Best Costume Design – 1977

Official Nominations: Star Wars. Airport 77. Julia. A Little Night Music. The Other Side Of Midnight.

This was a no brainer. Airport 77 is merely an excuse to give Edith Head her yearly nomination, while A Little Night Music is the Academy forcing another musical into the category, regardless of how bad it is. Julia and The Other Side Of Midnight are worthy nominees but being period pieces not so far removed from a recent period of history they don’t feel as startling as nominees from other years. Star Wars then creates a new Universe populated by planets and characters with their own individual fashions and styles. Even if the film only featured Vadar and everyone else wearing the same bland outfit, it would win. Of course we have iconic outfits on a conveyor belt, from the Stormtroopers to Leia’s various dresses, to Han’s space-age gunslinger garb… it’s one of the easiest Oscar wins in history.

My Winner: Star Wars

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My Nominations: Star Wars. A Bridge Too Far. The Duellists. New York New York. Jabberwocky.

It’s a little pointless again because we know what the winner is. A Bridge Too Far goes all in on the authentic costumes while The Duellists has more flair, New York New York hits the musical quotient if we must, and Jabberwocky recycles from Holy Grail with a few updates.

My Winner: Star Wars

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Art Direction – 1977

Official Nominations: Star Wars. Close Encounters. Airport 77. The Spy Who Loved Me. The Turning Point.

Similar to the Costume Category, this was always a one horse race. Not quite as one-sided as Costume as we have some notable nominees here, but we know Star Wars is the winner, what with its Death Stars and Millennium Falcons and Cantinas. Close Encounters is a close second, while Airport 77 and The Turning Point don’t offer anything out of the ordinary. The final option then is The Spy Who Loved Me. It’s always interesting to me when a Bond film is nominated for an Oscar, because it happens so infrequently. If there is one category it should have excelled in over the years, it’s this one with Ken Adam pulling magic from his hat on multiple occasions. Of course it took Adam to work on Barry Lyndon before The Academy paid attention to him (though he did get a nomination in 1956 too) but he finally got some respect for his epic Bond work this year thanks to his work on Stromberg’s base etc.

My Winner: Star Wars

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My Nominations: Star Wars. Close Encounters. The Spy Who Loved Me. A Bridge Too Far. The Duellists. Eraserhead. Hausu. Suspiria.

The Academy all out avoids some major picks this year. I bring over the three best nominees, but there’s no way you don’t nominate Suspiria here. It’s on, no questions. Similarly, Hausa just has to get on – if you’ve seen it, there’s no way you argue against it being here. A Bridge Too Far and The Duellists both deserve a nomination, though I’d be happy with either or, and that leaves Eraserhead as another film with such a unique look that it hasn’t really been replicated in the years since.

My Winner: Star Wars

Let us know in the comments which film gets your vote!

Best Adapted Screenplay – 1977

Official Nominations: Julia. Equus. I Never Promised You A Rose Garden. Oh, God!. That Obscure Object Of Desire.

Not many surprises here, with Julia picking up the win. It’s a standard enough story set in a torrid time, but I don’t think there’s enough here to warrant a win. Equus in its original form is a messed up story, seeing it adapted for screen ups the ante but doesn’t add much to the story which wasn’t already there. I Never Promised You A Rose Garden is a film which never really found its audience. A sister to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest it deals with schizophrenia and institutionalization while offering several scenes of fantasy as the lead character struggles with reality and her condition. The film takes a less brave approach than the book but on its own merits remains engaging and deserves reevaluation.

Oh God!… it may be better to just say that Carl Reiner directs, that John Denver works in a supermarket and becomes God’s latest spokesperson on Earth, and that God is played by George Burns. Still with me? Denver obviously thinks he’s going mad, his life begins to fall apart, then he accepts the role and becomes a celebrity only for religious nuts to try to discredit him and eventually go to court to prove God’s existence. They don’t make ’em like that anymore. It’s very funny and you won’t have seen anything like it. Finally, That Obscure Object Of Desire is based on a novel from almost a hundred years earlier which details the violent relationship between a French man and a Spanish Woman. The film had been adapted for screen before, but Bunuel makes the story his, keeping the violence and sexual frustration and peppering the film with flashbacks and uncertainty.

My Winner: That Obscure Object Of Desire

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My Nominations: Oh, God!. That Obscure Object Of Desire. The Duellists. The Jabberwocky. The Other Side Of Midnight.

I add The Duellists, which expands Joseph Conrad’s short into a mini epic and features a series of battles and duels against the backdrop of Napoleonic times. Terry Gilliam takes Lewis Carroll’s slice of nonsense as a starting point for his darkly comic fantasy – as a film it has its flaws which Gilliam would iron out in later films, but the script is peppered with invention and vibrancy. The Other Side Of Midnight is a frustrating film with many moments of brilliance, following two lead characters over a period of less than ten years – their initial romance, a breakup filled with careless promises, revenge, murder plots and more. The characters and the scenario is interesting, but ultimately it feels like a proto – crazy white woman movie in the vein of Fatal Attraction which suggests at a high level that women can’t cope without men.

