1973-1977: ‘Heavyweights’ dominate the Oscars

The creative teams involved in making the Best Picture winners from 1973-1977 feature “heavyweight” directors, actors, themes and, yes, even a movie about heavyweight boxers.

The heavyweight directors  included Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Milos Foreman, and George Roy Hill. The actors included Allen, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, Robert  De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Sylvester Stallone.

The Sting, 1973, directed by George Roy Hill

Many critics loved (with the exception of  Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert) “Butch Cassidy and “The Sundance Kid” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, but it didn’t win the Oscar for Best Picture.

When the actors teamed up again for director George Roy Hill’s “The Sting,” however, they won the Academy Award for Best Picture. This comic, caper film is filled with twists and turns in what in many ways is about getting revenge for a late friend.

The “sting” of a big-time racketeer pits brain against gun and brawn. The tale is told with the marvelous music of Scott Joplin and is bolstered by great acting.Others competing for the 1973 top honor included “The Exorcist,” “Cries and Whispers,” and “American Graffiti.”

The Godfather II, 1974, directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II

 

For once a sequel is deserving of the honor of its predecessor. “Godfather I” won the Best Picture award and with the acting assistance of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro among others, director Francis Ford Coppola wins the honor again with this outstanding crime drama.

Of course, The Godfather movies are about more than crime. They were about families, culture and acceptance in a world that was resistant to letting them into the great American melting pot.

In this second movie, we witness a family betrayal and death, finding a way to gain political favors, the long-reach of one’s family in the old world, and revenge on the family’s perceived enemies.

Mr. Coppola truly deserved a Best Picture honor for this 200-minute epic.

Other competitors for the 1974 Best Picture honor included “Chinatown,” “The Conversation,” and “Lenny.”

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975, directed by Milos Forman

You would have to be “cuckoo” not to find something to like about “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the 1975 winner of the Oscar for Best Picture.

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Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, (who became a counter-culture hero with his Merry Pranksters), “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is the beneficiary of a bravura performance by Jack Nicholson

The story is about a second-rate crook who pretends to be insane in order to avoid prison and be sent to what he expects to be an easier experience in a mental hospital. He proves to be an uplifting spirit for his fellow patients, but runs into a difficult adversary in the head nurse.

The cast is outstanding with several actors on the verge of stardom. That cast includes Louise Fletcher, Danny Devito, Christopher Lloyd, Will Sampson, and William Redfield.

Others contenders for the 1975 Best Picture Award included “Barry Lyndon,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Jaws” and “Nashville.”

Rocky, 1976, directed by John Avildsen

“Rocky” is not only about a Philadelphia underdog boxer taking on the heavyweight champion of the world, it also is a testament to the behind-the-scenes story of unknown Sylvester Stallone getting the movie made, starring in his film and for it to win the 1976 Best Picture Oscar.

In addition to Stallone, the fine cast includes Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, and Carl Weathers.

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Rocky

This was the first real sports movie to win the Best Picture Oscar even though “On the Waterfront” had a sports backdrop. The score is an uptempo joy.

The only problem with “Rocky” is that it led to far too many sequels.

Other contenders for the 1976 honor were “All the President’s Men,” “Bound for Glory,” “Network,” and “Taxi Driver.”

 

Annie Hall, 1977, directed by Woody Allen

Woody Allen had completed numerous outstanding films before his “Annie Hall” won the 1977 Oscar for Best Picture.

This semi-autobiographical film about his relationship with Annie/Diane Keaton is a whimsical comedy that takes on the issues of loneliness and love, family, communications, maturity, city life, careers and even driving.It’s filled with classic scenes including one with a lobster, one with Paul Simon, and many more.

As with most of Woody Allen’s movies, “Annie Hall” has a great cast. In addition to those previously mentioned, the cast include Allen regular Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Marshall McLuhan (check out his sudden appearance while Woody is waiting in line to see a movie),

Annie Hall

legendary interviewer Dick Cavett, Shelley Duvall, Colleen Dewhurst, Jeff Goldb added hislum, and Christopher Walken.

Another major plus for this movie was the cinematography of Gordon Willis, who also added his touch to Allen’s 1979 black and white visually and musically dazzling “Manhattan.”

The crop for Best Picture Oscar in 1977 was bountiful, but “Annie Hall” deserved the honor. Other contenders were “Star Wars,” “Julia,” “The Goodbye Girl,” and “Turning Point.”

 

 

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‘Shape of Water’ truly deserving Oscar winner

Each year after the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture is announced, I immediately buy it, if I don’t already have it in my collection.

