And one week later, here's the rest of my personal awards for the films of 1975! Last week saw Nashville leading with three wins, followed closely by Monty Python and the Holy Grail and its two victories. Honors also went to Amarcord, Barry Lyndon, Dark Star and Dog Day Afternoon.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
5. Max Von Sydow as G. Joubert Three Days of the Condor
Von Sydow does some surprising things with this Belgian assassin. First introduced as a cold-blooded killer, his mere presence gets us tensed up as we see him stalk our hero, Robert Redford's bookish Condor. Eventually, he is revealed to be much more merciful than his current employers, but even if this turn is on the page, Von Sydow brings the elements that make this shift a gradual one. From his gentlemanly patience at the elevator to his befuddled curiosity regarding Condor's near escapes, Joubert becomes an oddly warm and welcome presence in the film. It helps, too, that he gets a final monologue that Von Sydow nails.
4. Jack Warden Shampoo
"Warden knocks it out of the park, crafting one of the more memorable performances of this year. His Lester can be vulgar, but you see the warmth that could draw a woman to him (it's more than money, surely). You actually see him putting the puzzle pieces together in his mind, then purposely scattering them about so as to keep all unpleasantness at arm's length. It's a funny performance, never false, immediately magnetic."
3. Robert Shaw as Quint Jaws
And this comes after he's already won us over with his sense of humor and ballsy confidence. A fantastic, rightfully legendary performance.
2. Ken Takakura The Yakuza
Ken plays, fittingly enough, Ken, a former yakuza with an un-repayable debt owed to Harry Kilmer. Ken is old-fashioned, holding to the traditions of honor and integrity, a silent protector of his family holding to ancient codes now ignored by the very leaders who used to uphold them. Takakura's performance reveals a lingering sadness; haunted by the past, he looks around at this world and does not recognize it as his own. Mitchum may give one of the best performances of the year, but Takakura is the one you leave thinking about.
1. Henry Gibson as Haven Hamilton Nashville
One of my all-time favorite performances. Gibson carefuly layers Haven Hamilton to be more than just a star jack-ass who will never step down from the throne -- although he's that, too. But we also see the small kindnesses, sincere and otherwise, and shrewd observations that don't just keep him at the top, but maintains the entire status quo of the country music scene. And in the end, despite that toupee and gaudy wardrobe, you see the brave selflessness of a man who keeps the people from panicking and delivering help where it is needed. As bookends go, what could be more perfect than opening with, "We must be doing something right to last 200 years" and finishing with, "This isn't Dallas, this is Nashville; you show 'em what we're made of!"?
5. The Eiger Sanction Ferris Webster
Those two hours flew by like they were just 60 minutes. Webster runs a tight ship, but he always makes time to extend the right moments -- like, say, any moment of that mountain climb, which had me literally on the edge of my seat (or, you know, couch), gasping, yelling at the screen. Webster is a master of suspense.
4. Race with the Devil John Link
And, indeed, you'll find that most of these nominees were all about keeping the suspense alive. Look, at this film, which keeps a distance from the mysterious to-do our heroes discover on a camping trip -- before getting closer than any pair of binoculars could achieve, just in time to get our hair up about the Cultists and ritual sacrifice. From that point onward, everything is given its due amount of suspense and paranoia, from the sudden reveals of side characters (GAH! DO WE TRUST THEM?) to delayed revelation of a character's discovery (the dog!). The last scene is perfectly executed for maximum horror.
3. Nashville Dennis Hill & Sidney Levin
Altman couldn't complete his fly-on-the-wall vision without these guys. They know just who to see for what reaction, be it for someone's song, entrance or conversation. Inter-cutting between parties, bar crawls, arguments and worship services emphasizes the mosaic of life in Nashville. How could "I'm Easy" be nearly as effective without their reveal of Linnea through a series of short, seamless cuts? How could that final concert feel nearly so alive and dire without their scattershot reveals of our protagonists' reactions?
