Thursday, June 13, 2013

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The 1973 Hollmann Awards: Part Two!

And, finally, after much waiting, the conclusion of my 1973 Hollmann Awards! Once again, all categories are presented in the exact order of the original Oscar Ceremony, held on April 2, 1974. There's only one category here not awarded by Oscar: Ensemble, awarded to the casting director, and here in place of the Honorary Oscar awarded to Groucho Marx.

Winners are encased in Gold. And now, with no more ado.....

The Day of the Jackal
Kenneth Ross
from the novel by Frederick Forsyth
Succinct in dialogue, sleek in execution. Every scene, every line builds on the suspense. The twists and turns are credible, too -- no deus ex machina here. The specificity given to the Jackal and the ensemble of lawmakers, -keepers and -breakers makes every moment genuine...and thrilling.

The Exorcist
William Peter Blatty
from his novel
From my original entry: "Thoroughly develops both its characters and scares. Even as the events become more and more surreal, Chris and Karras maintain their humanity, and all arguments about science vs. God or belief in the Devil do without any preachifying or Big Statements. A discreet, disquieting narrative."

The Last Detail
Robert Towne
from the novel by Darryl Ponicsan
From my original entry: "Superb characterizations, dialogue that reads more like a transcript of the real thing, and a narrative that doesn't outstay its welcome despite its meandering. This last thing is especially impressive, considering the film experiences a come-down as our heroes reach their destination."

The Long Goodbye
Leigh Brackett
from the novel by Raymond Chandler

Even the infamously improv-heavy Robert Altman fought to maintain Brackett's adaptation of the Chandler classic. Brackett grounds the story into a 1970s reality, simplifying the plot, emphasizing the wit, making it work so that Altman can play around and Chandler's mystery will still make sense. Changing the novel's convoluted ending is a step in the right direction, too.

Trick Baby
A. Neuberg/T. Raewyn/Larry Yust
from the novel by Iceberg Slim
Every character is perfectly written, allowing issues of race, class and greed to be brought up and hinted at without a thorough, bang-on-the-head discussion. The cons are laid out clearly, so that we may follow along and see how one gets trapped. But first and foremost are those characters, who are writ so human and sympathetic that the finale breaks your heart.

Black Caesar
"Down and Out in New York City"
music and lyrics Bodie Chandler/Barry De Vorzon

"King George"
music by Roy Ayers
lyrics by Carl Clay

Goodbye, Uncle Tom
"Oh My Love"
music and lyrics by Riz Ortolani

Live and Let Die
"Live and Let Die"
music and lyrics by Paul and Linda McCartney

The Way We Were
"The Way We Were"
music by Marvin Hamlisch
lyrics by Marilyn Bergman/Alan Bergman

Harriet Andersson as Agnes
Cries and Whispers
 A quiet, moving performance, the one that actually gets to get loud. Agonized screaming, with some  quiet swallowing and shallow breathing thrown in for most of her runtime. I've never seen anyone actually look like they were having a bittersweet memory, but Andersson nails that look. Her eyes, her lips, her delivery of the final monologue -- a subtle, perfect performance.

Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil
The Exorcist
From my original entry: "Blair's expressive face is...perfection, whether covered in demon makeup or clean and clear. Let us not forget that she is selling demonic possession with that far-away, crazy look in the eye as she yells, 'Fuck me! Fuck me!' She's also got some killer line readings, like when she's cross-examining her mother about Burke Dennings: 'Oh. I heard...differently.' "

Dyan Cannon as Christine
The Last of Sheila
 A real hoot. Flirtatious through desperately vulgar displays of look-at-me look-at-me, she still manages to come off as somewhat likable, or at least someone you'd want sitting next to you at a party. And beneath the horny superficiality of her party face is the watchful, ruthless super-agent. What won't she do to seal the deal?

Mercedes McCambridge as the Voice of Pazuzu
The Exorcist

We tend to nominate voice-only performances here, and surely this is one of the best. McCambridge's voice is the stuff of nightmares, and while some of it is post-manipulation, there's no denying what the actress brings to the performance. I'm talking line readings like, "Uh-huhhhhhhhh...." and "What an excellent day for an exorcism." Really, everything. Grotesque.

Cindy Williams as Laurie
American Graffiti
I never really watched "Laverne & Shirley" growing up, so forgive me if, like most of America in 1973, I never knew this Cindy Williams until American Graffiti. And what do I find? A naturalistic performance that manages to hit all the necessary comic and emotional beats, essentially stealing the show from the rest of the ensemble. Laurie may be the kind of small-town teenage girl expecting, and excited for, a proposal, but she's not one to stand by and roll with the punches, either. Thanks to Williams, we get that while Laurie may be in love, she's nobody's girl.

