Sigourney Weaver wants some answers out of Ian Holm in Alien (1979)

My Top 20:

  1. Alien
  2. Apocalypse Now
  3. Manhattan
  4. Picnic at Hanging Rock
  5. All That Jazz
  6. Being There
  7. Kramer vs. Kramer
  8. Breaking Away
  9. Love on the Run
  10. L’Age d’or
  11. The Muppet Movie
  12. Monty Python’s Life of Brian
  13. And Justice for All
  14. The Marriage of Maria Braun
  15. Nosferatu
  16. Staring Over
  17. Soldier of Orange
  18. A Quiet Duel
  19. Wise Blood
  20. Woyzeck

release note:  L’Age d’or was originally released in 1930, but didn’t play in the States until 1979.  Likewise for A Quiet Duel, a lesser known Kurosawa film from 1949.  Picnic at Hanging Rock first came out in Australia in 1975, but didn’t play in the States until 1979 either.

rank note:  I really want back and forth while re-watching Apocalypse Now as to whether it would knock Alien out of the top spot.  In the end, it didn’t, for reasons that will be detailed in the Best Picture post.  But it was close.

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Kramer vs. Kramer
  • Best Director:  Robert Benton  (Kramer vs. Kramer)
  • Best Actor:  Dustin Hoffman  (Kramer vs. Kramer)
  • Best Actress:  Sally Field  (Norma Rae)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Melvyn Douglas  (Being There)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Meryl Streep  (Kramer vs. Kramer)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Kramer vs. Kramer
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Breaking Away
  • Best Foreign Film:  The Tin Drum

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Kramer vs. Kramer
  • Best Director:  Robert Benton  (Kramer vs. Kramer)
  • Best Actor:  Dustin Hoffman  (Kramer vs. Kramer)
  • Best Actress:  Sally Field  (Norma Rae)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Melvyn Douglas  (Being There)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Meryl Streep  (Kramer vs. Kramer)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Kramer vs. Kramer
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Breaking Away
  • Best Foreign Film:  La Cage Aux Folles

"It smells like victory."

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. Apocalypse Now –  #35
  2. L’Age d’or –  #90
  3. Manhattan –  #113
  4. The Story of the Late Chrysanthemums –  #228
  5. Alien –  #230
  6. All That Jazz –  #454
  7. The Marriage of Maria Braun –  #457
  8. Monty Python’s The Life of Brian –  #481
  9. Picnic at Hanging Rock –  #526
  10. The 47 Ronin –  #655

Top 5 Films  (1979 Best Picture Awards):

  1. Kramer vs. Kramer
  2. Breaking Away
  3. Manhattan
  4. Apocalypse Now
  5. Norma Rae

note:  With an NBR win, a BAFTA win and a Golden Globe nomination, Manhattan becomes the most successful English language film in the Best Picture Awards to not earn an Oscar nomination.

Top 10 Films  (1979 Awards Points:)

  1. Kramer vs. Kramer –  2101
  2. Manhattan –  1025
  3. Apocalypse Now –  1003
  4. Being There –  828
  5. Breaking Away –  766
  6. The China Syndrome –  637
  7. Norma Rae –  603
  8. All That Jazz –  598
  9. The Rose –  355
  10. Yanks –  345

note:  Kramer vs. Kramer sets the all-time record for points (which will be broken in 1983).  It is the first film to have twice as many points as the next highest film since 1957.

