Next to the 1930's, the 1970's was one of the greatest decades for movies. Since the mid 1960's films started to move away from epics and musicals and more into dramas. Comedies were more dramatic and horror films became more intense and violent, although neither of these two had many nominees during the 70's they were a very popular part of the movie scene during the decade.
Some of the finest films ever made come from the 1970's, lets review what I've seen so far.
Films I have seen - Patton (Best Picture), Five Easy Pieces, MASH
Films I have not seen - Airport, Love Story
Analysis - Of the three films I have seen all of them are classics. Patton is one of the fines war films ever made and it flows so well you don't realize that you have already watched three hours. And you don't want it to end, the sign of a great movie. Five Easy Pieces is one of Jack Nicholas's finest acting roles. The scene when he's trying to order a side of toast at the diner is one of the most intense acting scenes that summarizes the character in one scene, all of his frustrations, anger, confusion, bitterness, fear come out in that one scene, just a great movie. MASH is a Robert Altman classic that is very funny and unlike the TV show not a political movie.
Verdict - So far, and I don't think this will change, but Patton was the best movie of 1970.
Films I have seen - The French Connection (Best Picture), A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, The Last Picture Show, Nicholas and Alexandra
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - This is a very interesting year because the films nominated represent the past, present and the future of Oscar nominees. The French Connection is a tough gritty drama which is unlike other cop movies. It is clearly a movie of it's time but does look to the future of how many action and drama films will become, at least for the next seven to ten years. A Clockwork Orange is a psychedelic violent sci-fi film that is very representative for it's time, even though the story takes place in the future. This movie would not have been made in 1961 or 1981, it is clearly a 1971 film, and a good one at that. Fiddler on the Roof is a terrific film version of the play, but it was made ten years too late. This is what you would expect in the late 50's or early 60's, not at this time. The Last Picture Show was made about 25 years too early, it is a great simple independent film that was years ahead of it's time. Films over the past 15 years have been made in this style. Nicholas and Alexandra is a grand epic that just like Fiddler on the Roof was made at least ten years too late.
Verdict - All five films are great films but The French Connection is so unique and so well done that it worked hard and truly earned it's Oscar for best picture. The Last Picture Show comes in a close second, a closer third is A Clockwork Orange, even closer fourth is Fiddler on the Roof and so close is Nicholas and Alexandra in fifth.
Films I have seen - The Godfather (Best Picture), Cabaret, Deliverance, Sounder
Films I have not seen - The Emigrants
Analysis - The Godfather is one of the finest movies ever made. If you don't believe me then you've never seen this movie. Cabaret is a drama that is a musical, a different approach from twenty years early where it would be a musical that had some drama. Won many awards and stylish is a good looking film. Deliverance still scares me about going into the back woods in the south. Fine acting cast even with Ronnie Cox being dead for half the film. Sounder is a depressing drama about sharecroppers in the south back in the 30's, but a well done drama nevertheless.
Verdict - Nothing, with maybe the exception of Citizen Kane, would ever beat The Godfather.
Films I have seen - The Sting (Best Picture), American Graffiti, The Exorcist
Films I have not seen - Cries and Whispers, A Touch of Class
Analysis - Another year that proves the 1970's were not like any other decade. The Sting is a good dramatic comedy about an elaborate con. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are great. American Graffiti is a simple George Lucas film that tells a good story. The Exorcist is one of the scariest horror films of all times and one of the only times a horror movie got nominated.
Verdict - Of what I have seen The Sting was the most professional and overall best film. That and I don't see how The Exorcist could have ever won.
Films I have seen - The Godfather Part II (Best Picture), Chinatown, Lenny, The Towering Inferno
Films I have not seen - The Conversation
Analysis - How do you improve on perfection? The Godfather Part II I believe is even better than the original and the reason is that it runs two parallel story time lines. The film covers the modern day story but also weaves in the rise of Don Carleone from him arriving in America to becoming the godfather. Chinatown is another gritty drama in the style of film noir but done as a modern toughness. Even though it is a Roman Polanski film, who should still be in jail, it is a great film. Lenny is a great bio-pic of Lenny Bruce and one of Dustin Hoffman's best performances. The Towering Inferno is a epic disaster film that was popular during the 70's. It is a bit cheesy and very out of date after 9/11, but still an entertaining film.
