Federico Fellini: Amarcord
Stanley Kubrick: Barry Lyndon
Sidney Lumet: Dog Day Afternoon
Robert Altman: Nashville
Milos Forman: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (winner)
First, can we get a little love for Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones for Monty Python and the Holy Grail? I know it would never get nominated in a million years, but when we talk about influence, this qualifies. Was this award to have nominations made today, I think we might well see Steven Spielberg nominated for Jaws, another film that has cast an incredibly long shadow over the films that followed. I’m actually surprised at the lack of nomination for Peter Weir and Picnic at Hanging Rock, which certainly deserves some consideration. John Huston’s work on The Man Who Would Be King merits some serious consideration here as well. I know that Norman Jewison’s work on Rollerball would only be considered in my own fantasy world, but it’s a film that deserve more love and credit. Finally, Sydney Pollack’s work on Three Days of the Condor should be better remembered than it is.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I have made no secret of the fact that I don’t love Barry Lyndon. I’ve seen almost all of Kubrick’s films—everything from The Killing to his final one, and Barry Lyndon is the one I like the least. There are some very good things about Barry Lyndon and some very bold choices. The problem I have with it is that I find it utterly dull. It’s hard to want to recommend a dull movie for the top spot, or even for nomination. I know it has its supporters, and they are welcome to disagree with me.
4. I like Fellini less than I like Kubrick in most cases. In fact, I like a Fellini less than a lot of directors I could name. I suppose that makes me a bad film nerd, not liking the clown prince of Italian film. Amarcord is one I like better than I do most of his films, and I won’t argue that it’s not well made. It’s just…I don’t see that the direction here is that exceptional. I may well be speaking from a bias against Fellini in this case. I won’t deny that as a possibility, but it also won’t get Federico above fourth place.
3. I have an odd relationship with the films of Robert Altman. There are plenty I like and plenty I dislike tremendously. Nashville is one I like pretty well, far more than I thought I would. I actually like the nomination pretty well. Altman does a fine job of keeping all of the various threads of the story working and making sense. In a lesser year, I might consider Altman for Best Director a lot more seriously. In a year with better nominees, though, he can’t climb above third place.
2. I like Milos Forman’s work a great deal, and I think he’s a director who often doesn’t get the credit he deserves. That’s an odd thing to say for a guy with two Oscars and who made one of the most iconic movies of the 1980s. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest swept the major awards, but it really shouldn’t have. It’s not a terrible choice, though. I think an argument could be made for him, and clearly one was, since he won. There is at least one better choice, though, and for as much as I like Milos Forman, he really shouldn’t have won.
1. Limited to the five nominations, I’m giving this to Sidney Lumet. Dog Day Afternoon is about as good as a crime drama as you can find. The story builds beautifully and there are some many small things that happen early on and build into something so much bigger by the end of the film. Lumet’s work stands up today as well--Dog Day Afternoon is as vital and interesting and good now as it was when it was first made. Of the five nominations, it’s the winner in a walk.