Woody Allen: Annie Hall
Richard Burton: Equus
Richard Dreyfus: The Goodbye Girl (winner)
John Travolta: Saturday Night Fever
Marcello Mastroianni: A Special Day
There’s a lot I can say about the nominations for Best Actor 1977 and not a lot of it is very nice. It’s a weird year, though, one where so many of my favorite performances are either actress performances or supporting. For instance, I’d love to add Mark Hamill in Star Wars to the list here, but as much as I love the guy, he doesn’t really belong and everyone else is supporting. As much as I would have loved for Jack Nance to be nominated for Eraserhead, that was never going to happen. The same is true of Bruno S. (Bruno Schleinstein) for Herzog’s Stroszek. I’d have been interested to see Richard Chamberlain mentioned for The Last Wave and I could see Dennis Hopper here for The American Friend. Honestly, though, I think Richard Dreyfus was nominated for the wrong movie. He should really be here for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
5. I think you could argue that Richard Burton probably deserved an Oscar at some point in his career, but Equus wasn’t the movie for it. In truth, this is a screenplay that played very much to Burton’s strengths, allowing him to go full stage actor playing to the back row. Burton could be engaging when doing this, and this is directed in a way that plays to that style, but I find it very wearing. This feels like someone desperately trying to give Burton a shot at a statue knowing that there was no way he’d actually win it.
4. It would take a great deal for me to suggest that I like Woody Allen as an actor because I generally don’t. Annie Hall is a film that is about as Woody Allen as you can get, but his super-neurotic shtick gets tiresome. The best parts of Annie Hall are the screenplay and Diane Keaton. I honestly don’t hate the nomination, but given even the strange competition we have for this year, there’s no way that I’m putting Allen any higher than this. The screenplay deserves it, but Allen himself as an actor does not.
3. I said at the top that Richard Dreyfus was probably nominated for the wrong performance. If we talk about all of the roles an actor had over the course of the year, I can see Dreyfus winning, because he’s pretty great in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He also happens to be the best thing in The Goodbye Girl, but that honestly doesn’t say a great deal because I dislike this movie intensely. Still, Dreyfus is good, even if he is clearly playing a character based on nothing but what Neil Simon thought would be funny for a character who is not a person who exists in the real world.
2. A Special Day isn’t a movie that I want to watch again any time soon, but it is also a movie that trades entirely on the performances of its two stars. Of the two, Sophia Loren is the one who most people would know, but it’s Marcello Mastroianni who is by far the most interesting character in the film. Mastroianni is heartbreaking here, and coupled with Loren, they are the most compelling couple on the screen of the year. Oscar doesn’t offer a statue for best film couple, but if it did, they would be my bet. As half of that duo, Mastroianni deserves to be here.
1. It’s easy to make fun of John Travolta, and it was easy to make fun of him in 1977. After all, he was just some young actor playing some dumb punk on a television sit-com. And yet for Saturday Night Fever, Travolta affected an entire generation. This was a huge year for movies that changed the culture--Star Wars changed everything, but don’t kid yourself; Saturday Night Fever had a massive impact as well, and a huge part of that was Travolta himself. No one really saw that in 1977, but in retrospect, he should have won this.