Sunday, June 5, 2011

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1974 Hollmann Awards: The Majors

The awards continue and conclude.

5. The Island at the Top of the World
A game group of international actors led by Donald Sinden bring humor and believability to this fantastic adventure film, in the vein of Jules Verne. 

4. Black Christmas
 Karen Hazzard, casting director
Marian Waldman's alcoholic matron, John Saxon's paternal detective, Andrea Martin's supportive friend. And then, of course, there's Margot Kidder's boozy bitch, one of the most entertaining supporting characters to ever grace a horror film.

3. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
Patricia Mock, casting director
Besides the central characters, the film is blessed with nervous tourists, beautiful girls, and Gary Busey! Cimino always has the best casts, doesn't he?... 

2. Lenny
Marion Dougherty & Beverly McDermott, casting directors
...well, besides Fosse, that is. The leads, of course, but how about those cops, the judge, the nurse, the other showbiz people, the black guy who Lenny directs his great "hate speech" routine to? Such a great gathering of bit players and character actors!

1. Young Frankenstein
Jane Feinberg & Mike Fenton, casting directors
But as far as working together as a full ensemble, this movie wins it. Everyone gets something hilarious to do or say, whether he's Gene Wilder or Richard Haydn. The med student, the hermit, the arguing couple on the train, all memorable one-scene wonders. Everyone looks like they're having a ball!

5. Phase IV
Dick Bush
The scenes within the colony are fascinating, did they light that? A spotlit ant queen holds court over drones; look also to the Ant Funeral and the final scene for this nomination.

4. The Conversation 
Bill Butler
Great use of shadows further isolate the already lonely Harry Caul...unless they're illuminating his work.

3. Murder on the Orient Express 
Geoffrey Unsworth
That blue light is really quite marvelous, and the Vaseline sheen lends this whodunit a strange quality, like a dream out of the past! 

2. Black Christmas 
Reginald H. Morris
Never has a sorority house seemed so terrifying. It's ominous, but not unrealistically so. The careful lighting of the bodies doesn't just shock the audience -- it gives us more insight into about this unseen killer. He's proud of his work, and Morris is there to display it. 

1. Lenny
Bruce Surtees
Still freaking beautiful, in glorious black and white.

5. Gerrit Graham as Beef
Phantom of the Paradise
Campy fun. Nails all of his line readings with the bluntness of a diva. "I know drug real from real real!" Gives great face during his musical numbers, too.
4. Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan
The Great Gatsby
Somehow manages to find the relatability in the character, even as he stays true to the vapid jock Fitzgerald wrote. It's easy to make this a stock villainous misogynist snob, but Dern plays Tom with a surprising calm, making his self-deception all the more real.
3. Marty Feldman as Igor
Young Frankenstein
A great comic partner for anyone sharing screentime with him. Uses his eyes to great effect, and even improvs a great running gag ("What hump?"). Feldman plays the role as a (literal) wide-eyed innocent, producing some laugh-out-loud moments with his reactions alone.
2. John Huston as Noah Cross
Like Dern, plays off his entitlement as though it were the most natural thing in the world. The difference is, Noah Cross is well aware of just what it is he's doing, he just thinks he's God Almighty. His personable screen presence belies his character's true nature, making the finale effectively gut-wrenching.
1. John Cazale as Fredo Corleone
The Godfather: Part II
Cazale is in quite form as the weakest of the Corleone family, making fatal errors in his attempts to prove himself. His fight with Michael is heartbreaking; his behavior regarding Hyman Roth is despicable. Then he turns around and surprises you with the warmth he exudes in his fishing scenes. Probably the best work Cazale gave us, and that's saying something.

5. Gene Hackman as Harry Caul
The Conversation
A sad performance. Caul is an awkward, lonely creature, but as soon as he has those headphones on, he comes alive. Hackman gives him the focus and the fear that drives the film. His after-party confessional sounds like it's as painful as it is cathartic.
4. Gene Wilder as Frederick Fronkensteen
Young Frankenstein
He's the film's heart, really. Not only does he deadpan clever lines like it's nothing, he can sing and dance, too! Wilder also moves to dramatics seamlessly, from "Get me the hell out of here..." to a beautiful speech in which he plays the father to his creation.

3. Jeff Bridges as Lightfoot
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
I think Bridges and Eastwood are co-leads, and it bears repeating: this is a great performance. Horny, naive Lightfoot allows Bridges to throw in a few surprises. He's easy, lithe, spontaneous, great fun to be around. The last sneaks up on ya.

2. Warren Oates as Bennie
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Those sunglasses are hiding a lot of Bennie hopes. But Oates gives us everything with his physicality and line readings. Bennie is a loser who sees a way out, bearing years of exhaustion and failings on his shoulders. When he finally reaches his limit, you know there's hell to pay...and it kind of feels great.

1. Dustin Hoffman as Lenny Bruce
A completely lived-in performance. Hilarious and alive. His few scenes with his kid surprise (a hint at future film fatherdom), his many scenes with his wife delight when they don't hurt, and that dinner scene with his family is unforgettable. Hoffman, man. Hoffman.

