The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered (Best Picture, 1977-1978)

The Oscar Quest began in May of 2010. I finished about fifteen months later, and wrote it up for this site. That was essentially the first thing I did on here. Five years have passed since then. I’ve grown as a person. My tastes have changed, matured (or gotten more immature, in some cases). So it feels fitting, on the five year anniversary of the site and of the Oscar Quest, to revisit it.

I want to see just how my opinions about things have changed over the past five years. I didn’t do any particular work or catch-up for this. I didn’t go back and watch all the movies again. Some I went back to see naturally, others I haven’t watched in five years. I really just want to go back and rewrite the whole thing as a more mature person, less concerned with making points about certain categories and films than with just analyzing the whole thing as objectively as I can to give people who are interested as much information as possible.

This is the more mature version of the Oscar Quest. Updated, more in-depth, as objective as possible, less hostile. You can still read the old articles, but know that those are of a certain time, and these represent the present.


Annie Hall

The Goodbye Girl


Star Wars

The Turning Point


Annie Hall is Woody Allen’s masterpiece. Even people like me who don’t really like a lot of his films can’t deny the greatness of this movie.

This is a movie about love. And relationships. And it’s perfect.

I’m so glad this movie is here, because if there’s one movie that’s gonna beat Star Wars this year and be okay, this is the one.

The Goodbye Girl is a great Neil Simon romantic comedy. Simon’s stuff seems pretty dated now. I wonder how it looked at the time. Apparently pretty good, since his movies got nominated for bunches of Oscars.

Marsha Mason is a dancer who stopped dancing to raise her daughter. She’s dating a director. One day, he ups and leaves to take a film job in Hollywood, and sells the lease on the apartment they both live in to Richard Dreyfuss, a struggling actor. She refuses to leave. Dreyfuss, realizing he’d essentially make this woman homeless if he kicked her out, allows her to share half the apartment with him. At first it doesn’t go quite well. But naturally, pretty soon, love blooms. You know the drill.

I like this movie a lot. Not something that wins Best Picture, but a solid film. My third favorite in the category and probably fourth choice for holding up. Not that anything could really hold up better than Annie Hall or Star Wars. But something’s gotta be the fourth choice.

Julia is an interesting film because I’m not sure… it’s based on a chapter from Lillian Hellman’s book which describes this encounter with a friend. Though it also bears more than a passing similarity to another piece of work by another woman, whom she’d never met, and recounted something similar in her memoirs. So the jury’s out on just how true that chapter is, but there’s no denying this film version is very good.

The film is structured around Hellman’s friendship with a woman named Julia, who was like a sister to her growing up. Then Julia went off to Europe and they lost touch. Julia became an anti-fascist while she became a playwright and began living with Dashiell Hammett. One day, she gets a call from Julia, who asks her to do a favor for her — can she smuggle some money for her into Berlin as she passes through on her way to a conference in Russia? Because this is her best friend, she agrees. But it’s not a particularly easy thing to do — she’s a Jewish woman passing through Germany… if anything happens, it doesn’t end well.

It’s a really good film. I quite like it. Never gonna take it over the major two contenders, but this feels like a third choice. Wouldn’t be a great winner, but I could see a universe where this could theoretically be the choice. Just not this one.

Star Wars.

That space movie. It’s pretty good.

The Turning Point is the film that was heavily favored to win the Oscar this year. Which is great now, since no one has any idea what this movie even is anymore.

This and Julia tied for the most nominations. What’s most impressive about both of them is that they’re primarily female-driven stories. The men are secondary in both films. Annie Hall and The Goodbye Girl are more two-handers. And Star Wars is Star Wars. That’s actually really impressive, that two female-driven films were the most-nominated films of the year.

This is a film about two ballerinas. Shirley MacLaine was prima ballerina and left the company when she got pregnant. She decided to have a family instead of a career. Anne Bancroft, her best friend, took that prima ballerina spot. Cut to twenty years later The ballet is coming to MacLaine’s town. The two reunite. MacLaine wishes she had the career instead of the family and Bancroft wishes she had the family instead of the career. MacLaine’s daughter wants to be a ballerina and Bancroft takes her under her wing. Old jealousies rise to the surface between the two women.

