Thursday, December 24, 2020

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Top Ten of 1970

As I mentioned Friday while discussing the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, 1970 presented an abundance of great films - even the not-so-good movies are great entertainments! So how does one make a Top Ten? After narrowing the 74 films screened down to 18 based on feeling, I had to consider not only what I would gladly watch again, but what I would have people prioritize. "Oh, you have to see [x]!"

So, due apologies to Alex in WonderlandThe AristocatsThe Boys in the BandCherry, Harry and Raquel!GirlyThe Out-of-TownersPatton and The Traveling Executioner, but these are my Top Ten Films of 1970, in alphabetical order:

Friday, December 18, 2020

1970, Day Twelve: Best Picture of the Year

This has been one of the more interesting retrospectives for me. It's the first time in a while that I've disagreed with all but one of Oscar's choices (though it was close for some of them!). I've liked more movies than I've disliked, many of them equally, so that making a Top Ten and deciding a winner here have been equally frustrating tasks. I'm sure it was the same for the Academy 50 years ago; only the National Board of Review agreed with their pick:

Unless...I agree, too? Oh, ho-ho, read on, my friends...

Thursday, December 17, 2020

1970, Day Eleven: Actress

Notable notes in the Best Actress competition for 1970 include this fun gem: it is, as of this writing, the last time an entire lead acting category was made up of first-time nominees. C'est vrai! Jane Alexander and Glenda Jackson would each be nominated another three times, but both were having their breakthroughs. As for the other three, none of them would ever be nominated again: Sarah Miles, taking the lead role in previously-discussed Ryan's Daughter; Ali MacGraw, the leading lady in #1 hit Love Story; and Carrie Snodgress, making her big screen breakthrough in Diary of a Mad Housewife. That film follows an unappreciated middle-class wife and mother whose husband's social-climbing wears her down physically, mentally, emotionally. Then she becomes a writer's fuck-buddy and begins coming into her own. The movie is the performance, so let's discuss that...and the others:

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

1970, Day Ten: Actor

The Best Actor nominees this year were all nominated at the Golden Globes for Best Actor in a Drama. That includes, among the other previously discussed and soon-to-be-discussed films, The Great White Hope, a compelling drama about a black boxer who becomes a target of the US government not just because of his becoming heavyweight champion of the world over all the white competitors, but because of his relationship with a white woman. Thoughtfully written, perfectly cast (in addition to nominees James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander, the ensemble boasts Lou Gilbert, Beah Richards, Marlene Warfield and Hal Holbrook), with an eye for detail and a scale of design on par with most epics.

But there were no Comedy/Musical Globe nominees! Just straight-faced misses. That means the Oscars skipped out on:

  • Richard Benjamin for Diary of a Mad Housewife. As the ambitious husband pressuring his wife to help him surpass the Joneses, Benjamin is obnoxious, thoughtless, amusing. He's also supporting Carrie Snodgress, and supporting is where he belongs!
  • Albert Finney for Scrooge, a musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Finney was in his early 30s when he took the role of 50+ Ebenezer Scrooge. Despite winning the Golden Globe and already being a nominee for Best Actor, he missed out...though he'd eventually return to the Academy's good graces. I'm glad they didn't. He's...miscast.
  • Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland for MASH. As Trapper John, M.D., and Benjamin "Hawkeye" Pierce, respectively, Gould and Sutherland anchor the anarchy. Gould was nominated the year before for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice; Sutherland is still waiting.
  • Jack Lemmon for The Out-of-Towners. Lemmon's everyman routine gets an edge. Visiting NYC for a business meeting that he hoped to parlay into a getaway with his wife, the domino effect of just terrible mishaps that greet them quickly take him from harried businessman to entitled asshole. It is hostile and the best.
Instead, they went for:

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Monday, December 14, 2020

1970, Day Eight: Adapted Screenplay

A film whose creators insisted was mostly improvised took the award for writing, something even credited scribe Ring Lardner, Jr., was surprised by:

The winner is the only one based on a work I've never been exposed to. The original MASH is a novel credited to Richard Hooker, the joint pen name of former military surgeon Dr. H. Richard Hormberger and journalist w.C. Heinz. The 1968 best-seller was followed by a series of sequels and inspired a stage play, a television series, and, of course, the movie. But I've never read it! I've read the play andf watched the show, but those are my only other MASH frames of reference.

