– New York City blackout
– Jimmy Carter elected president
– Roman Polanski arrested
– World Trade Center completed
– Elvis Presley dies
Winner: Annie Hall
– The Goodbye Girl
– Star Wars
– The Turning Point
Annie Hall **** out of ****
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Wins (4): Picture, Director, Actress (Keaton), Original SP
Nominations (5): Actor (Allen)
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Annie Hall is often labeled as the best romantic comedy of all time and anything that brings such great balance to comedy and romance deserves to be mentioned with the best. It’s one of Woody Allen’s best and probably his most approachable film. Annie Hall is really the story of the life of a relationship as told through the main character Alvy, a neurotic and pessimistic individual, played by Woody Allen, himself and Annie, a lovely and impressionable young woman played by Diane Keaton. What makes Annie Hall so great is the way that this story is told. Alvy narrates, in retrospect, the meeting of himself and Annie and the blossoming and flourishing of this relationship and, eventually it’s end; due in large part to the Alvy’s own personal issues. The narration is intermittent and packed with quippy anecdotes and humorous interjections. Alvy even slips in a few autobiographical comedic elements in there to give us insight on how he became so nutty. Alvy might be over-the-top neurotic, but we all can feel his pain and understand his point of view because we too are human and experience these thoughts and feelings. This film surely hits close to home for all of the Seinfield fans out there because without Annie Hall there would be no Seinfield.
The Goodbye Girl * out of ****
Director: Herbert Ross
Starring: Richard Dreyfus, Marsha Mason, Quinn Cummings
Wins (1): Actor (Dreyfus)
Nominations (5): Picture, Actress (Mason), S Actress (Cummings), Original SP
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
This is the very poorly written and executed story of a single mother whose live-in boyfriend and movie director has up and left to make a movie, but with no intentions of taking the mother and daughter with him. The mother is absolutely pitiful and throughout the film it is the very young daughter who provides the moral and sometimes physical support. Richard Dreyfus plays the guy who paid for a sublet to the ex-boyfriend while the mother and daughter were still in the apartment and this provides the movie with the initial misunderstanding that turns into a clash and then, subsequently and predictably, into true love. There is dislike and tension between the mother and strange new man, something a young girl should never have to be witness to. The Goodbye Girl is full of embarrassingly unfunny moments and comedic misses. I realize that The Goodbye Girl was made at the same time as Annie Hall, but I can’t help but think that The Goodbye Girl, and other films around this time, were going for that Woody Allen style comedy; a comedy of one-liners and humorous reactionary anecdotes and comments. In the case of The Goodbye Girl, the young daughter provides many of these not funny one-liners and it’s annoying. Dreyfus and the mother also walk and talk like they’re stand-up comedians with a constant audience and solid-gold material. They don’t, though. It’s really not funny. The mother talks to her young daughter of her sex life and her relationships like Carrie and Samantha would over cosmopolitans. But this is a mother and daughter and the daughter is maybe 10 years old. Where are the boundaries? Is the wide gap between the ages of the mother and daughter supposed to make this over-communication funny? Is this realistic? Judging from this film and others in the late 70’s, relying on this unconventional take on family values and openness as hip or modern looks to be trending. We’ll see it more as the 70’s progress.
Julia **1/2 out of ****
Director: Fred Zinneman
Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda
Wins (3): S Actor (Robards), S Actress (Redgrave), Adapted SP
Nominations (11): Picture, Director, Actress (Fonda), S Actor (Schell), Original Score, Costume Design, Cinematography, Film Editing
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
It is not difficult to come up with reasons why this film was nominated for Best Picture. However, one of those reasons is not because it’s a great film. It is definitely not a great film. It’s Oscar bait. It has many of the things it takes to get the Best Picture nomination. It takes place during World War II where Lillian (Jane Fonda) sneaks a bunch of cash over the Russian border to Germany to deliver to her childhood friend, Julia (Vanessa Redgrave), where Julia will then buy the freedom of as many Jews as she can afford. Usually, a World War II/Holocaust/Nazi Germany/Spy film is right up my alley, but this one didn’t really grab me. It has a really stellar cast, but I’m afraid that Fred Zinneman doesn’t really develop any of these characters enough, especially Lillian and Julia. We see their history in the form of flashbacks throughout the film. They continue to be friends through college and correspond with each other by writing letters. At times it feels like the film is trying to tell us that their relationship borders on that of a romantic one, but never really addresses it. I said earlier that there were other reasons why this film was nominated. One could be the fact that it was directed by Fred Zinneman, director of other Best Picture nominees, like High Noon, From Here to Eternity and A Man for All Seasons. He was a legend even if one of those Best Picture nominees was the unwatchable The Sundowners. He would have been 70 here. Another is Vanessa Redgrave. Today, almost anything with her in it will get nominated. Surely, this wasn’t the case so early in her career, but one can definitely begin to see the Academy at least beginning to fall in love with her. Add to that Jane Fonda, a popular leading lady in the late 70’s and you’ve got a formula for Best Picture.
