Monday, March 30, 2015

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A Bit of Magic: The 1971 Retro Hollmann Awards, Part Two

The honors for the films of 1971 continue! Yesterday, the big winners were Fiddler on the Roof, The Devils, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. All but one of those titles return today...but not necessarily as winners!


5. The Anderson Tapes
Dennis Maitland, production sound
Al Gramaglia, sound mixer
Jack Fitzstephens, sound editor
Why do footsteps always seem different in Sidney Lumet's films? They scuff and shuffle, clip and clop. And of course, we mustn't forget the conversations we hear, whether in person, over headphones, or through the hiss of secret recordings played back for our benefit.

2. The Boy Friend
Maurice Askew, sound recordist
Brian Simmons, sound mixer
At times blending a scratchy vinyl recording with the voices of the on-screen ensemble, changing it up from polished and perfect to the sometimes-lost acoustics of the rundown theatre, and never missing a step -- quite literally, especially during the tap numbers.

1. Fiddler on the Roof
David Hildyard, sound mixer
Gordon K. McCallum, sound re-recording mixer
Les Wiggins, sound editor
Perfect. From the butcher chopping in time to "Tradition" to all atmosphere dropping out during the "Chava Ballet Sequence", from the subtle scrapings of the bottle dancers' feet to the soundtrack being overwhelmed by fire and pounding music. Grounds the musical in reality.

3. The French Connection
Chris Newman/Theodore Soderberg, sound
It's all about that chase sequence between a car and a city train, with the right amount of squeals, shrieks, screams, moans (from heart attacks), and so on. I'm also a big fan of the sequence where the cops are taking a suspicious car apart -- rejoice in the RIP RIP RIP!

4. El Topo
Gonzalo Gavira, sound effects
Lilia Lupercio, sound editor
Every little noise is exact, from the bullets to the crunching of the sand beneath a boot. The cacophony of the village at the end, the echoes of the cave of the misfits, the gutting final slaughter.

Visual Effects, Director, Supporting Actress and more, after the jump...

3. The Andromeda Strain
James Shourt/Douglas Trumbull, special photographic effects
Lasers, yes, but I'm a fan of the 3D models, digital maps, thermal visuals, and subtly-rendered blobs of microscopic alien residue. I love it.

1. Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Danny Lee/Eustace Lycett/Alan Maley, special effects
Similar trick to Mary Poppins: the bed flies, the humans visit a cartoon land, and an invisible ghost army launches an attack against the German army. Fun stuff.

2. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

Allan Bryce/Roger Dicken/Brian Johncock, special effects
Great execution of stop-motion effects brings people and dinosaurs together.

1. The Boy Friend

Tony Walton, production design
Ian Whittaker, set decoration
Impossibly stunning stage sets (where did they get the budget??), quakingly beautiful dream sequences (the record players, the airplane!), realistically large-yet-crowded backstage areas. Not a detail is missed. A true throwback to the musicals of Old Hollywood, where we were expected to believe a Broadway stage was capable of housing whole cityscapes.

2. The Devils

Derek Jarman, production design
Robert Cartwright, art direction
Fuck off, historical accuracy! The stark white battlements and convent of Loudun are perfect for soiling! The church is black, shadowed, sinister; Grandier's home is circular, dizzying. Cardinal Richelieu's large swing doors, marked by a red cross, are something else, though.

4. Dodes'ka-den

Shinobu Muraki/Yoshiro Muraki, art direction
Tiny living quarters, barely qualifying as houses, sitting among the ash heaps and piles of garbage. Depending on the scene, it feels like a genuine location and a fantastic set. It's dirty, it's impoverished, but there's a real feeling of care and community in these compact houses. Personal touches, too -- the slapdash of the drunks' huts, the careful layout of the old man's, the hollow car of the tramp's.

5. McCabe and Mrs. Miller

Leon Ericksen, production design
Al Locatelli/Philip Thomas, art direction
The detail! The wooden structures of the town of Presbyterian Church are sturdy, but handmade -- impressively so, yes, and so convincing is the gradual damp and darkening that you feel the bad weather these buildings have had to endure. Love the bar, love the whorehouse parlor, love the lawyer's office in town. Step in and breathe the past.

3. Nicholas and Alexandra

John Box, production design
Ernest Archer/Jack Maxsted/Gil Parrondo, art direction
As I said before: "The Winter Palace, the royal quarters, the nursery, all painstakingly recreated in all their pomp and splendor! ...Great contrast between the extravagant royals and starving peasants."

3. Tom Baker as Grigori Rasputin

Nicholas and Alexandra
He's the chief reason to watch, in my opinion. Hypnotic, with a voice that he modulates for the proper amount of soothing reverence, or for a booming boisterousness that announces the arrival of the party train!

5. Murray Head as Bob Elkin

Sunday Bloody Sunday
Convincingly charming, undeniably sexy, and even though he's slippery, he is always sincere in the moment. Head does a cracking job of making Bob compatible with both Daniel and Alex, at least enough so that we want everyone to be happy, but subtly selfish enough to let us realize...they're probably better without him.

