Best Actor – 1974

Official Nominations: Art Carney. Albert Finney. Dustin Hoffman. Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino.

Another of the great WTFs in the history of The Academy sees Art Carney – dead last in the category by anyone’s reckoning, winning. Having said that, it’s still a good performance, worthy of a nomination, but it’s totally a nomination and win purely for the fact he had been around so long. He plays an elderly man who with his cat whose home is taken from him. He decides to travel across America with his cat to get to LA and one of his sons, but it’s more about the journey, the people he meets, the quirky situations. I feel like this should be more of a cult movie and it feels like the sort of thing hipsters would love – good film, good performance.

Almost everything else here is legendary. Albert Finney’s performance in Murder On The Orient Express is fine again, surrounded by a stellar cast, but I think we all know the real Poirot is David Suchet. It’s one of the most famous novels and mysteries of all time, and a very successful, authentic version. Dustin Hoffman is incredible as Lenny Bruce, a performance which hurries back and forth between an energetic force of nature coming up in the world, and an addict in the throes of depression and excess. Jack Nicholson gives yet another defining performance in Chinatown as a dogged PI sucked into intrigue, romance, and danger. Finally, Pacino gets another nomination, this time in The Godfather II. You already know it, it’s fantastic. Last year for me it was between Nicholson and Pacino. That time I picked Pacino, but we’ll flip it now and give it to Jack.

My Winner: Jack Nicholson

My Nominations: Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino. Dustin Hoffman. Gene Wilder. Gene Hackman.

Three of the official nominees cross over, leaving two new choices who arguably deserve to have officially replaced Carney and Finney. Interestingly, both Wilder and Hackman appear in Young Frankenstein, but it’s Wilder’s wide-eyes, manic comedic masterclass which gets the nod, while Hackman’s geeky voyeur introvert who grows increasingly paranoid is, for me, the best thing about The Conversation. 

My Winner: Jack Nicholson

Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Actor of 1974!

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1974 Academy Awards – An Introduction

The 47th Academy Awards had a very masculine, mafia-based tone, what with hosts including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, and Sammy Davis Jr, and The Godfather II and Chinatown picking up several nominations and wins. You can expect both of those movies to lead the way in my personal picks, with hopefully a few surprises along the way.

Jean Renoir, Howard Hawks, and Arthur B Krim were the honorary winners this year, while other categories were presented by Lauren Bacall, OJ Simpson, Goldie Hawn, Warren Beatty, and many more. The four hosts performed music, along with Aretha Franklin and Frankie Laine.

Join us over the next few weeks to see where my wins go, and feel free to share your own picks!

Best Cast – 1973

My Nominations: Badlands. The Exorcist. The Last Detail. The Last Of Sheila. Live And Let Die. Mean Streets. Paper Moon. Scarecrow. Serpico. The Sting. The Three Musketeers.

As always we finish with the Best Cast category. It’s always been my opinion that the 1970s was when the best performers we’ve yet to see hit their peaks – most of my nominations this year feature those performers. In Badlands it’s pretty much the one-two of Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek announcing themselves to the world, while The Exorcist is features a mini ensemble each delivering their most iconic performances. The Last Detail sees Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, and Otis Young in an underrated film while The Last Of Sheila does the same for James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welch, Richard Benjamin, and Dyan Cannon.

Live And Let Die sees a new Bond in Roger Moore taking the series in a newer direction, ably backed up by some of my favourites in the series – Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto, and good old Clifton James. Mean Streets, while not featuring their debuts, got to the heart of the raw talents of Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro and Paper Moon sees father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O’Neal in one of the most memorable real life partnerships along with Madeline Kahn. Scarecrow and Serpico were both Al Pacino vehicles with the former also seeing Gene Hackman in top form, the latter with a bunch of respected character actors in smaller roles. The Sting is another hit from Robert Redford and Paul Newman, also featuring Robert Shaw, Charles Dunning, Eileen Brennan and others. My only true ensemble nomination is The Three Musketeers – Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay, Richard Chamberlain, Christopher Lee, Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway and others make up the exciting romp.

