Best Actress – 1979

Official Nominations: Sally Field. Jill Clayburgh. Jane Fonda. Marsha Mason. Bette Midler.

Clayburgh and Fonda are back again from last year, along with Mason from the year before that – Mason doesn’t leave much of an impression on me in Chapter Two – the film itself is instantly forgettable, and Clayburgh and Fonda’s performances aren’t as strong or interesting as 1978 – Starting Over and The China Syndrome not exactly being exceptional. That leaves the two more iconic roles – Sally Field, who picked up the official win as Norma Rae, and Bette Midler as ‘not Janis Joplin’ in The Rose. I love both of these and either would be a winner in any of the last three years. I’m not a huge fan of either actress, but there’s no getting away from how good they are here, both are full-blooded, couldn’t give any more, energetic performances and while they are a product of their time they haven’t lost any of their power.

My Winner: Bette Midler

Bette Midler Breakout Film The Rose Being Adapted into a Broadway Musical | Broadway Buzz | Broadway.com

My Nominations: Bette Midler. Sally Field. Isabella Adjani. Sigourney Weaver. Natasha Kinski.

1979 was not the most interesting year for me where the Best Actress category was concerned – I take my two favourite performances from the Official category and add a couple of oversights. I was tempted to add Meryl Streep here for her dual performances in Manhattan and The Seduction Of Joe Tynan – but both are supporting roles. Isabella Adjani gets a nomination for one of the more sexual and seductive takes on Lucy Harker rather than the usual passive damsel – Nosferatu being vital watching for all Horror fans, while Natasha Kinski’s Tess is one of the better examples of a 19th Century heroine being brought kicking and screaming into the 20th Century. My winner is an example of a supporting character becoming the lead, and while her performance in the sequel is perhaps more worthy of the win she is my standout favourite this year. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley broke down many barriers and expectations for what an actress could portray on screen and almost single-handedly created a generation of female characters who could command a movie and drive a plot.

My Winner: Sigourney Weaver

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Foreign Film – 1979

Official Nominations: The Tin Drum. The Maids Of Wilko. Mama Turns 100. A Simple Story. To Forget Venice

1979 continues the decade’s downturn in quality as the years progressed – like last year there isn’t a standout choice or one film which most people will be aware of. The Tin Drum was the winner this year, but I find it a little impenetrable and overlong, following a few generations of a Polish family from the late 19th Century into WWII. It also has some dubious scenes involving an underage performer. Similarly, Wajda’s The Maids Of Wilko doesn’t do much for me, the well acted story of a man returning to the home of some sisters he used to tutor, only to discover them changed. Mama Turns 100 is typical comedy crap, To Forget Venice is the same, except for romance. My Winner then is A Simple Story – Romy Schneider is a women who gets pregnant, has an abortion, then deals with the suicide of one of her co-worker’s husbands. Again it’s hardly exceptional, but well-acted and not as annoying as some of the others here.

My Winner: A Simple Story

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My Nominations: Love On The Run. Mad Max. The Marriage Of Maria Braun. Life Of Brian. Meatballs. Nosferatu The Vampire. Quadrophenia.

There isn’t a huge list of quality films to choose from this year, so we fall back on middling work from masters. Truffaut’s Love On The Run continues and concludes his Doinel series of films, this one being a montage movie as the character meets up with various past lovers as he tries to embark on his next relationship. The Marriage Of Maria Braun is Rainer Werner Fassbinder on better form following a woman’s perpetual on and off relationship with a soldier during and after WWII. Life Of Brian is more manic banter from the Monty Python lads, while Meatballs introduced the world to Ivan Reitman and Bill Murray who would both go on to better things.

Werner Herzog continued his partnership with Klaus Kinski in the memorably grim and beautiful Nosferatu remake while The Who would bring another album to life with the gritty, star-studded Quadrophenia. Keeping things British is the always controversial Scum, about a place where ‘bad boys went’ – there was one near my house when I was young and my parents were always threatening me with being dropped off there. I don’t think they ever saw Scum. Vengeance Is Mine is Japan bringing the US gangster movie style and maturity to their own shores with a twist, but my vote goes to one of the greatest Australian movies of them all – Mad Max. Australia had several notable films this year but Mel Gibson and George Miller’s apocalyptic road movie is an exercise in unease and roaring V8s.

My Winner: Mad Max

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Actor – 1979

Official Nominations: Dustin Hoffman. Jack Lemmon. Al Pacino. Roy Scheider. Peter Sellers.