It’s a solid film. It doesn’t sound like something most people would go for, but it’s very watchable and very good. Should not have won Best Picture and actually would have made for the weakest winner. Maybe second weakest, if we really want to parse through The Goodbye Girl and this, but still… not a great choice. Not something I’d take. Solid, and not undeserving of all the nominations, but it’s not the best winner for 1977.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: It’s Star Wars or Annie Hall. There’s no other choice here. When you get down to it, Annie Hall was probably the better choice, since Star Wars doesn’t need a Best Picture win to validate itself. I’m still gonna take it, because I’ll things being equal… I want to. There’s no real logic behind it. They’re both great. I just prefer Star Wars. So fuck it.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. Annie Hall
  2. Star Wars
  3. Julia
  4. The Goodbye Girl
  5. The Turning Point

Rankings (films):

  1. Star Wars
  2. Annie Hall
  3. The Goodbye Girl
  4. Julia
  5. The Turning Point

My Vote: Star Wars


Star Wars — Go ahead, I dare you.

Annie Hall — probably top 100 all-time essential. Even if it isn’t you gotta see it.

The Goodbye Girl is a great romantic comedy and highly recommended. The best of the Neil Simon films. (Though I guess The Odd Couple is probably better.)

Julia is highly recommended. It’s absolutely terrific. Really great film that not enough people see anymore.

The Turning Point is actually really solid. I give it a solid recommend. Not something you need to see, but it’s something you need to watch if you want to talk about this Oscar category, and otherwise just something I think is worth a watch because it’s actually good.

The Last Word: I think Annie Hall is the proper choice here. Star Wars of course holds up okay, but it doesn’t quite fit with who they are as a group. Annie Hall kinda does. And it’s a classic. So they made a good choice. Star Wars is probably just as good, but as it is, you can’t argue with it. Especially since they could have made a real mistake here.  This is a major win for them. (Annie Hall, by the way, almost swept. It won four of its five nominations. Had it won the fifth, it would have been a Big Five winner.)

– – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – –


Coming Home

The Deer Hunter

Heaven Can Wait

Midnight Express

An Unmarried Woman


Coming Home is Hal Ashby’s most acclaimed film. Not necessarily his best, but the one that got the most nominations.

Our first of two Vietnam films. Jon Voight is a soldier who comes back home without his legs. He’s in a VA hospital and we watch his transition back into society (which is not particularly smooth). Jane Fonda is a woman who marries Bruce Dern and sends him off to fight. She then takes a job at the hospital and meets Voight. The two begin a relationship. Then Dern comes back home all PTSD and that threatens their relationship (and Fonda’s life, the way Dern behaves).

It’s a good film. It’s really well acted and well made. But it’s not the best Vietnam movie in this category. I know a lot of people will disagree with me. That’s fine. It’s not the one I’m gonna take. It’s probably my personal fourth favorite film in the category, maybe even fifth, now that I think about it. But it’s still a great film and is legitimately worth taking if you think it’s the right choice.

The Deer Hunter is just a classic. This is one of those movies everyone gets to pretty quickly once they get into film.

Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage are all friends in a Pennsylvania steel town. They’re all going off to fight in Vietnam. We watch them during the last days before they leave, as Savage gets married and they go off on one last hunting trip. Then — fucking Vietnam man. Didi mao and all that shit. And then we watch the aftermath of the war and the results of combat on each of the men. It’s fucking great.

For some reason, not everyone thinks this is a great Best Picture winner. I’ve met more than a few people who think it’s an overrated film and winner. I am not one of those people, and I will be taking this as my winner. I hope you weren’t expecting any suspense here. This is always gonna be my vote in 1978.

Heaven Can Wait is a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Which is interesting, since there is also a movie from the 40s called Heaven Can Wait. But then the Chris Rock remake of Heaven Can Wait is called Down to Earth, which is a real movie and was a sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Exactly.

