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!

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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!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1973

Official Nominations: The Exorcist. The Last Detail. The Paper Chase. Paper Moon. Serpico.

Here’s a true story; I read The Exorcist before I saw the movie. The movie you see, was effectively banned in the UK after the Video Nasties scare until around 1999. I first saw it in 2001 I believe, but by that point I was already familiar with many of the movie’s most famous shots. The book I read around 1994 or 95. Part of me would like to say that I was too young to appreciate it, but in truth I don’t think that’s the case – I hated it. The book was as boring as a visit to your cousins on Christmas Day, and twice as frustrating. I recall nothing of interest happening until, almost literally, the last eight pages or so. Time may have spoiled my memories, but I remember clearly discussing it in school and me saying as much. Maybe if I read it now I may feel differently, but I have no desire to do so. Why would I, when the film is so good? Any team who can turn a book I hated into a film I love deserves the vote.

My Winner: The Exorcist.

My Nominations: The Exorcist. Serpico. Don’t Look Now. Soylent Green. Turkish Delight.

Only the winner, and the gritting and honest retelling of Frank Serpico’s adventures make it over to my list. Added to my nominations is another in the long list of successful adaptations of Daphne Du Maurier works – you’re almost guaranteed a classic when you make a film based on one of her stories if history is anything to go by. It’s a faithful enough adaptation of the short story, downplaying the perceived Psychic powers of Donald Sutherland’s characters. Soylent Green has been parodied so many times now that everyone knows what it is long before they see it – it’s seen as a movie based around a twist, except that everyone knows the twist before watching. It still holds up as a decent slice of 70s Sci-Fi and the screenplay takes the original’s central idea of how to cope with over-population and does its own thing. Turkish Delight is… pretty messed up, just like its source material Turks Fruit. The film follows the book faithfully, but it’s startling and tragic seeing it on the screen so it gets my nomination.

My Winner: The Exorcist.

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

Best Original Score – 1973

Official Nominations: The Way We Were. Cinderella Liberty. The Day Of The Dolphin. Papillon. A Touch Of Class. The Sting. Jesus Christ Superstar. Tom Sawyer.

The Way We Were and The Sting were the respective winners this year, and it’s hard to argue against the choices. Marvin Halmlisch’s score was a huge success, mainly thanks to the title song which we all know – misty water coloured memories and all that. The rest of the soundtrack is fine, easy jazz and romantic string led compositions. John Williams is back again with Cinderella Liberty – a film no-one knows but which is perfectly fine. It’s not one of the great man’s greatest in that it lacks a major theme instead rambling through loose jazz albeit in an energetic style. The Day Of The Dolphin is one even fewer people know (about dolphin assassins) – it does have a lovely main theme and some extravagant horn pieces but much of the soundtrack is your standard mixture of watery harps and creepy strings. Jerry Goldsmith is back with Papillon, a French inspired score of evocative strings and accordions which convey yearning and fear. A Touch Of Class is another case of ‘it has a popular song so we’d better nominate the soundtrack’. It’s average and it doesn’t need to be here.

The Sting is The Sting. It’s one of the only film scores one of my music teachers in school would ever allow discussion of. Hamlisch got his second win of the night (in the same category no less) for it, adapting a bunch of Scott Joplin standards while adding his own bonuses. Not really my style, but it’s so damn catchy and fun you can’t really complain. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andre Previn adapt Jesus Christ Superstar – a mammoth score fusing many styles – it’s pretty chaotic too but good stuff.

My Winner: Papillon.

My Nominations: Papillon. Jesus Christ Superstar. The Sting. The Exorcist. American Graffiti. Badlands. Don’t Look Now. Enter The Dragon. Live And Let Die. Robin Hood. Serpico. The Wicker Man.

