession with beating the cops which ensures the character is more than a by the numbers crook. His scenes with Pacino are electric, but so are his scenes with Kilmer, Brenneman, and so on. With Mann in control, with wonderful dialogue, and with De Niro and co at their best, this was always going to be a classic.

Godfather II

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De Niro’s first big outing sees him filling in Brando’s shows – arguably the most difficult job in cinema history, but he manages to be everything Brando was and more, carving out his own style as the young Vito Corleone entirely separate from the Don which Brando portrayed. Arguably he is more like Pacino in the first film – a young man trying to find his way in a violent world, eventually being drawn into that violence and its seductive potential rewards.

Raging Bull

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Going through some shocking physical changes earned De Niro an Oscar win, but even if he had not piled on the pounds, his performance here is nothing short of flawless. La Motta is an ugly figure, a man driven to success but easily swayed by the demons which try to pull us down, and De Niro and Scorsese never flinch from showing the grim realities of success, of downfall, of the power-hungry, and of sheer masculine brutality. The fights are wonderful of course, but it is that contrast of the glory of victory and adoration of the crowd juxtaposed with all the wife and brother beating which make this an anti-Rocky and one of the best films of the 1980s.

Taxi Driver

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To prove that he wasn’t a one trick pony (though with Mean Streets earlier he had already done this) after the success of The Godfather part II, De Niro set his sights on another iconic character. He converts Travis Bickle from words on a page to a brazen, all too real paranoid romantic, a man who is steadily losing his mind in the midst of all of the scum and filth he sees surrounding him. Scorsese and De Niro again create another ambiguous masterpiece as Bickle is a clearly disturbed and dangerous figure, but his attempts at saving others and his ironic ‘happy ending’ merged with his ultra violent descent and near assassination attempt leave the viewer with uncomfortable questions to ponder on.

Goodfellas

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The film that brought De Niro successfully into another decade and again partnered him with Scorsese and Pesci, Goodfellas is another extraordinary tale with high levels of violence, realism, and humour. Although the dreamlike quality of much of Scorsese’s work is present, this is largely an effectively realistic portrayal of mob life – from both the inside and outside, from both the good and wrong side of the law. It’s hard to say who steals the movie here with Pesci, De Niro, and Liotta all superb, but De Niro is the one who manages to hold sway over the more maniacal and obsessive other duo.

The Untouchables

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People forget that De Niro was even in this movie. In fact, it’s rare that I hear people talking about the movie at all, unfortunate because it features one of De Niro’s best performances – and the same can be said for Costner, Connery, Garcia, and Billy Drago. De Palma keeps the tension high, the entertainment flowing, and De Niro is free to give his version of an Al Capone who is on his way out thanks to superhero good guy Eliot Ness. It’s an unusually beautiful film given the subject matter, and although there is plenty of violence there is a lot of heart as Costner leads his family – both at home, and his family at work to hopefully safer times. De Niro is excellent as Capone in a performance which drew a substantial amount of criticism, but he comes over as a Tony Montana style leader, his grasp on reality and on his own power pouring away, even as he still leads with an Iron Glove (or baseball bat).

What is your favourite De Niro performance and film – is it something I’ve missed from my list? Do you prefer De Niro’s comedy roles or his more serious, dramatic performances? Let us know in the comments!