I didn’t see “The Shape of Water” in a theater, but my 4k copy arrived today. And tonight, March 21, I was treated to true cinema magic as this wonderful fantasy/science fiction/love story that even weaves a little sinister government “big brother” conspiracy into this amazing movie. And there’s a magical, musical segment that fits perfectly into this film.

Set in 1962 in Baltimore, we finally have a movie in which the creature has a happy ending. This film is almost an extension of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” but it is so much more.

I have a list (chiefly in my head) of movies that I call “Ronald” movies. They have a certain almost magical spirit that is so uplifting and inspiring.

The “Ronald movies” include Frank Capra’s “Lost Horizon,” “Field of Dreams” and “Cinema Paradiso.” There are others, but I am adding  “The Shape of Water” to that list now.

2017 Oscar Best Picture winner,

Thank director/co-author Guillermo Del Toro, actors Sally Hawkins (no known relation), Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer and Doug Jones, an amazing artistic team and others for creating one of my all-time favorite Academy Award Best Winners.

Having finally seen and written about the most recent winner, we’ll be continuing our posts about the previous best picture winners soon.

2017 Oscar winners

Some of the winners March 4, 2018, of the 2017 Academy Awards:

Best picture: The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water

Best actress: Frances McDermond, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri

Three Billboards

Best actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman

 

Best directing: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Guillermo

Best supporting actress: Allison Janey, I Tonya

Allison-Janney

Best supporting actor: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriSam Rockwell

 

 

 

 

And the nominees this year are …

It’s only a few hours before the winners of the 2017 Academy Awards are announced.

The nominees for Best Picture include:

  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

 

In the Best Actor in a Leading Role Category: 

  • Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  • Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
  • Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
  • Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

In the Best Actress category:

  • Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormand, Three Billboards
    outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
  •  Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  • Meryl Streep, The Post

Best Directing:

  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Shape of Water

Foreign Language Picture:

  • A Fantastic Woman
  • The Insult
  • Loveless
  • On Body and Soul
  • The Square

 

Other Best Pictures

RDH Great Stories will be continuing its review/descriptions of the Academy Award for Best Picture winners, but since a new winner will be announced tonight it’s time to post a list of the winners since our last entry, which ended with the 1972 winner, “The Godfather.”

Best Picture winners

And the winners were:

1973: The Sting
1974: The Godfather, Part 2
1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
1976: Rocky
1977: Annie Hall
1978: The Deer Hunter
1979: Kramer vs. Kramer
1980: Ordinary People
1981: Chariots of Fire
1982: Gandhi
1983: Terms of Endearment
1984: Amadeus
1985: Out of Africa
1986: Platoon
1987: The Last Emperor
1988: Rain Man
1989: Driving Miss Daisy
1990: Dances with Wolves
1991: The Silence of the Lambs
1992: Unforgiven
1993: Schlinder’s List
1994: Forrest Gump
1995: Braveheart
1996: The English Patient
1997: Titanic
1998: Shakespeare in Love
1999: American Beauty
2000: Gladiator
2001: A Beautiful Mind
2002: Chicago
2003: Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King
2004: Million Dollar Baby
2005: Crash
2006: The Departed
2007: No Country For Old Men
2008: Slum Do Millionaire
2009: The Hurt Locker
2010: The King’s List
2011: The Artist
2012: Argo
2013: 12 Years a Slave
2014: Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
2015: Spotlight
2016: Moonlight
2017: ??? We should learn tonight.

1968-1972: An edgy era of winning films

(Editor’s note: This is the ninth part in a multi-part series on the winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture. They are being presented in chronological order with “Wings,” the first winner, included among the movies reviewed and/or described in the first part.)

The five Oscar winners for Best Picture winners between 1968 and 1972 all had a certain edgy quality to them, even the musical “Oliver,” based on a Charles Dickens book and the stage musical, fits that description.

Those films were certainly reflective of the times with social upheavals, the U.S. presidency of Richard M. Nixon, the ongoing Vietnam War and many other issues shaking the times.

Oliver!, 1968, directed by Carol Reed

Oliver-1968
Mark Lester as Oliver seeking more food.

“Oliver!,” the 1968 Academy Award Best Picture winner, not only leaves one humming some of its tunes, but thinking about some of the issues the story raises.

Based on Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” the movie is story is about a young boy swept into a gang of youthful thieves. It’s a story about poverty, too, and what it forces some people to do. That is still a very relevant issue today at it was in 1968 and when Dickens novel was first published as a serial between 1837–39.

At a little more than 2-1/2 hours, Oliver! is plenty of entertainment per entertainment dollar in addition to being thought-provoking. The memorable songs include “Consider Yourself Part of the Family,” “I’ll Do Anything,” “Food Glorious Food,” and “As Long as He Needs Me.”