It seems appropriate that the final Awards of the decade should end with such a 70s looking list. Dustin Hoffman got his win as the sympathetic Daddy Kramer, another extension of the everyman characters he had been playing for much of the decade and becoming one of his most famous roles. It’s difficult to argue against him getting the win, even if I’m not the biggest fan of the film. The same could be said for any of the nominees in this category this year – Jack Lemmon would have felt like a veteran nomination, but for the fact he had already been nominated several times, and won twice by this point. Lemmon is the power plant worker who believes something is amiss and that a meltdown is imminent, tries to convince first his management and then the general public that the plant is not safe. Lemmon was also best as an Everyman, here is frustration growing steadily and convincingly – it’s easy to see why the public may not be able to tell if his character is genuine or has lost his mind.

Al Pacino grabs another vote for one of his lesser known 70s works, this time as the jaded and fiery Defence Attorney who ends up defending a Judge he has a difficult past with. As it’s Pacino, you know you’re going to get plenty of grandstanding and explosive speeches, and that’s precisely what he delivers – while not letting the sympathetic side of the character down. Roy Scheider basically plays Bob Fosse in All That Jazz – a workaholic and pressure addict who refuses to stop or accept when enough is enough. He fully embraces his many vices and Scheider is perfect for the role – just intense enough without becoming something to be lampooned, and jittering all the way to his character’s inevitable conclusion. Finally, Peter Sellers feels like the bonus nominee here, not someone who really stood a chance against the other four. Having said that, it may be his best role, if not best performance, because while it lacks the obvious silliness of his more renowned work, this one feels more true to who he wanted to be as a performer. The character is ideal for him – a simple-minded, simple gardener who somehow becomes advisor in The White House. Honestly you can take any of these choices and not be concerned.

My Winner: Dustin Hoffman

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My Nominations: Dustin Hoffman. Al Pacino. Roy Scheider. Peter Sellers. Martin Sheen. Klaus Kinski. Phil Daniels.

As much as I’d like to put Mel Gibson here for Mad Max, I think the performance grows more in the sequel. It seems odd, especially in retrospect, that Martin Sheen wasn’t nominated here for Apocalypse Now. Possibly it’s a case of him being overshadowed somewhat by other performances in the film – with both Brando and Duvall stealing their scenes. But Sheen’s is the performance which holds the entire process together – we see the war and the journey through his eyes and he becomes increasingly crazed as the insanity around him intensifies. Klaus Kinski, in a year with a few notable vampire performances, delivers one of the all time best performances as a fanged monster. Obviously he is more visually horrific than the more romantic take on the creatures, but that doesn’t make him any less convincing, intriguing, seductive, or sympathetic – a credit to what Kinski was able to convey. Finally, Phil Daniels gives what I think is one of the finest British big screen performances of the decade in Quadrophenia – it’s authentic as hell, powerful on a number of emotional levels, and it is arguably one of the best performances focusing on teen rebellion, angst, and alienation. No-one else is ever going to go for him, so I will.

My Winner: Phil Daniels

Let us know in the comments who you pick as Best Actor of 1979!

1979 Academy Awards – An Introduction

52nd Academy Awards - Wikipedia

The 52nd Academy Awards were again hosted by Johnny Carson and saw three movies taking most of the glory – Kramer Vs Kramer, All That Jazz, and Apocalypse Now. All three movies will make multiple appearances in my nominations, with one of them being a more obvious category winner for me. However, some other notable films of 1979 will also appear as frequent nominees and winners in my picks, so stay tuned for some large variances.

Honorary Awards were presented this year to Alec Guinness, Hal Elias, Ray Stark, Robert Benjamin, John O Aalberg, Charles G Clarke, and John G Frayne. Presenters included William Shatner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Steven Spielberg, and Farrah Fawcett, while performances were from Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Paul Williams, Dionne Warwick, and others.

Come back over the next few weeks to see my picks in each category, and be sure to share your own thoughts and choices!

Best Cast – 1978

My Nominations: The Boys From Brazil. California Suite. Dawn Of The Dead. The Deer Hunter. Heaven Can Wait. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Midnight Express. Superman.

A great selection of films with either ensemble casts or smaller quality over quantity focused casts. The Boys From Brazil is not a film which is often spoken of anymore, but it is well worth revisiting giving its cultural significance – Oliver picked up an Oscar nomination – and because it takes a number of renowned actors known mainly for their heroic good guy roles, and having them act as some of the most horrible humans in history. James Mason, Gregory Peck, Bruno Ganz, Steve Guttenberg, Lilli Palmer, Denholm Elliot, Prunella Scales, and Michael Gough are among those rounding out the cast.

