Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

31 Days of Oscar – Recant This! Recasting Oscar’s Picks: the 70s

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The blogathon masters PaulaKellee, and Aurora are at it again. They’ve come up with the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon. Their goal, a worthy one, is for bloggers to write or dish upon things Oscar-related. The following is my meager contribution to the festivities.

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The big night will arrive sooner than we think. The Academy’s statuettes will be given out to the most worthy of winners on February 24th and that will be the end of it. Yes? Not… on… your… life, sister! Clearly, history does not bear that out. If people are known for anything, it’s that human beings make mistakes.

And they can and do hold an opinion… and on occasion, a grudge.

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I’ve never worked in the film or entertainment industry — and being a movie theater projectionist from way back qualifies for very little. That said, after purchasing my share of tickets to see new and old films since I was a kid, I think it grants me the right to forge a sentiment one way or the other concerning the member voting habits over the years.

So, in honor of this (and Aurora, Paulette, and Kellee’s dedicated blogathon efforts), I’m going to put in writing what I would change, no… outright overturn, for each of Oscar’s blunders in the past decades, starting with the 70s. The period when I really began caring about cinematic injustice.

I don’t expect people will agree with me on any or all of these, but that’s why water coolers, and blogs, were invented, right? They’re there to discuss and argue over Academy Award winners. Drum roll, please:

1972 Best Director

Francis Ford CoppolaPersonally, I think the world of Bob Fosse. In my estimation he was simply one of the greatest choreographer and director of the stage, as well as screenwriter and film director, EVER. Most influential, too. Heck, if he hadn’t been around, who would have Rob Marshall ripped off? However, Francis Ford Coppola successfully accomplished something extraordinary (as I detailed here a year ago). He directed one of the most anticipated novel adaptations in film history. Only Gone With The Wind was more awaited, up till that time. The Godfather deservedly won Best Picture; at least the membership got that one right. He should have walked away with this award. Leastwise, the Director’s Guild recognized the achievement when Coppola received their nod for his work in The Godfather. Then a couple of weeks later the Academy selected Bob Fosse for Cabaret. The first of their epic fails for the Me Decade.

1973 Best Picture

The ExorcistAsk anyone who knows me. I love The Sting. Any movie that re-teamed Paul Newman and Robert Redford in another legendary pairing was destined to be a favorite of mine. Yet, the best picture that year was a film that literally changed how we looked at or experience movies. Even if it was a genre few film historians tout. That’d be the phenomenal The Exorcist (a film I revisited last October). The bestselling book by William Peter Blatty made an astonishing transition to the screen byway of director William Friedkin being at the helm. Scaring and scarring movie patrons by the thousands in packed theaters. Disrupting people’s sleep routines, many could only do so with the lights on for weeks after — I can attest from my family member history. It became AN EVENT. Only The Academy’s hesitancy at bestowing their highest honor to a mere horror movie kept it from winning what should have been this film’s legacy.

1973 Best Director

So if all is right in the world, all of the above simply meant William Friedkin, and not George Roy Hill, was that year’s Best Director. So there!

1974 Best Actor

godfather2Art Carney beat Al Pacino. Let’s let that one sink in for a moment. Art Carney, who wasn’t a bad actor by any stretch (I enjoyed him better in the under appreciated The Late Show a couple of years later), was awarded the Best Actor trophy for Harry and Tonto in what amounted to another true stunner. The same year Nixon resigned the presidency, as it happened. Somehow besting Al Pacino, who did some of his finest work, in what turned out to be that year’s Best Picture, The Godfather Part II. Which by the way, only was one of the all-time best film sequels EVER. To this day, revisiting that result still gets to me. I don’t have to explain further, do I? Or do I speak to the downside of Oscar make up calls?

1974 Best Supporting Actress

madeline-kahn-blazing-saddlesIn the decades that have passed, the fact that Madeline Kahn (who sadly left this mortal coil entirely too soon) was somehow beaten by Ingrid Bergman still astonishes. It continues to be something that just wasn’t kosher. I know Ingrid Bergman remains a legend (hell, she’s in my all-time favorite movie for chrissakes, Casablanca). But Murder on the Orient Express, an enjoyable film, doesn’t regularly top ‘best of’ lists and Ingrid wasn’t relaying Ilsa Lund here. No way did her performance come close to what Kahn (ahem) pulled off. Channeling Marlene Dietrich, of all people, as Lili Von Shtupp, Madeline was simply better in this celebrated, groundbreaking comedy by Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles). Must you make me say it? “Would you like another schnitzengruben?

1979 Best Director

fosse_b_pic2Okay, THIS was the director award Bob Fosse so richly deserved, and didn’t get. No question whatsoever in my mind. I have nothing against Robert Benton. In fact, his screenplays for The Late Show (1977), Superman (1978), Nobody’s Fool (1994), and The Ice Harvest (2005) are some of my favorites. However, you’re not going to convince me that Kramer vs. Kramer was anything more than a rudimentary drama directed solidly to unspectacular results by Mr. Benton. It’s good, not great. I’d agree his work was worth a nomination. Compared to director Fosse’s effort in All That Jazz, one of the great musicals for that or any other decade, it simply pales. Fosse’s effort still is having an effect on American cinema. The vaunted Academy (and I’d add the DGA) got it so very wrong as this memorably distinct period came to a close.