2. Jaws Verna Fields
For true suspense, look no further than Fields' Oscar-winning work. You know the two sequences that immediately come to mind. You must. First is that beach scene, Brody watching out for signs of a shark as the beachgoers splash about in the water, Fields cutting closer in on his worried face as people pass by. Second is that single moment on the Orca, Brody shoveling the chum into the water, cigarette in mouth...and suddenly IT appears. That quick cut to Brody's startled reaction is iconic, not just for the momentum of it all, but in the way it perfectly mirrors the audience.
1. Dog Day Afternoon Dede Allen
In keeping with the actor's riffs and Lumet's lively style, Allen cuts the film together like we're just managing to keep up with them. She helps mold the film's kinetic energy, only letting up in that final, nail-biting drive to the airport. There, she extends every. Single. Moment. Drawing it out, making us wait for that other shoe to drop -- and when it does, back to WHAM BAM GODDAMN, MA'AM! Masterful.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
5. Death Race 2000 Robert Thom & Charles Griffeth based on the short story "The Driver" by Ib Melchior
The saving grace of Death Race 2000 is that it never takes itself seriously, even as it proves to be oddly prescient. Sure, we don't have a reality program revolving around killing innocents for points...but for how much longer? Props for reveling in terrifically camp lines like, "You're gonna be in pain for the rest of your life -- a minute and a half!"
4. Jaws Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, Jr. from the novel by Benchley
It's all about simplicity. Forget the novel's subplots about the mob and infidelity, forget the men coming home each night before going back to hunt the next morning, forget comeuppance for an adulterer or high-falutin' references to Moby Dick. Jaws the film works on the inherent chemistry within its trio, introducing its three protagonists earlier on, further establishing Brody as a good husband and father, imperfect, unassuming, but determined to do what's right. The relationships are developed, time is condensed, and what we get is a suspenseful thrillers with characters we care about.
3. Barry Lyndon Stanley Kubrick based on The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray
"Dryly humorous, with great moments of irony via a coldly-written narrator. Almost imperceptibly slips from a period comedy to a drama, building up the hitherto hinted-at ferocity of Mrs. Barry, squeamishness of Bullingdon and the manipulations of Reverend Runt. True, it's obviously building this from the source novel, but it is written clearly, missing neither detail nor tone."
2. The Man Who Would Be King John Huston & Gladys Hill from the novella by Rudyard Kipling
"Thrilling, another fun romp that evolves into something more. The central characters are distinct enough that you get their individual temperaments and still understand the mutual craziness that bonds them together. The ease with which one falls from power is hinted at throughout with the darkly-funny reoccurrances of the Buzkashi games. And, of course, turning the source tale's narrator into Rudyard Kipling himself adds an illusion of veracity and weight to the proceedings."
1. Dog Day Afternoon Frank Pierson based on "The Boys in the Bank" by P.F. Kluge & Thomas Moore
"Every line, every action offers something new, be it plot twist or character detail. Pierson provides those nuances that give Lumet his ensemble, the actors those incredible scenes, and cinema a masterpiece. Still, it's based on article, and I've always found it especially odd that screenplays based on newspaper articles are not considered adaptations, especially when it's credited like this."
3. The Rocky Horror Picture Show Pierre La Roche, original makeup designs Peter Robb-King, makeup artist Ramon Gow, hairdresser
I'm actually pretty enchanted with how it all holds up. Yes, very very theatrical are Frank, Columbia, Riff-Raff and Magenta -- and that's the point! They're outrageous, fabulous, out there Transylvanians!
2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail Pam Luke & Pearl Rashbass, makeup artists
It's how seven actors play 33 different characters. John Cleese alone: it can't possibly be the same man playing Tim the Enchanter, The French Taunter and Sir Lancelot! Patsy and the Bridgekeeper are both Terry Gilliam? Palin and Jones are the best chameleons as, respectively, Dennis and his Mum; Herbert and his Dad; and Sirs Galahad and Bedevere.
