Arthur Hiller: Love Story
Robert Altman: M*A*S*H
Franklin J. Schaffner: Patton (winner)
Federico Fellini: Satyricon
Ken Russell: Women in Love
I dislike three of the five movies nominated for Best Director for 1970, but dislike only two of the nominations. There are plenty of possibilities for how to improve the list we have. I should start with a mention of Michael Wadleigh as the director of Woodstock as well as Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin for Gimme Shelter. All of them deserved some mention here, but directors of documentaries tend to be ignored for this award. The horror movie/foreign language couplet almost certainly left out Dario Argento and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. A bigger miss is Elio Petri and Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. Frank Perry could have been named for Diary of a Mad Housewife very conceivably, or at least with less of a stretch than Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell for Performance, although I think that’s a serious miss. Last but not least, I’m genuinely surprised at the snub for Bob Rafelson and Five Easy Pieces.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. Fellini’s Satyricon is not my least favorite of the five nominees, although it’s close, but it is my least favorite directorial performance of these nominations. Why? Because I think Fellini was a self-indulgent wanker and no film is more representative of this than Satyricon. Someone else is welcome to tell me how wrong I am an how much I should learn to appreciate Fellini, and while I appreciate the effort, it’s not going to happen. Screw him, and screw this movie.
2. Franklin J. Schaffner won this Oscar for Patton. This isn’t terribly surprising given that Patton won Best Picture and George C. Scott won for Best Actor in the title role. Schaffner’s win was understandable because of this, and it’s a well-directed film. In fact, it’s well-enough directed that I don’t hate the win even if it’s not my pick. Patton, after all, was my pick for Best Picture for this year. So, while I can’t fully endorse this as the win, I am of the opinion that the Academy could have done a hell of a lot worse.
1. My winner is Robert Altman for M*A*S*H. I have a strange relationship to the films of Altman. I like some of his films well enough and genuinely dislike others. My problem with him tends to be that his films go in a lot of directions, have dozens of characters, and never seem to really end up anywhere. M*A*S*H is admittedly a film that has a great deal in common with that, and yet it works really well. The fact that it works that well is exactly why Altman deserved this Oscar. In lesser hands, this would have collapsed under its own weight, but it never does.