Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in Chinatown - the best film of 1974, or almost any year

My Top 20:

  1. Chinatown
  2. The Godfather Part II
  3. Day for Night
  4. The Conversation
  5. Scenes from a Marriage
  6. Badlands
  7. Young Frankenstein
  8. Blazing Saddles
  9. Don’t Look Now
  10. The Parallax View
  11. Lenny
  12. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
  13. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
  14. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
  15. Murder on the Orient Express
  16. The Phantom of Liberty
  17. Sanshiro Sugata
  18. Thieves Like Us
  19. The Front Page
  20. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Godfather Part II
  • Best Director:  Francis Ford Coppola  (The Godfather Part II)
  • Best Actor:  Art Carney  (Harry and Tonto)
  • Best Actress:  Ellen Burstyn  (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Robert De Niro  (The Godfather Part II)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Ingrid Bergman  (Murder on the Orient Express)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Godfather Part II
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Chinatown
  • Best Foreign Film:  Amarcord

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Day for Night
  • Best Director:  Francis Ford Coppola  (The Godfather Part II)
  • Best Actor:  Jack Nicholson  (Chinatown)
  • Best Actress:  Valerie Perrine  (Lenny)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Fred Astaire  (The Towering Inferno)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Valentina Cortese  (Day for Night)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Godfather Part II
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Chinatown
  • Best Foreign Film:  Amarcord

Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974)

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. The Godfather Part II –  #20
  2. Chinatown –  #36
  3. Don’t Look Now –  #136
  4. A Woman Under the Influence –  #156
  5. Badlands –  #166
  6. The Conversation –  #177
  7. Celine and Julie Go Boating –  #181
  8. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul –  #186
  9. Day for Night –  #274
  10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre –  #301

Top 5 Films  (Consensus 1974 Best Picture Awards):

  1. Day for Night
  2. Chinatown
  3. The Conversation
  4. The Godfather Part II
  5. Lacombe Lucien  /  Murder on the Orient Express

Top 10 Films  (1974 Awards Points):

  1. Chinatown –  1430
  2. The Godfather Part II –  1080
  3. Day for Night –  920
  4. The Conversation –  741
  5. Murder on the Orient Express –  626
  6. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore –  613
  7. The Towering Inferno –  591
  8. Lenny –  577
  9. Scenes from a Marriage –  524
  10. A Woman Under the Influence –  336

Awards Note:  Scenes from a Marriage sets a record in points for a film with no Oscar nominations.  The record still stands.

Top 5 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. Blazing Saddles –  $119.50 mil
  2. The Towering Inferno –  $116.00 mil
  3. The Trial of Billy Jack –  $89.00 mil
  4. Young Frankenstein –  $86.30 mil
  5. Earthquake –  $79.70 mil

AFI Top 100:

  • Chinatown –  #19  (1998)  /  #21  (2007)
  • The Godfather Part II –  #32  (1998)  /  #32  (2007)

Ebert Great Films:

  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
  • Day for Night
  • A Woman Under the Influence
  • Chinatown
  • The Conversation
  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
  • Don’t Look Now
  • The Godfather Part II

At the podium, Ingrid Bergman apologized to Valentina Cortese for winning the Oscar that Bergman felt Cortese deserved for Day for Night

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture:  Chinatown
  • Best Director:  Roman Polanski  (Chinatown)
  • Best Actor:  Jack Nicholson  (Chinatown)
  • Best Actress:  Faye Dunaway  (Chinatown)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Robert De Niro  (The Godfather Part II)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Valentina Cortese  (Day for Night)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Godfather Part II
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Chinatown

Comedy:

  • Best Picture:  Young Frankenstein
  • Best Director:  Mel Brooks  (Young Frankenstein)
  • Best Actor:  Gene Wilder  (Young Frankenstein)
  • Best Actress:  Diahann Carroll  (Claudine)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Gene Wilder  (Blazing Saddles)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Madeline Khan  (Blazing Saddles)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Young Frankenstein
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Blazing Saddles