California Suite seems like the sort of film which would have been nominated had this category existed in 1978. It’s a Neil Simon comedy directed by Herbert Ross, and features a variety of A Listers and Oscar Winners – Maggie Smith winning another for this film, along with Michael Caine, Bill Cosby, Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, Walter Matthau, Elaine May, and Richard Pryor. One which would absolutely not have been nominated, but which remains a firm favourite in my personal mini category of single/near single location siege movies with a tight cast, is Dawn Of The Dead. Ken Foree is the standout, but the surrounding trio of Gaylen Ross, David Emge, and Scott Reiniger make a the film one of the all time great horror movies. It’s difficult to see another movie wrestling the win away from The Deer Hunter – De Niro was nominated for Best Actor, Christopher Walken won Best Supporting Actor, Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, then you also have John Savage and John Cazale.

Heaven Can Wait is another cert for a nomination if this category had been around – Warren Beatty, James Mason, Julie Christie, Jack Warden, Dyan Cannon, Charles Grodin – good cast, decent movie. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is a Sci Fi classic which treats the audience and subject matter with respect, as well as giving a high calibre cast – Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, Brooke Adams. Midnight Express is filled with intense performances – John Hurt, Brad Davis, Randy Quaid, Irene Miracle, while Superman ushers in the age of the comic book blockbuster and features a huge and notable cast – Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeves, Ned Beatty, Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper, Terence Stamp, Trevor Howard, Susannah York, Maria Schell etc.

My Winner: The Deer Hunter

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Stunt Work – 1978

My Nominations: Superman. Hooper. The Wild Geese. The Drunken Master. Jaws 2. Go Tell The Spartans. The Driver.

We’re in the peak era for many types of physical stunts, but even as computer trickery as displayed in the likes of Superman was coming to greater prominence, the duties were shared to make a more exciting whole. Some of the action set-pieces in Superman would go on to influence everything Marvel/DC touches today, and the combination of effects and physical stunts is still impressive. Hooper is essentially the Hal Needham biopic, and as such features some truly wonderful action, including some of the most batshit stunts you’ll ever see – a fall from a helicopter and a bridge jump in a TransAm spring to mind. It’s a film where cars inexplicably flip and buildings blow up simply by coming into contact with air – it’s great.

The Wild Geese is your typical 70s ensemble action war film, with hardened military types leaping out of airplanes, mowing down bad guys, shouting ‘go go go’ and blowing shit up. What more could you want? The Drunken Master takes a more personal approach and allows Jackie Chan to showcase his unique and almost lethal approach to stunts – putting his own body on the line for our amusement and bewilderment. While he would increase the danger levels in later films, here he fights and increasingly introduces more of his surroundings into the action. In Jaws 2, the action is heightened over the first film leading to some famous moments, most notable the helicopter attack.

Go Tell The Spartans is a little different from The Wild Geese, being a distinctly anti-war film which uses its action in a more harrowing way. It has its fair share of running and gunning and leaping over flames, but it takes the time and effort to make you think of the true cost of the reality. Finally, The Driver is almost like a series of stunts tied together by a loose narrative about a cop and a driver and the puppet-master. Where the car action in Hooper feels like a spectacle, like something which was planned meticulously for weeks, The Driver feels like they simply let loose a bunch of maniacs in cars upon the streets and filmed the results. It’s superb and has some of the best stunt guys in the business – Laurie and Everett Creach, Micky Alzola, Billy Barton, Chris Howell and others.

The Driver tunnel scene

My Winner: The Driver

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Make-up – 1978

My Nominations: Dawn Of The Dead. The Fury. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers. The Wiz.

We’re only a few years away from this category becoming official, so for now lets continue to honour those who came before. The zombies in Dawn of The Dead have a very unique look – that blue hue which makes them look very cartoonish. Depending on your personal taste, you’ll love or hate this. Beyond that, the gunshot and gore effects for the time are second to none and while much of it doesn’t hold up today thanks to the deliberate over the top colours, it’s better than anything else of the era. Rick Baker was one of those figures who ensured that this category even existed – his work on horror going back to The Exorcist and earlier lower budget movies. He picked up a Saturn Award (along with mentor William Tuttle) for The Fury in which psychic kids learn how (not) to control their powers.

The Wiz is an obvious choice with great work by Stan Winston to turn Michael Jackson and pals into The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and The Wiz etc. Finally, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers offers some gooey alien goodness as duplicate humans in various forms try to wake up and take over the lives of everyone in San Francisco. Not to mention that dog.

My Winner: Dawn Of The Dead.

House of Horror: Dawn of the Dead (1978) – Place to Be Nation

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Visual Effects -1978

My Nominations: Superman. The Fury. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Jaws 2.