Warren Beatty is a quarterback about to play in the Super Bowl when he gets into a horrible accident and winds up dead. When he gets to the afterlife, he claims there’s been a mistake. They look and realize, oh shit, he’s right. But they can’t put him back in his body, so now they have to find a solution. So temporarily, they put him in a loaner body, a millionaire whose wife and her lover murdered him. He’s going around as this millionaire (with comic results related to the wife and her lover, since as far as they know, they killed him), trying to be his old self. Meanwhile, he starts to fall in love with a woman as the millionaire.

It’s a classic all around. This and Here Comes Mr. Jordan are both incredible, and I can’t really say one is definitively better than the other. This is probably the version I prefer and the one I imagine most people would enjoy. Not something I’d take for Best Picture, just because in most years there’s probably always gonna be a nominee I like more. Especially in the 70s, where every year has some insane classic that’s amazing. But here, it’s probably my second favorite film. And I could make a case that I’d take it as third choice. But it doesn’t matter, since I’d never get to this as an actual choice. Still, love this movie a lot.

Midnight Express.

That’s what this movie is. Being in a Turkish prison. Guy tries to smuggle hash out of the country, gets caught, gets sentenced to like twenty years in a Turkish prison. And boy, is that not fun. This movie shows you just how not fun that is.

It’s really great. Not something that I think would ever have won. It’s way too hardcore for the Oscars. History has probably shown this to be the film that’s held up second best in the category, but it wouldn’t ever have been their choice. Nor would it really have been mine. I’m persuaded now to say it’s my second choice behind Deer Hunter, but I can’t really say that it’s the film I’d take if Deer Hunter weren’t here. I like this movie a lot and I respect it a lot, but would I actually vote for it? I don’t know. But fortunately we don’t have to find out.

An Unmarried Woman is a great 70s movie that time has seemingly forgotten.

Jill Clayburgh plays a happy wife who is blindsided when her husband asks for a divorce out of nowhere. And we watch her struggling with that and her newfound single-hood. And we see her slowly start to put her life back together. And it’s amazing.

This movie is so, so good. It feels like it was a big influence on Nancy Meyers. I’m surprised they nominated it. Love that they did, but surprised. It’s a fifth choice all around. It’s probably a film I like better than Coming Home, but I’m not gonna say it was a better Best Picture choice. Definitely the most dated film in the category, but still a great nominee.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: It’s Deer Hunter. It’s always Deer Hunter for me. That movie is a masterpiece. Just a great all-time movie. Midnight Express is amazing, but I don’t love it enough to take it. Heaven Can Wait is awesome, but it doesn’t feel like the right choice. Coming Home is also fantastic, but I also don’t like it enough to take it. An Unmarried Woman I love but also wouldn’t take. Deer Hunter’s the choice.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. The Deer Hunter
  2. Midnight Express
  3. Coming Home
  4. Heaven Can Wait
  5. An Unmarried Woman

Rankings (films):

  1. The Deer Hunter
  2. Heaven Can Wait
  3. Midnight Express
  4. An Unmarried Woman
  5. Coming Home

My Vote: The Deer Hunter


The Deer Hunter is a film you see before you even get to me. If not, then you have some catching up to do.

Midnight Express is a movie you need to see. If only to be able to reference it. Or as research for your eventual stint in a Turkish prison.

Coming Home is essential for Oscar buffs, a high recommend for most, probably something film buffs should just consider essential because it cross lists everywhere, is great and has great people in it that most people really like and whose stuff people seek out. Might as well just see it.

Heaven Can Wait is just awesome. You need to see one version of this story. This is likely the preferred version. For my money, both this and Here Comes Mr. Jordan are essential. So take that for what you will.

An Unmarried Woman is a great film. Very high recommend, essential for the 70s, and for my money it’s essential for film buffs because it’s a hidden gem for all time that people need to see. I cannot say enough positive things about this film. SEE IT.

The Last Word: They made a great choice. There’s really no way any of the alternatives could ever be any better. An Unmarried Woman wouldn’t hold up, Heaven Can Wait would be a weird choice for them. Midnight Express, had they actually went for it, maybe it holds up okay. But not as well as Deer Hunter. Coming Home is the only choice they probably have at possibly holding up, and even that I don’t think holds up as well as Deer Hunter has. I think this is a top twenty-five or thirty choice all time. It’s terrific.

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(Read more Oscar Quest articles.)

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