Wednesday, September 4, 2019

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The 1969 Retro Hollmann Awards, Part One

Day One of my awards for the best of 1969. For further context, check out the full list of nominees and my Top TenWith the exception of the first category, all are presented in the order they appeared at the corresponding Academy Awards ceremony.

Best Ensemble 
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

2. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; 3. Z; 4. Hello, Dolly!; 5. If....

Difficult to name a best in show for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice - so I won't! The central four are terrific - including one of my favorite performances given by Natalie Wood - perfectly in sync with their characters' shared history, fantasies, morals. The ensemble surrounding them is just as perfect: Dyan Cannon's therapist, perfectly stone-faced, a challenge; Wood's tennis pro, young and handsome and willing and comically nervous; everyone at the retreat in the opening sequence, from guru to attendee, each on the wavelength that makes this film dryly funny without  being condescending.

In second, Miss Brodie and her "gehls" in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. In third, Z's political pawns and opponents. In fourth, screwball perfection embodied by Hello, Dolly's ensemble. In fifth, the students and clueless adults of If.....

Score, Supporting Actor, and more, after the jump...

Best Sound

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
Tom Overton, sound
Norval Crutcher, sound effects editor
Tex Rudloff, re-recording mixer

2. Paint Your Wagon; 3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service; 4. Marooned; 5. The Wild Bunch

I made mention of it earlier - They Shoot Horses, Don't They? has a perfect soundscape, the volume of noise made by the live band, spectators, and desperate dancers fluctuating alongside the increasing madness of the setting. Silences are never completely silent: the closest we come are the scene between Susannah York and Michael Sarrazin (interrupted by the hum of activity) and the pier scene between Sarrazin and Jane Fonda (the cacophony of the dance hall is behind them, but still there is that vast, empty sea...). 

In second, the mix of music and hands-on work by the citizens of Paint Your Wagon. In third, every punch, kiss, explosion, gunshot in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. In fourth, Marooned underscores the terror with its all-business sound design and lack of music. In fifth, every bullet in The Wild Bunch finds its target - loudly.

Best Cinematography

1. Medium Cool
Haskell Wexler

2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Conrad L. Hall

3. The Damned
Pasqualino De Santis / Armando Nannuzzi

4. Blind Beast
Setsuo Kobayashi

5. Black Lizard
Hiroshi Dôwaki

Best Film Editing

Medium Cool
Verna Fields

2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service; 3. Z; 4. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice; 5. Sweet Charity

Where does the narrative end and the documentary begin - and vice versa? Seamlessly blending footage of actual events and people with structured scenes and invented characters, Medium Cool's tightrope walk of fact and fiction is exciting, almost nausea-inducing (in a good way). The sequence with the Black activists is a perfect example: what's scripted, what isn't, who's acting, who's real?

In second, the jump-cutting action of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. In third, Z's cutting of the chaos leaves room for questions. In fourth, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice comic rhythm embraces the cringe. In fifth, Sweet Charity gives us only the best moves without making the dancers waste time transitioning.

Best Visual Effects

Krakatoa, East of Java
Eugène Lourié, director of special effects

2. Marooned; 3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service; 4. Battle of Britain; 5. Destroy All Monsters

As the waves increased in size, smashing against the exquisitely-detailed miniatures; as the furious gale whipped dirt, dust, and grime across the screen; as that final tsunami loomed threateningly over the houses and doomed people, my stomach dropped, a chill came over me. So effectively executed are Krakatoa, East of Java's visuals, it completely wipes away all feeling of "been-there-done-that" that came before it. Even if just for a minute.

In second, Marooned takes audiences - and its cast - into a realistic outer space. In third, On Her Majesty's Secret Service explosively raids Blofeld's compound between ski and bobsled set-pieces. In fourth, Battle of Britain's dogfights. In fifth, Destroy All Monsters' kaiju ensemble and their superpowers.

Best Score

1. Once Upon a Time in the West
Ennio Morricone

2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
John Barry
3. The Damned
Maurice Jarre
4. Midnight Cowboy
John Barry
5. Twisted Nerve
Bernard Herrmann

Best Production Design

Once Upon a Time in the West
Carlo Simi, art director
Rafael Ferri / Carlo Leva, set decorators

2. Oh! What a Lovely War!; 3. Blind Beast; 4. They Shoot Horses, Don't They?; 5. Black Lizard

The American West was handmade, built not by professionals, but by the men and women who made the trek. Few films have captured this, I feel, in the way Once Upon a Time in the West does: railway stations where the planks are slightly uneven, already weather-worn; a saloon that seems to double as a stable; a large but not-yet-lived-in estate. And coming in, the future: a train lined with all the velvet luxuries of men who work not with their hands, but through people paid to work with their hands.

In second, the purgatory pier in Oh! What a Lovely War!. In third, the surreal nudes covering the walls - and the center of the room - in Blind BeastIn fourth, the dilapidated dance hall, thriving on others' misery, in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?. In fifth, the Black Lizard's fabulous secret hideout and Wilde underground club.

Best Costume Design

The Damned
Piero Tosi

2. Oh! What a Lovely War!; 3. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; 4. Black Lizard; 5. Hello, Dolly!

would nominate The Damned just for the women's gowns, silky, barely-there affairs that seem in danger of disintegrating at any moment. I would nominate it just for the perfectly-tailored blue and brown suits worn by the men - the rare case where the men are as much an attraction as the women. I would nominate it just for the Nazi uniforms in various states of splendor (with the SS) and mess (with the SA). I would nominate it for Helmut Berger doing Marlene Dietrich. For all of these individually, I nominate it; for all of them in one film, it gets the win.

In second, Britain dresses for the battlefield and a seaside fair in Oh! What a Lovely War!. In third, the vibrant outfits donned by Maggie Smith are all part of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. In fourth, Black Lizard's glamorous gowns. In fifth, period color in Hello, Dolly!.

Best Supporting Actor

Dustin Hoffman as Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo
Midnight Cowboy

2. John Mills in Oh! What a Lovely War!; 3. Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West; 4. Ricardo Montalban in Sweet Charity; 5. Jason Robards in Once Upon a Time in the West

In my book, Hoffman's Ratso Rizzo is undoubtedly supporting, a character that exists to serve Joe Buck's own arc and self-understanding. I can understand people mistaking him for a lead, though, and not just because Hoffman was already a star at this point. The performance pops off the screen: the obvious physicality, of course, what with the bizarre gait; the makeup design rotting his teeth and matting his hair; that awful, nasal voice. He really is a Ratso, a tough little guy with a temper. But with Joe Buck, he is able to transcend that scratching desperation, offering something like tenderness.

In second, Mills' field marshal keeps a stiff upper lip even as he oversees major devastation. In third, Fonda's rare villain turn is equal parts unstoppably evil and childishly insecure. In fourth, Montalban's charming Italian movie star avoids easy stereotypes to present a more relatable, heartwarming match. In fifth, Robards' sardonic gunslinger could easily have been the hero...

Tomorrow: Best Original Song, Best Actress, Best Picture of the Year - and more!

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