My Winner: The Exorcist.

Let us know in the comments which film of 1973 you think has the Best Cast!

Best Stunt Work – 1973

My Nominations: White Lightning. Live And Let Die. Lady Snowblood. Enter The Dragon.

Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds had one of the finest stunt performer/actor relationships in history making a string of hits and memorable stunts. White Lightning has some of Needham’s best work – a film filled with good old car chases and one stunning car jump onto a moving boat which didn’t quite go according to plan. Lady Snowblood and Enter The Dragon fill the martial arts quotient, both fine examples of what can happen when you have highly skilled fighters simulating all out war. Live And Let Die is the sure winner this year – double-decker bus chases, bayou boat antics, and a short sprint over live crocodiles just some of the classic moments.

My Winner: Live And Let Die

Best Visual Effects – 1973

My Nominations: Westworld. The Exorcist.

It’s somewhat surprising that after the Visual effects bonanza and disaster epics of the previous year that this year sees such a downturn. Perhaps it took that extra year for the industry to catch up – hence the onslaught which will be featured in this category next year. Westworld toys with robotics and sci-fi action, but our real winner is The Exorcist – using effects not merely to wow us, but to shock us with their realism and accompanying the plot and character. It’s almost safe to say The Exorcist is an effects driven film such is the power of the head spinning, stomach carving, spider walking, bed raising antics. But it’s more accurate to say that the effects are there to facilitate the descent of Regan and make us feel helpless and horrified.

My Winner: The Exorcist

Let us know your pick in the comments!

Best Make-Up – 1973

My Nominations: The Exorcist. Live And Let Die. Westworld.

Although there was a surplus of horror movies this year, few of them actually stand out for making advancements in this area. The one that did is of course, The Exorcist – Regan’s transformation to angelic child to spawn of Satan wouldn’t work without the talents of the Make-up team, not to mention the entirely convincing aging work done to Max Von Sydow. Live And Let Die has some nice paint and makeup jobs too on the likes of Baron Samedi and Kananga which are both for show and a specific plot point. Finally, Westworld has some notable makeup and effects works to show the gradual and sudden deterioration of the crush kill destroy bots.

My Winner: The Exorcist.

Best Art Direction – 1973

Official Nominations: The Sting. The Exorcist. Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Tom Sawyer. The Way We Were.

As much as I’d love to pick The Exorcist as winner here, the lack of variation while adding to the atmosphere, stifles the artistic look and feel of the production when compared with the variety on display in the official winner – The Sting. Zeffirelli’s movies always look pretty, but there’s little going on beneath the surface in Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Likewise The Way We Were doesn’t have much going for it. Tom Sawyer is exactly as you expect.

My Winner: The Sting

My Nominations: The Sting. The Exorcist. American Graffiti. Enter The Dragon. The Three Musketeers.

American Graffiti is added for… making car interiors look pretty? Everything about the film is dripping with 50s rock and roll teen stylings. Enter The Dragon has a few very specific sets with styles bordering on iconic – most notably the mirror room in the finale which must have required a lot of skill to prepare and shoot. Finally, The Three Musketeers trumps Tom Sawyer in the literary/period stakes.

My Winner: The Sting

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Costume Design – 1973

Official Nominations: The Sting. Cries And Whispers. Ludwig. Tom Sawyer. The Way We Were.

There is really only one winner out of these choices, and another notch for Edith Head. It’s The Sting, it’s old-timey, you already know it’s my winner. Cries And Whispers seems like too basic a choice, the costumes are mere footnote to the rest of the visuals. Ludwig would have been in with a shot had it been more successful – it definitely looks the part, while Tom Sawyer has been made so many times now it’s difficult to see anyone doing anything unique with it. The Way We Were has absolutely no business being nominated here.

My Winner: The Sting

My Nominations: The Sting. Ludwig. Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. The Three Musketeers. Westworld.