The cast includes Ron Moody, Shani Walls, Oliver Reed, Mark Lester, Jack Wild and Hugh Griffith.

Other contenders for Best Picture in 1968 included “Funny Girl,” “The Lion in Winter,” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

Midnight Cowboy, 1969, directed by John Schlesinger

Although its original rating has been changed, “Midnight Cowboy” is the only Best Picture winner with the distinction of having a “X” rating when it was first released.

The film had been approved with an “R,” but after United Artist executives consulted a psychologist who said that the “homosexual frame of reference” and its “possible influence upon youngsters,” the studio agreed to accept the X rating. The Motion Picture Association of America ultimately changed its rating system and the movie got its R rating.

This is a gritty film about a naive, young Texas man, played by Jon Voight, who thinks he can make a great living as a gigolo in New York City. Once there, he meets the street-savvy, homeless, dying Ratso, played by Dustin Hoffman.

In “Midnight Cowboy,” Hoffman as Ratso yells one of the all-time classic movie lines as he walks across NYC street traffic: ” “I’m walkin’ here!” That line reached No. 27 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes.” Additionally, the song “Everybody’s Talkin’,'” which is featured throughout the movie, won Harry Nilsson a Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Performance

In many ways, this is a very down movie, but sadly the story of beautiful dreams destroyed by harsh realities is still a true story for many people today.

The other contenders for the 1969 Best Picture Award included “Anne of the Thousand Days,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Hello Dolly,” and “Z.”

Patton, 1970, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

The Academy Award Best Picture winning “Patton” is described as a milestone in screen bio-pics by many critics.

Patton 1
George C.. Scott as Gen. Patton in “Patton”

George C. Scott extensively studied the brilliant, eccentric Gen. George S. Patton in preparing for the role. Scott displays the brilliance and the temper of the general, who was a major figure in World War II.

Scott, who won the Best Actor Award, had refused the Oscar nomination but won the award anyway. In a letter to the Academy, he stated that he did not feel himself to be in competition with other actors.

In addition to Scott, actors in the film included Karl Malden, Stephen Young and, if you dig further down in the credits, Tim Considine.

Other contenders for the 1970 Best Picture award included “Airport,” “Five Easy Pieces,” and “M*A*S*H.”

The French Connection, 1971, directed by William Friedkin

“The French Connection,” the 1971 Best Picture winner, is a high-energy, landmark film about international smuggling of heroin into New York City and a maverick detective’s efforts to try to stop it.

The great chase scenes through NYC streets are among the greatest in film history, which earned the film editors a well-deserved Oscar.. You will catch yourself moving back and forth in your seat (if you can manage to stay in it) trying to dodge the cars.

Gene Hackman is the star of this film, but the great cast also includes Fernando Rey, Roy Scheider, and Tony LoBianco.

Other nominees for the 1971 Best Picture honor included “Clockwork Orange,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Last Picture Show,” and “Nicholas and Alexandra.”

The Godfather, 1974, Francis Ford Coppola

Hollywood has given us many notable gangster or mob films, but the two Oscar Best Picture winning “Godfather” movies gave us a greater sense of that world than ever before.

“The Godfather,” 1972, and “The Godfather Part 2, 1974, hold the distinction of being the only films that both the original and the sequel won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

In the first movie, we see Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, the “godfather,” in a role that some critics view as his greatest film performance. The other members of this great cast include Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, Abe Vigoda, singer Al Martino, and Alex Rocco.

This is a story about gangsters, but also one about families, not just crime families but in this case about Italian families seeking their version of the American dream and power.

It’s hard to imagine any other movie winning the 1972 Oscar for Best Picture than this Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece, but the other contenders included “Cabaret,””Deliverance,” “Sounder.”

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Marlon Brando As Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.”

 

1963-1967: Social issues, musicals, earthy comedy films win top honors

(Editor’s note: This is the eighth part in a multi-part series on the winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture. They are being presented in chronological order with “Wings,” the first winner, included among the movies reviewed and/or described in the first part.)

The five years from 1963-1967 were years of great diversity and competition for the Academy Award for Best Picture. They were in a variety of genres. The stories happened in the United States Deep South, England, and Austria.

 

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“Tom Jones,” 1963, directed by Tony Richardson.

The young, hilarious and clever Albert Finney as Tom Jones helps make the somewhat bawdy “Tom Jones” comedy a delight to watch. It’s based on the novel by Henry Fielding about the wild life of a playboy in 18th century rural England.