1979 Best Picture

title all that jazz

If I said all of that for the Best Director, you know what I’m going to change next. It shouldn’t be a surprise. How can I NOT award the Best Picture to All That Jazz? Re-read the preceding segment for the reason Kramer vs. Kramer failed to impress. Even now. Yet, this imaginative, outright sexy, absolutely nervy drama-musical still makes waves. Watch it if you don’t believe me. Unflinchingly based on the director’s own life, it is a film for the ages. You don’t even have to enjoy musicals to get something out of it. Where do you think Rob Marshall stole from for Chicago? Personally, I think Oscar’s top pick for 2002 was an attempt to make amends. Yeah, yeah. Fosse’s film was influenced by Fellini’s . All the same, All That Jazz was on the same level, and easily the more entertaining of the two. This decade heralded some of the absolute best cinema this country had to offer in that ten-year span. And if there was a song and dance production that matched all the grit, pandemonium, and flash of the Sexy 70s, this film was it.

On deck: the 80s

31 Responses to “31 Days of Oscar – Recant This! Recasting Oscar’s Picks: the 70s”

  1. Fogs' Movie Reviews

    Nice selections. I obviously concur with the Godfather ones, no doubt!

    The Exorcist vs the Sting is such a tough call, though. I really, really love both movies. With them BOTH being such great films, I can see how some of The Exorcists attributes might “scare” off Academy voters! (LOL) Still, its hard to argue with what you’re saying. Just very very close for me.

    Nice call with Kahn, she was hysterical there! I almost think she was better in Young Frankenstein though… both roles were hysterical, forget about it!

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      I understand what you mean, Fogs. And Madeline Kahn was fantastic in both ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘Young Frankenstein’. The latter being my all-time favorite Mel Brooks film. Thanks, my friend.

      Reply
  2. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael and company:

    Excellent juxtaposition of what should have been as opposed to what was!

    Many, over the passage of time have leaned toward ‘The Exorcist’ over ‘The Sting’ for Best Picture. Friedkin does well telling a story in ways never seen before. Though George Roy Hill
    still did things his way.

    1974 was the year where many were robbed. Coppola included!. I still think ‘The Conversation’ should have been Best Picture. And Art Carney’s Oscar for Best Actor was a lifetime achievement gimme.

    Cannot give you a cogent reason as to why and how Robert Benton won Best Director for ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’.

    Also cannot argue about your choice of Bob Fosse and ‘All That Jazz’! A wondrously full, lush, kind of gritty and honest tale distinctly of its time. Still think the early on “Cattle Call” to ‘On Broadway’ foretold MTV’s music videos by a few years. And is still some of the best cut and edited sequence in film of that decade.

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Great to have your thoughts on the subject, Kevin.

      “Still think the early on “Cattle Call” to ‘On Broadway’ foretold MTV’s music videos by a few years. And is still some of the best cut and edited sequence in film of that decade.”

      Right on! Thanks, my friend.

      Reply
  3. Eric @ The Warning Sign

    Great work here, Michael! Those Godfather snubs are outrageous. I never realized Coppola didn’t win Best Director. Shocking.

    I’m going to have to check out All That Jazz. I’m not usually a big musical guy, but you’ve got me intrigued now…

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Thank you for the comment on the post and the new layout. After two years ago this month at WordPress I thought it was time for a change.

      Reply
  4. The Gal Herself

    I’m a massive Redford fan and believe Paul Newman is without doubt the coolest guy who ever lived, and I agree with you about The Sting. There’s something very workmanlike about it. And while it’s fun and charming and all, I cannot believe it represents Redford’s only nomination for acting. Not The Candidate. Not The Way We Were (which was that same year). The Sting. Go figure.

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Welcome, TGH. Glad you could stop by and leave a comment on the subject at hand. Good point about Redford’s acting nods. Given some of his excellent work through the years, to only have the one remains a head scratcher. Thank you very much.

      Reply
  5. Paula

    Michael, I pretty much agree with all of these, except I won’t lie, I’ve never been able to sit through THE EXORCIST. I was really pleased to see Madeline Kahn on this list for one of my all-time favorite movies! So beautiful and so funny.

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      I understand, Paula. ‘The Exorcist’ is not going to make most moviegoers’ lists. Glad to hear you’re another Madeline Kahn fan. She was quite a talent and still very much missed. Thanks, Paula :-).

      Reply
  6. Le

    I must say that sometimes thes nubs call my attention more than the winners. I personally think that the Academy didn’t want to give another Best Picture Oscar to a Coppola film (Apocalypse Now), after the two Godfather masterpieces. But Al Pacino loosing is something beyond my comprehension.
    Greetings!
    Le

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Greetings, Le. The Coppola and Pacino snubs were the most head scratching this decade. You made good points. Thank you, Le :-).

      Reply

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