50th Academy Awards (1978)

Islands in the Stream (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Islands in the Stream (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
2/5 StarsNominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Cinematography (Fred J. Koenekamp).
Watched November 12, 2012.

I watched this film quite a while ago, before I got married and my posting schedule for the blog completely changed.  I am just now getting around to this piece, and unfortunately we weren’t missing out on much.  Islands in the Stream is based on the last Hemingway novel.  Really it was pieced together by his wife after he passed away and we can’t really know if he would have ever had it published himself, but it is said that the main character is based on who Hemingway saw himself as.

 

Thomas Hudson (George C. Scott) has seen a lot in his life and has retired to an island in the Caribbean where he fishes, sculpts, and drinks.  He has some good buddies who don’t expect much from him but would do a lot for him.  When the film opens he is expecting a rare visit from his three sons from two marriages.  Ranging in age from 10 to 19, the boys all have unique relationships with their father.  The oldest, Tom (Hart Bochner) remembers his mom and dad having a loving and passionate relationship, while the middle child David (Michael-James Wixted) is resentful toward his father for the way he treated his mom–the second wife.

 

Wixted is probably the best performance from the three kids, and it is just as well because his character has the biggest arch out of the three.  It is very much a coming of age tale for him, and it helps that his dad is there to gently coach him through it.  Though you wouldn’t expect it, especially because Thomas has been absent for much of their lives, he really does care for his children.  He perhaps has more affection toward Tom because that marriage was the best, and he misses it.

 

The second part of the film is quite slow and is punctuated by an unexpected visit from the first wife, Audrey (Claire Bloom), who brings hard news that perhaps spurs on the third act, which is so drastically different from the first two it’s a wonder it ever made it into the film.  Although the first two thirds of the film moved very slowly, I was interested in the characters and their relationships.  The third act completely lost me.  I’m not sure if it is a part of the book–some reviews made it sound as if it was an addition to the film and I would love to know if this is true.  Perhaps the production team was attempting to liven up the story, but I really wish it had not been included.  There are rescued Jews (the story takes place at the beginning of World War II), smuggling, and cheap looking explosions.  It is a huge disruption from the tranquility of the island life.

 

I’ll be honest that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Islands in the Stream.  I was curious about Thomas, his family, and the relationships all throughout the film.  I cared for them, but there were certainly moments that I won’t specify (no spoilers here!) that could have been done better.  The cinematography was certainly beautiful and well done, especially for a film from the seventies.  The acting was acceptable, and although the pace of the film was slow it fit with the lifestyle of beach life.

 

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this film.  I probably won’t be watching it again.  If you are curious about Hemingway’s last book, it might be a good place to start, but I expect the actual novel would be a much better medium.

The Other Side of Midnight (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

The Other Side of Midnight (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Costume Design (Irene Sharaff).
Watch November 18, 2013.

  

Have any of you read those famed “romance” novels?  You’ve probably at least seen them on the shelves.  The ones with the half naked men and women in a provocative embrace?  That’s what The Other Side of Midnight is.  Full of plenty of unrequited love, nudity, sex, and passion–not to mention plots of murder–this novel based screenplay is an interesting nomination.

 

Noelle Page (Marie-France Pisier) is a young French girl whose piggish father tells her that her beauty and body are the only things she has to offer the world.  He essentially sells her off to a shop keeper, where Noelle is expected to do more than tend the cash register.  She escapes to Paris where penniless and possessionless, she is is rescued by a young American pilot named Larry Douglas (John Beck).  He takes her in, feeds her, beds her, and when his orders come in he tells her to buy a wedding dress and he’ll be back for her.

 

But he never comes back.  Noelle, still pursuing fashion as a career, soon finds herself modeling and then acting.  Knowing that men only want one thing, she takes her father’s advice and uses her body to get the roles she wants.  She rises to fame quickly and once one of the wealthiest men in the world takes an interest in her, she leaves her director beau fairly quickly for a life of luxury with the Greek Constantin Demeris (Raf Vallone).

 

Larry, in the meantime, has married and is finding it hard to hold down a job since in the end of the war.  Noelle discovers this and offers him a job as her personal pilot in Greece.  Not knowing she is the girl he once ditched, Larry and his wife Catherine (Susan Sarandon) move overseas.

 

Of course Larry will eventually find out who Noelle is.  She has loved him ever since the beginning and no money or spouse can stand in her way.

 

The movie is outlandishly long.  The story begins during World War II but you hardly know it.  Occasionally there are swastikas, but that’s as close to the action as we get.  This may be because Noelle is distinctly indifferent to anyone else’s suffering than her own, or it may just be an awful choice from the original author.  You decide.

 

Although Noelle was indeed slighted, once she begins to see herself as little more than sex, she loses all strength and is no longer a powerhouse woman.  She is presented as someone intelligent who only takes care of herself, however she comes across as easily used and lacking in a lot of things, most importantly self respect.

