The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1974

Oh, I love 1974 so much. (This will be, and has been, a recurring theme of the 70s with me.) Look at all five of these choices. And look at what won! Man, what a year.

The Godfather Part II, I think we can all agree, is one of the top five or ten best Best Picture winners of all time. Francis Ford Coppola winning Best Director for it (talked about here) is one of the top five Best Director decisions of all time, especially considering the Academy passed over him for the first Godfather. Robert De Niro also won Best Supporting Actor for the film (talked about here). I think we all know how good he was. Now, outside of those three — Art Carney wins Best Actor for Harry and Tonto (talked about here), which is one of the single worst Best Actor decisions of all time. Seriously Bottom five. Simply because Carney beat Al Pacino (in Godfather), Jack Nicholson (in Chinatown), Dustin Hoffman (in Lenny) and Albert Finney (in Murder on the Orient Express). None of these actors had an Oscar at this point, and this decision is what prevented Al Pacino from getting his Oscar until 1992 (and then prevented Denzel from getting his until 2001. Not to mention also potentially keeping Robert Downey Jr. and Clint Eastwood from an Oscar as well). I think we can agree it was bad. Best Actress was Ellen Burstyn for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (talked about here). It was a good decision. Burstyn was great in the role, but I can’t help but feel that Gena Rowlands deserved it more for A Woman Under the Influence. And Ingrid Bergman won Best Supporting Actress for Murder on the Orient Express (talked about here), which is clearly a veteran win, because she’s only on screen for five minutes and does next-to-nothing in the film.

Overall, 1974 is a huge success, and is in a way, the heart of the 70s. I’m seriously in awe of this decade.


And the nominees were…

Chinatown (Paramount)

The Conversation (Paramount)

The Godfather Part II (Paramount)

Lenny (United Artists)

The Towering Inferno (20th Century Fox, Warner Bros.)

Chinatown — It’s Chinatown. We know it’s perfect.

The Conversation — I love that Coppola had two films nominated for Best Picture this year.

This film is no less perfect than the other films on this list. It’s about Harry Caul, played by Gene Hackman, a security expert. He basically records conversations of other people, mostly husbands or wives expected of having affairs. That sort of stuff. And one day, he is hired to follow one couple to hear their conversation, which takes place in a busy place. So he spends lots of time trying to isolate the conversation from the ambient noise and figure out what was being said. And he becomes obsessed with figuring it out, and — well, stuff happens. Just watch the film. It’s perfect. One of the few films where sound is front and center. Like Blow Out. It’s really amazing. It definitely should be here, even though, against the other Coppola film, it had no shot.

The Godfather Part II — Come on.

Lenny — This is a biopic of Lenny Bruce, one of the greatest (or at least, most influential and important) stand-up comedians of all time. Dustin Hoffman plays Lenny, and is incredible. That’s really all you need to know about the film, that and the fact that Bob Fosse directed it. It’s incredible, and needs to be seen by all.

Again, though, not winning in this category. Some years just have a definitive winner (this one even has a definitive second choice).

The Towering Inferno — What a badass film this is. If Jaws was considered the “first” blockbuster — this one was damn close. There’s always that film before the benchmark film that has all the qualities of it but isn’t. But it’s right there.

The film is about the world’s tallest building being opened. And during the opening night celebration, some of the wires (which were haphazardly thrown together) cause an electrical fire, which sets the building ablaze and traps all the guests above it. So they call in the firefighters (who are of course Paul Newman and Steve McQueen) to help put it out and get the people out. And it’s basically a disaster movie, in the vein of The Poseidon Adventure and Airport, and it’s really awesome. More mainstream than anything, which is why it would never win. But it’s a big, classy movie with a big budget and big returns, so of course it’ll be here. Never gonna win though. Still an awesome movie. This is one of those movies you watch on a Saturday afternoon.

My Thoughts: Seriously?

My Vote: The Godfather Part II

Should Have Won: The Godfather Part II

Is the result acceptable?: Despite Chinatown being a hands down winner almost any other year, this is one of the best decisions of all time.

Ones I suggest you watch: If you haven’t seen The Godfather Part II or Chinatown, you’re dead to the world.

If you haven’t seen The Conversation or Lenny — or hell, even The Towering Inferno for that matter — you don’t really love movies and we’re not friends.


5) The Towering Inferno

4) Lenny

3) The Conversation

2) Chinatown

1) The Godfather Part II

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