Three period pieces are added to my list – a traditional Western, a futuristic Western, and maybe the best take on d’Artagnan, Milady and co (aside from Dogtanian). No point discussing them though, as there’s still only one winner.

My Winner: The Sting

Let us know in the comments which film you pick as having the Best Costume Design of 1973!

Best Animated Feature – 1973

My Nominations: Robin Hood. Heavy Traffic. Charlotte’s Web. Fantastic Planet.

This is actually a groundbreaking year for animated movies. Maybe groundbreaking isn’t the correct technical term, but it’s one of the first years to see more than one or two highly significant releases from different studios. Aside from the ones I’ve listed, there are other strong offerings from Asia and Japan, but I feel these are the best. Robin Hood is yet another Disney entry, not one of their most popular or successful, but it does have a cult following and is one I was very familiar with growing up – lots of money moments and one piece of music in particular which will stay with you for days. Heavy Traffic continued Ralph Baski’s foray into adult animation becoming a fairly hefty success and containing his typical flair for raunch and satire. Charlotte’s Web is a film I never really liked, but it was always forced upon us in school.. I never got the whole ‘lets feel sorry for a spider’ business because ALL SPIDERS MUST DIE but it’s probably still the best adaptation we have. Finally, Fantastic Planet is an animation years ahead of its time, proving that the genre can be just as thought-provoking and powerful as any piece of non-animated work.

My Winner: Robin Hood

Let us know in the comments which film you choose as winner!

Best Writing (Original) – 1973

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

The Sting was the deserving and expected winner this year, even though the story was heavily inspired by real life events which had been previously documented. Nonetheless, it’s the nuances of the script, the dialogue, and the rapport between Gondorff and Hooker which helped the film become such a hit – you feel that even with lesser names than Newman and Redford the movie still would have been acclaimed, if not as financially successful. American Graffiti deserves a nomination more for its loose, near improvised feel which would go on to inspire many future directors, writers, and the slacker film movement. The script is both nostalgic and innocent, yet eternally prescient – the cars, the moves, the style, the lingo may have changed, but we grow, we explore, and we seek friendship, a mate, and the desire for freedom in an exciting and uncertain future.

Cries And Whispers doesn’t need to be here given that it was released in 1972, suffice it to say, it’s another dense exploration by Bergman, dealing with family, sexuality, life, and death. Save The Tiger is kept afloat by Jack Lemmon’s performance and in many ways it’s the perfect dramatic script for him, the everyman drowning in a world passing him by with the script highlighting his isolation and inability to stay relevant. Finally, A Touch Of Class feels like a film which would have had a greater impact in the 60s, with its depiction of marriage, affairs, sex etc. Its characters are finely drawn, though thoroughly unlikable even with the witticisms  on display.

My Winner: The Sting

My Nominations: The Sting. American Graffiti. Badlands. Day For Night. High Plains Drifter. The Holy Mountain. Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid.

Only two make it over to my list. Joining them is Terence Malik’s screenplay for Badlands – one of the finest examples of being sparse yet dense at the same time; when the characters aren’t talking, the pictures do the rest. Nevertheless, his two central characters and their dispute with the world is both universal, timeless, and symbolic of the USA in the early 1970s. Spacek’s narration feels innocent and alarming, while Sheen’s infrequent outbursts and speeches feel like they deserve iconic status. There aren’t many great films about making movies, or the love of movies, but Day For Night experiments with both of these themes playfully and cynically. Fresh off his work on The French Connection, Ernest Tidyman makes one of the great new US Westerns – new as in being influence by Leone, a story which throws out most notions of the glorious Wild West where enterprising individuals built North America. The Holy Mountain… well, I’ve got to nominate it for something. Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid is a Peckinpah film which is only now getting reevaluated after an initial critical mute response – a film with a torrid production, not least between writer and director with Peckinpah rewriting Wurlitzer’s script – a harsh, downbeat story.

My Winner: The Sting

Let us know your winner in the comments!