Best, worst and others of '79

Lawrence O’Toole December 31 1979

Best, worst and others of '79

Lawrence O’Toole December 31 1979

Best, worst and others of '79



Lawrence O’Toole

it was a year in which movies reached astonishing new heights. Horror (Alien, Halloween, The Amityville Horror,

Dracula, Dawn of the Dead, Phantasm, Nosferatu, Prophecy, When a Stranger Calls) was the hottest ticket going. The gang movies (The Warriors, The Wanderers, Walk Proud, Boulevard Nights) confirmed the fact that there’s nothing as fast—or as fickle—as a fad. Relationships {Manhattan, Head Over Heels, Rich Kids, Starting Over, Kramer vs. Kramer) were the cause of the most stress in North American lives, next to cancer and alcoholism. Out of it all there emerged movies that people will talk about for as long as there are movies.

Best Picture: Apocalypse Now Best Director: Francis Coppola, Apocalypse Now

Best Actor: Nick Nolte, North Dallas Forty

Best Actress: Impossible to choose between Hanna Schygulla in The Marriage of Maria Braun and Sally Field in Norma Rae.

Best Supporting Actor: Robert Duvall,

Apocalypse Now

Best Supporting Actress: Meryl Streep, The Deer Hunter

Best Screenplay: Pia Fröhlich, Peter Märthesheimer, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, The Ma rriage of Maria Braun Best Photography: Vittorio Storaro, A pocalypse Now

The 10 best films of the year (in alphabetical order, with the director’s name in brackets) were:

Apocalypse Now (Francis Coppola) The current state of the art. Slaughters the senses.

Best Boy (Ira Wohl) Documentary about Wohl’s 52-year-old retarded cousin, Philly, and Philly’s relationship with his parents. “Philly don’t always know the words, but he knows the melody,” explains his mother, Pearl. The melody is what this little gem is about. Dawn of the Dead (George Romero) Swiftian satire of zombies loose in a shopping mall. The survivors holed up there raid this consumers’ paradise at the risk of life and limb.

The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino) The bottomless capacity human beings have for sorrow. The setting is Vietnam, but it could have happened anywhere and at any time.

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Werner Herzog) The true story of a foundling who emerged from nowhere addresses itself to one staggering question: why do people behave as they do? There’s even an answer. Stately and superb.

Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (Bertrand Blier) Brilliantly written, original ode to the odd behavior of people in love and lust. Freewheeling and exhilarating.

The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) The governing myth of the 20th century: the success story. A touching tale of how we pursue happiness and miss what there is of it while we wait.

Nosferatu (Werner Herzog) Klaus Kinski is the vampire who watches centuries come and go and pines for human love. An incredibly sad tale of longing. Erotic and boldly hypnotic.

The Wanderers (Philip Kaufman) Volatile, episodic story of a Bronx gang, which captures the end of one era and the beginning of another. It’s 1963; Kennedy is killed and Dylan is singing in a coffeehouse. The sound track helps the movie reach far into the gut.

Winter Kills (William Richert) This political assassination plot bristles with energy, nastiness and style. A great, big, shiny black joke, and the paranoia movie to beat them all.

{Deer Hunter, Handkerchiefs and Kaspar Hauser are older movies but didn’t open in Canada until 1979.) Also-rans: In a worse year these might have made the list: The China Syndrome, Fedora, La Cage aux Folles, Murder by Decree, The Rubber Gun, Star Trek and The Warriors.

Where there’s a best there’s a worst, proof positive of this being Quintet, by Robert Altman, who directed 1978’s best film, A Wedding. Other pretentious or vile or just plain monumentally boring movies were: Meatballs, The Tree of Wooden Clogs, The Champ, More American Graffiti, Old Boyfriends, Hair, Players, A Nous Deux, Beyond Good and Evil and 10.

Worst Male Performance of the Year:

Laurence Olivier, who can’t seem to breathe these days without doing it in an accent, for A Little Romance and Dracula. Also for his Oscar acceptance speech where he quoted from Othello. Othello seemed much shorter. Worst Female Performance of the Year:

Two of the best: Apocalypse Now slaughtered the senses; Nosferatu pined for love

Ali MacGraw, Players

Best Performance by an Octogenarian

(or possibly a nonagenarian) Actress:

Mae West, Sextette

Least Personable Performance: The


The Most Curious Object of Camera Affection: Barbra Streisand’s bum in The Main Event, one of the year’s more asinine endeavors.

Pick the Bones Out of This One: An

interviewer asking Guillermo Vilas in Players, “What is the magic which makes Wimbledon different?” Vilas replies: “The magic of Wimbledon.” Players had an IQ of 22.

Best Example of Coitus Interruptus: Janet Margolin in The Last Embrace making the earth move for a man while drowning him in a bathtub.

The Give-the-Girl-a-Break Award: Michelle Phillips, who had her knees nailed to the floor by mobsters in Bloodline. Her performance wasn’t that bad. Hollywood North: The Canadian film industry boomed. We got Meatballs, City on Fire, The Shape of Things to Come, Running, etc. Everyone’s so happy.