The other nominees? I know them. I own copies of both Airport and Women in Love and read the original stage versions of I Never Sang for My Father and Lovers and Other Strangers in high school. Did the movies honor the source material? Who cares, it's cinema, they need to do their oWn thing. Did they accomplish that? Let's see!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

1970, Day Seven: Director

Last week, we discussed both supporting acting categories, all three music categories, plus a grab bag of nominees honored for other disciplines. Today, we look at the nominees for Best Director.

Of the four first-timers, three weren't just helming Best Picture nominees: they made the biggest hits of the year. Only Airport outgrossed MASH and Patton; Love Story topped them all.

The other first-timer was Ken Russell, director of the D.H. Lawrence adaptation Women in Love, about two sisters whose lives become entwined with a pair of best friends - one a teacher, one heir to the mining company their town runs on - and the various thrills, sexual and otherwise, that come about because of it. Russell would go on to make several films that showcased, as women in Love star Glenda Jackson put it, sexual neuroticism, often through biographies of composers like Tchaikovsky (The Music Lovers) or Liszt (Lisztomania). He also directed one of my all-time favorites, The Devils.

The fifth nominee was Federico Fellini, up for the third time for Fellini Satyricon, an extremely sweaty adaptation of the ancient work by Petronius. The film follows a gay youth's travels through society as he searches for his young lover: he goes to bath houses, experimental theatre, bacchanals, even faces off against a minotaur. A sweaty, erotic, very gay, dreamlike film, the nomination must have come as a surprise for...well, many, especially considering it's the film's only nomination!

The eventual winner was Franklin J. Schaffner, director of such films as The Best Man and Planet of the Apes, honored for his work on the #4 film of the year, Patton:

A closer look:

Friday, December 11, 2020

1970, Day Six: Original Song

Fascinating that none of the Let It Be tracks wound up here, but then again, there is a curious trend of Song Score/Adapted Score winners not even being nominated in this category, like Victor/Victoria or Purple Rain. Interestingly, the only entrant to miss a Golden Globe nomination - the only "precursor" for this category - wound up taking the Oscar:

The nominees are:

Thursday, December 10, 2020

1970, Day Five: Best Original Song Score

An oft-revised category, the Original Song Score category (which, need I remind you, only needs someone to start campaigning to actually be revived) in 1970 brought together five very unlikely nominees (well, four, at any rate). And of those nominees, the unlikeliest of winners:

Let's talk about both the nominations and the movies, shall we?:

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

1970, Day Four: Original Score

This year's field was dominated by Best Picture nominees: AirportPatton, and the winner, Love Story:

Two exceptions, though, one from a newbie, the other from a veteran of the game...

Cromwell is a historical drama in the vein of Anne of the Thousand Days or A Man for All Seasons, depicting the clash between statesman Oliver Cromwell and King Charles I - a clash that included Civil war, the execution of the King, and Cromwell's becoming head of state and government. It feels like a film made for those who already know the history, with the many people and their titles and their loyalties increasingly difficult to track - I know there's betrayal and double-crosses and whatnot, but I could not for the life of me figure out who was betraying or why. Hoarse Richard Harris disappoints; Alec Guinness is great. This was one of the film's two nominations; it won for Costume Design.