When the film premiered in October 1963, The New York Times critic wrote, “Prepare yourself for what is surely one of the wildest, bawdiest and funniest comedies that a refreshingly agile filmmaker has ever brought to the screen. …They have whipped up a roaring entertainment that develops its own energy (not just from the massive book) as much as from its cinematic gusto as from the racy material it presents.”

In addition to Finney, the cast includes Susannah York, Hugh Griffith,and Dame Edith Evans.

The others seeking the 1963 Best Picture award included “Cleopatra,” “How the West Was Won,” and “Lilies of the Field.”

“My Fair Lady,” 1964, directed by George Cukor

“My Fair Lady,” which won the 1964 Best Picture Award is one of this writer’s favorite musicals, but there may have been better films that were nominated for the 1964 honor.

In my childhood home, I grew up hearing my father play over and over the Original Broadway Cast soundtrack of “My Fair Lady,” which featured Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle. Andrews was replaced in the movie by Audrey Hepburn. The songs are permanently ingrained in my head.

“My Fair Lady” is based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” The tale is about pompous phonetics professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) who is so sure of his abilities that he takes it upon himself to transform a Cockney working-class girl into someone who can pass for a cultured member of “high society.” His subject turns out to be the lovely Eliza Doolittle, who agrees to speech lessons to improve her job prospects. Higgins and Eliza clash, then form an unlikely bond — one that is threatened by an aristocratic suitor.

Even though this is a great musical that I love, my preference for the 1964 best picture might have been (if I wasn’t in my early teen years at the time) “Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Peter Sellers is magnificent playing three characters in this Stanley Kubrick classic satire.

Other contenders for best picture included “Becket,” “Mary Poppins.” and “Zorba the Greek.” By the way, Julie Andrews, although not cast in the Best Picture-winning “My Fair Lady,” was compensated with a Best Actress award for her dazzling performance in the title role of “Mary Poppins.”

“The Sound of Music,” 1965, directed by Robert Wise

The Academy Award Best Picture winning “The Sound of Music”was based on the true story of the von Trapp family. It was loved by many, but not all.

Star Christopher Plummer wasn’t a fan of the movie. He said in a recent Hollywood Reporter interview, “Because it was so awful and sentimental and gooey. You had to work terribly hard to try to infuse some miniscule bit of humor into it.”

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Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”

in the Hawkins family, my mother and sister went to see the movie in a downtown Louisville movie theater while my father and I headed to Crosley Field in Cincinnati to see the Reds play (it was a much better team then) that same day

It took me decades to get past this masculine bias against the movie, but when I finally viewed it I enjoyed it and realized that it wasn’t a threat to my masculinity.

The songs such as “Maria,” “My Favorite Things,””Climb Every Mountain” and “Do Re Mi” are memorable, if a bit saccharine for some tastes. The story of the family’s music and its escape from the threat of the Nazis is a worthy story for the Best Picture Oscar.

Other contenders for the 1965 Best Picture honor included “Doctor Zhivago.” Ship of Fools,” and “A Thousand Clowns.”

 

A Man for All Seasons, 1966, directed by Fred Zinnemann

“A Man for All Seasons, the 1966 Best Picture winner, was another winner based on a great Broadway play.

This winner is about ethics in addition to being an excellent historic drama. It is the story of the heroic Sir Thomas More resisting King Henry VIII’s demands that More give in and sanction his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

The New York Times reviewer stated, “‘A Man for All Seasons’ is a picture that inspires admiration, courage, and thought.”

The great cast includes Paul Scofield as More, Robert Shaw as the king, Wendy Hiller, Leo McKern, Orson Welles, Susannah York, John Hurt, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Other nominees for the 1966 Best Picture honor included “Alfie,” “The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

In the Heat of the Night, 1967, directed by Norman Jewison

“In the Heat of the Night,” the 1967 Best Picture winner, was true to the dangerous times of the 1960s. It’s about a black detective from Philadelphia who is in the Deep South when a murder takes place and he is picked up as a suspect.

Sidney Poitier delivers a spot-on performance as Detective Virgil Tibbs and Rod Steiger delivers a stinging performance as Police Chief Bill Gillespie. Tibbs ultimately helps solve the murder. The confrontations between Tibbs and Gillespie during the course of events is fascinating.

When Tibbs is asked by the racist southerners what people call him back home, Poitier delivers masterfully the “They call me Mr. Tibbs” line, one of the great lines in movie history.

Others in the cast include Warren Oates and Lee Grant.

Other nominees for the 1967 honor included “Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Graduate,” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

 

In-the-Heat-of-the-Night-1967-01-15-52
From  left, Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) and Police Chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) argue about a murder case in “In the Heat of the Night.”