Friday, January 17, 2014

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 1975

The Contenders:
Barry Lyndon
Dog Day Afternoon
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (winner)

What’s Missing

1975 is a strong year, and any group of five films from this year will certainly be missing something. Three Days of the Condor jumps out at me as a film that was worthy of some consideration for something; it’s an underrated film in general. The Man Who Would Be King is another that seems to fit the Oscar mold. Science fiction is never a favorite Oscar category, but I’d toss out both Rollerball and A Boy and His Dog as interesting films that had no real hope of any sort of nomination. On the foreign front, both Jakob the Liar and Dersu Uzala managed to be passed over.

Weeding through the Nominees

5: I won’t disagree that Barry Lyndon is a well-made film, but it’s a well-made film that I don’t like that much. That’s not something I say in conjunction with the films of Stanley Kubrick that often, but I can’t not say it here. Barry Lyndon is long and dull. It’s well-made and beautifully filmed and I appreciate what Kubrick was trying to do. I just wish he’d decided to do it with a more interesting story.

4: I have a love/hate relationship with the films of Robert Altman, but I rather liked Nashville. It’s got a lot going for it, but it’s also up against a trio of movies that I like a hell of a lot more. I’d watch any of the other three before I’d select watching Nashville again. That’s not a slam against this film, because I liked this far more than I thought I would. It’s definitely worth your time, and I don’t question it’s nomination at all. That’s said, I wouldn’t pick it above the other three.

My Choice

3. This is a tough one. I really like all three of these movies. As much as I love Dog Day Afternoon, it’s the one I’d drop out first only because I don’t have the history with this film that I do with the other two. That’s entirely a personal choice on my part, and if you told me that you think it should have won, I won’t disagree with you. Had it won, I’d have accepted it. It’s a fascinating story and it goes a lot of places that I found really interesting and mildly shocking. It might have been too much for the members of the Academy.

2. I dearly love Jaws, as evidenced by my banner. As the film that created the summer blockbuster film, it’s a difficult one to ignore. Spielberg managed to do something that isn’t all that common; he made a genuine horror film that became a crossover success. Non-horror fans saw and were terrified by and loved this film. It’s inventive and it’s also really scary, and it tuned just about perfectly. There are notes of humor just at the right time and played just right all the way through. It probably had no real hope of winning, but I’d have been very happy with it taking the top prize.

1. But I really can’t fault the choice of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This is another of those rare films that I can’t really think of a good way to improve. It’s very close to perfect all the way through. It also features what may be the best moments of Jack Nicholson’s career, and that says an incredible amount about just how good this is. It’s hardly a fun film, but it is (I think) objectively great rather than merely great in opinion. As much as I love Jaws and Dog Day Afternoon, this was absolutely the right choice.

Final Analysis


  1. Okay, that went somewhere I didn't expect. Did you intend to have Oscar Got It Wrong for the title? Maybe I missed that you were always going to use that for the title regardless of your final analysis.

    Anyway, I can acknowledge how effective One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is because it made me very uncomfortable. I can't really say Jaws "should have" won, though. In the long run it's the more important of the two films because it had the biggest impact: it literally invented the summer blockbuster. Before Jaws studios looked at the summer as a horrible time at the box office and they couldn't wait to get to the fall.

    I agree on Barry Lyndon's nomination not really fitting with the others. It's an interesting thought to replace it with The Man Who Would Be King. I can't think of any other really good 1975 movies, though, so while the top might be impressive, I think it's a shallow pool from which to pick candidates.

    1. Yeah, I'm calling this weekly feature "Oscar Got It Wrong" because I'm of the opinion that that's how most of them are going to turn out.

      I know you're not a Cuckoo's Nest fan, and I'm okay with that. I think given the choice I'd always rather watch Jaws, but I think that ultimately, Cuckoo's Nest is the objectively better film. I think if either Jaws or Dog Day Afternoon had won, I'd have used the same graphic at the end. Between those three films, it's a hard call.

      Ultimately, 1975 wasn't a fantastic overall year, but the great films of the year were all really, really great. There's a pretty big drop off between the top films and the rest of the pack.

