And the Rewritten Oscar goes to…The Godfather Part II
This was the hardest year to pick so far. Francis Ford Coppola’s legendary sequel was challenged fiercely, particularly by Roman Polanski’s equally legendary Chinatown, but in the end the Corleone saga was for me, just as it was for the Academy, too hard to pass up.
Chinatown may be the more riveting of the two films, the tighter and more urgent, but Part II is the more affecting. Coppola’s drama is so overwhelmingly tragic and chilling, one of the most haunting films ever made.
The Conversation was also a strong contender, another haunting film, more psychological thrills than the excitement promised by it’s nominated compatriots, and it too lingers in the mind long after watching it.
Lenny and The Towering Inferno are a step below in quality, but there are still joys to be found in their drama. Lenny promises many interesting, evocative ideas, although if it doesn’t explore them with anything more than fleeting measure, while The Towering Inferno is indeed crazy, but just crazy enough to work, even if it does fancy itself more dramatic than it is.
This was also a terrific year male acting. Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro have all entered iconic status with their performances, whilst Dustin Hoffman carries Lenny on his back and Paul Newman and Steve McQueen offer fun, if not absurd, turns in their bombastic disaster picture. The unsung hero however is Gene Hackman in The Conversation, a torturous portrait of a desperate mind. It’s amazing to think how in-you-face Hackman was a just a few years prior in The French Connection compared to how painfully reclusive he is here. He is a truly mercurial performer. How he wasn’t the winner let alone nominated for Best Actor is the Academy’s most glaring oversight in 1975.
They did pick the right film for Best Picture however, and this makes them 5/10.
The Conversation– ***1/2
The Godfather Part II– ****
The Towering Inferno– ***