 

Catherine is everything that Noelle should have been.  She is strong, intelligent, supportive.  She has an amazing job in the city but moves to Greece to support her husband.  Although she will do anything to keep their relationship strong, I do not see this as a weakness.  She has a drinking problem but leaves it before she would leave Larry.

 

Larry is the most unattractive, weak, and grating character the movie can produce.  He is amazing in the beginning, but he seems to lose everything with the war, and in my opinion he never gets it back.

 

The  movie is too long, the ending makes the entire film pointless, and the third act is so different from the first two that I almost stopped watching entirely.  The cinematography is boring, the editing isn’t much, and the story line is far from special.  I do not recommend it.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 3 awards.
Nominated for Art Direction (Ken Adam, Peter Lamont, Hugh Scaife), Music-Original Score (Marvin Hamlisch), and Music-Original Song “Nobody Does It Better” (Marvin Hamlisch, Carole Bayer Sager).
Watched November 4, 2012

  

The reviews are positive, but my views are different.  Granted I have not paid much attention to the 007 franchise prior to Daniel Craig and thus my opinions will be incredibly jaded, I was not a huge fan of The Spy Who Loved Me.  I find that I am having trouble looking past the dated 70s styles.  However, it has been pointed out by many reviewers that the film did exactly what it was supposed to–it was never created to be film noir but a mindless entertaining film that all one must do to enjoy it is sit back and relax while James Bond does all of the hard work.  I will admit that, for the most part, The Spy Who Loved Me does that successfully.

 

This generation’s Bond is played by Roger Moore, who is following Sean Connery, but he apparently does much better in this film than the previous Bond flicks he had starred in.  He is smarmy, with a classically good looking smirk, and a hidden pain of lost love that makes him attractive.  Not to mention his mad skiing skills that are said to be one of the best openings to a Bond film–ever.

 

In this storyline, the bad guy, Karl Stromberg (Curt Jürgens) has been tracking and trapping nuclear submarines from all sides, which is why 007 and the Russian Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) suddenly find themselves working together.  Bond and Major Anya Amasova have significantly different feelings about working with one another.  Bond is of course attracted to the feisty female agent, while she resents his typical pig headed manliness and pushes against him in an attempt to not be overshadowed by a man.  Through their adventures she begins to soften toward him, until she finds out that he killed her love just weeks before, which of course means that she has to kill him once they save the world from nuclear destruction.

  

Complete with excessive explosions and gunfire, underwater cities, and women in bikinis, it is a true Bond film.  In comparison with today’s franchise, the cinematography has zero creativity.  There is a serious lack of angles.  The editing is a bit slow, and the sound design was perplexing.  The lack of a sound track fails to disguise the terrible foley art during the fight scenes, not to mention how very choreographed every punch felt.  Somehow, Amasova did not come off as intelligent as she was supposed to be, probably because she kept making dumb decisions and relying on Bond to save her.

 

The acclaimed villain who everyone loves–Jaws (Richard Kiel)–would have been a lot more intimidating had the editor not had a preoccupation with dwelling on his metal-mouth grimace.

 

All in all, I would consider it another TV movie entertainment date, but not necessarily for the main Friday night event.  In my mother’s words, it’s quite “campy” and outdated, but I did enjoy the last half hour that is spent completely devoted on freeing the submarine crews and saving the world.  Many reviewers disliked this part, but to me it was my favourite because it embodies Bond so well.  There is very little attempt at serious story telling and just straight entertaining, unrealistic action.  Perfect.

Airport ’77 (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Airport ’77 (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Art Direction (George Webb, Mickey S. Michaels) and Costume Design (Edith Head, Buron Miller).
Watched November 1, 2012.

I have heard tales of these films, the popular series that began with a study of the chaos at airports and gradually made its way to basic blockbuster adventure stories involving airplanes.  If any of you have seen the popular comedy Airplane and did not know, it is a parody of the Airport movies of the seventies.  After watching Airport ’77, I want to watch the rest, not because it was a brilliant feat, but because of the hilarious parodies of Airplane that I noticed while watching the film.

 

Airport ’77 is about a group of privileged people who are taking the first flight ever on a new luxury 747.  The owner has invited them all to his place in Florida to view his art collection.  Among the passengers are his daughter and grandson, whom he has not seen in years.  The adventure and suspense in this film starts from almost the very beginning, when we are introduced to men wearing disguises and sneaking suspiciously through the airplane.  Really what they are doing is hijacking the plane.

