Friday, June 12, 2015

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 1970

The Contenders:

Five Easy Pieces
Love Story
Patton (winner)

What’s Missing

I picked 1970 today simply because I haven’t done a 1970 category yet, but it feels like a down year, at least based on the 1001 Movies list. Something like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a film that I like, but hardly one that is typically named in terms of Oscars. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis seems closer to Oscar fare, but not a lot of non-English films get nominated, statements that also cover Claire’s Knee. The Ballad of Cable Hogue would have been an interesting choice. Performance is probably too weird and Kelly’s Heroes is probably not serious enough, or would’ve been one military farce too many with M*A*S*H already nominated (and Catch-22 isn’t good enough to make the cut). Finally, so that no one suggests it, I think Zabriskie Point is utter shit, and would nominate virtually anything else first.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I’m launching Love Story off the top. I fully understand why this movie was nominated, and I disagree with every reason it was. This is an ugly film about stupid, selfish people who act like assholes to everyone around them. Oh, boo hoo, I was born rich and daddy wanted me to be a lawyer. Cry me a river, you arrogant bastard. I was tired of this movie when I was a third done with it. Now, if they’d have made it into a zombie movie, I’d have loved it.

4. I don’t have a serious problem with Airport aside from the fact that it’s just kind of goofy. This is another movie that I was ready to be done with before it was ready to be done with me, but it’s also a longer film, so it’s a little more forgivable. Helen Hayes is the best thing in the movie, and she’s not in it nearly enough for my money. The rest of it is essentially a soap opera that takes place in an airport rather than a hospital. Don’t care, happy to be done with it.

3: Putting a film as good as Five Easy Pieces is less a commentary on the other two films and more a commentary on the fact that Five Easy Pieces is less a film and more a character study. Once you get past the towering performance of Jack Nicholson, there’s not a lot here. I think it may well be a great film and it certainly ranks in the storied career of Jack Nicholson, but it’s not enough of a story for me to think it’s the best picture of its year.

2: I often have issues with the films of Robert Altman, but M*A*S*H is an exception for me. It might be that I feel like I went into this knowing the characters from the television show that was based on this film. Regardless, Altman is another director who has demonstrated that one of the best ways to deal with the horrors of war is with comedy. I like this movie a lot. I like the characters. I’d love for there to be more of a plot, but regardless, I think it’s a great film. It’s just not the best one from 1970.

My Choice

1: Nope, it’s all about Patton. I’ve argued in the past that Patton won Best Picture for the opening sequence in which George C. Scott walks onto a stage in front of a massive American flag and gives a staggering speech. I think that might actually be true, and I don’t have a real problem with it. It’s an incredible sequence. The rest of the film holds up to that. Like Five Easy Pieces, this is a character study as well, but it’s also got an actual story and history, and it has a great performance from Karl Malden as well. This may have been a down year in general overall, but Patton can hold its head up with other winners as being deserving.

Final Analysis


  1. I think I agree that overall, 1970 was a poor year. My low opinion about my MASH (a rubbish film only made famous by the cool anti-war sentiment of the day) matches your low opinion of Love Story (which I thought was ok). But in a weak field, Patton was probably the right choice.

    Of the non-nominated 1970 films that I've seen, I have a soft spot for Two Mules For Sister Sara, and would happily swap it in as a nominee and throw MASH out.

    1. I like M*A*S*H, but I freely admit that it may be due to my enjoying the show when I was a kid. It's entirely possible that had I encountered the movie before the show, my position would be different. I tend to get lost in all of the characters of Altman films.

      I don't know Two Mules for Sister Sara, although I do know about it.

  2. Patton is a great film and I have no problem with it's Best Picture award.

    However ...

    I looked at my Favorite Films, Year by Year list on IMDB and I don't have Patton. I have a two-way tie!

    It's between El Topo and Even Dwarves Started Small!

    I'm probably in the minority in rating these two films so highly. It's been a long time since I saw El Topo. But it was only a few years ago that I saw Even Dwarves Started Small and I watched it twice in one day before I sent it back to Netflix. I can't think of any other movie that I've watched twice in one day.

    1. I should really watch Even Dwarves Started Small. As for El Topo, I get why people like it, but it really failed for me.

  3. Agree on all counts. In a weak year, Oscar got it right with Patton. My own top-rated film of the year is Gimme Shelter.

    Even Dwarves Started Small is Herzog and I love Herzog. On the other hand, it contains a bunch of pretty dire animal cruelty.

    1. In a way, a down year is easier, especially if there is a real stand-out film.

  4. I might swap Patton and MASH or I might swap Airport and Five Easy Pieces, but I don't really disagree with your order. I pretty much agree across the board with your analysis of each film.

    About the only thing I do disagree with is I definitely felt Catch-22 was worthy of a nomination. I'd jettison any of Love Story, Airport, or Five Easy Pieces to make room for it.

    And even though it's a documentary, why not Woodstock for a Best Picture nomination? (I don't recall a doc EVER getting nominated in that category, but I'm pretty sure there's no rule against it.)

    Finally, there's also Tora Tora Tora, but like you said in regard to Kelly's Heroes and Catch-22, there were already other war films on the ballot crowding it out.

    1. I like Patton more than I like M*A*S*H, which is really the only justification I have for putting it first. Fortunately for this feature, I don't need more justification than that.

      I was ultimately really disappointed with Catch-22 as a movie. Loved the book, though. Tora! Tora! Tora! is a good suggestion. The same could be said of Woodstock, although I really do tend to avoid documentaries for these nominations simply because they have their own category. It's the same reason I didn't mention Gimme Shelter.

  5. This is the film that taught me to love Jerry Goldsmith. I had that speech memorized after listening to it dozens of times on the soundtrack. This was clearly the Best Film of that year.

    1. Like I said above, I think it won specifically for that speech, and I don't take issue with that. It's one of the best moments of its decade.

  6. Speaking of 1970, I saw Trog over the weekend.

    I was kind of disappointed that it wasn't as bad I expected it to be. I thought it was going to be in Monster-A-Go-Go territory.

    Make no mistake, it's pretty bad. And I laughed out loud at the "fight" with the German shepherd. But it was amusingly bad instead of hilariously bad.

  7. It was a weak year. The only addition I can think of is Little Big Man, but that is more for my weak spot for that movie than actual Best Picture material.
    I am not as excited about Patton as most other people, but it is the clear winner here. There are simply no other movie in 1970 with format enough to compare. MASH is a god runner up.

    1. It does feel like a lackluster year in a lot of respects.