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Chinatown
  • Best Director:  Roman Polanski  (Chinatown)
  • Best Actor:  Jack Nicholson  (Chinatown)
  • Best Actress:  Faye Dunaway  (Chinatown)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Robert De Niro  (The Godfather Part II)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Valentina Cortese  (Day for Night)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Godfather Part II
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Chinatown
  • Best Editing:  Chinatown
  • Best Cinematography:  Chinatown
  • Best Original Score:  Chinatown
  • Best Sound:  Chinatown
  • Best Art Direction:  Chinatown
  • Best Visual Effects:  The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
  • Best Sound Editing:  The Conversation
  • Best Costume Design:  Chinatown
  • Best Makeup:  Young Frankenstein
  • Best Original Song:  “Blazing Saddles”  (Blazing Saddles)
  • Best Foreign Film:  Amarcord

I could have done a picture from the best scene, but this is a family blog - Julie Christie in Don't Look Now

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Blazing Saddles
  • Best Line  (Comedic):  “Now you men will only be risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost certain Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.”  (Harvey Korman in Blazing Saddles)
  • Best Line  (Dramatic):  “Forget it Jake.  It’s Chinatown.”  (Joe Mantell in Chinatown)
  • Best Opening:  The Conversation
  • Best Ending:  Chinatown
  • Best Scene:  the disturbing sex / dressing scene in Don’t Look Now
  • Best Ensemble:  The Godfather Part II
  • Sexiest Performance:  Julie Christie in Don’t Look Now
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Terri Garr in The Conversation
  • Coolest Performance:  Martin Sheen in Badlands
  • Read the Book, SKIP the Film:  Blood for Dracula  /  Flesh for Frankenstein  /  The Great Gatsby
  • Funniest Film:  Blazing Saddles
  • Worst Film:  Female Trouble

Film History: Aspiring film critic, literary critic, Oscar obsessive and general know-it-all Erik Beck is born in Albany, NY on 24 October.  The Telluride Film Festival begins but is interrupted by protests against an award to Leni Reifenstahl.  Hearts and Minds, a searing documentary about Vietnam, opens.  Warner Bros. and 20th Century-Fox team up to produce The Towering Inferno.  The Supreme Court rules that Carnal Knowledge is not obscene.  The Biograph theater in Chicago closes almost 40 years to the day after John Dillinger was killed outside of it.  Earthquake, the first Sensurround film, is released.  Samuel Goldwyn dies in January, a few months before a fire destroys part of the Samuel Goldwyn studios.  The Conversation wins the Grand Prix at Cannes.

Academy Awards: The Godfather Part II becomes the first sequel to win Best Picture.  It is the first film to win the Oscar without winning a critics award, the Globe or the BAFTA since 1943.  It also becomes the first Best Picture since 1961 to win a Supporting Acting Oscar, but the first BP since 1966 not to get nominated for Best Editing and only the third BP since 1937 to not get either an Editing or Cinematography nomination.  Best Director, Picture and Screenplay winner Francis Ford Coppola is the son of Best Score winner Carmine Coppola and the brother of Best Supporting Actress nominee Talia Shire.  Coppola is the first director to have two Best Picture nominees in the same year since Sam Wood in 1942.  After consecutive years of nominating a Foreign Film for Best Picture, the Academy instead nominates Day for Night for Director and Screenplay but not Picture.  This will be the trend as no Foreign Film will be nominated for Best Picture again until 1995 while 7 films in that stretch will be nominated for Director and Screenplay, including the next two years (Amarcord and Seven Beauties).  Day for Night is nominated for 3 Oscars the year after it wins Best Foreign Film and Best Foreign Film Amarcord will be nominated for 2 Oscars the next year.  For the first time ever all the nominees in one category (Costume Design) are from films from the same studio (Paramount).  The Truce becomes the first ever Foreign Film nominee from Argentina and the first one from South America since 1962.

Continuing their recent trend, the nominees are a game of “One of These Things is Not Like the Others”, with four great films sitting on the same list with a tremendously successful film that is really pretty bad.  But what is worse than the nomination for Towering Inferno, is the technicality that keeps Scenes from a Marriage ineligible when it should have been nominated for Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor and Actress.  While the Oscars would stunningly not reward either Jack Nicholson for Chinatown or Valentina Cortese for Day for Night (both of whom had won several awards), they would be the only group to justly give an award to Robert De Niro for The Godfather Part II.  And, most embarrassingly, three fairly bad films, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno and The Great Gatsby, would all take home multiple Oscars and would all beat Chinatown in head to head competitions as it settled for just one award.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Editing for The Towering Inferno
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Picture for The Towering Inferno
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Actress for Liv Ullmann  (Scenes from a Marriage)
  • Worst Eligible Oscar Omission:  Best Editing for Don’t Look Now
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Gold
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Badlands
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Song
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Supporting Actress
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Screenplay Adapted From Other Material, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Foreign Film

