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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Best Foreign Film – 1978

Official Nominations: Get Out Your Handkerchiefs. The Glass Cell. Hungarians. Viva Italia! White Bim Black Ear.

1978 is interesting in that it’s the first year in a while that doesn’t have an obvious ‘big’ movie – one that everyone recognises no matter if they’ve seen it or not. None of the films are standouts either, unfortunately. White Bim Black Ear is three hours worth of man and dog – it’s basically a Russian version of The Littlest Hobo. The Glass Cell is about a guy who has been wrongfully imprisoned for years and has heard rumours about his wife’s unfaithfulness. He leaves prison a more paranoid and dangerous man – his stay turning an innocent man guilty. Viva Italia! ranks among the most bizarre choices for an Oscar – an episodic Italian comedy with multiple directors and featuring short films about things like having sex with a monkey, corrupt cops letting a bunch of terrorists go free because they have rich families, and plenty of mini character studies about lies, sex, religion etc. It’s an Italian Monty Python film with at least twelve fewer laughs.

Hungarians is an average drama about a bunch of migrants who have fairly good conditions in Germany during World War II but find that when they go home they can’t escape a War which tarnishes and changes everyone. This year’s official winner – Get Out Your Handkerchiefs – is another Gerard Depardieu vehicle. He plays a man who decides his wife’s depression can only be cured by another man’s cock, so he picks one at random to have sex with her. The woman then has sex with a child and the men go to prison. France, eh?

My Winner: The Glass Cell

My Nominations: Watership Down. The Glass Cell. Drunken Master. The Demon. La Cage Aux Folles. The Green Room.

It says a lot that I’m having to include certain films here that wouldn’t normally make the cut. The Glass Cell is the only one which makes it over to my list, joining two from France, two from Asia, and one from Britain. Drunken Master isn’t one of the best Martial Arts movies, but it is certainly one of the most influential. Jackie Chan had been blending buffoonery with action for a while but it was in Drunken Master that both sides were honed and the audience ‘got it’. The Demon is maybe Yoshitaro Nomura’s most famous film, an uncharacteristically bleak drama which tears at the fabric of the traditional Japan family and examines the results of selfish, petty acts. La Cage Aux Folles is frequently funny yet more dated than most comedies of the time while Truffaut’s La Chambre Verte is a surprisingly touching and thought-provoking look at one man’s coping/obsession with death. My winner is the ever-young, ever-shocking Watership Down  – a film that I am not as enamoured with as most but one which remains more or less unique in its ability to scar and teach.

My Winner: Watership Down

Let us know your winner in the comments!