If we’re good with having soundtracks that are purely adaptation or mostly filled with songs, then we have to have American Graffiti here. I mean I don’t really agree with simply selecting songs, especially here when it’s so easy to pick songs from an era to evoke a feeling for that era. Then again, the songs do fit and the songs are good, so I’m caught. I’m not going to pick it as a winner anyway, but it does feel right including it. If there’s one film from 1972 whose soundtrack is instantly recognizable, and impossible to separate from the film, it’s The Exorcist. The moment you hear those opening sinister notes of Tubular Bells, you know what it is and where it’s from, even if you haven’t seen the movie – it’s probably the second most famous horror movie them ever, after Jaws. I sometimes terrorize my kids by playing horror movie themes on car journeys, and even though they are decades away from watching the movie, they know there’s something terrifying about this one. One interesting thing about the soundtrack is much of it doesn’t even appear in the movie, but is still creepy as hell.

Sticking with iconic horror movie scores, another one I blast in my car is The Wicker Man – one which is a world away from the futuristic Eastern influences of The Exorcist. Celtic and other folk music is the star here, many loves songs and pieces which are just ‘off’ enough to be unsettling. Pino Donaggio was a singer and musician when Roeg approached him to score Don’t Look Now, even though he had no experience with movie soundtracks. It is peppered with tender piano pieces, string notes stretched and held to torturous lengths, and unnerving funeral rites organ sections. Moving away from Horror but keeping away from the US we find Enter The Dragon, probably the most famous martial arts soundtrack ever – ground zero for almost everything which has come since.

Over to the US and Badlands would influence a host of later soundtracks, most notably True Romance, while highlighting a mixture of carefree innocence and unknown threat. Serpico is a strange one, with the tracks ranging from cheesy US soap type themes to more classic 70s dramatic pieces. Disney wasn’t firing on all cylinders in the 70s, but Robin Hood stands out for being particularly anarchic and having plenty of whistle-along tunes while Live And Let Die has one of the best Bond songs and a great all round score – the first one not to feature John Barry. It’s a tough call and I would happy with at lest three or four of these to win.

My Winner: The Exorcist

Best Cinematography – 1973

Official Nominations: Cries And Whispers. The Exorcist. Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The Sting. The Way We Were.

The official winner this year was Sven Nykvist for Cries And Whispers – arguably a career award for his overall work with Bergman, though there is no doubting that the transition to colour use is stunning here. The Exorcist isn’t a film I typically think of when I think of award-winning cinematography, though once again there are a range of shots which encapsulate claustrophobia and heighten tension. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is not good, but again no getting away from how good it looks at times, while The Sting is at least notable for looking good, even if I attribute this more to the authenticity of costumes, sets, and music. Finally, The Way We Were seems like an unnecessary inclusion to drum up support for Streisand, Pollack, and Redford.

My Winner: Cries And Whispers

My Nominations: Cries And Whispers. The Exorcist. Enter The Dragon. Badlands. Don’t Look Now. High Plains Drifter. The Wicker Man.

Only two migrate to my list. Joining them is Bruce Lee’s biggest film Enter The Dragon, a film which still looks superb today with wonderful shots tracking the progress of the tournament from high above, interspersed with the close up work for the central fights. Malick’s debut Badlands is beautiful at regular intervals along with both Don’t Look Now and The Wicker Man which showcase optimal usage of location. Finally, another film whose power is derived in a great part from location is High Plains Drifter. I’d be happy with any of those last four films picking up the win.

My Winner: Badlands

Let us know in the comments which film of 1973 you think deserves the Best Cinematography award!

Best Supporting Actress – 1973

Official Nominations: Tatum O’Neal. Linda Blair. Candy Clark. Madeline Kahn. Sylvia Sidney.