5. Louise Fletcher as Mattie
Thieves Like Us
A brief, quiet, stunning performance. Fletcher makes a strong debut as a prim and strict woman harboring criminals out of devotion for her own jailed husband, but she's not going to pretend to like it. Her maternal instincts kick in with the arrival of Shelley Duvall's character, and we know by the look on her face that she fears for her son's path. When that calm exterior breaks in the climax, it's a welcome surprise.
4. Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher
Young Frankenstein
Of course she nailed this role; she's been playing it ever since. Leachman clearly relishes every moment of her OTT performance as a formidable German housemaid still in love with her dead employer. Surely few people have gestured with a violin bow as effectively as Frau Blucher. "He BOYFRIEND!"

3. Rachel Roberts as Hildegarde Schmidt
Murder on the Orient Express
I just think this is an incredibly sketchy role on paper, and Roberts fills it with such humor, guardedness, fear, pride, devotion and uncertainty. So good on ya!
2. Jan Miner as Sally Marr
In just a few scenes, Miner conveys this woman as loving, indulgent, and pretty enabling. When Lenny uses drugs, it's all Honey's fault, even though it's clear he has some problems with or without her. The confidence with which she denies his death as a possible suicide has yet to leave me. There's no doubt in her mind, and don't you dare challenge her. Lenny wouldn't do that.
1. Valerie Perrine as Honey Bruce
I've decided that anyone that isn't Lenny is a supporting character, so here is where I've stuck Perrine. But of course she gets the win! This really is a deeply layered, perfect performance, giddy and sad, sometimes in a single line reading. Definitely my favorite performance from anyone this year.

5. Julie Andrews as Judith Farrow
The Tamarind Seed
Pity she didn't get more attention for this, a quiet yet moving role as a disciplined Englishwoman falling in love with a Russian agent. She's heroic, strong and sexy without meaning to be.

4. Ellen Burstyn as Alice Hyatt
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
I've seen this woman, I know this woman, this woman drives me nuts and I love her.
3. Olivia Hussey as Jess
Black Christmas
Hussey's Jess is a great heroine, only running in terror when she can't stay and fight. This is a headstrong girl who stands her ground, even if that stubbornness isn't always warranted. She gets the most to work with, and Hussey delivers. More than just a Final Girl, Jess is a Woman in a house of murder.
2. Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray
Subtle, beautiful, tragic. Every viewing brings about a deeper facet of her performance. The mind reels at the desperate screeching of the last scene...damn fine acting.

1. Isela Vega as Elita
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Oh, this movie is all about Elita and Bennie. Elita is the beautiful prostitute girlfriend of Bennie who goes along with him to get the head of Alfredo Garcia. She has dreams of her own, which include a church and Bennie. Vega makes Elita just as weary as Bennie, like in the scene where a dastardly pair pulls them aside to rob them and rape Elita. She goes along willingly with the leader, sad and tired, but trying to salvage something, dammit. I thought, "Jesus. This is what acting's all about."


5. Mel Brooks
Young Frankenstein
I really think this is peak Brooks. Give credit where it's due: no matter how irreverent it gets, Brooks keeps that reverence for the originals intact. No other film of his is as consistently funny or more effectively moving.

4. Francis Ford Coppola
The Conversation
Yeah, sometimes the pace seems a little slow, but if you're willing to go with it, it's a richly rewarding film. It's deliberate and unsettling, and while one must applaud the director's epic work on The Godfather: Part II, it's this quieter film that really packs a punch.

3. Tobe Hooper
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Yes, he belongs here. This movie unsettled me, and it's thanks to his approach. The man knows how make my skin crawl. The low budget only deepens the effect; a higher budget would have only hindered it. Using what he had, Hooper executed a gruesome horror show in a verite style that lends realism to this seemingly impossible story...Yet it is possible, and there's nothing Hooper shows me that says otherwise. 

2. Sam Peckinpah
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Peckinpah weaves a surprising, twisting tale of love, vengeance, greed and murder. That ending is just so perfectly executed, it excites me just to think about it. It's a religious experience, truly.

1. Bob Fosse
The black-and-white photography. The quick editing style. Those incredible performances. It's all this man's vision. Spell-binding.

5. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Tobe Hooper
Deeply unsettling. Such a perfect example of its genre that it earns a place among the best films of that year. So here it is.

4. Chinatown
Robert Evans
Also unsettling, but quite different in its approach. Quite rewatchable, so rich is it in detail.
3. Young Frankenstein
Michael Gruskoff
I like to laugh. I like to cry. I love something that can make me do both.

2. Lenny
Marvin Worth
Socially relevant biopic with an artistic sensibility. I feel like you should know how much I like love this movie. It does contain my favorite performance of the year, after all.

1. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Martin Baum
Didn't you read what I wrote above? This is a religious experience. Genre tropes at the outset give way to something deeper: a character study, a love story, a tragedy. It's just incredible.

[UPDATED: Producers nominated for Best Picture, as of 1/13/2017]


Colleen said...

I actually saw Young Frankenstein in 1974 and it remains one of my all-time favs. Talk about staying power because I always say, "It could be worse. It could be raining." and Abby Normal! What a great comedy that also had heart.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

The line I find myself quoting frequently: "They were wrong, then, weren't they?" Such a great movie! And I swear I cried the first time I heard The Monster's speech at the end.