The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1973
Another one. This decade just knocks them out of the park, one year at a time. Seriously, has it ever been as good as it was here?
The Sting is such a great Best Picture choice I can’t even put it into words. It also won Best Director for George Roy Hill (talked about here), which — finally! After this and Butch and Sundance (not to mention Thoroughly Modern Millie), the man deserved it. Best Actor was Jack Lemmon for Save the Tiger (talked about here), which was about thirteen years overdue for him. Even though his category was tremendous, he did deserve to win. Best Actress was Glenda Jackson for A Touch of Class (talked about here), which would have been okay had she not won in 1970, but she did, which makes me not like this decision at all (plus if Ellen Burstyn won here, maybe Gena Rowlands could have won the year after this). Best Supporting Actor was John Houseman for The Paper Chase (talked about here). A veteran Oscar, and one I’d normally be okay with, but Jason Miller was so good in The Exorcist and Vincent Gardenia was so good in Bang the Drum Slowly that I just can’t like that decision. And Best Supporting Actress was Tatum O’Neal for Paper Moon (talked about here), which is seriously one of the best decisions of all time in the category. You know me and precocious child roles — this thing is just incredible. I loved that film and that performance so, so much.
Again, we have another 70s year hit right out of the park. I love how this decade is the complete antithesis to the 80s in almost every way. That’s so wonderful.
BEST PICTURE – 1973
And the nominees are…
American Graffiti (Universal)
Cries and Whispers (New World Pictures)
The Exorcist (Warner Bros.)
The Sting (Universal)
A Touch of Class (Avco Embassy)
American Graffiti — What an American classic this is. What’s amazing about it is how very little actually happens in the movie. And that’s what’s so great about it.
A bunch of friends are graduating from high school, and on their last night together, a bunch of stuff happens. Each tries to do their own thing — get with a girl, keep their girl, whatever — and we follow them over the course of the night. It’s awesome. It’s a fun, low-key, hangout film that also has a great 50s soundtrack to it. It also spawned Happy Days, in a way. So that’s another great thing about it.
It’s a great film. Shouldn’t have won, though. The Sting and The Exorcist are better choices. This is still really awesome, though.
Cries and Whispers — This film was hard to get through. And it was only 90 minutes.
I’m not really a fan of the Ingmar Bergman chamber dramas. All those films he was nominated for Oscars for — not a fan. Fanny and Alexander I recognize as a good film, but I can’t watch that. It’s too long and it’s too slow for me. I’m just not interested in anything that happens. And this — this movie is like slow death. Literally. It’s about a woman dying. So we spend 90 minutes as she dies. And then she dies and everyone is unhappy. That’s the film. I would never vote for this in a million years.
Also, fun fact: this film, along with The Exorcist, also features a shot of vaginal blood. So if you thought The Exorcist was the only Best Picture nominee this year featuring vaginal blood, you’d be wrong.
The Exorcist — It’s The Exorcist, how do you not know it?
Little girl, possessed, priest brought in, exorcism performed. Don’t question, just watch. It’s one of the quintessential horror movies. Perhaps what’s so great about it is the fact that they don’t actually confirm that she is, in fact, possessed, until the end of act two. It sustains itself until that point. That’s incredible. Either way, it’s amazing. Still prefer The Sting, though.
The Sting — This is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s so good.
In case you don’t know (and if you don’t, why don’t you?), the film is about Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford), a small time hustler, pulling cons with his partner Luther. And one day, they cross the wrong man, Doyle Lonnegan, as they unknowingly rip off a numbers man from one of his rackets. And Lonnegan isn’t the type of man to take this lying down, so he has Luther killed. And Hooker goes and hides out (since he’s also wanted by Lt. Snyder (Charles Durning), a crooked cop who asks for payoffs constantly. He hooks up with Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), the man known as the best “big” conman in the business. Together, they team up to take down Lonnegan. And the rest of the film is about them planning the big sting on him.
It’s a perfect film. Some might not think this is a good Best Picture winner, but I think it’s a perfect choice. They don’t get much better than this.
Also, fun fact — this is the film where, just when David Niven was about to announce Elizabeth Taylor to read the nominees/winner, a man streaked across the stage. So, for Oscar trivia purposes, this is the year with the streaker. And because of that, when the Oscars roll around each year, you’ll know — the streaker ran across the stage before The Sting won Best Picture, David Niven was the host, and Elizabeth Taylor was the one who announced Best Picture. This is how you sound really smart for no good reason.
A Touch of Class — I was actually very impressed by this film. I went into it with a bit of a sour attitude, since I still consider Glenda Jackson winning Best Actress in 1970 to be the single worst Academy decision of all time. (I know bias is a lot of that, but I don’t care. Opinions are opinions.) So her winning her too was just a bit — I wasn’t happy about it. But the film actually did surprise me in how much I liked it. (She still didn’t need to win for it, though.)
Glenda Jackson is a divorced mother. She meets George Segal, a married man who has had many affairs. And they begin an affair, and the film is about — or at least, the first half of the film — them deciding to go away together for a weekend. And the trip turns into a huge disaster. It’s like a screwball comedy of errors. They think it’ll be a nice time away together, meanwhile everything goes comically wrong. Then they get through it and continue the affair, to the point where they actually start falling in love with one another. They both use an apartment midway between their respective houses, and meet there at every opportunity. And the film turns from a sort of lively comedy about this affair and turns into this really tragic drama. It’s quite surprising, in that respect. I ended up liking it a lot.
In terms of this category, though — no way. No chance. Fourth choice, at best. Some would even put it fifth.
My Thoughts: For me, it’s The Sting, and The Sting all the way. I love The Exorcist, but it just didn’t need to win (plus Friedkin had won two years earlier). And American Graffiti — fun film, but it should not have won here at all. The Sting is really the only choice here.
My Vote: The Sting
Should have won: The Sting (and also kinda The Exorcist)
Is the result acceptable?: Absolutely. One of the better choices of all time.
Ones I suggest you watch: If you haven’t seen The Sting or The Exorcist, you’re dead to me.
You should also see American Graffiti. It’s essential viewing for any film person.
A Touch of Class is a really solid film, and I highly recommend it. I like how it starts as a light romantic comedy and then just gets serious. Not like, somebody dies serious, but like — dramatic. I like how it takes you down this road with these people. It’s really well-done. Another gem from the Quest.
Cries and Whispers — don’t really like it. Not a huge fan of the Bergman chamber dramas. The one thing I like about it though is that it has vaginal blood in it. And I love being able to joke that I thought The Exorcist was the only film with vaginal blood in it from 1973. Otherwise — don’t like it.
5) Cries and Whispers
4) A Touch of Class
3) American Graffiti
2) The Exorcist
1) The Sting