2. Ben Johnson as Sam the Lion

The Last Picture Show
As I said before: "Such depth of feeling in every line reading, every movement. He is direct, but he lacks malice; he is firm, at times furious, but quiet in his condemnation, gentle in his judgments. Johnson convincingly plays a man who becomes myth through his warmth, strength, and sheer goodness."

4. Bob Newhart as Merwin Wren

Cold Turkey
For fans of Newhart's dry deadpan, this is a shock -- manic, bug-eyed, a smug energy. Newhart's Merwin Wren is dripping with sleaze, from his confident pronouncement of "overlooking" to the finale that sees him desperately trying to save his skin -- and his payday. I grew up being in awe of his timing, but this is a new side of Bob...and I like it.

1. Donald Pleasence as Doc Tydon

Wake in Fright
An animal performance -- he sometimes stalks his prey cleverly, sometimes looks around for something to hump in heat, sometimes just wants some peace at the watering hole. Such a surprisingly casual, unfussy performance, too -- Doc has given in to who he is.

5. Eileen Brennan as Genevieve

The Last Picture Show
Weary yet warm. Sam the Lion may be the heart of the town, but Genevieve's just as much a part of its soul as he is. Brennan's performance lets us in on how much of Genevieve really is a performance -- sarcastic schtick to pass the time -- and how much is the genuine article, the caring waitress who knows Anarene will be Anarene, warts and all, and my how she both loves and is frustrated by the people in it.

3. Ellen Burstyn as Lois Farrow

The Last Picture Show
As I said before: "A fascinating role, an empathetic performance. ...She's direct and matter-of-fact, and it's difficult to get mad at that. And I don't think it's a facade -- Burstyn lets us know that this is who she is, someone who sees the hand life dealt her and is playing any way she can to stay in."

1. Antonia Ellis as Maisie

The Boy Friend
Gives good bitch, from the side-eye to that catty grin. Genuinely relishes her moments of victory, but her moments of defeat or frustration are marked by the angriest, evilest flash of murder-eyes you've ever seen. Backstage, she's deliciously venomous; onstage, her too much-ness is uproarious. And yet -- she's a hell of a dancer, and I completely get a gal with that kind of talent wanting to get up and out of that go-nowhere theatre. A movie-stealing performance.

2. Glenda Jackson as Queen Elizabeth I

Mary, Queen of Scots
Balances the humanity and ruthlessness of the Virgin Queen, often within the same moment. She refuses to be a tyrant, but she will have her way -- and the deliberate, thoughtful way in which she delivers her plans show her to be a cunning, thoughtful ruler. Much as we might feel for Mary, Glenda's Elizabeth really does allow us to see what a proper queen looks like. She may be theatrical, but she's not ridiculous.

4. Margaret Leighton as Mrs. Maudsley

The Go-Between
As I said before: "Doesn't speak much until the last 15 minutes, but whenever she does, it is with purpose -- not that she'll ever directly state what that purpose is, of course. ...With this much control, her final outburst and desperate search for the Go-Between's note stand out -- all executed superbly."

4. Norman Jewison

Fiddler on the Roof
As I said before: "Jewison grounds the film in reality, keeping everything muddy, grimy, dirty, wooden, cold. Despite the sense of dread hanging over the whole proceedings, [he] still delivers a wonderful, often funny, classic movie musical."

5. Ted Kotcheff

Wake in Fright
Captures the look, feel, and off-and-on pacing of the bender-hangover-bender cycle -- moments of high energy followed by a sluggish waiting period. I say sluggish, but I don't mean to suggest that it's ever monotonous -- not more so than an average night of obliged drunkenness, anyway. Sticky, claustrophobic, with bouts of depressingly dark comedy.

2. Ken Russell

The Boy Friend
Russell likes things to get loopy, and here that's put to good use. At times, his camera spins out of control, keeping up with the increasingly manic song-and-dance indulgences of the ensemble's fantasies. Then, suddenly, he's romantic and transcendent, as in the "I Could Be Happy with You" duet between the two lovers. It's almost the perfect Russell film...

1. Ken Russell

The Devils
Until you realize this is the perfect Russell film, an indictment of the ways religion and law are used against the individual, instead of working for it. It's Russell, so it's not like it's a somber chamber piece, but there is a fascinating reverse of the usual usual -- here, the dream sequence is ethereal, sober, haunting, while the maddest, most hallucinatory images exist in reality. Russell conveys genuine anger and horror.

3. John Schlesinger

Sunday Bloody Sunday
As I said before: Understands the viewpoint of each character, presenting them without judgment, but not without passion. There's a real love for everyone on screen. His deft handling of transitions between reality and more, shall we say, spiritual moments -- sudden flashbacks, breaking of the fourth wall, etc. -- is seamless, sensible. Thank God: even in the bigger moments, these characters act like people.

Tomorrow: it all ends with the awards for Best Song, Best Actress, and of course...Best Picture!

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