Well I made it through the 1930’s! Now, on my quest to WATCH EVERY BEST PICTURE NOMINEE EVER!!! I jump ahead to the decade of the 70’s. This entry covers the 5 nominees for the 43rd Annual Academy Awards ceremony which took place on April 15th 1971.
Universal – 2hr 17min
DIRECTOR: George Seaton
NOTES: Based on the novel by Arthur Hailey. • Three sequels were made: Airport 1975(1974), Airport ’77(1977), and The Concorde… Airport ’79(1979) • Helen Hayes won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. This was her second Oscar. She won Best Actress 38 years earlier for The Sin Of Madelon Claudet(1931) • This was the last filmed to be scored by Alfred Newman who died before the film’s release. • The film became Universal’s highest grossing film ever at the time. • Airplane!(1980) is a popular and fantastic spoof of the film.
PROS: I love the opening on black. You just hear the sounds of people milling about and the P.A. announcer. • The opening credits show off the beauty of both Technicolor and the Todd-AO 70mm format in various shots of the Airport exterior. • “We give thanks to thee, in the name of JESUS CHRIST!!”. • The split screen use feels fresh and creative for the time(it was popularized in the 60’s with such films as Grand Prix(1966), The Boston Strangler(1968), and The Thomas Crown Affair(1968)). • Dean Martin(Captain Demarest) is still as charming as ever even at this later-ish stage of his career. He plays a horn-dog without managing to be creepy. • The bit where our comic relief Miss Quonsett(Helen Hayes) explains to Mel(Burt Lancaster) the airport manager and Tanya the customer relations agent about how she’s fleecing the airline was amusing. • One of the best scenes is the conversation at the diner between D. O. Guerrero(Van Heflin) and his wife Inez(Maureen Stapleton). I found their performances to be the most realistic. I’d say Stapleton was more worthy of the Supporting Actress award. She does a lot with a very small part. • A pretty candid conversation about abortion between Demarest and Gwen(Jacqueline Bisset). • The moments leading up to Guerrero‘s fateful decision were done well I thought. The tension was high and the actual act felt sudden. • There is a level of authenticity in regards to the operations of the airport, especially at the end when the pilots are communicating with various air traffic control personnel. • The sub plot with Patroni(George Kennedy) trying to get the plane unstuck from a snow bank seems trivial at first but ends up playing an important part. I thought the filmmakers handled this well without being too obvious about it.
CONS: The music can be pretty corny at times. It can sound more like something out of a sitcom. • The whole film feels dated(except perhaps for the split screen effects). It feels and looks more like a film out of the 1950’s. And maybe that’s due to the résumés and average age of the cast. • The scenes of marital squabbles between Mel and Cindy(Dana Wynter) felt soap-opera-y. • Not sure Gwen would have really survived that situation. • Some of the gags border on slapstick(e.g. the priest slapping the worried passenger). They are meant to release the tension but tension is the about the best thing this film has going for it. • The end was sort of anti-climactic. It would have been better if they landed just as Patroni was getting out of the way and not about ten minutes after the fact. But I guess credit is due for being more realistic.
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Sherry Lipp over at blogcritics
Columbia – 1hr 36min
DIRECTOR: Bob Rafelson
GENRE: Family Drama/Neo-Realism/Road Movie
NOTES: One of six collaborations between Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson: Head(1968), The King Of Marvin Gardens(1972), The Postman Always Rings Twice(1981), Man Trouble(1992), & Blood And Wine(1996). • The film You Can’t Take It With You(1938) is seen briefly on a T.V. I wouldn’t have spotted it if I hadn’t just gone through the Best Picture nominees from the 30’s! • There were two editors on the film; one for the first half, one for the 2nd. • Bob Rafelson makes a cameo in the elevator at the Hollywood recording studio.
PROS: A star making role for Jack Nicholson(who’s my favorite actor of all time btw and he’s great in this), but this is really Karen Black’s film. Her character, Rayette Dipesto gives the film it’s heart. And she’s really the only likable character and one of the few who transcends class by virtue of not having any… at least not the kind of class the Dupea family is used to. • The cinematography of the great László Kovács. • Feels new and fresh & heavily inspired by European and Japanese films. This film along with Easy Rider(1969) represent to me the birth of American Neo-Realism in that it focuses on the mundane, has moments of improvisation, unexpected plot turns, handheld photography, the protagonist Bobby Dupea(Jack Nicholson) is not particularly likable and the editing and story structure are unconventional. It’s a total 180 from a film like Airport. • Billy “Green” Bush is hilarious as Elton. He’s got that great laugh and his retort of “shit-ass!” is an all-time favorite. • Sally Ann Struthers'(Shirley “Betty”) monologue about her dimpled chin is something to behold. • Bobby‘s freakout in the car! • The depressing lesbian hitch-hikers, Palm Apodaca(Helena Kallianiotes) and Terry Grouse(Toni Basil) are hilarious. “I don’t even want to talk about it”. Palm even breaks the 4th wall at one point. • “Well I don’t know where you were penis envy”. • The infamous diner scene. “I want you to hold it between your knees.” • Spicer(John Ryan) is one of the greatest inconsequential secondary characters of all time! That walk he does over to the ping-pong table! And his “fight” with Bobby is stellar. • Other really good performances by Ralph Waite(Carl), Lois Smith(Partita), and Susan Anspach(Catherine).