Star Wars ****out of ****
Director: George Lucas
Starring: Alec Guinness, Harrison Ford
Wins (6): Original Score, Costume Design, Sound Mixing, Art Direction, Film Editing, Visual Effects, Sound Editing (Special Award)
Nominations (10): Picture, Director, S Actor (Guinness), Original SP
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Star Wars is one of if not the most successful films in history. What with all the toys and DVD’s and conventions and books brought on by its success, one’s opinion can be clouded. But I wanted to go back and view this film by itself and see how it stands alone as a member of the group of Best Picture nominees. Removing all evidence of a future franchise and a future of exploiting that franchise and the inconsistencies and contradictories brought on by the additional films and books and cartoons of the franchise, I am convinced that this is truly a great film. It really is a lot of fun being sucked into this whole other galaxy that existed a long time ago. This seemingly vast and powerful empire viciously taking control while the story of what a few individuals can do in just a few days to save the galaxy from this evil empire is really a lot of fun to watch. Of course, the special effects are fantastic for that time, but for me it’s the story that really sucks me in. The cast is perfect and, though George Lucas isn’t the best at directed actors in front of a green screen, none of that really stands out too bad here. The actors mesh with each other and their growing relationships during this short, yet trying time help make this fascinating story even better. Star Wars is an enjoyable experience and completely earns the nomination.
The Turning Point **1/2 out of ****
Director: Herbert Ross
Starring: Anne Bancroft, Shirley MacLaine, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leslie Browne
Nominations (11): Picture, Director, Actress (Bancroft), Actress (MacLaine), S Actor (Baryshnikov), S Actress (Browne), Original SP, Sound Mixing, Art Direction, Cinematography, Film Editing
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
The Turning Point is the story of two women Emma, (Anne Bancroft) and Deedee (Shirley MacLaine), who grew up together as ballet phenoms, but took two completely different paths. Deedee got pregnant and married and devoted her time to that. Emma continued on her path to ballet excellence and became a world renowned dancer. Deedee’s daughter has grown to become a very talented dancer just like her mother and when Emma comes to town convinces Deedee to let Emma go to New York to train with the best. The Turning point is really about Emma and Deedee’s relationship. As they reunite, Emma’s jealousy or envy or regret or whatever it is that she’s been dealing with all of those years since she got pregnant and gave up dancing comes flooding to the surface and Emma and Deedee address these issues. Along with that, Deedee’s daughter, Emilia (Leslie Browne), becomes very close with Emma; perhaps even closer to her than her own mother. This coupled with Emma’s success and freedom culminates into the jealousy that boils inside Deedee. However, Emma reveals that she, too, was jealous of Deedee’s family life and love. The Turning Point, like Julia, isn’t a bad movie, but it just doesn’t resonate with me. Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine sharing so many scenes is wonderful and the best thing about the film. Leslie Browne getting a supporting actress nomination is a major stretch since she was one of the weaker things about the film.
Should Have Won: Annie Hall
Aside from being a pretty bland year, 1977 is really about relationships. Annie Hall is a sort of diagram of the birth, life and death of a romantic relationship. Julia is about the good a relationship can do even after many years of being apart. The Goodbye Girl is an attempted comedy at the relationship of a woman and a fellow tenant, but is really about a pitiful woman, the damage her last relationship did, and the unfortunate and boundary-less relationship she was with her daughter. Star Wars is about the relationship between a group of people who have just met and their attempt to save the galaxy. The Turning Point is complex relationship between two dancers and the facing of jealousy on the part of both women. Annie Hall is a wonderful film and was the rightful Best Picture winner. It is, to this day arguably, Woody Allen’s best film, though Hannah and Her Sisters is my personal favorite. But something that we will see much more of as the decade comes to a close is the lack of boundaries between individuals who very much require them. The Goodbye Girl is the main film I speak of in this regard. It’s unrealistic to assume that a mother would share such information and confidence with her daughter of such a young age. Julia was an okay movie, but one, though equipped with the very weapons it takes to sell me on a film, couldn’t pull me in. It’s an interesting story with a wonderful cast, but bland. Star Wars very much deserves the nomination and it was good to see that it holds as a stand-alone film by itself and without the pull and drag of the madness that resulted in its initial success. The Turning Point is good because of Bancroft and MacLaine, two really great actresses at the time. I’m sure The Turning Point has its own cult following among the ballet dancer crowd and it’s also interesting comparing this film to the 2010 Black Swan.