 

The copilot and his fellow theifs are stealing the art pieces in the cargo.  They knock everyone out with gas and are intending on getting the pieces off the plane before anyone knows what has gone down, but inevitably, during the copilot’s maneuvers to stay below the radar in the Bermuda Triangle, they hit an oil rig and crash land in the ocean, sinking beneath the surface and settling on the edge of an underwater cliff.  There is plenty of panic, death, and cut away shots to the Navy’s control room where they orchestrate the search and rescue.  There is, of course, a doctor on board the plane (isn’t there always in the movies?), but they at least add a little twist in that he is a veterinarian.  The film even ends in an epic attempt to raise the plane in the same manner that the Navy would raise a distressed submarine.

 

Apparently they had a stacked cast for this film, among them Jack Lemmon, Lee GrantOlivia de Havilland, and Christopher Lee to name a few.  Despite their talent pool, the demand of the characters was limited and there was very little study of how individuals might react if they suddenly awoke to find their plane at the bottom of the ocean.  The storytelling was typical and predictable.  How many times can you show water leaking into the plane and expect the suspense to build?  There are a few sequences that are exciting and interesting, although it reminded me drastically of other unlikely stories such as Poseidon.

 

To be honest I am curious how the film earned itself its nominations.  Looking at the art direction and costume design by themselves I am thoroughly unimpressed by their mediocrity.  This may be a matter of societal distance, as the criteria of films in the 70s and films in the 21st century are quite different.

 

Airport ’77 has become one of those bad movies you might watch part of on TV, but beyond that it is nothing impressive.  If you like unrealistic disaster movies like Poseidon you might want to look up this film, but otherwise it is not something I would advise for your list.

 

Sources: iSKYxfinityIMDBRotten TomatoesSam Hawken

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 8 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Supporting Actress (Melinda Dillon), Art Direction (Joe Alves, Dan LominoPhil Abramson), Directing (Steven Spielberg), Film Editing (Michael Kahn), Music-Original (John Williams), Sound (Robert Knudson, Robert J. Glass, Don MacDougallGene S. Cantamessa), Visual Effects (Roy Arbogast, Douglas Trumbull, Matthew Yuricich, Gregory Jein, Richard Yuricich).
Won Cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond).
Watched October 22, 2012.

 

 

[This review contains spoilers.]

 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, like Star Wars, is another sci-fi film released in 1977 that was nominated and won awards for its achievements.  It was also the second-highest grossing film of the year and held records for a good while.  This is, of course, thanks to Steven Spielberg, his incredible understanding of the craft, and his abilities as a story teller.  I, for one, will forever be a fan of Spielberg, not necessarily for his out-of-this-world artistic abilities, but for his all encompassing domination of filmmaking as a whole.  Although certain aspects of Close Encounters are dated, the majority of it withstands the test of time far more than its counterpart, Star Wars.

 

If you have guessed correctly, like I did, Close Encounters is a film about aliens.  Similarly to other such films where extra terrestrial life visits Earth, you don’t actually see the aliens themselves until the end of the film, although you see a good amount of their ships.  Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is your average blue collar worker with a wife Ronnie (Teri Garr) and three children.  When there is a huge power outage one night, he is called into the field, but once he has a unique encounter with one of the ships, he turns off his radio and decides to chase down the aliens.  He is completely obsessed, even once they have gone, preoccupied with a pyramid shape that he can’t place.  A woman he met the same night, Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) is just as preoccupied, but when her son Barry (Cary Guffey) is taken, her terror leads her to chase down her visions of the mountain.  Roy’s obsession eventually makes him so crazy that his wife leaves with the children.

 

Meanwhile, a group of scientists have been tracking and communicating with the aliens and have discovered that the lifeforms have been sending them direct coordinates to Devils Tower in Wyoming.  They immediately evacuate the area, and it is the television coverage of the panic that clues Roy and Jillian in on what their visions have been of.  They both rush to the area, of course meeting up and driving recklessly into the military protected national park.

 

Unlike many alien movies of our day, Steven Spielberg’s aliens are friendly and curious.  Although they have taken many people over the years, as well as accepted voluntary travelers, they seem like they too are merely scientists wishing to understand, explore, and experience.  This also differs from the films in the 70s and before.  The typical storyline is, of course, that their world is dying, they are feeding, or they simply want to terrorize the planet.  Spielberg’s creation, although also suspenseful, is much different with much better special effects, which are perhaps two of its best traits.

 

As far as performances and characters, I thought everyone was phenomenal.  Dreyfuss is very convincing–his crazy is very realistic and because we know his experience was legitimate it is probably less weird to the audience than his wife, although at the climax of his meltdown it is easy to understand and sympathize with Ronnie.  She begins as very loving and supportive, although clearly worried.  At first I was surprised that she might actually be so loving that she completely upholds her “in sickness and in health” vows without question, but she eventually cracks and opts to protect her children by removing them from the situation.

 

I would definitely recommend this film.  It is more lighthearted than recently viewed films, but certainly has more depth than Star Wars.  Even if you have seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind before, it would definitely be a good choice for this Halloween evening!

Sources: Classic MoviesZap 2 ItIMDBRotten TomatoesHorror NewsNY Times