It’s the year of the kids, with Tatum O’Neal picking up a win, making her the youngest winner ever. Most would not argue against it – she is precocious and has a great rapport with her father and the rest of the cast, but I don’t think she’s necessarily better than any number of child performers through the years. Linda Blair is slightly older, but still in the child range, and gives a more varied and… energetic performance? It’s certainly the tougher role, and while a lot of it is spent lying down and behind make-up and aided by other voice actors, there is more than enough substance in her own work to warrant a win. She is put through some torturous scenes while balancing those with the early and final scenes where she is a normal girl. Candy Clark’s nomination is a strange one – you usually don’t see actors get nominated for these sort of extreme ensemble movies where there are so many performers sharing little screen time. I’ve always thought that one area where American Graffiti is lacking is in the portrayal of the female characters – you watch the movie and none of the women stick out. She did go on to play Buffy’s mum in the movie version, so that’s something. Madeline Kahn’s nomination and performance got her noticed enough that she went on to appear in a string of comedy hits, she’s good but I never felt the role to be of much consequence. Sylvia Sidney’s nomination is another veteran nod in a film most people forget about shortly after watching.

My Winner: Linda Blair

My Nominations: Tatum O’Neal. Linda Blair. Jennifer Salt. Britt Ekland

It’s another year where the roster is looking pretty thin. Jennifer Salt ably backs up Margot Kidder in De Palma’s Sisters – it’s another DePalma film and another performance deserving of reevaluation. Britt Ekland makes up the final nomination – her performance in The Wicker Man more than proving her acting chops, although her speaking and singing voices were dubbed by other people so does it really count? See, tough year.

My Winner: Linda Blair.

Let us know in the comments who you would pick as the Best Supporting Actress of 1973!

Best Supporting Actor – 1973

Official Nominations: John Houseman. Vincent Gardenia. Jack Gilford. Jason Miller. Randy Quaid.

It’s a strange one this year – on one hand your average film viewer will look at the nominees and maybe recognise one of them, on the other hand they’re all good performances. John Houseman won the award this year for The Paper Chase, a role he would carry on in the TV series of the same name. It’s the one really good thing in the movie, but it’s another example of someone getting an award for the career they have had instead of specifically for the performance. Vincent Gardenia is equally good in Bang The Drums Slowly, a pretty average sports movie raised by a cast also including Robert De Niro and Michael Moriarty. Both average films, both fairly decent performances though hardly remarkable.

Jack Gilford supports Jack Lemmon in Send Away The Tiger – his character the straight man to Lemmon’s frail, destructive one. Again, a fine performance, but not one I’m sure needs to be nominated. The two most noteworthy performances here are Randy Quaid for The Last Detail and Jason Miller for The Exorcist. There’s a case that Miller should be in the lead category but we won’t worry about that, while Quaid is at least of equal importance in The Last Detail, though up against Jack Nicholson. Quaid is a sailor who is being sent down for 8 years for a minor crime, and Nicholson is charged with taking him to prison. They have a bunch of adventures and it’s good fun. The Exorcist was Miller’s first performance and he is terrific in it, stoic, strong, tormented, and torn. I think we know who I’ll be picking.

My Winner: Jason Miller

My Nominations: Jason Miller. Randy Quaid. Max Von Sydow. Robert Shaw. Yul Brynner. Christopher Lee.

I think we all know who I’ll be picking here too. Max Von Sydow joins Jason Miller from The Exorcist – the veteran priest who has been tackling demons such as Pazuzu for some time. Von Sydow is every bit as memorable as Miller but brings an entirely different tone to proceedings. Robert Shaw could be understandably peeved at missing out on a nomination for The Sting considering the other awards and nominations it received. Shaw’s performance as Lonnegan is integral to the success of the film.

Yul Brynner is chilling in Westworld, going against type as a villain (and a robot), in this proto-Terminator role. I fully admit it’s a weird nomination since he doesn’t really have to emote or do anything except look bad-ass. He steals every scene he’s in just by being there and he is what most people remember about the movie. Finally, Christopher Lee revels in his favourite role as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man. All of his wirey charm and alluring dark majesty are on display, and he is quite jovial as he poetically recites his lines. You can tell he’s having a whale of a time and that he knows the audience will too.

My Winner: Christopher Lee

Let us know who you pick as the Best Supporting Actor of 1973!