Five Easy Pieces
I picked 1970 today simply because I haven’t done a 1970 category yet, but it feels like a down year, at least based on the 1001 Movies list. Something like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a film that I like, but hardly one that is typically named in terms of Oscars. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis seems closer to Oscar fare, but not a lot of non-English films get nominated, statements that also cover Claire’s Knee. The Ballad of Cable Hogue would have been an interesting choice. Performance is probably too weird and Kelly’s Heroes is probably not serious enough, or would’ve been one military farce too many with M*A*S*H already nominated (and Catch-22 isn’t good enough to make the cut). Finally, so that no one suggests it, I think Zabriskie Point is utter shit, and would nominate virtually anything else first.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I’m launching Love Story off the top. I fully understand why this movie was nominated, and I disagree with every reason it was. This is an ugly film about stupid, selfish people who act like assholes to everyone around them. Oh, boo hoo, I was born rich and daddy wanted me to be a lawyer. Cry me a river, you arrogant bastard. I was tired of this movie when I was a third done with it. Now, if they’d have made it into a zombie movie, I’d have loved it.
4. I don’t have a serious problem with Airport aside from the fact that it’s just kind of goofy. This is another movie that I was ready to be done with before it was ready to be done with me, but it’s also a longer film, so it’s a little more forgivable. Helen Hayes is the best thing in the movie, and she’s not in it nearly enough for my money. The rest of it is essentially a soap opera that takes place in an airport rather than a hospital. Don’t care, happy to be done with it.
3: Putting a film as good as Five Easy Pieces is less a commentary on the other two films and more a commentary on the fact that Five Easy Pieces is less a film and more a character study. Once you get past the towering performance of Jack Nicholson, there’s not a lot here. I think it may well be a great film and it certainly ranks in the storied career of Jack Nicholson, but it’s not enough of a story for me to think it’s the best picture of its year.
2: I often have issues with the films of Robert Altman, but M*A*S*H is an exception for me. It might be that I feel like I went into this knowing the characters from the television show that was based on this film. Regardless, Altman is another director who has demonstrated that one of the best ways to deal with the horrors of war is with comedy. I like this movie a lot. I like the characters. I’d love for there to be more of a plot, but regardless, I think it’s a great film. It’s just not the best one from 1970.
1: Nope, it’s all about Patton. I’ve argued in the past that Patton won Best Picture for the opening sequence in which George C. Scott walks onto a stage in front of a massive American flag and gives a staggering speech. I think that might actually be true, and I don’t have a real problem with it. It’s an incredible sequence. The rest of the film holds up to that. Like Five Easy Pieces, this is a character study as well, but it’s also got an actual story and history, and it has a great performance from Karl Malden as well. This may have been a down year in general overall, but Patton can hold its head up with other winners as being deserving.