Best Picture and Director 1974

1927/28 through 1997

Please select one Best Picture and one Best Director

Chinatown
14
23%
The Conversation
3
5%
The Godfather Part II
11
18%
Lenny
1
2%
The Towering Inferno
1
2%
John Cassavetes - A Woman Under the Influence
3
5%
Francis Ford Coppola - The Godfather Part II
11
18%
Bob Fosse - Lenny
0
No votes
Roman Polanski - Chinatown
10
17%
Francois Truffaut - Day for Night
6
10%
 
Total votes: 60

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:40 am

Interestingly, I re-watched both The Towering Inferno and Lenny in preparation for this week's vote on cinematography.

This may have been the first time since 9/11 that I could bring myself to watch The Towering Inferno, but it's still a tough movie to sit through having had to lead a group down from the fourteenth (really the thirteenth) floor of a much smaller high-rise in what was thankfully an after-hours fire in an office building a year or two after the film was released. It didn't help that after seeing it the other night, the news broke about another high-rise apartment building in Hawaii. The film still holds up, though how it won the cinematography Oscar over Chinatown and the non-nominated Godfather II remains a mystery. More of that on Wednesday.

I watched Lenny on the Twilight Time Blu-ray with the commentary track from Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo on, which was very enlightening.

After winning the Tony for Pippin, the Oscar for Cabaret and the Emmy for Liza with a Z in that order in the same year, Fosse could have made any film he wanted to. He chose Lenny because Lenny Bruce's early life paralleled his own. Fosse was only 12 when his parents put him to work in seedy nightclubs like the ones Lenny Bruce worked in before hitting the big time. He hated the showgirls who constantly groped him. He hated the audiences. He reportedly had writer Julian Barry rewrite his play to make Bruce's early life more like his own. He clashed with Dustin Hoffman who didn't like most of the routines he was given to perform in the early scenes. He also reportedly verbally abused Valarie Perrine to force that performance out of her. If his next film five years later, All That Jazz, was thinly disguised autobiography, this was a more heavily disguised one. All of this made me wonder if Robert Surtees, who was his d.p. on Sweet Charity was really too busy to film Lenny or if he just didn't want to work with Fosse again, and whether that was the case or not, why he recommended his son, Bruce, who was already making a name for himself as Clint Eastwood's preferred d.p., to take his place.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Greg » Tue May 14, 2013 1:10 pm

And Mario Puzo was a cowriter for Earthquake.
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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Eric » Tue May 14, 2013 1:05 pm

And then gives her a fluffy white lapdog he found in a collapsed building. Definitely my favorite in the disaster movie cycle.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Mister Tee » Tue May 14, 2013 1:02 pm

Eric wrote:I'm cool with this as a best editing nominee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHXxHje_Ezc

I'd forgotten how hilarious that film was.

Favorite moment: Marjoe has just tried to rape Victoria Principal; George Kennedy stops it and, to comfort her, says "Earthquakes just bring out the worst in some people"

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Eric » Tue May 14, 2013 12:48 pm

I'm cool with this as a best editing nominee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHXxHje_Ezc

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby OscarGuy » Tue May 14, 2013 12:33 pm

The Longest Yard and Earthquake aren't surprising as they are heavily edited films, the former a sports film and the latter a disaster pic. Blazing Saddles is the odd one, though. Perhaps the Academy was more friendly to comedies back then than they are now.
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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Sabin » Tue May 14, 2013 12:23 pm

I noticed that The Godfather: Part II is one of the rare movies to win Best Picture without a corresponding Film Editing nomination. Obviously, Oscar prognostication hadn't taken shape yet, so it's really not possible to guess if that helped or hurt the film. Then I looked at the roster for Best Film Editing and the films that beat out The Conversation, The Godfather: Part II, and Lenny were Blazing Saddles, Earthquake, and The Longest Yard.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Big Magilla » Tue May 14, 2013 9:15 am

That would be my guess.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Reza » Tue May 14, 2013 5:31 am

Big Magilla wrote:Damien speaks: You are correct: Inside Oscar page 115: Rule changes for 1939 awards: One less chance: No more than one nomination per person in Best Director category.


Wonder if this rule change came about after some sort of protest following the Curtiz double nod the previous year?

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Big Magilla » Tue May 14, 2013 3:58 am

Mister Tee wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:I don't think there's ever been a rule that said directors couldn't be nominated for more than one film at a time even though it's only happened twice - Curtiz in 1938; Soderbergh in 2000. The award is technically for Best Direction, not Best Director or we could presumably have splits between co-directors.

I wish Damien were around to consult on this; maybe Mike Kelly has some memory on it. I'm fully aware of the Curtiz and Soderbergh situations, but my memory is pretty clear that for many of the years in between there was a rule preventing directors from getting multiple nominations. I tried Googling for this, but couldn't find any info one way or another. My best evidence is this: I went looking through old notebooks, and found that I had The Conversation down as a best picture alternate (though I predicted Day for Night to beat it out for the fifth slot), but, despite the film's DGA nod, I had it nowhere on the directing list. So I, at least, was under the impression at that point that Coppola could only be nominated once. (Same with Herb Ross three years on, not that he deserved it for either film).


