I'd like to spank the Academy

51st_academy_awardsThe nice thing about the 51st Academy Awards is that I didn’t have a dog in the fight before I started watching the movies. There was no beloved movie that I was rooting for to win everything because it was the greatest movie ever made. Yes, I had seen Heaven Can Wait often, but it’s not one of the movies from my childhood that makes me feel warm and cozy. I enjoy it, but I have no strong emotions about it. Because of this, it was much easier for me to evaluate the merits of each movie in its own right. Seeing something without knowing much about it prevents disappointment and allows me to catch the full impact of the movie.

What really surprised me about the offerings from 1978 was how good they all were. Like I’ve said before, I’ve seen lots of old movies (that sounds bad; we will say classic movies), but there is a huge gap in my knowledge when it comes to the 1970s and 1980s. With this particular set, the movies kept getting better and better. I watched An Unmarried Woman first, and couldn’t understand how any woman could have done a better acting job than Jill Clayburgh and couldn’t fathom a better screenplay. Then I saw Coming Home, and I understood why Jane Fonda won over Clayburgh. Clayburgh was indeed wonderful, but Fonda was simply better. Midnight Express was a bit of a letdown after seeing An Unmarried Woman, Coming Home, and Heaven Can Wait, but there still was a lot to admire in it, including John Hurt’s performance as Max. However, his acting, along with Jack Warden’s in Heaven Can Wait and Bruce Dern’s in Coming Home, was eclipsed by Christopher Walken’s performance in The Deer Hunter, which is phenomenal. (I have a really great story about how much his performance affected me, but since I’m trying to avoid spoilers, I won’t tell it here.) I thought Coming Home was a fabulous movie about how Vietnam affected people, and I didn’t think anyone could make a better one. Then I saw The Deer Hunter, and I knew that the Academy had made the right choice for Best Picture of 1978. I really don’t have any disagreements with any of the awards given in that year of excellence.

So how do I rank the nominees?

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

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