It’s pretty clear what the winner in this category will be this year. Superman made you believe a man could fly, and was another knock on the head of the Oscar’s board to make an official Visual Effects category, especially after A New Hope from the previous year. Sure it looks hokey now, but for the time, and throughout my childhood, it was the go to film for making flying look realistic. On top of that, there are plenty of great effects showpieces – most notably the entire Hoover Dam/car burial/fly around the world sequence. The Fury is an example of the world crying out for more Stephen King, without having anything to do with Stephen King. Like Carrie, it introduces an adolescent girl who discovers an array of psychic powers, like Carrie it builds to an explosive finale, like Carrie it features Amy Irving, and like Firestarter there is a shady Government Agency exploiting the powers of these kids. Aside from the typical scenes of violence, the glowing eye effect is quite cool.

The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers benefits from technological advances since the 1950s version. Having a more visceral approach and tone leads to such crawling treats as the spores seeming more sentient, and of course the infamous dog/human later in the film. Finally, Jaws 2 builds upon the visual effects of the original, showing more of the shark but also having the shark become more of a Slasher villain than an instinctual animal.

My Winner: Superman

Superman (1978) | Anti-Film School

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Costume Design – 1978

Official Nominations: Death On The Nile. Caravans. Days Of Heaven. The Swarm. The Wiz.

Agatha Christie works are usually good for a nomination here, alongside other period pieces. It deserves a nomination for sure, but there’s nothing to stand out. Caravans is a mostly listless film which has never received much critical or fan praise, so it seems odd that it received any nomination beyond being another nod for the lady who worked on Cleopatra. The Swarm is equally odd given the fact that it is a mostly ridiculed film and that it doesn’t seem to have any Design flair beyond any other movie of the week. Days Of Heaven at least looks the part, even if the costumes themselves don’t stand out in any shape or form, while The Wiz succeeds where the others mostly fail, making the costumes an extension of the character as well as being memorable on their own.

My Winner: The Wiz

The Wiz: Michael Jackson Behind the Scenes on the Original | Time

My Nominations: The Wiz. Superman. Halloween. Dawn Of The Dead. Days Of Heaven. The Deer Hunter. Death On The Nile. Grease.

The official winner and my winner survive to my list of nominations, joining some obvious and less obvious options. Superman features one of the all time iconic costumes and while that costume wasn’t designed from scratch for the movie, this version of it is probably still the most famous and preferred. Throw in the work to compare Clark’s childhood country life with the design of the big city, alongside those used in the Krypton scenes, and it’s obvious a lot of thought and care went into the design. If Superman features a famous whole costume, then Halloween features a single iconic item – the Michael Myers mask. It’s more than a mask, becoming a symbol of fear in the film and its sequels. Dawn Of The Dead takes special, zany, consideration to the costume design of its zombies with an array of ridiculous and individual costumes.

The Deer Hunter could have earned a nomination here mainly on the basis of being nominated elsewhere, but its clever contrast of home versus ‘over there’, and before versus after is another weapon in its arsenal. Finally, Grease is a film I would have guessed received more nominations than it actually did, with this category being a fairly obvious choice. Both Travolta and Olivia Newton John parade around in costumes which have been parodied over the years, and the backing collection of characters and dancers are each attired in colourful extensions of various 1950s caricatures.

My Winner: Grease

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Animated Feature – 1978

My Nominations: The Lord Of The Rings. The Mystery Of Mamo. Watership Down.

As we near the end of the 70s, the world of Animated movies was still in a lull – Disney was struggling to find a new identity (and would continue to do so for another ten years) while the heralded Studio Ghibli was a few years from being created. Japan was still cranking out hits, but the likes of Toei and Nippon Animation were making films more dedicated to their domestic market. Ralph Bakshi was known till this point for his indie, adult oriented animation work but in 1978 he tackled more family friendly work with The Lord Of The Rings, an ambitious attempt to tell Tolkein’s story in a single work – eventually deciding to focus on the first two books instead. As you would expect, it isn’t always successful and can be bewildering for those new to the story, but it is frequently impressive visually.

For fans of the Lupin III series and character, The Mystery Of Mamo is a fun and energetic adventure, but isn’t the easiest entry point to the series despite it being first. Finally, Watership Down is a film which was shown in schools, and frequently around the holiday periods when I was young. While it still features regularly at Christmas, I highly doubt it being presented to School kids now, such is the nature of both its content and our world now. Both mystical, realistic, and apocalyptic, it tells the story of a group of rabbits struggling with survival and heading towards an idyllic land glimpsed in a dream. While not as overtly political as Animal Farm, the story nevertheless appeals to the intellect as much as the imagination and portrays an often harsh and violent world of hope, danger, and war.

My Winner: Watership Down

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Let us know your winner in the comments!