Richard Dreyfuss as Curt
American Graffiti
 I just really identify with this performance. It's an interesting line he's walking: he can't wait to leave, but he's going to miss it -- and, of course, he's a little afraid of what lies ahead (what lies ahead? no idea. that's what's so frightening). Dreyfuss nails it -- the fear, the romantic, everything -- without coming off as noble or anything. He's still 18: careless, self-absorbed, condescending. To do all that and still get us on his side? That's a solid performance.

William Finley as Emil Breton
 Finley's mad doctor performance is one of his best, a complete professional whose cool only grows more frightening by the minute. Equipped with a flawless (to these ears) French-Canadian accent, Finley fulfills the requirement of the genre's menacing psychologist -- oh, how untrustworthy they always are! -- yet there is a strange tenderness between him and Dominique. It's just plain weird.

Sterling Hayden as Roger Wade
The Long Goodbye
 So, it's Hemingway, right? Hayden's portrayal of the drunken, half-mad, macho author is the reason to watch, his booming voice as warm as it is cruel. His distracted mannerisms are a clue to his genius, as he mutters, looks around and rubs his face with the twitchy reflex of an always active brain. Yet most of all will I remember his drink with Marlowe and Eileen, and the subsequent party, and as obnoxious as he is, there is a magnetism he possesses that makes him weirdly likable. Hayden's got presence.  

James Mason as Philip
The Last of Sheila
Maybe I'm just an easy lay when it comes to a James Mason performance, especially since the role, like the film, is a bit of a lark. Yet I love how Mason gives Philip a comfortably bored, fatherly sort of presence. No matter what his "secret" is (and boy, is it a doozy), Mason never plays up that aspect, focusing instead on what draws people to him. He's un-apologetically amoral, and Mason's casual delivery of the dialogue reveals that when he plays detective, it's curiosity, not justice, that drives him. Also, James Mason plays detective.

Max von Sydow as Father Lankester Merrin
The Exorcist
When he shows up, it's as if God Himself has sent his emissary down to Earth. But it's not just the shaky hands that show us his human side. Von Sydow offers us brief, subtle glimpses, during both the dig and the exorcism, of a man shaken by the Evil he has witnessed, weakened by the battles he's fought, his faith in God holding strong -- but his faith in his own abilities starting to slide. Sudden looks of shock and helplessness we expect from Karras; but on Merrin's visage, it's a real red flag.

Ingmar Bergman
Cries and Whispers
From my original entry: "His work with the actresses ensures that no matter how cold and distant the women are to each other, we the audience can at least feel for them -- frustration, perhaps, but also understanding...Bergman's sensitive yet pitiless eye captures all."

Brian De Palma
Almost unbearably suspenseful, wickedly funny, utterly bizarre. De Palma gets everyone on the same off-kilter wavelength, marrying his appreciation for the Old Masters with the no rules of New Hollywood. The result is deliciously disturbing.

William Friedkin
The Exorcist
From my original entry: "Friedkin mounts the dread perfectly before allowing it to crescendo...again...and again...and again. And all throughout, he's remembering to capture the little moments, the things that humanize the characters so that they become people we know, people we may see out on the street or in our own home. He takes it seriously; we do, too."

James William Guercio
Electra Glide in Blue
An extremely patient eye, taking time with each scene for maximum impact. Yet I would never call it slow-paced; deliberate, rather, and with a sardonic sense of humor. The last shot is perfect.

Gualtiero Jacopetti/Franco Prosperi
Goodbye Uncle Tom
It's an exploitation classic, but don't let that deter you! Jacopetti and Prosperi may be going for shock, but they also allow their camera to meditate and reflect. Kudos for keeping their documentary conceit as energetic and interesting.

American Graffiti
Mike Fenton/Fred Roos, casting
You really believe that these are teenagers who've grown up together, in and around town, all their lives. They've got a real camaraderie, and even enemies share that unity of youth. You feel like everyone could have their own movie, from the guy who runs mini-golf to the waitress at the drive-in.

Cries and Whispers
Four complicated, layered characters, with a lot happening under the surface. Four brilliant actresses who flawlessly execute the arm's-length closeness of these characters. Not just them, though: the reverend, the husbands, the doctor! Poi-fect!

The Exorcist
Louis DiGiamo/Nessa Hyams/Juliet Taylor
Perfect. Doctors, priests, showbiz types, all coming together, all looking so comfortable in their skin you think they're the real thing -- and, indeed, many of them are! Good on you for getting skilled amateurs!

Jesus Christ Superstar
Michael Shurtleff, casting
A real ensemble of triple threats! Look no further than "Trial Before Pilate" to see how effective a group of actors can be when everyone's on the same level.

Trick Baby
Even when actors go over-the-top, they're still right at home in this world. Great attention given to every bit player, from the sidewalk preacher to the White Businessmen to the guy who breaks the fourth wall.

Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil
The Exorcist
From my original entry: "You feel the fear and hopelessness surrounding her, whether she's screaming her head off or biting a thumbnail in a vain attempt to control herself. I love when she finally approaches Father Karras about an exorcism, going from her own guarded skepticism to desperation -- there really isn't any other option left. And she really seems like such a good mom."

Glenda Jackson as Vicki Allessio
A Touch of Class
From my original entry: "A Touch of Class is great fun, thanks mostly to her sublime line-readings and comic timing. When the script takes a tonal turn down Downer Road, it's Jackson who's guiding it along a fluid, consistent path, having always remembered the honest humanity behind the witty one-liners. Surprising chemistry with her co-star, too. Hilarious and touching."

Margot Kidder as Danielle Breton/Dominique Blanchion
 A wonderfully strange performance, with Kidder's lovely French-Canadian accent either trilling into an innocent register or slurring into confused menace. Kidder may not be the main focus throughout the runtime, but she's the center of the film, playing twin sisters with a secret. I knew from Black Christmas that Kidder's great with a line, but here she uses her physicality to great, unsettling effect, whether lolling her head about her biting her lip in a moment of fragility.

Ingrid Thulin as Karin
Cries and Whispers
 Karin, for me, was the most fascinating character, due in large part to Thulin's stern performance. It's a commanding performance, with her role as the distant sister, the one who pushes away even in a moment of reconciliation, becoming the most human, the easiest to identify with. I thought so, anyway -- even when she started cutting herself up.

Nina van Pallandt as Eileen Wade
The Long Goodbye
True, the actress's Nordic beauty goes a long way in selling the character, but Van Pallandt's performance is an awfully true one, and one that, refreshingly, sees no need to telegraph. Van Pallandt's Eileen is as magnetic as her husband,  but it's a quieter, subtle sort, exuding a wide-eyed purity and friendliness that makes a man want to rush to her defense. A confident, shrewd performance.

Carl Anderson as Judas Iscariot
Jesus Christ Superstar
 I love Carl Anderson's Judas for two reasons. One, that voice is incredible. Two, his performance hits so many layers of anger, "over it", confusion and love. His greatest moment isn't even "Superstar" or "Heaven on Their Minds"; it's "The Last Supper", when he cries out "Every time I look at you I don't understand." He really doesn't, and the look on his face at that moment is heartbreaking, begging for a way out of a fate he already knows to be inevitable. It's the perfect segue into Christ's own push/pull conflict ("Gethsemane"), with Anderson's eyes and anguished yell really lay the groundwork. I also love the way he runs.

Robert Blake as John Wintergreen
Electra Glide in Blue
This must be one of the most secretly difficult performances I've ever seen. How does one play a character as good as John Wintergreen, without losing the depth? Blake does it well, allowing the angry chip on his shoulder to express itself subtly, through clenched jaw or over-confident strides cut short. He's a boy scout, but one who can fuck; he's naturally eagle-eyed and logical, yet oddly naive when it comes to departmental corruption and highway menaces. He believes in justice, but shrinks before superiors. Blake makes all the difficult contradictions make sense.

Jason Miller as Father Damien Karras
The Exorcist
From my original entry: "[A] perfect performance. Moments of surprising humor flicker every now and then, but of course we mainly remember his crisis of faith and guilt over the death of his mother. That he's a priest advocating science over religion is well-played, as we see that the faith he questions is both secular and spiritual." 

Jack Nicholson as "Bad-Ass" Buddusky
The Last Detail
From my original entry: "There's a control to this performance, as the Navy lifer seethes rather than explodes; when he does burst, it's frustrated and exhausted, far removed from the kind of showboating that Jack is often accused of. He's just a guy, you know? He's powerless: he doesn't like what he's doing, but what else is he gonna do? Badass's kindness and rage exist comfortably together in this performance. And, it must be said, 'I am the motherfucking Shore Patrol, motherfucker' is beautifully delivered."

Mel Stewart as Blue Howard
Trick Baby
Sometimes in these movies, the actors overplay it in the con scenes so remind the audience that they're just doing a bit. Well, Blue Howard hasn't come all this way by insisting he is who he says he is; Blue Howard is motherfucking Method. Stewart pulls off this trick neatly, so that even we are left to wonder how far he and White Folks will take it. Stewart's whole performance seems so effortless that it's easy to overlook, but that'd be a mistake: you'd miss how this cocky, clever, loyal father figure falls apart -- inwardly, mind you.

Electra Glide in Blue
James William Guercio/Rupert Hitzig

The Exorcist
William Peter Blatty

Goodbye, Uncle Tom
Gualtiero Jacopetti/Franco Prosperi

Jesus Christ Superstar
Norman Jewison/Robert Stigwood

Trick Baby
Marshal Backlar

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

What a year, folks! The Exorcist becomes one of the juggernauts of Hollmann Awards history, with 10 wins out of 15 nominations! I've still got a Top Ten to post for this year, so stay tuned!

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