Monday, February 11, 2013

Best Picture Winners: 1973-1977

Winner: The Sting
Director: George Roy Hill
Distributed by: Universal Pictures

The story of two con men (Robert Redford and Paul Newman) who team up to take down a criminal banker that murdered Redford's partner. This is another movie that is viewed as more of an apology award than an actual earned one. Many view American Graffiti or Cries and Whispers as better fits for the grand prize, with movies like Serpico, Last Tango in Paris, and The Wicker Man not even nominated. This isn't saying that The Sting isn't a good movie, it's just a little too convenient that a Newman-Redford movie directed by George Roy Hill would win after their last film, Butch Cassidy, would be the favorite, but ultimately lose. I like the movie a lot actually, but maybe that's because I like the song, "The Entertainer." But seriously, it is worth a look, especially if you like Redford and Newman. The Sting won for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Music, among others.This year's Oscar ceremony is best known as the one with the streaker. Robert Opel ran out onto the stage while David Niven was presenting, which led Niven to make a quip about the man's "shortcomings." There is wide speculation that the show's producers set the whole thing up as a publicity stunt.

Winner: The Godfather: Part II
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Otherwise known as the greatest sequel of all time, the movie splits its time giving a background of Vito Corleone's (Young Vito played by Robert De Niro) life, and Michael's new life as the Don of the Corleone family. Part II's competition consisted of Chinatown, The Conversation, Lenny, and The Towering Inferno. Again, though the movies may have won in other years, they couldn't win against a powerhouse like Part II. Coppola was given full control over the film, unlike with The Godfather, which made production much smoother. The movie did run into a few bumps though. First off, Pacino hated the script at the beginning and refused to show up. Only after Coppola spent all night rewriting did Pacino agree to do the movie. Early screenings of the movie weren't promising, as critics felt the switches between Michael's and Vito's stories happened too often, thus not letting the audience connect with either. Coppola again changed the movie to make the switches less frequent, but didn't have enough time to finish. Thus, the beginning scenes are a bit poorly timed. It didn't matter, because in the end everyone loved this movie. Too bad it cost twice as much to make and only made a third of what The Godfather did. Besides winning Best Picture, the movie won Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (De Niro), Best Art Direction, and Best Music.

Winner: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Director: Milos Foreman
Distributed by: United Artists

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the first film since It Happened One Night to win the "High Five." That's Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay for all my newer readers. It deserved it too, as both Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher put on an amazing show. The movie details Randall P. McMurphy's stay in an insane asylum. Instead of being sent to jail for statutory rape, he is instead sent to a mental institution where he can have an easier time of it, instead of doing hard labor. He immediately comes into conflict with Nurse Ratched (Fletcher) the sociopathic nurse in charge of their ward. The film also stars later big names like Christopher Lloyd (his first film) and Danny DeVito. Nest had some pretty stiff competition, but it won over the Academy with its big themes, black comedy, and stellar performance from Nicholson. The other nominees were Jaws, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, and Nashville. This would be a tough choice for me between Jaws and Nest, but I do think Nest is a better movie.

Winner: Rocky
Director: John G. Avildsen
Distributed by: United Artists

Rocky is seemingly one of those Best Picture winners that kind of throws you off. I mean, I was when I saw the Oscar icon on the DVD version at Farmer Jack ten years ago. It's new actor Sylvester Stallone mumbling and boxing. It can't be that great! It's pretty good actually. It's a nice underdog story, which is basically what Stallone was going through getting the picture made. The film was shot in 28 days and only had a budget of $1.1 million. Not exactly Oscar bait, but it went ahead and became a sleeper hit; the academy probably loving the gritty story mixed with sentimentality. I honestly still don't get Rocky and Adrian's relationship. Oh well, all I know is that whenever that name is uttered, I've got to recreate the ending to the movie. Rocky won over All the President's Men, Bound for Glory, Network, and Taxi Driver. That isn't including non-nominated films like Carrie, Marathon Man, or my personal favorite, The Outlaw Josey Wales. That would've been awesome! But no, we have Stallone getting punched repeatedly by Carl Weathers. Oh, I never explained what the movie is about! Rocky is an OK boxer who gets the chance to fight the champion. Then he eats lightning and craps thunder. Somehow this doesn't land him in a hospital.

Winner: Annie Hall
Director: Woody Allen
Distributed by: United Artists

Otherwise known as Woody Allen's masterpiece, people still go crazy for this late 70's staple. Allen plays a neurotic (surprise!) comedian in an up and down relationship with singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The story is told in flashbacks by Allen's character with asides and direct-to-camera conversations. This is another rare win for a comedy, the first since Tom Jones. Annie Hall beat out The Turning Point, Julia, and Goodbye Girl. So it's easy to see why it won....wait....I'm missing one. Oh yeah...a little film called Star Wars. Yes, Annie Hall beat out arguably one of the most epic movies of all time, one that people all over the world still talk about. So, the fan boy in me wants to call shenanigans on Star Wars being snubbed, but the film buff realizes that Annie Hall was just as deserving, and it was a film that appealed to the Academy more than Star Wars. Still, it would've been pretty cool to see Star Wars on the list of Best Pictures. But, really, when do you really see big blockbuster films winning the grand prize anymore? I honestly consider movies like Lord of the Rings to be an exception to the rule and not the rule. More often we see the low grossing movies like Crash and The Hurt Locker winning the grand prize. It's the same reason The Dark Knight was snubbed in 2008. The academy simply has an aversion to popcorn flicks. Anyway, Annie Hall is still listed in a bunch of critics top 50 comedy movies, so you can't say that it's been forgotten.

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