My Winner: That Obscure Object Of Desire

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Original Screenplay -1977

Official Nominations: Annie Hall. The Goodbye Girl. The Late Show. Star Wars. The Turning Point.

As is usually the case with this category, it closely matches the Best Picture nominees. Annie Hall – not that different from the usual Woody Allen shtick although there are enough one-liners and rambling speeches to highlight. A modern viewer will find much of it hackneyed and cliched, but only because it has been copied so many times. The Goodbye Girl is standard Neil Simon fare – romantic comedies don’t do much for me, even when they are as well written as this, but it needs to be exceptional for me or speak on a personal level for me to rate it any higher than average. The Late Show is the anomaly of the bunch – the film no-one remembers. It’s another unfortunate case because it’s an interesting film merging noir with lighter moments and it’s certainly the type of film you don’t say anymore. The Turning Point doesn’t offer anything new and plays out like a standard soap drama. Star Wars created an enduring universe with a multitude of characters and places and dialogue which has become part of culture and daily dialogue, never mind the number of imitators which the story spawned.

My Winner: Star Wars

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My Nominations: Star Wars. Annie Hall. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Desperate Living. Eraserhead. High Anxiety. Martin.

Desperate Living…. I just like the idea of something like this getting nominated. Have you seen it? There’s more humour and weirdness in a couple of pages of this script than there are in many comedy writers’ careers. It’s… not for everyone. Close Encounters gets another nomination, Spielberg subtly working in Jewish and Christian allusions and more overarching themes of exploration, knowledge, and tolerance. Eraserhead also gets another nomination – a screenplay created almost entirely to allow for Lynch’s visuals and atmosphere. Mel Brooks knocks out another great script – it’s very difficult to get parody right but he does it once again with High Anxiety, while Martin was one of the first movies to bring vampires out of European castles and Victorian streets and into American suburbs, while at the same time subverting the vampire myth and offering insight into pained adolescence.

My Winner:  Star Wars

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Animated Feature – 1977

My Nominations: The Rescuers. Wizards. Race For Your Life Charlie Brown. The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh.

1977 was something of a turning point for animated features – it was one of the first years where multiple, genuinely worthwhile films were released and stood the test of time, and it’s really the start of that happening more or less consistently. The only issue is that a lot of the notable films were either TV specials or a mixture of animation and live action, so I can’t really include those. The only thing missing is a truly strong Japanese effort. Nevertheless, we have Bakshi still experimenting – leaving behind his controversial real world efforts and conjuring a total fantasy in Wizards – a post apocalyptic tale with some great visuals, even if the story is one we’ve seen before. Race For Your Life Charlie Brown is another memorable effort in the Peanuts canon and as endearing as ever. That leaves a surprising double effort from Disney – The Rescuers is the more action packed of the two and a film which was critically and commercially successful but which has fallen by the wayside over the years. The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh is a more gentle and relaxed affair. Normally I would pick this as winner, but as it’s really a compilation of old pieces, reassembled and merged with newer bits, it probably breaks a bunch of rules.

My Winner: The Rescuers

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Let us know in the comments which Animated Feature of 1977 gets your vote!

Best Foreign Film – 1977

Official Nominations: Madame Rosa. Iphigenia. Operation Thunderbolt. A Special Day. That Obscure Object Of Desire.

Simone Signoret brings another character to life in Madame Rose, this year’s winner, a film which focuses on her last days while also recounting in part her younger days in Auschwitz. She was forced into prostitution and now runs a home for the abandoned or lost children of other prostitutes, striking up a friendship with a Muslim boy. It’s a warm film, and a good character study, but I think there are better choices here. Michael Cacoyannis finishes his Greek Tragedy trilogy with Iphigenia, a fairly faithful though ambiguous retelling of the story. If you know me, then you’ll know I love anything related to Greek or Roman mythology, especially where Troy is concerned. If I was a director and became successful enough to make whatever sort of project I wanted, The Illiad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid would be top of my list. This film follows the innocent daughter of King Agamemnon – he is heading to Troy to kick off the war but on the way offends one of the Goddesses who says he must sacrifice his own daughter before his ships will be allowed to reach Troy. If you’re into this sort of thing, then you’ll enjoy the film, but I don’t think there’s much here for non-fans.

