A Clockwork Orange
Fiddler on the Roof
The French Connection (winner)
The Last Picture Show
Nicholas and Alexandra
Who knew 1971 was this good a year? While I think I can make an easy case for three of the five nominees (and a lot of people can make a case for a fourth), there are a number of places that the Academy could have gone here that would have been interesting. In terms of movies that probably wouldn’t get a nomination, the Clint Eastwood pair of Dirty Harry and Play Misty for Me are first and foremost in my mind. Shaft is a much smarter and better movie than most people remember. Duel is probably too simple for real consideration, and I’m not sure if it was ever released in theaters anyway. I might give some consideration to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, even if it’s more nostalgia than anything else causing me to say that. Summer of ‘42 is very bittersweet and lovely, and might get some consideration from me, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller seems like a miss, at least for a lot of people who like it more than I do. I’m more attuned to The Devils or Harold and Maude. The film with the most gravitas of the year, though, is Walkabout, and that’s the one I’d most like to add.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I can remember three things about Nicholas and Alexandra: it’s opulent, it’s far too long, and it’s dull as all hell. If you know your history, you know how the Romanov dynasty came to an end in Russia, so the ending is neither a surprise nor pleasant, but for a dull film of this length, it’s actually a relief when we finally get there. There were better choices, but my guess is that the Academy, as often seemed to be the case in this era, was swayed by fancy sets and an epic running time. Silly Academy, Russian epics aren’t for kicks.
4. I’ve seen The French Connection multiple times, and I cannot figure out why people care about it as much as they seem to. A number of people have told me how great it is, but when I ask them why they think that, I’ve never gotten a good answer. Gene Hackman plays a racist cop who stands outside of a restaurant and watches a fat guy eat. Sure, the chase scene is pretty good, but it’s nothing that wasn’t done better and first in Bullitt. Why is this fourth instead of fifth? Nicholas and Alexandra didn’t have any good chase scenes.
2. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Fiddler on the Roof. Based on length and style, I expected a slog, but didn’t get anything like a boring film. It’s a film that on the surface is about dealing with change and maintaining tradition, but is really about life and love and a lot more. Since this is a musical, a great deal of the enjoyment comes from the songs and the production numbers, and they’re really, really good. I could see this winning in a different year. I think I’d keep the nomination in an open field, but it wouldn’t win.
1. I love A Clockwork Orange more than I should. I especially like just how faithful it is to its source material. There are places where it is a bit compressed, but the vast majority of Burgess’s book is here. And even with that, I don’t care too much because loyalty to the novel or no, this is a brutal masterpiece, a film that is both terribly hard to watch and one from which I cannot avert my eyes. When people talk about Kubrick’s genius, there are a lot of films that people can think of, but this is the one I go to nine times out of ten.