Top 10 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. Kramer vs. Kramer –  $106.26 mil
  2. The Amityville Horror –  $86.43 mil
  3. Rocky 2 –  $85.18 mil
  4. Star Trek: The Motion Picture –  $82.25 mil
  5. Alien –  $80.93 mil
  6. Apocalypse Now –  $78.78 mil
  7. 10 –  $74.86 mil
  8. The Jerk –  $73.69 mil
  9. Moonraker –  $70.30 mil
  10. The Muppet Movie –  $65.20 mil

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Apocalypse Now –  #28  (1998)  /  #30  (2007)

Ebert Great Films:

  • Being There
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Manhattan
  • Alien
  • The Marriage of Maria Braun

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Picture:  Alien
  • Director:  Ridley Scott  (Alien)
  • Actor:  Dustin Hoffman  (Kramer vs. Kramer)
  • Actress:  Jane Fonda  (The China Syndrome)
  • Supporting Actor:  Robert Duvall  (Apocalypse Now)
  • Supporting Actress:  Meryl Streep  (Kramer vs. Kramer)
  • Adapted Screenplay:  Apocalypse Now
  • Original Screenplay:  Alien

the calm before the fun with Shirley MacLaine and Peter Sellers in Being There (1979)

Comedy / Musical:

  • Picture:  Manhattan
  • Director:  Woody Allen  (Manhattan)
  • Actor:  Peter Sellers  (Being There)
  • Actress:  Bette Midler  (The Rose)
  • Supporting Actor:  Paul Dooley  (Breaking Away)
  • Supporting Actress:  Shirley MacLaine  (Being There)
  • Adapted Screenplay:  Being There
  • Original Screenplay:  Manhattan

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Picture:  Alien
  • Director:  Ridley Scott  (Alien)
  • Actor:  Peter Sellers  (Being There)
  • Actress:  Bette Midler  (The Rose)
  • Supporting Actor:  Robert Duvall  (Apocalypse Now)
  • Supporting Actress:  Meryl Streep  (Kramer vs. Kramer)
  • Adapted Screenplay:  Being There
  • Original Screenplay:  Manhattan
  • Editing:  Alien
  • Cinematography:  Apocalypse Now
  • Original Score:  Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  • Sound:  Alien
  • Art Direction:  Alien
  • Visual Effects:  Alien
  • Sound Editing:  Alien
  • Costume Design:  Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • Makeup:  Alien
  • Original Song:  “The Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie
  • Foreign Film:  Love on the Run

note:  One of my all-time favorite years for original songs.  Aside from the songs from The Muppet Movie, there is also “The Rose” and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.  A very difficult year to pick a winner.  Of course, the Academy chunked it by picking the song from Norma Rae.

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Monty Python’s The Life of Brian
  • Best Line (Dramatic):  “I love the small of napalm in the morning.”  (Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now)
  • Best Line (Comedic):  “How shall we fuck off, O Lord?”  (John Cleese in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian)
  • Best Ending:  Breaking Away
  • Best Scene:  the helicopter attack in Apocalypse Now
  • Star of the Year:  Meryl Streep  (Kramer vs. Kramer, Manhattan, The Seduction of Joe Tynan)
  • Best Ensemble:  Breaking Away
  • Best Use of a Song: “The End” in Apocalypse Now
  • Best Soundtrack:  The Muppet Movie
  • Funniest Film:  Monty Python’s The Life of Brian
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  1941
  • Worst Film:  The Brood

Film History: The China Syndrome gets massive publicity when, a month after opening, Three Mile Island has a mishap.  Universal wins a lawsuit contending that they, not the heirs to Bela Lugosi, own the rights to his image.  John Wayne presents Best Picture at the Academy Awards shortly before dying of cancer.  The world’s largest cineplex opens in Toronto with 18 screens.  Apocalypse Now, though unfinished, screens at Cannes and ties for the Golden Palm with The Tin Drum.  Several communist countries withdraw from the Berlin Film Festival in protest of the screening of The Deer Hunter.  Universal and Disney lose a court case against Sony; the case rules that personal video recorders do not constitute a breach of copyright laws.  Darryl Zanuck, the last of the major producers from the Studio Era, dies on 22 December.  Jean Renoir dies on 12 February.  The first films of two major franchises are released: The Muppet Movie and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Don Bluth leads several animators who leave Disney to form Don Bluth Productions.