Verdict - Again there is practically nothing that is better than The Godfather Part II.
Films I have seen - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (Best Picture), Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, Nashville
Films I have not seen - Barry Lyndon
Analysis - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest was the second of three movies to sweep the major Oscar categories, the first since 1934. Enough said. Dog Day Afternoon is a intense great drama about a bank robbery. Jaws is the start of the blockbuster epic era, but still a terrifying movie that kept my parents from us going to the beach that summer. Not that I would complain about that. Nashville is another great Robert Altman film that combines the stories of many different characters into one film as they interact with one another during the Grand Ole Opry.
Verdict - All great movies, but One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest was just better than the rest.
Films I have seen - Rocky (Best Picture), All the President's Men, Network, Taxi Driver
Films I have not seen - Bound for Glory
Analysis - This is one of the few years where you say, what was the academy thinking? Rocky is an inspiring boxing movie. It is not the best boxing movie ever made, it is not the worst. It's a good movie, but not a great movie. All the President's Men as well is a good movie but not great. Although Jason Robards is great and won a best supporting Oscar. Network is one of the finest movies ever made and is still relevant today. To a certain extent it predicted the future and who knows there may be more to come. Taxi Driver is a classic, one of Scorsese's finest. There are so many great scenes, lines and such great acting.
Verdict - Network was the best picture and it was robbed, plain and simple. You could even make the same argument for Taxi Driver. This is no different than 1941, the best picture didn't win, the most popular one won.
Films I have seen - Annie Hall (Best Picture), The Goodbye Girl, Julia, Star Wars, The Turning Point
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - Annie Hall is a great Woody Allen comedy, not his funniest, that would be Take The Money and Run. The Goodbye Girl is a so-so movie, feels like the late 70's when you watch it. I did see it in the theater when I was a kid, one of the first movies I remember seeing. Julia is a well done, powerful drama with Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave and Jason Robards who won the best supporting Oscar again. Star Wars was the greatest movie when I was a kid. I ate, slept, and breathed Star Wars. I had the trading cards (until my brother ate them a few years later), action figures, magazines, anything that had Star Wars on it I wanted. The Turning Point is a great movie if you love ballet and that's all it basically is.
Verdict - When I heard that Star Wars lost I was devastated. In the mind of a seven year old how could anything beat out Star Wars? As an adult and after watching these films I now understand why it lost, but the heartbreak remains. Annie Hall is the best of the bunch and I think a complement to what Woody Allen had done up to that point, in a way a early lifetime achievement award. Julia is the second best film. Star Wars is third because it meant so much and it is a great sci-fi film. The Goodbye Girl comes in fourth and The Turning Point last.
Films I have seen - The Deer Hunter (Best Picture), Heaven Can Wait, Midnight Express, An Unmarried Woman
Films I have not seen - Coming Home
Analysis - The Deer Hunter is one of the best Vietnam war films ever made and a great intense powerful film. The longest wedding scene in probably any film ever made. Heaven Can Wait is a remake of the age old story except this time is has Warren Beatty, how could it ever fail? Midnight Express will remind you not to smuggle drugs out of Turkey and never visit their prison system. An Unmarried Woman is a boring mindless film about a divorcee trying to find herself a new life in late 1970's New York City.
Verdict - This was a weak year from what I have seen so far with the exception of The Deer Hunter so it obviously deserved to win. A participation prize to Midnight Express for still being a great watchable film even today.
Films I have seen - Kramer vs. Kramer (Best Picture), All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, Norma Rae
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - The decade finished as strong as it started. Kramer vs. Kramer for it's time was a powerful movie that made people look at divorce and child custody in a different light. All That Jazz is a musical but not like a 1950's musical, so it's somewhat watchable. Apocalypse Now is as good as The Deer Hunter, a great film that only gets better over time. Breaking Away is just a great movie. Norma Rae had great acting by Sally Field who was becoming a great actress at this time and earned her first best actress Oscar.
Verdict - While Kramer vs. Kramer is a good film, it is rather dated today. I think Apocalypse Now should have won but it is rare for two war films to win back to back best pictures. Apocalypse Now was the best, then Kramer vs. Kramer, Breaking Away, Norma Rae and All That Jazz.