Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Closer Look: 1971 Best Picture

"Why are those films winning our Fistis?"
1971.

What a great year for film.  I’m wrapping up my personal awards for the year, and while I’ll have no time to actually get them posted before I leave for vacation, I wanted to leave you with some thoughts on the year that was and Oscar’s Best Picture lineup (as well as my Fisti lineup).  As I said, this was an astonishing year for film all around, and Oscar’s lineup is refreshingly reflective of that richness.  I don’t love all five films nominated by Oscar, but I appreciate that they are really diverse, cover a wide range of genres and showcase how incredible the year was, overall.

So let’s take the list one by one; and I’ll go ahead and rank them:


#5 ~ The French Connection
I know, we’re already getting off to a bad start, aren’t we?  I don’t hate this movie at all, but I do struggle to find it Best Picture worthy.  It’s a tight crime thriller, and the protagonist is an interesting sort (anti-hero), but it’s not even the best crime thriller of the year (Get Carter and Klute were both stronger all around) and in comparison to the rest of the lineup, it’s just a notch below.  Still, I commend the Academy for going for a non-traditional film here and for embracing a film that is shamelessly violent and un-heroic.  The Academy is all about inspirational and often shies away from rewarding the criminal, but this was a nice change of pace and showed that the Academy can think outside of the box.

#4 ~ Nicholous and Alexandra
Lush period biopics are (or at least were) the Oscars cup of tea, and this is a perfect reflection of that.  The film is beautiful to look at, rich with character development and littered with enough action (or tension) to keep you glued, despite the elongated running length.  It fills the screen, and the performances are really beautifully done, even the exuberant ones.  While I feel as though it could have been tighter, it really does have such visual flow and it never feels unnecessary, which can be an issue with these seemingly bloated period films.  Instead, the film remains focused throughout, which holds our attention remarkably well.

#3 ~ Fiddler on the Roof
I grew up on this movie.  It is one of my father’s favorite films, and next to My Fair Lady, it’s his favorite musical.  Personally, I think this is much better than My Fair Lady, which suffers from being a tad too silly for its own good.  Instead, Fiddler on the Roof possesses an earnestness that is not often found in musicals of this era.  It is earthier, grittier and possesses a sense of real relatability, which makes it stand out amongst a crowd of classic musicals.  It’s a shame to me that this was released in this particular year, which is SO strong, because it doesn’t get the Fisti love I’d like to shower it.  Had it come out the year before (which is rather weak, at least from what I’ve seen), I could easily see it racking up many nominations.  I love that Oscar loved this though, because it once again adds to the diversity of the lineup. 

#2 ~ A Clockwork Orange
I never saw this coming, but apparently Oscar was alright with rewarding Kubrick for his visionary accomplishments.  This is one of his finest moments, for sure.  Violent, brutal, aggressive, sexualized, controversial, repulsive…this film is all of those things and much, much more, and it blows my mind that Oscar was willing to nominate it here, especially in a year where they could have gone after more typical fare, and the fact that this made it in over films like Summer of ’42, Mary, Queen of Scots and McCabe and Mrs. Miller is shocking to me.  It’s such a brilliant inclusion though.  Just the fact that this was an Oscar nominee is enough for me!

#1 ~ The Last Picture Show
And now we come to the cream of the crop; The Last Picture Show.  I love that this is an Oscar nominee, and quite frankly it’s easy to see why.  It is a very dramatic film, and yet it is also extremely well-tempered so as to simmer as opposed to boil.  The atmosphere is so thick and so honest that one is taken in almost immediately, but it lingers, and that keeps us wanting more.  The character development is so honest and relatable, something that isn’t often found in these tapestry-like films.  I love how every angle of human interaction feels tapped here, completely drained and left for us to ponder and explore.

And so there you have it; one of the strongest, or at least most diverse Best Picture lineups in Oscar history, and one that has been a lot of fun to explore.  You have a period biopic, a crime thriller, a gritty human drama, a horrifically violent morality study and a musical, and while I don’t LOVE all of them, this is an extremely respectable lineup that makes me proud to love the Oscars.


So, what did I nominate?  Well, here’s a taste of the Fisti Awards, to come in full at the end of the month:

12 comments:

  1. For me, A Clockwork Orange was the best film of that year with The Last Picture Show in 2nd and The French Connection in third. I would've had Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in my top 10 list as well along with Murmur of the Heart, Walkabout, and Harold & Maude. The Conformist though is a 1970 film which came out in the U.S. a year later.

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    1. Yeah, The Conformist is 1970, but it was nominated for an Oscar in 1971, so that is where I place it for my personal awards. I try, with foreign films, to place them in the year they competed for Oscar.

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  2. Hi Drew! The French Connection is definitely an excellent film. I haven't seen the rest on the list tho so I can't comment on which one should've won.

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    1. Oh, you need to see the rest, especially A Clockwork Orange and The Last Picture Show!

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  3. The Last Picture Show is one of the greatest movies ever...period.

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    1. Completely agree!!! It's in my top ten :-D

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  4. I'd probably have A Clockwork Orange take the win, but you can't argue against The Last Picture Show. It's utterly perfect. Although I don't have a problem with The French Connection win. I really dig that flick!

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    1. Yeah, it was actually one of those instances where I genuinely wished that those two films had been made in different years, so that they could both be winners.

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  5. BOO! :P

    Love that you have Fiddler on the Roof ranked so highly. I really enjoy it, especially Topol's performance.

    I really need to give The Last Picture Show another look. It blew me away when I first saw it, but I've not seen it in years.

    Your Best Picture lineup is wonderful! I have Murmur of the Heart in '72, and I nominate it in Screenplay. Thrilled to see Carnal Knowledge in the top 10 by the way. Kind of surprised to see Wake in Fright at #12, but it's a great film. I couldn't find a place to recognize it, unfortunately.

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    1. I was waking to get taken to task for having French Connection in 5th!

      Thanks for always showering me with love on my picks. I hope you get a chance to rewatch The Last Picture Show soon. I recently saw it when it played on TCM and was reminded why it's so special to me.

      Wake in Fright grew on me in mere moments after it ended. Like, it was over and I was like "ok" and then about ten minutes later I was like "woah, wait a second...what did I just watch" and then about ten minutes later I was like "OMG, that was kind of incredible".

      More nominations for it are coming, just you wait.

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    2. I own TLPS, so I need to get on that. Maybe I'll rewatch it once I'm done with the CinSpec's in a few weeks.

      I had the same reaction to Wake in Fright. Still, I couldn't fit it anywhere. :(

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    3. I'm excited for the CinSpecs to be wrapped up so I can look through them all! You need to post a wrap up post that has links to each year for easy access!

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