Bob Fosse: All That Jazz
Francis Ford Coppola: Apocalypse Now
Peter Yates: Breaking Away
Edouard Molinaro: La Cage aux Folles
Robert Benton: Kramer vs. Kramer (winner)
Like any year and any race, there are places for improvements, or at least some suggestions that I can make. Werner Herzog’s work on Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht is the first one that comes to mind followed immediately by Tarkovsky’s Stalker, both of which I like more than the one foreign film representative on the actual nominations list. Honestly, though, my first thought should have been Ridley Scott for Alien, which still holds up beautifully, in large part because of how well Scott uses the camera and creates the Nostromo as its own character. I’ll toss out The China Syndrome and James Bridges as a possibility as well. I like Escape from Alcatraz as well, but I don’t think there’s enough from Don Siegel to earn a nomination. The same is true of the underrated The In-Laws and Arthur Hiller. I love Woody Allen, but don’t like Manhattan enough to consider it. For a final nod, I give it to Franc Roddam and his work on Quadrophenia, which should be more well known.
Weeding through the Nominees
5: It honestly feels like Edouard Molinaro was nominated for La Cage aux Folles as a sop to the subject matter. “Hey, we’ve got a long-term gay couple who need to fake being a straight couple!” I like the movie well enough, but this is a case where I genuinely prefer the remake over this original. I’d prefer most of the movies I mentioned above to this one on the nomination list. It’s great to see a foreign director and a foreign language film get some recognition; the Academy just picked wrong one.
4. I’m booting Kramer vs. Kramer quickly as well. I was completely on board for this film until the last few minutes, when it completely shits the bed. The biggest reason I’m getting rid of it here, though, is that I don’t really know what Robert Benton did to earn the nomination. The film itself won Best Picture, and it very much seems like Benton won because the film did, when I really don’t understand why he was put on the list in the first place. Ridley Scott deserved this spot more. So did Werner Herzog. Once again, the Academy gave a prize to someone who didn’t even deserve to be on the list.
3. Breaking Away and Peter Yates hits third place for me only because I like this film more than I like Kramer vs. Kramer. It’s a classic underdog story done about as well as that standard story can be done, which is why it’s worth watching. The problem is that I don’t know specifically what Peter Yates did other than simply film the story that’s so worthy of note here. It’s a great film because of its script and because of how well it tells the story. If anything, Yates got great performances from his actors, but I don’t know what else he did here.
2: I’ve not been shy about my love for All That Jazz and I won’t be shy about it when praising Bob Fosse. Fosse’s work here is great, and if nothing else he earned the nomination for his work in the incredibly inventive third act, some of my favorite film work from its decade. I could make a solid argument for Fosse, and think it’s one nomination that I’d definitely want to keep, even with my suggestions up top. It might still not end up in second place, but it would be on the list.
1: I’m giving this to Coppola if for no other reason than the fact that he survived the filming. If you haven’t seen Hearts of Darkness, it’s worth your time to check out and see exactly what the man went through to get this on the screen. That it not merely made it to the screen but is the seminal work concerning the Vietnam War and a reworking of a classic Joseph Conrad story is truly astonishing. Even with some different films in the list, Coppola wins, albeit with much more competition from Ridley Scott.