CONS: Not many. Maybe the characters are a little too distant. But Bobby Dupea is one of the most distant male characters in American cinema. • Some of the trappings of low budget filmmaking; reliance on handheld, booms in shot, camera crew in reflections, that kind of thing.
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from the late great Roger Ebert over at rogerebert
Paramount – 1hr 40min
DIRECTOR: Arthur Hiller
GENRE: Love Story(get it?)/Tragedy
NOTES: Based on the novel by Erich Segal. • Oliver’s Story(1978) is the sequel to this film. • Tommy Lee Jones makes his film debut in a minor role. • Remains in the Top 40 for highest grossing films of all time(adjusting for inflation). • Shares a similar plot with the 1848 novel Camille, by Alexandre Dumas. • Francis Lai won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Score.
PROS: The dialogue is well written, especially between Oliver(Ryan O’Neal) and Jenny(Ali MacGraw). Contains the immortal line “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” • Some clever compositions; i.e. The espresso shot, and at the hockey game where the camera glides along at ice level. • Cool to see a young Tommy Lee Jones(Hank Simpson) albeit in a minuscule role. • “Holy shit!” Jenny exclaims as they pull up to the Barrett mansion. • Oliver‘s awkward introduction of Jenny to his parents. “We’ll have to be going soon.” • Both Ray Milland(Oliver Barrett III) and John Marley(Phil Cavalleri) lend some much needed gravitas to the film.
CONS: Some poor ADR. • Not sure giving away the ending at the beginning was such a good idea. It puts a lot of pressure on the viewer to like the characters. • Ryan O’Neil and Ali MacGraw are serviceable in their roles, but for the most part it sounds like they are just running through the script. I didn’t get much chemistry from them. And the characters of Oliver and Jenny the “foul-mouth angel face” to be very selfish. Contemporary audiences may have viewed it differently. Perhaps it was refreshing for younger people to see a couple like this portrayed on screen.
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Ruth over at letterboxd
20th Century Fox – 1hr 56min
DIRECTOR: Robert Altman
GENRE: Comedy/Anti-war/Korean War/Medical Drama
NOTES: Based on the novel by Richard Hooker. • Developed into the highly popular television series of the same name which ran from 1972-1983. • Ring Lardner, Jr. won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. • The film won the Palme d’Or at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival. • This was the first major studio film to feature the word “fucking”.
PROS: Subversive as all get out. Really shatters the myth that all soldiers are heroes or people to look up to as role models. Anti-war, anti-religion, even anti-classic war films! • Hinges on the performances of Donald Sutherland(“Hawkeye” Pierce) and Elliott Gould(“Trapper” John). Again, this is the 70’s and are protagonists aren’t exactly the most likable people. But both of these actors bring the zaniness of the Marx brothers and still manage to show you that somewhere deep down, they still have souls despite the war • The camerawork is fascinating to watch. It’s almost always moving. Starting zoomed in and pulling back and panning in long takes. There is lots of layering to the shots, mostly because you can see through the mesh lining of the tents. • There is a lot of overlapping dialogue and background noise woven into each scene. It’s an impressive feat considering the equipment available at the time. • Dramatic helicopter footage for the opening credits. • Radar‘s(Gary Burghoff) entrance is funny. He would reprise his character for the TV show. • The first “sex” scene between Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan(Sally Kellerman) and Frank Burns(Robert Duvall) was hilarious. • The beer in the blood cooler! • “The Painless Pol” Waldowski‘s(John Schuck) suicide “last supper” and res-erection. Doesn’t get more subversive than that. • The operation room scenes must have been shocking at the time. Very bloody and the dialogue is so non-chalant and realistic. No one is commenting on the surgery, they are cracking jokes and gossiping. • The self-aware closing credits announced over the P.A.