Golden Globes: The Godfather Part II becomes the second film in a row and one of only five ever (Midnight Cowboy, The Sting, Crash and The Hurt Locker are the others) to fail to win a single Golden Globe but go on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, going 0 for 5.  Meanwhile, A Woman Under the Influence becomes the fourth film in three years to get nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay at the Globes but fail to earn a Picture nomination at the Oscars.  Chinatown, like The Exorcist, wins Picture, Director and Screenplay but only manages to win Screenplay at the Oscars (it also wins Actor, going 4 for 7 overall).  With 430 points, Chinatown ties Anne of the Thousand Days for third place all-time at the Globes, behind Love Story and The Godfather (no film since has earned as many points).  Joining the first three in the Picture, Director and Screenplay races is The Conversation.  The final Picture – Drama slot would go (amazingly) to Earthquake, more amazingly The Towering Inferno would take the fifth screenplay slot and Lenny would be the fifth director nomination while The Longest Yard would win Best Picture – Comedy.  For a second straight year, all of the Drama winners (Chinatown, Jack Nicholson, Gena Rowlands) would lose at the Oscars.

Awards: The National Board of Review would go for the other Coppola film, giving Picture, Director and Actor to The Conversation and not even putting The Godfather Part II in its Top 10.  But at least they would be relevant in the Oscar race, as The New York Film Critics would give Picture and Director to Fellini’s Amarcord, which wouldn’t be eligible for anything other than Best Foreign Film at the Oscars until 1975 and the National Society of Film Critics would give Picture, Actress, Supporting Actress and Screenplay to Scenes from a Marriage, which wouldn’t be eligible at all (the NYFC had given Scenes Actress and Screenplay as well).  Jack Nicholson would win Best Actor from the NSFC and NYFC, Valerie Perrine would take home Supporting Actress from NBR and NYFC and Holger Lowenadler would win Best Supporting Actor from NBR and NSFC for Lacombe Lucien.

The Godfather Part II would start taking home wins at the guilds, winning the DGA and the WGA.  Chinatown would take home Original Screenplay – Drama while earning a DGA nomination.  The winners in the two comedy categories at the WGA would be The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Blazing SaddlesThe Conversation and Lenny would both earn DGA and WGA noms while Murder on the Orient Express would earn the fifth DGA nom, but with no WGA nom (the second time in a row that Sidney Lumet would be DGA nominated but not manage to earn an Oscar nomination).  The Longest Yard would win the American Cinema Editors award, The Towering Inferno would lose the ACE, but won the Motion Picture Sound Editors along with Freebie and the Bean.

Chinatown would tie The Go-Between‘s record of 11 BAFTA nominations and would win Actor, Director and Screenplay, but would lose Best Picture to Lacombe, Lucien (its only win, having lost to Chinatown in Director and Screenplay).  Murder on the Orient Express would earn 10 nominations, but only win the two supporting acting awards and Best Score.  The Last Detail would win Actor and Screenplay (because Nicholson would win the award for both films and Robert Towne would win for writing both films) and also get a Picture nomination.  The Conversation would get nominated for Actor and Director, and win Editing and Sound, but fail to earn a Picture nomination.  Two Oscar nominees from 1973 would earn one nomination each: Best Supporting Actress for American Graffiti and Best Sound for The Exorcist.

Best Actress: Liv Ullmann would win both the New York and National Society awards, but wouldn’t even be eligible for the Oscars because Scenes for a Marriage had played on Swedish television the year before.  Valerie Perrine would win Best Supporting Actress from New York and the NBR for Lenny, but after the Globes decided she was a lead, so did the Oscars.  Gena Rowlands won the NBR for A Woman Under the Influence and then repeated her triumph at the Globes over Perrine, Ullmann, Faye Dunaway (Chinatown) and Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore).  With Ullmann ineligible, it would be Diahann Carroll (Claudine) who would get the fifth Oscar nomination.  But in doing so, Carroll would do something that no else between 1961 and 1996 would do – lose at the Globes in the Comedy category (to Raquel Welch for The Three Musketeers) and then get nominated at the Oscars while the Globe winner would fail to do so.  But at the Oscars, it would be Burstyn who would triumph, just as she would later at the BAFTA’s (over Ullmann, Perrine and Anne Bancroft for The Prisoner of Second Avenue), but that wouldn’t be until the following year.