Cult figure Menahem Golan made his most (only?) acclaimed work with Operation Thunderbolt – a film based around a real life hostage crisis. It honestly isn’t as bad as it sounds, and this is coming from someone who loves even the crappiest Cannon movie. A Special Day is in many ways the perfect Academy movie – packed with issues like sexuality, gender, based in historical fact, and topped off by starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. All it really needs is to be a musical and it would have won 8 Oscars. It’s not well-remembered now, but thanks to its cast it still has some pulling power. Loren is a bored housewife who cares for her husband and many children – she’s at home doing the usual daily crap while the rest of her family are out in support of a parade for Hitler and Mussolini. Her pet bird escapes and she finds it with one of her neighbours, a gay guy and anti-fascist. They spend the movie chatting about their lives. Again, it’s better than it sounds but with any other lead actors I would struggle to see anyone wanting to see it, as funny and honest and interesting as it undoubtedly is.

Finally, a probably the most famous film on the list is Bunuel’s final film – That Obscure Object Of Desire – a film which doesn’t entirely deviate from his surrealist leanings but is nevertheless more approachable. It follows a stormy relationship between a wealthy French guy and a much younger Spanish dancer played by both Carole Bouquet and and Angela Molina. The key is that this isn’t a younger/older version of the character – the actresses interchange seemingly at random throughout the movie which is jarring at first, then becomes amusing, then becomes normal. It’s great, and one of Bunuel’s best.

My Winner: That Obscure Object Of Desire

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My Nominations: That Obscure Object Of Desire. A Special Day. Iphigenia. Cross Of Iron. The Duellists. House. Soldier Of Orange. Suspiria.

Five films join three from the official list – Sam Peckinpah’s Cross Of Iron; an epic war movie with plenty of brutal action and some interesting casting and Hausu, a bizarre Japanese movie which should be experienced without knowing anything about it beforehand. Ridley Scott emerged with his epic The Duellists, a film about cinematography as much as its about its two feuding leads.

Paul Verhoeven continues his euro work with arguably his finest pre-Hollywood feature Soldier Of Orange, in which Rutger Hauer and his friends each split off at the beginning of WWII ending on different paths and even opposing sides. It’s one of the director’s straightest films and should appeal to anyone with a love of war movies. Finally, Dario Argento had been perfecting the Giallo form throughout the decade, crafting spellbinding set pieces of murder and mayhem and giving audiences unusual and unique visuals set against labyrinthine or nonsensical plots. Suspiria remains the most famous Italian horror movie ever, and one of the most popular non-US horror movies there is as a teenage girl goes to a ballet school and uncovers murder and witchcraft. Not many horror movies, not many movies period look like or sound like Suspiria, so it is a must for true film fans.

My Winner: Suspiria

Let us know your winners in the comments!

Best Cinematography – 1977

Official Nominations: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Islands In The Stream. Julia. Looking For Mr. Goodbar. The Turning Point.

Movies about dance, or Musicals and Costume Dramas in general historically tend to do well in this category but I find them often too stage driven rather than using the camera in innovate ways or truly capturing a landscape or a scene – for that reason The Turning Point is out, even it was shot by a guy who knew his stuff, also shooting Ben Hur and The Sting. Julia fares bettershot by the great Douglas Slocombe who worked on everything from The Lavender Hill Mob to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Looking For Mr Goodbar seems like an odd choice in this category and more of an apology to Fraker for missing out on Bullitt and Rosemary’s Baby. Islands In The Stream (that is what we are) is more in line with what I think of when discussing cinematography, what with it and its protagonist’s obsession with the sea. My winner of course has to be the legendary Vilmos Zsigmond who reunites with Spielberg for Close Encounters Of The Third Kind – that rare sci-fi movie which is both set on Earth yet features stunning visuals and iconic shots.

My Winner: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

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My Nominations: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Star Wars. A Bridge Too Far. Cross Of Iron. The Duellists. Saturday Night Fever. Sorcerer. Suspiria.

Only my winner makes it over to the list and would be a good pick for winner here too, but I think I’ll change it up and spread the love. Star Wars, beyond the scenes in space and on ships, showcases a number of planets and places portraying a varied and vibrant universe. Scenes on Tattooine and beyond have become iconic and often mimicked. A Bridge To Far is a war epic in every sense and Geoffrey Unsworth uses his vast experience of battle work and innovation here. Cross Of Iron takes a more violent approach with John Coquillon’s exterior work being particularly notable. The Duellists is often, justifiably, compared to Barry Lyndon in terms of story and filming look and tone and much of that is due to Frank Tidy’s contribution while Saturday Night Fever paints an accurate depiction of the neon sleaze and pumped up momentary glory of the late 70s Disco scene.

Sorceror relies heavily on its taught direction and tight performances but also on its depiction of overbearing cities, rain and sweat drenched forests, and a camera that never wants to rest. Finally, Dario Argento and Luciano Tovoli create a horror film like no other with his dreamlike Suspiria, a film with a visual palette of extremes which never fails to startle newcomers and continually impress critics.