Academy Awards: Kramer vs. Kramer becomes the fourth film in five years to win Best Picture without winning any technical awards – as many as all the films that do this in the 80’s and 90’s combined.  All That Jazz becomes the first Musical nominated for Best Picture without a Golden Globe BP nomination since Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in 1954.  West Germany finally wins Best Foreign Film with its seventh nomination.  For the third time in eight years, Francis Ford Coppola and Bob Fosse compete head to head in the Best Director category; this time neither wins.

As I said above, the Best Original Song category completely chunks it.  They give the Oscar to “It Goes Like It Goes” while passing up “The Rainbow Connection.”  They list three other Muppet Movie songs and “The Rose” in the semi-finalists, but they all get passed over for the song from The Promise and the song from 10.  And “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” doesn’t even get to the semis.  Germany screws up the Foreign Film awards, submitting The Tin Drum (which, sadly, wins), over Nosferatu, Woyzeck or The Marriage of Maria Braun.  And in spite of massive critical acclaim, Woody Allen misses out again on Best Picture (though he gets his third writing nomination in a row).  They nominate The Black Hole for Cinematography and Meteor for Sound, but not the more technically accomplished Alien for either.  But, while I go with Sellers over Dustin Hoffman for Best Actor, their nominees match mine 5 for 5.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Original Song for “It Goes Like It Goes” from Norma Rae
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Original Score for The Champ
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for Being There
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  The Amityville Horror
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Original Song
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Actor
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Visual Effects

Golden Globes: Kramer vs. Kramer is the big winner – taking home Best Picture (Drama), Screenplay, Actor (Drama) and Supporting Actress.  Apocalypse Now takes home Director, as well as Supporting Actor and Score, only losing out on Picture.  Breaking Away wins Picture (Comedy) and Being There wins Actor (Comedy) and Supporting Actor, in a tie, with both films getting Director and Screenplay nominations.  Only The China Syndrome among the Picture / Director nominees goes home without any awards – going 0 for 5 and becoming the first film since Bonnie and Clyde and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1967 to get nominated for the big 5 awards and not win any of them.  Being There becomes the first film in 6 years to get nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay at the Globes but fail to repeat in any of those categories at the Oscars.

Awards: Kramer vs. Kramer sets a new record with the critics with 876 points – winning Picture twice (NY, LA), Director twice (LA, NSFC), Actor three times (NY, LA, NSFC), Screenplay (LA) and all four Supporting Actress awards (which Streep shared for this performance and her performances in Manhattan and The Seduction of Joe Tynan).  Sally Field wins all four Best Actress awards.  Woody Allen wins Director from NY and the NSFC, but gets Best Picture for Manhattan from the NBR.  The final Best Picture award (NSFC) goes to Breaking Away which also gets Screenplay from NY and the NSFC and Supporting Actor from the NBR.

Kramer vs. Kramer wins both the DGA and the WGA.  Breaking Away and The China Syndrome take home WGA awards while losing at the DGA.  Apocalypse Now and Manhattan have to settle for nominations from both groups.  Being There wins the final WGA category.  Apocalypse Now also loses at the American Cinema Editors to All That JazzThe Black Stallion is the other ACE nominee and wins one Motion Picture Sound Editors award while Ice Castles wins the other.

For the second time in three years, a Woody Allen film wins Best Picture and Best Screenplay.  But while Annie Hall won five BAFTA awards out of six nominations, Manhattan only takes home the two out of its 10 nominations.  Two awards seem to be the standard: The Deer Hunter goes 2 for 9 (Editing, Cinematography, nominations for Picture, Actor, Actress, Director), Apocalypse Now goes 2 for 9 (Director, Supporting Actor, nominations for Picture and Actor), Yanks goes 2 for 7 (Supporting Actress – the only one Streep fails to win and Costume Design, nominations for Director and Screenplay), The China Syndrome goes 2 for 4 (Actor, Actress, nomination for Picture) and Alien goes 2 for 6 (Sound, Art Direction).  Kramer vs. Kramer wouldn’t be eligible until the following year (where it would go 0 for 6).