one of the more unappreciated Beatty performances - The Parallax View (1974)

Under-appreciated Film of 1974:

The Parallax View (dir. Alan J. Pakula)

There is a brilliant shot early on in The Parallax View.  A young woman, played by Paula Prentiss, has been telling a friend of hers that the assassination that they both witnessed three years before was not what it seemed.  Most of the others who were there at the time are now dead and she fears that she is being targeted.  The next scene is her lying on a table in the morgue.  We see her lying there, cold, dead, alone.  Then the camera shifts slightly and we realize she is not alone.  The friend, played by Warren Beatty, is actually in the room with her.

The shot was directed by Alan J. Pakula, one of my Top 100 directors, who directed Klute, All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice and Presumed Innocent, but only earned 1 Oscar nomination for directing.  The shot is filmed by Gordon Willis, who, in spite of a career in the 70’s that included Klute, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, All the President’s Men, Interiors and Manhattan, would not earn an Oscar nomination until 1983 and has only finally been rewarded by the Academy with an honorary Oscar.  The star in the shot is Warren Beatty, who in spite of his brilliant performances in Bonnie and Clyde, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait, Reds, Bugsy and Bulworth earned his only Oscar for directing.  The talents of all three men are in top form in this stylish, smart, interesting thriller and the Academy failed to notice it at all.

The Parallax View shows that sometimes you can get great artistic results by taking real events and giving them the slightest nudge.  It is bookmarked perfectly around the events of two assassinations, uses the circumstances of the RFK assassination as a jumping off point and the madness that surrounded the JFK assassination and its aftermath to show how ridiculous, but true it all can be.

Beatty plays a reporter who is present when a Senator is assassinated in the Space Needle.  The assassin climbs on top and then falls off when pursued by agents, but we see another man who we suspect really did the shooting.  Wisely, Pakula doesn’t feel the need to have his star in every shot and we won’t really know until later that Beatty is even there at the time.  The next scene is the report from the commission on the assassination letting us know that there was no conspiracy involved.  It feels very much like the Warren Commission and is designed to feel that way – the film is already brilliantly taking fiction and making it feel like reality.

Beatty is not a conspiracy nut.  When a former girlfriend, who was also there, comes to him three years later with her suspicions that those involved are being killed, he explains all of the deaths with relative ease.  It was a crazy time, he says.  Those things happened.  But then he begins to believe in what is going on and before he knows it, is caught up in one hell of a thriller.  He is not a hero and Pakula makes no attempt to make him one.  He escapes death once through quick thinking and a second time through sheer dumb luck.  He continues to press on this because he is a reporter and this is what he does and he feels the world deserves to know.  But he gets caught up in things that are way beyond him and things do not go well.

This film is well-made, stylish, smart, well-paced, very well directed, very well written and well acted.  For its troubles, while Earthquake was earning a Best Picture – Drama nomination at the Golden Globes and The Towering Inferno was getting Oscar nominated, it managed to win one award for its cinematography and get nominated at the Writer’s Guild (in an era where there more categories).  You can watch it today streaming on Netflix, but it is unavailable on DVD.  It deserves to be remembered.

End-Note:

My mother is obsessed with coincidences.  I don’t pay them much mind.  But there have been some rather interesting ones in the course of writing all these film pieces.  The day I wrote my piece on Roman Polanski, the woman who murdered his wife and unborn child died.  When I wrote my review of The Diary of Anne Frank, the single hardest thing I have ever written, her tree was dying.  Now, I find myself with this review.  I wrote the preceding review on Thursday, the 6th of January, 2011.  As I finish this post for publication, it is Sunday morning and U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords is still in critical condition after being shot in the head.  This movie was made in the years after the JFK, MLK and RFK assassinations (Beatty knew RFK – the picture of the two of them in Bulworth is real).  I am very fond of a line from Angels in America: “The world only spins forward.”  But there are days when it is hard to believe that.

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