  2. I will respectfully disagree. I think that "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" is an excellent film, it has much less impact than "JAWS: did. You name this as maybe Nicholson's finest performance, but I see it as the root of all the hammy performances that have come after. That raised eyebrow and maniacal look became trademark Jack touchstones after this film. I prefer his more subtle work the year before in "Chinatown". There are two fantastic performances by the leads in "JAWS" and the story was made better than it's source material in the film. "Cuckoo's Nest" feels like a play that is enhanced for the screen, which it basically is. "JAWS" is more innovative and original in it's execution. When it comes to repeatability, it may simply be a personal issue but my guess is most people could watch "JAWS" and enjoy it several times a year, while "Cuckoo's Nest" could not sustain the same level of enthusiasm.
    I know you were not intentionally diminishing 1975, but I would disagree again on the depths of that year. You correctly mention "Three Days of the Condor" and more importantly, "The Man Who Would be King". To my way of seeing it, either could easily replace "Nashville" on the list. There is another Sean Connery film that year that I would toss in for consideration, "The Wind and the Lion". Let's also not forget "Shampoo", "The Sunshine Boys", "Bite the Bullet", "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", "Hard Times", "The Day of the Locust", "Smile" and several others that are worthy films even if they are not "Best Picture" quality.
    It was an important year in films, but if you were to discuss with most people the most influential film, the most entertaining film, the most inventive film, and the one most well acted by it's entire cast, I would guess the subject would be the film with just four letters in the title.

    1. Yeah, I see that, but I still think that Cuckoo's Nest is the objectively greater film in many sense, even if I would personally rather watch Jaws

      When I looked through 1975, I saw a lot of the films that you mentioned above, like Holy Grail. It's a film I love dearly (I had a dog named Monty Python and another one named Basil Fawlty), but I didn't really think it was worth mentioning as a potential Best Picture candidate. Then again, that didn't stop me from mentioning Rollerball. This feature is still formative for me, so I imagine different parts of it, like that one, will be changing a bit as the weeks continue.

      By the way, I agree that Jaws the film is better than its source material.

  3. This is an interesting year in that if I made a list of my top 100 movies, ALL 5 nominees would be in my top 100

    Barry Lyndon: A beautiful film to look at. I can accept the argument that is slow in places and wouldn’t be in my top 5 Stanley Kubrick films. That being said it would be in my top 100, though in the bottoem half.

    Dog Day Afternoon: When I re-watched this after many years, I really appreciated what a strong and involving drama it was. Would probably crack my top 30.

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Definitely a classic. I’ve read the book, seen the play, but may like the movie better than either the book or the play. Definitely top 20. Can’t argue with this for best picture.

    Nashville: One of my favorites and favorite of Altman’s film. The multi-layered storytelling really works for me, but I understand it doesn’t for everyone. Would be in my top 10, but would still feel odd about this being Best Picture. If that makes sense.

    Jaws:All that being said, I was 12 years old when Jaws came out and 1975 was definitely the year of Jaws. It may not have been the best picture of 1975 but it was THE picture of 1975.

    I’m pretty sure this is the only year where the nominees have this many favorites for me.

    I’m glad the above comment brought up Smile, a sadly neglected film.

    1. I see but don't understand the Barry Lyndon love. I've seen most of Kubrick's output--11 of his 13 full-length films--and Barry Lyndon is the one on the bottom for me, just above Lolita. He's a hard director for me to rank, since I'd want to put 7 or 8 of his films in my top-5, but of the 11 I've seen, Lyndon isn't in the top 10.

      Like I said above, the great films of 1975 were really great films. A lot of these could have won in other years, although a lot of the winners in the 1970s are very strong films.

  4. You should give Barry Lyndon a chance. I think it's Kubrick best film after 2001.

    1. I honestly probably should rewatch it. When I'm in this much of a minority, it probably does deserve another chance.

  5. No worries about Barry Lyndon. I am on the same page as you. Too long and not nearly interesting enough. I would love to sneak in The Holy Grail somewhere, but I guess the Academy was not ready for that.
    I did not see Cuckoo's nest as a perfect film. It is good but there is something jarring about it. Jaws on the other hand is perfect. That makes it my winner.

    1. Yeah, this is one I might ultimately rethink.