Damien speaks: You are correct: Inside Oscar page 115: Rule changes for 1939 awards: One less chance: No more than one nomination per person in Best Director category.

I presume there is a later rule change permitting the practice, possibly in Inside Oscar 2, but I don't have the time right now to look it up.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Heksagon » Tue May 14, 2013 12:31 am

Even with the regrettable inclusion of The Towering Inferno, this is one of the best line-ups ever. Chinatown, The Conversation and The Godfather Part II are all masterpieces and among the best and best-remembered films of the period, and Lenny is also a very good film which has aged well; although it perhaps isn't remembered as well as it would deserve to be.

My votes go to The Godfather, Part II.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Mister Tee » Mon May 13, 2013 10:20 pm

Big Magilla wrote:I don't think there's ever been a rule that said directors couldn't be nominated for more than one film at a time even though it's only happened twice - Curtiz in 1938; Soderbergh in 2000. The award is technically for Best Direction, not Best Director or we could presumably have splits between co-directors.

I wish Damien were around to consult on this; maybe Mike Kelly has some memory on it. I'm fully aware of the Curtiz and Soderbergh situations, but my memory is pretty clear that for many of the years in between there was a rule preventing directors from getting multiple nominations. I tried Googling for this, but couldn't find any info one way or another. My best evidence is this: I went looking through old notebooks, and found that I had The Conversation down as a best picture alternate (though I predicted Day for Night to beat it out for the fifth slot), but, despite the film's DGA nod, I had it nowhere on the directing list. So I, at least, was under the impression at that point that Coppola could only be nominated once. (Same with Herb Ross three years on, not that he deserved it for either film)

I remember, as they were opening the envelope for best sound in 1974, thinking "It'd be great if it were The Conversation...Chinatown would be fine...but watch them give it to Earthquake". Earthquake, by the way, was more than just a loud movie. It was shown in theatres with this cheesy gimmick called Sensurround -- every time a tremor started in the movie, they cranked up a machine that made the theatre seem like it was rumbling. That was just the sort of crud the Academy fell for back then.

BJ, to your thought that the night quickly went south for Chinatown: I came into the evening thinking it was possible Coppola's DGA win was foretelling the rare film/director split -- that he'd win in acknowledgement of his double-film nomination, but Chinatown might win best picture. I began to waver on this when Godfather beat it out for score and, especially, art direction. But the key moment was when Towering Inferno disgracefully beat Chinatown for cinematography (and, almost immediately after, editing). At that point, I began to wonder if Chinatown would even win screenplay (of course it did hold on, but that was all, as Art Carney upset NIcholson).

I take the same view as you: I can't exactly be angry that a film as good as Godfather II won. It was a huge upgrade from The Sting. But it was still a fairly crushing night for a movie I truly loved.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby The Original BJ » Mon May 13, 2013 6:39 pm

A glorious year, and one of the best lineups the Academy ever produced.

Of what might-have-been, Day for Night certainly deserved a bump up into Best Picture. Scenes from a Marriage, had it been eligible, would have been worthy. And Badlands is a great movie, though in such a competitive year, I'm not sure I'd have had room for it in either category. And there were plenty of exciting movies that scored down-ballot nominations as well, many of which have been mentioned.

The one bummer nominee is definitely The Towering Inferno, which I didn't even find entertaining in a trashy way. I think part of that has to do with when I saw it, sometime in the late aughts. For by that point, it wasn't only a dumb, star-laden disaster epic, but it was a DATED, dumb, star-laden disaster epic. It may be the best of the disaster films of this era, but thankfully it was also the last movie of this kind (i.e. junk through and through) to get a Best Picture nomination for a long while. There would still be lousy nominees in the decades ahead, but rarely were they as obviously crappy as the groaner nominees we got in the 50's-70's.

I have to confess that I don't really much get John Cassavetes. He received a lot of praise in some circles for creating a type of movie that was essentially the antithesis of Hollywood cinema. And, obviously, something like A Woman Under the Influence is far superior to popular dreck like Inferno. But I can't say I find what Cassavetes generally came up with to be an IMPROVEMENT on the mainstream conventions he jettisoned, especially when compared to the mainstream efforts of this era. Which is to say, there are many pleasures to be had in a good narrative, and I don't find the endless scenes of improvised mundanity in his films to be an especially exciting substitute for an engaging plot. But it isn't just that -- many directors who seem less interested in plot have a fondness for truly dazzling visuals, and have created films I find very memorable because the style/images buoy them along. But we don't get that here either -- no, the fact that there are boom mikes in the shots doesn't draw self-conscious attention to the artificiality of the medium in an exciting way for me, it just looks cheap. All that said, I do think the Gena Rowlands performance here is very impressive, and Cassavetes was an important enough figure in film history that it's hard to get too worked up about the one Best Director nomination for his career. But he wouldn't have been on my ballot.