Sunflower is a drama about a woman who refuses to believe her husband, declared MIA, died in war; she searches for him in the Soviet Union and uncovers the shocking truth. Sophia Loren (who this year, returns to cinema in Netflix's The Life Ahead) is quite gutting in the film. Otherwise, I wasn't too crazy about it. I don't mind its score, though, which you can hear, alongside the other nominees, right here:

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

1970, Day Three: Supporting Actress

Of the five nominees for Best Supporting Actress, four came from Best Picture nominees. The one exception is Lee Grant, nominated for The Landlord, the film's only representative at the Academy Awards. 

The directorial debut from In the Heat of the Night's Oscar-winning editor Hal Ashby, The Landlord is a comedy about a wealthy white boy who buys an apartment building in the predominately black NYC neighborhood of Park Slope with the intention to gut and renovate it, but finds his efforts thwarted by the tenants. Perhaps a wee long, it's still a funny, thoughtful, impactful film. 

Grant was lucky, as any of the film's female ensemble could've been nominated: Pearl Bailey as the shotgun-toting ambassador of the building's residents, Diana Sands as the beautiful downstairs neighbor, Marki Bey as the mixed race dancer who starts to date the landlord, Susan Anspach as the landlord's vaguely liberal sister. Not entirely surprising that the film only garnered one nomination - due to the Academy's relative conservatism, not due to the quality of the film; after all, it took them another 13 years to honor the cinematographer Gordon willis, whose work on The Landlord

The rest, as I say, came from Best Picture-nominated films. Let's talk about all of them:

Monday, December 7, 2020

1970, Day Two: Supporting Actor

Beautifully coiffed, her consonants cleanly crisp, reigning Best Actress winner Maggie Smith rolls out with a lineup of one-and-doners (plus Gene Hackman) before handing off the night's second competitive statuette to her fellow countryman:

John Mills' filmography spans 72 years and over 100 works, including In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed, Great ExpectationsOh! What a Lovely War (Hollmann Awards nominee, in fact!), and PBS's late-90s telecast of Cats. By the time Ryan's Daughter came out, he had been working 38 years, and fathered two successful actresses, Juliet and Hayley (of The Parent Trap and Tiger Bay). His win, though, was no sure thing. 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

1970, Day One: A Bunch of Nominees

The year: 1971 (remember, each Academy Awards ceremony is held the year after the one they're honoring). The date: April 15th (funnily enough, 50 years later, the 93rd Academy Awards is scheduled for April 25th, the first time the Oscars have been held in April since The Last Emperor took home Best Picture in 1988). The place: the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles, currently part of the Music Center and home to the LA Opera (I saw Satyagraha there!).

And the nominees? That's what the next two weeks are all about, as we go into depth on the acting categories, the writing categories, the music categories, Director, and Picture. Today, though, we focus on films not nominated in any of those categories, but elsewhere:

Thursday, December 3, 2020

1970: The Capper

These ten, according to the official Reminder Lists, were among the end-of-the-year qualifiers for Oscar consideration. Exceptions are The Wizard of Gore and The Phantom Tollbooth, both of which had unusual releases - the former because of its drive-in/grindhouse target, the latter because it was more or less buried by its studio.

1970: Summertime Cinema

Yesterday took us from January into the spring; today, we look at the films of the summer (excepting Oscar and other awards nominees). Again, I'm going by the qualifying LA releases, except for The Human Condition (that's IMDb info).

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

1970: The First Five Months

Continuing our look at the films of 1970. The ten films herein were released within the first five months of the year - at least, according to that year's Reminder List for Academy Awards qualification.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

1970: The (Non-Oscar) Nominees

Fifty years ago, the films of 1970 came out. Most of them, at least - some made their festival or international debuts one or several years earlier. Point being, we're ending 2020 by going back a full 50 years to the films of 1970. Last week, I posted the 74 films screened. Next week, we begin our look at the 30 Academy Award nominees. This week, the remaining 44.

Let's start with the 14 films that just missed Oscar, films that saw themselves up for Golden Globes, critics prizes, and honors from their respective guilds, but just didn't have the votes in the Academy to make the cut.