Best Director: There’s no question who the consensus winner was.  Robert Benton took home the LA Film Critics Award, the National Society of Film Critics Award, the Directors Guild Award and the Oscar.  But the next most points go to Woody Allen, who won the New York Film Critics, tied with Benton at the NSFC, was nominated for the DGA and the BAFTA, yet didn’t end up earning an Oscar nomination.  Francis Ford Coppola won the BAFTA and the Globe, was nominated at the DGA and the Oscars.  And Peter Yates comes in fourth by getting nominations from the DGA, Globes and Oscars.  But the fifth place goes to another non-Oscar nominee: John Schlesinger, who wins the final critics award (NSFC) for Yanks and earns a BAFTA nomination.  Then comes James Bridges, who earned DGA and Golden Globe noms for The China Syndrome.  Then, finally, come the last two Oscar nominees: Bob Fosse (All That Jazz) and surprise nominee, Edouard Molinaro (La Cage Aux Folles).  At the end of the list comes Hal Ashby, who earned a Globe nom for Being There.

the magnificent end to the Antoine Doinel series: Love on the Run (1979)

Under-appreciated Film of 1979:

Love on the Run (dir. Francois Truffaut)

Early on in Love on the Run, Antoine runs in to kiss Sabine and tell her that he can’t make his date with her.  As it turns out, he’s forgotten that he’s getting divorced today.  His wife chides him for it in the car.  I was simultaneously reminded of the earlier films in the Antoine Doinel series by Francois Truffaut, the first of which, The 400 Blows, introduced Truffaut as a force to be reckoned with and earned him a writing nomination at the Oscars – almost unheard of for someone making his first feature length film, and of Too Far to Go: The Maples Stories by John Updike.  In the latter collection, in the final story the couple is finally standing there getting divorced and when Richard is asked if he understands what he is agreeing to, all he can say is “I do.”  That loop, linking the divorce back to the marriage runs through this film which is both a comedy and a touching drama about modern familial life.

The Adventures of Antoine Doinel is a film series unlike any other.  This is because Truffaut didn’t originally plan it as a series – simply casting young Jean-Pierre Leaud as his alter ago in The 400 Blows.  But then he used him again in Antoine and Colette, a short film made in 1962.  In the late sixties, we again returned to his life in the fantastic Stolen Kisses and the solid Bed and Board.  By 1979, he had passed through his young life and was starting to move towards middle age, had a child and was getting divorced.  Had Truffaut not died, we perhaps would have gotten more films.  Each films reaches a satisfactory conclusion, but we never necessarily feel that his story is completely over.

When Antoine and his wife Christine sit outside the judge’s chambers, waiting for their divorce, both of them flash back to earlier moments in their relationship.  However, unlike other films where the director has to try to make the actors look younger, he has the footage he needs already: complete from the previous films (it even brings a rather other worldly quality to the scenes when he flashes back to a much young Antoine in one of the first two films and all of the footage is in black and white).  It’s not just about a couple getting divorced.  It links back to the start of their relationship and the entire path that it took – much in the way of Annie Hall, the discovery is in the journey and it isn’t necessarily linear.

So, here we have the final film of a very celebrated film series from someone who is well acknowledged as one of the great directors of all-time.  How can I possibly say it is under-appreciated?  Well, because most people just forget about it.  It wasn’t France’s submission for the Oscars (that was A Simple Story which isn’t even in the same class) and it didn’t get any recognition from the Globes or any critics groups.  It is barely even reviewed.  If it wasn’t in the Doinel box set, would it even be available on DVD?  It is a great film – one of Truffaut’s best and it seems like it is mostly forgotten, relegated to the end of the box set.  But it is charming and funny and moving and one of the finest films of 1979 – foreign or otherwise.