Lenny isn't a movie that gets talked about all that much these days, so I was surprised when I saw it just how impressive I found it to be. Once again, Bob Fosse shows himself to be a very skilled visual stylist -- those smoky, black-and-white images are really striking -- and the frenzied pace of the movie makes it a real energizing thrill to watch. And at its center, Dustin Hoffman gives a performance that is hilarious enough that you completely understand how counterculture America would have totally embraced Lenny Bruce, but at the same time, he's off-putting enough that, even beyond the content of his humor, it's clear why conservatives would have just been appalled by this guy. And Valerie Perrine gives one of the best performances of an oft-nominated type -- the long-suffering spouse. It's not quite at the level of Fosse's great musicals -- that was a genre that he genuinely revolutionized -- but it's another strong entry in the director's short-but-very-sweet film career.

Yes, The Conversation does borrow from Blow-Up, but I found it to be an exceedingly well-crafted thriller in its own right, both full of gripping suspense but also deep sadness. It's also that rare movie where the sound track is truly as important as its images, and the layered, deeply unsettling sound recordings that fill the film are a master class in using sound design for all sorts of effects -- to create mood, to reveal narrative details, to complement/contrast images. (Of course, the movie lost the Sound Oscar, naturally, to a loud-fest.) It's definitely a more minor film than Coppola's other effort this year, but it's fairly perfect in its own smaller way, and, whether eligible or not, I think Coppola would have merited a second Best Director bid for a film that is very different from Godfather II.

Day for Night is a joy of a movie, one of the best films ever about filmmaking not only because it so fascinatingly explores the lives of those who choose to make movies, but because its style is so excitingly woven into its storytelling. Few directors have ever captured the joy of moviemaking as Francois Truffaut does in those montages, so visually dazzling, full of energy and humor. Truffaut has gotten a decent number of votes here, and I'd be tempted to choose him just because it's the only option in this game to do so. But Day for Night doesn't quite put my heart in my throat the way Jules and Jim does, and at the end of the day I have to choose between the two behemoths of this year.

And that's no easy choice -- I basically think Chinatown and The Godfather Part II deserve to tie. The second Godfather, of course, has become the gold standard for sequels, at least meeting (if not surpassing) the tremendous achievement of the first film. I don't think the first Godfather exactly romanticizes Michael Corleone's journey, but there may be something about that closing-the-door-in-Kay's-face finale that ends on a moment of triumph for him. The second Godfather all but knocks that triumph down, showing the extent to which his life of crime has drastically spiraled downward, ruining so many of the good things in his life, until we end on a final shot that's full of great sadness. That the film parallels Michael's descent with Vito's exciting rise provides for moments of great contrast, adding further poignancy to this multi-generational saga, and suggesting that Michael's fate is almost part of his familial destiny. As in the last Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola tackles a massive story with great detail, visual splendor, and hugely engrossing narrative drive. The victory for this film is one of the best in Oscar history.

But I cast my votes in both categories for Chinatown. It's a pretty close to perfect movie, with a dazzling script (in both structure and dialogue), cinematography that feels like both an old-fashioned noir-ish throwback and a bracingly modern explosion of color, richly detailed sets and costumes, that grandly romantic score, an iconic gumshoe turn by Nicholson, a fierce femme fatale crafted by Dunaway, a delectable villain embodied by Huston, and so on, and so on. It is, in many ways, THE great movie about Los Angeles -- about its history, about the genre that so often found its home there, even self-reflexively about the ultimate L.A. industry (filmmaking). And, as this is Roman Polanski's finest hour as a filmmaker, I have to cite him here as well. Every shot feels so carefully composed, not simply for its own sake, but as a small piece of a puzzle that becomes a hugely affecting (both narratively and emotionally) whole. I don't think his other two nominations even touch his achievement here.

I'm not severely disappointed Chinatown lost or anything -- as I said, Godfather II is an equally great movie -- though it would have been nice for Chinatown to have at least picked up some additional trophies (especially Cinematography & Score) to go along with its writing prize. I bet it probably became clear pretty early on in the evening that Chinatown wasn't going to be snagging the top prizes, which is unfortunate, because this could have had the makings of a real exciting Cabaret/Godfather nail-biter.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Eric » Mon May 13, 2013 7:48 am

01. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
02. Female Trouble
03. The Parallax View
04. Dead of Night
05. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
06. A Woman Under the Influence
07. Parade
08. Chinatown
09. It's Alive
10. Edvard Munch

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1974

Postby Big Magilla » Mon May 13, 2013 6:44 am

I don't think there's ever been a rule that said directors couldn't be nominated for more than one film at a time even though it's only happened twice - Curtiz in 1938; Soderbergh in 2000. The award is technically for Best Direction, not Best Director or we could presumably have splits between co-directors.


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