Aging is subtly conveyed through hairpieces and slight work around the eyes. But of course, it must be the more involved work that I'm thinking of -- those faces painted pale, beauty marks dolloped where'er their wont, moustaches lovingly waxed.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
5. The Hindenburg David Shire
4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Jack Nitzsche
3. Jaws John Williams
2. The Story of O Pierre Bachelet
1. Amarcord Nino Rota
5. Steven Spielberg Jaws
I have to agree with the young man in the famous "Spielberg Loses the Nomination" video: who do they think directed this, his mother? With that tight, suspenseful editing; the natural, human performances; the haunting score; the capturing of great moments like "A whaaaaat?". Someone's got to run the show, and it's a surprise to learn that all that confidence and masterful handling comes from some 27-year-old kid. A surprise and an inspiration.
4. Sidney Lumet Dog Day Afternoon
"Lumet's style is fast and loose, allowing for a spontaneous energy to flow throughout the proceedings -- even though everything is obviously lit and covered quite methodically. It's this energy that gets that electric current running through his ensemble of actors, ratcheting up the tension in each successive scene until that breathtaking climax. Too, more than any other director I've watched, Lumet's New York City is vibrant and real. Surely it's his New York we see in our heads when we think of the city, and here it is, captured in one of its infamous, broiling summers."
3. Federico Fellini Amarcord
"Fellini may be at his strongest here, leaving his camera sometimes stationary (the family dinner), sometimes at a distance (from the uncle up a tree), sometimes moving about, discovering people along with his ensemble (various times). He's pitched the actors at that wonderful place between reality and hyperbole, so that even in the most exaggerated of memories we still identify with them. His handling of different tones within a single sequence -- the Fascist rally being the best example -- is seamless. It looks like a memory, and that's important."
2. Stanley Kubrick Barry Lyndon
"Kubrick's unparalleled in his execution of tone; here, his choice of music, framing, lighting and actors all serve his darkly comic, unsettling masterpiece of social climbing and class snobbery. Everything is as meticulously arranged as the class structure -- or at the very least the drawing-room. Casting dashing blank slate Ryan O'Neal as dim, handsome Barry and the tragically beautiful Marisa Berenson as the melancholy Lady Lyndon are great coups. And while Kubrick is often accused of being a cold director, here his clinical eye is the perfect one with which to witness the bullshit."
1. Robert Altman Nashville
"Altman...is spectacular in his handling of the multi-storied, plotless sprawl of Nashville. I'm not just talking about his handling of the 24 stars, but of the performances he captures from Merle Kilgore as a local bartender, the Smoky Mountain Laurels, the diner talking to Keenan Wynn at the airport cafe, the girls working on the political campaign. He never overplays the satire, nor does he alienate with the darkly comic tone. This is his masterpiece."
BEST ART DIRECTION
5. The Hindenburg Edward Carfagno, production designer Frank McKelvy, set decorator
For the historically accurate "map of the world, the windows, the staterooms," as well as the creative touches: "an intimidating metal labyrinth that provides the ship's skeletal framework, and a glittering piano that emphasizes the ostentatious pomp of the Nazi party."
4. The Magic Flute Henny Noremark, production designer Anna-Lena Hansen & Emilio Moliner, set decorators
For the wonderful blend of a local theater's backdrops and cardboard sets with a film studio's floating airships and towering castle walls.
3. Death Race 2000 B.B. Neel & Robinson Royce, art directors
For the character-appropriate car designs, such as mobster Joe Paterno's tommy-gun headlights. And, of course, for the oddness of the bare art deco and inappropriate potted plants for those too-much anchors.
2. Mahler Ian Whittaker, art director
For wonderful evocation of the period when necessary; eerie symbolic representation of fears, passions and the ego; and the always beautiful-yet-threatening busy-ness of a Ken Russell church.
1. Barry Lyndon Ken Adam, production designer Roy Walker, set decorator
For the "[p]eriod splendor, from the ostentatiously large paintings hanging over your head to the ornate bathtub sitting in the middle of the room...spaced meticulously apart: no warmth or intimacy."
