Monday, November 20, 2017

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 1972

The Contenders:

The Emigrants
The Godfather (winner)

What’s Missing

The Academy did a pretty solid job in the nominations for Best Picture 1972. Just on the surface here, I don’t have a lot of complaints, although there are a few that I think could sneak their way in. The Emigrants almost certainly took the “not in English” slot, but that means leaving out four truly great films from this year: Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Solaris, Cries and Whispers, and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. If I’m honest, I think I’d prefer any of those four to the one we got. Super Fly is a film where the soundtrack made more money than the movie, and admittedly, it’s the soundtrack I love more than anything else. Silent Running, a slow-moving science fiction film, is clearly in the wrong genre for Oscar. Sleuth is twisty and devious, but is perhaps too small in scope with really only two actors in the whole thing. The last one I might want to consider is Fat City, a far better film than I expected it to be.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. Truthfully, I ended up liking The Emigrants pretty well, but as I said above, there are four non-English movies from this year that I think deserve to be here more. That’s not going to bode well for a film when it comes to putting them in an ordered list. It’s long and a bit rambling, although I think it’s one of those stories that is important for understanding at least a small part of the greater American experience. It’s a film I’m happy to have seen, but not one that I think I want to see again any time soon. That’s not because it’s a hard watch, but because it’s a really long one.

4. Sounder is one of those movies that was widely praised and with reason, but seems to be largely forgotten in general. It’s a good movie and oddly similar in some ways to The Emigrants in that it is very much an American story. I’m pretty satisfied with its inclusion as a nomination here, but I like the other three films better. That it looks like it wants to be The Yearling or Old Yeller and then really, really isn’t plays very much to its favor. It’s worth tracking down, but it’s not the best picture of its year.

3. Deliverance is a pretty shocking nomination. This veers pretty hard into the horror genre even as it stays entirely believable and realistic. There are moments in this movie that can’t be unseen after they’ve been seen once. Deliverance has entered the public consciousness in a way that few films have—anyone can make reference to it, even if they haven’t seen it. That’s unique, and again, I like the fact that this was nominated. I just don’t like it as much as I do the other two nominations.

2. No one was more surprised than I was at how much I liked Cabaret. And, really “liked” is probably the wrong word. There’s a lot here that is impressive, though. Liza Minnelli manages to be both terrible and completely sympathetic. Throw in the impressive work by Joel Grey and Michael York along with a few true show-stopping numbers, and we’ve got a movie that would win in a lot of other years. The only thing keeping Cabaret off the top of the list is the fact that it came out in 1972.

My Choice

1. Could it be a film other than The Godfather? Truthfully, I don’t love this movie the way that virtually everyone I know does. I can’t dismiss it, though. It is one of the most important and influential films ever made, and when I look at it from all sides, I don’t see anywhere that it could be changed to make an improvement. The Godfather is one of those films that is going to be talked about for as long as there are people around to talk about movies. In a rare moment of clarity, the Academy gave the Oscar to the film that truly did exemplify the sort of power and eventual influence they hope to award.

Final Analysis


  1. The Godfather is a great flick and all.

    But I still give the best Picture Oscar to Cabaret.

    1. I just went and looked at my "Favorite Movies, Year by Year" list on IMDB and I have a tie!

      Cabaret and Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41.

      The Female Convict Scorpion movies are not your usual Oscar fare.

    2. Fair enough. I like Cabaret a lot. I think it's a remarkable film in many respects.

      But I also think you have a much harder time understanding the last 40+ years of film without knowing The Godfather.

  2. While I'm not that huge a fan of the film I don't think there is any question that The Godfather is a masterwork. It's just something that I don't care that much for.

    Cabaret is also well made and I know its beloved but not really by me. I'd still say it deserved its nomination but I wouldn't go further.

    My pick would be Deliverance in all its white knuckle, tension fueled potency. It's the film out of the five that I felt the most impact from and that lingered in my memory the longest.

    Out of what could have been here love the mention of Sleuth. Much as I love it I don't think The Poseidon Adventure is a match for those first three but it is an exciting thrill ride which still manages to engage you with its cast of characters, a skill seemingly lost on modern filmmakers and considering its huge success I'm rather surprised it wasn't in the running. My other mention would be What's Up, Doc? which is such a fun whirligig of a movie.

    1. I understand that position. I don't actually love The Godfather the way almost everyone I know does. I think it's a great movie, but it's also a movie that I rarely have interest in watching. I think it's impossible to doubt the influence it's had on film, though, and I think that's something worth celebrating, for lack of a better word. So often, the Academy awards the flavor of the month rather than something genuinely enduring that I have to give them credit when they truly do award something that is very much the most important film of its year.

  3. Of the noms, I have only seen The Godfather and Deliverance. The former is my clear winner, as well. I didn't care much for Deliverance, but I do recognize how it has transcended its medium. One other film I think deserves mention is the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues. And the Superfly soundtrack is among my all-time favorite albums.

    1. Lady Sings the Blues is a great choice and one I considered, but that movie is all about Diana Ross for me and everything else melts away. In fact, I put her virtually tied with a transcendent Liza Minnelli performance for that Oscar when I looked at Best Actress.

      Superfly (or is it Super Fly? I can't find a consistent answer on that) is not just among favorites for me; it's literally my favorite soundtrack.

    2. I desperately need to see Cabaret.

      I've always typed it as one word and never questioned it, but I guess I'm wrong since imdb and Wikipedia both have it as two words. Oh well. As far as that soundtrack, it's #2 for me behind Purple Rain, but that could just be my Prince fanboyism talking.

    3. I used to keep a copy of the soundtrack in my car. If someone rolled up on me blasting something, I'd queue up Freddy's Dead or Pusherman and hit 'em right back. I don't think there will be another Curtis Mayfield.

      Cabaret is a film I can see someone disliking very much. It's sort of its own thing, and I don't think it's for everyone. It's worth a look, though.

  4. I'm with you on this ordering. I haven't seen numbers 5 and 4, but 3-1... that's pretty much how I'd order it, too (though I like Cabaret the most). Though I'm not sure I could go with Silent Running...

    1. I remember you not being a fan of Silent Running.

      Honestly, I probably like Cabaret the most, too, but The Godfather is just too important and to epic to ignore.

  5. Frankly, 72 was not one of my favourite years. Godfather and Cabaret were the only movies with a real chance of winning. It is silly to limit foreign movies to a single slot. To my mind both The Emigrants and The Bourgeoisie deserved a nomination in an otherwise thin field. But then, I have a weak spot for The Emigrants, having read the entire series in my youth.

    1. If we're going to have just one foreign-language movie in the mix, my choice is Aguirre, or possibly Cries and Whispers.