My Winner: Suspiria

Let us know your thoughts 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 Supporting Actress – 1977

Official Nominations: Vanessa Redgrave. Melinda Dillon. Leslie Browne. Quinn Cummings. Tuesday Weld.

It’s another unimpressive list on the surface, with Vanessa Redgrave finally walking away with her win as Julia. Part of me knows it’s a win due to her other performances over the years, but it remains a good showing for the actress. The unfortunately named Quinn Cummings only appeared in a couple of movies, in The Goodbye Girl she’s okay in the role of annoying smartass child while Leslie Browne is a real life dancer thrown into the deep end with a role in The Turning Point which required a better actress. Melinda Dillon is the petrified mother from Close Encounters who sees a UFO and goes on an obsessive romp around the country with Richard Dreyfuss – again decent, but not sure it’s award worthy, while Tuesday Weld plays Diane Keaton’s sister in Looking For Mr Goodbar and is good enough to hold her own.

My Winner: Vanessa Redgrave

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My Nominations: Joan Bennett. Barbara Bach. Sissy Spacek.

I’m not sure any of this year’s performances are genuinely good enough to warrant a nomination and I don’t personally love them enough to pick them myself, which is what these posts are all about. In that case it’s a new batch of nominees. You could just as easily take Alida Valli for Susperia, but I think Joan Bennett edges it for me – two old Hollywood matriarchs lending class to the otherwise creepy proceedings. It’s not often anyone mentions Bond girls for awards, but Barbara Bach was one of the first Bond girls who stood out from the pack, as a character and as a performer – her Agent XXX every bit the spy as Bond himself. Sissy Spacek gets a nod from me for her performance in 3 Women. Normally I wouldn’t say any of these performances are strong enough to win, but it’s slim pickings. When in doubt, go with your favourite.

My Winner: Barbara Bach

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Supporting Actor – 1977

Official Nominations: Jason Robards. Mikhail Baryshnikov. Alec Guinness. Peter Firth. Max Schell.

It’s not planned – I promise. It’s just that, again, I fnd the Star Wars nominee to be the best choice. Any new readers to these Oscars posts, just remember that these are simply my personal preferences, not based off Oscar history or buzz or necessarily who was ‘best’. Just which one I would have liked to win. It gets even more personal with My Nominations, but I try not to just add any old crap for the sake of it – I just don’t adhere to the Oscar rules or tropes.

But yes, Star Wars wins again for me here. Alec Guinness reportedly wasn’t a fan of the movie or script, but he plays the role straight and perfectly characterizes the old, wise hermit with a long detailed history. It’s Obi Wan Kenobi – everyone knows him. Can the average person on the street name any of the other characters nominated this year? Dashiell Hammett maybe. Jason Robards officially won as Hammett this year – he’s the love interest of of the woman searching for the missing title character. There’s a huge section of the film he’s not part of – not always a problem when this is a supporting role considering some have won for single scenes in the past. He’s solid but the issue with the movie is that we mainly care about the women. Max Schell was also nominated here, but it’s an even smaller role and feels like it was a shoehorned nomination. Peter Firth holds his own against Richard Burton in Equus – a film with enough controversy surrounding it that someone was always going to be nominated. He’s good but who doesn’t think of Harry Potter when they think of this role now? Finally, Mikhail Baryshnikov was nominated because he was the most famous dancer in the world. Even when there’s no Musical worth nominating, The Academy still has to force a dancer (or two in this year’s case) into the running. He shouldn’t be here – he’s better in Sex And The City. 

My Winner: Alec Guinness

My Nominations: Alec Guinness. Richard Gere. Raf Vallone. Jeroen Krabbe. Bruno Cremer. Harrison Ford.

Only Guinness makes it over to my personal list. The interesting thing about voting for someone because the character is iconic, is where do you cut off? Richard Kiel is the very essence of iconic, but would you vote him for The Spy Who Love Me? Guinness is good, quietly so, as befitting the character. Honestly, this was a great year for leading male performances – but supporting not so much. Most of those I nominate I don’t feel would have made the cut in other years, and are more to encourage you to watch the films as they have been underrepresented. Raf Vallone as a vengeful millionaire in The Other Side Of Midnight and Richard Gere as the abusive Tony in Looking For Mr. Goodbar. Maybe I should nominate Kiel?

Taking things down a more legitimate path, Jeroen Krabbe supports Rutgar Hauer as another passionate Resistance member in Soldier Of Orange, and Bruno Cremer as the straight man and negotiator on the run in Sorcerer. If Guinness is nominated in support, it only seems fair that Harrison Ford joins him for his Han Solo. He adds the roguish charm and sense of grounded cynicism to counter all of the fantasy going on, and in many scenes it’s him who catches the eye. Lets balance things and go with Ford this time.

My Winner: Harrison Ford

Let us know in the comments who you would pick as winner for Best Supporting Actor of 1977!