5. Ann-Margret as Nora Walker Tommy
"As one critic put it, 'she sings and dances like the fate of western civilization depends on it.' Or at least that of her son, the titular deaf, dumb and blind kid. Ann-Margret is remarkable as Nora Walker: after her Act One hysterics of 'What About the Boy?', she shows a mother who still tries to get her son some sort of help -- specialists, religion, whatever -- but has more or less shut down. And when he has finally found something in his pinball wizardry, she shows us the conflict between enjoying his success and weeping the inability to communicate with him. Surely the sequence of 'Smash the Mirror/I'm Free', when she can finally tell him how he's a Messianic millionaire inspiring people, is her strongest moment: as she reaches out with the love of a mother, her eyes roll with the madness of a fanatic. It is an utterly bizarre, gaga performance, but damn if she isn't selling it."
4. Anne Bancroft Prisoner of Second Avenue
One of the biggest surprises of the year. Bancroft's loyal wife to a frustratingly self-pitying and condescending Jack Lemmon possesses all the movie's heart and much of its humor. In one scene, he condescends about the "thrills" of being a "house-husband" while she goes off to work; you see her resentment and frustration over this man who she's keeping afloat, yet who can't handle what she's lived for 20 years; and you still don't doubt her love for him. And, my God, there was no funnier moment this year than the way Bancroft shimmies her shoulders while screaming at her neighbors, "Where you gonna get your water?"
3. Glenda Jackson as Hedda Gabler Hedda
"It is said that Hedda Gabler can be played as a victim, a villain or a feminist hero. Jackson does a bizarre combination of all three that is absolutely delicious. Jackson's performance is the delirious icing on the crazy cake that is Best Actress, 1975. She presents Hedda as a woman who has made her bed, but refuses to lie in it; who entraps the man she loves and the people who love her as a bizarre revenge for crimes against her pride; who knows she's funny and brilliant, but also knows that that's worth peanuts to this group of academics and gossips. In short, Jackson plays Hedda as far too good for these people -- and this play -- and as such is someone who, in my most egocentric moments (don't we all have those), I completely identify with. Confident of her smarts, mystified by her presence among these people. Her reading of 'vine-leaves wrapped in his hair' is to die for."
2. Corinne Clery as O The Story of O.
Clery has a fascinating arc to convey, and she does it imperceptibly. From the doormat girlfriend to Udo Kier's playboy, submitting herself to his friends' humiliations out of devotion to him, to the sex-slave of the cold Sir Stephen, which she bares with the gritted teeth and embarrassment of a woman going through the (detested) motions. And then, suddenly, she is the one in control, seducing Jacqueline, whipping in an erotic frenzy, branding her "master". Clery conveys the almost girlish excitement of O's self-discovery through a sudden gleam in her eyes, or in the subtle curve of her mouth. At first, her dominance is almost an accident, but Clery lets you see the wheels start to turn in O's head, realizing how deep in love those who seek to control her really are. It's an exciting, surprising and, of course, sexy turn.
1. Isabelle Adjani as Adele Hugo The Story of Adele H.
"Only nineteen when she took the role, Adjani surprises with her subtlety and insight. She is Adele H., the daughter of Victor Hugo who pursues the man she loves all the way to Nova Scotia -- though he does not love her back. Look at the way Adjani allows Adele to practically swoon over the lies she tells, until she herself believes them. The self-righteous anger with which she writes her parents, asking for more money and announcing a fictional betrothal, is immediately recognizable in any number of young people who insist that they have found their one true love. And the unconcerned, confident way she struts about, hair akimbo, talking to herself: that's the confidence of a crazy person who has no idea why the world is conspiring against them."
5. The Man Who Would Be King
4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Mark Forstater/Michael White
3. Barry Lyndon
[UPDATED: Producers nominated for Best Picture, as of 1/13/2017]
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