CONS: The last 30 minutes or so, with the focus on the football game, are pretty boring. • Apparently in the book Ho-Jon(Kim Atwood) returns to the M*A*S*H* unit injured and Hawkeye and Trapper John operate on him to no avail. Therefore, had they filmed it that way, the body that is seen on the jeep in the background when everyone is playing poker would have been Ho-Jon‘s. As it stands, it’s just an anonymous body. I think had they stuck with the book it would have lent some much needed pathos to the film and highlighted just how apathetic the characters had become. • I feel like Robert Duvall was miscast here as Frank Burns.
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from Aaron over at letterboxd
20th Century Fox – 2hr 50min
DIRECTOR: Franklin J. Schaffner
NOTES: Based on the life of George S. Patton. • The screenplay was co-written by a young Francis Ford Coppola. • George C. Scott won the Oscar for Best Actor(although he declined it in protest of the Academy Awards). • The film also won the Oscar for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Art Direction.
PROS: Iconic opening shot and dialogue from George C. Scott as General George S. Patton. • Classic score from Jerry Goldsmith. • Striking imagery at the Kasserine Pass with Arab scavengers looting the bodies of dead U.S. soldiers. The 65mm Dimension 150 really shines in the location footage. Sometimes there is a documentary-esque look to it. • When Patton is “reminiscing” about the ancient battle between the Carthaginians and Romans. “I was there”. He recites his famous poem about reincarnation, “Through A Glass, Darkly”. • I appreciate that the German troops are actually speaking German! • Great shots on the sand dunes by the graveyard. “God how I hate the twentieth century.” • “Rommell, you magnificent bastard I READ YOUR BOOK!!” • Good scene where Maj. Gen. Omar Bradley(Karl Malden) scolds Patton for only thinking of personal glory. • The notorious slapping incident. I wonder what George would make of the PC/SJW culture of today.
CONS: The gag about German planes and then they instantly get strafed. It’s supposed to be funny but it comes off as silly. Same with Patton facing them down with this pistol. • The Nazi bunker looks like something out of James Bond. • The battle scenes are a little stale now. Lots of soldiers bloodlessly flailing their arms to signify that they’ve been shot. (the worst offense is when Captain Jenson(Morgan Paull) gets blown up in his foxhole and there is not a scratch on him.)But this is less of a realistic battle movie and almost all the focus is on the character of Patton. • There has been a revolution in the production value of war films such as Oliver Stone’s Platoon(1986) and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan(1998).
BETTER REVIEW THAN MINE: from the late great Roger Ebert over at rogerebert
Did the Oscars get it right?
1970 is like a mix of the old and the new. Airport feels old, like really old. Patton feels old too, but with a hint of a new voice(i.e. screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola would fully emerge soon after this). The other three films signal the voice of a new generation and they are all downers. Love Story suffers from lack of chemistry between the two lovers and M*A*S*H* suffers from a complete lack of likable characters and is too episodic in it’s composition to really stand as a solid statement. Five Easy Pieces is my favorite film of this group. It has similar qualities to M*A*S*H* but is better crafted and lacks it’s faults in my opinion.
Here are some favorably reviewed films which were eligible that year but weren’t nominated for Best Picture. I compiled the list from various sources and I’ll leave it up to you to decide if they were snubbed or not. Have one to add? Let me know and I’ll list it. The ones I’ve seen are marked with an asterisk:
The Aristocats* – dir. Wolfgang Reitherman
The Ballad of Cable Hogue – dir. Sam Peckinpah
Le Boucher – dir. Claude Chabrol
Catch-22 – dir. Mike Nichols
Le Cercle Rouge – dir. Jean-Pierre Melville
Claire’s Knee – dir. Eric Rohmer
Compañeros* – dir. Sergio Corbucci
Darling Lili – dir. Blake Edwards
Deep End – dir. Jerzy Skolimowski
Even Dwarves Started Small* – dir. Werner Herzog
Gimme Shelter* – dir. Albert & David Maysles/Charlotte Zwerin
Hi Mom! – dir. Brian DePalma
Little Big Man – dir. Arthur Penn
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever – dir. Vincente Minnelli
Performance – dir. Donald Cammel/Nicolas Roeg
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes – dir. Billy Wilder
La Rupture – dir. Claude Chabrol
Ryan’s Daughter – dir. David Lean
Tora! Tora! Tora! – dir. Richard Fleischer/Kinji Fukasaku
Tristana – dir. Luis Buñeul
The Wild Child – dir. Francois Truffaut
Women In Love – dir. Ken Russell
Woodstock – dir. Michael Wadleigh
Zabriskie Point – dir. Michelangelo Antonioni