Friday, January 25, 2008

48th Academy Awards

The 48th Academy Awards were presented March 29, 1976 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles. The ceremonies were presided over by Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, George Segal, Goldie Hawn, and Gene Kelly.

The absolute winner this year was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a 1975 film directed by Miloš Forman. The film is an adaptation of the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. The movie was the first to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, Screenplay) since It Happened One Night in 1934, an accomplishment not repeated until 1991, by The Silence of the Lambs. Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a recidivist criminal serving a short prison term on a work farm for statutory rape, is transferred to a mental institution due to his apparently deranged behavior. This is a deliberate gambit by McMurphy in the belief that he'll now be able to serve out the rest of his sentence in relative comfort and ease. Today, the film is considered to be one of the greatest American films and is ranked at number 33 on the American Film Institute's list of AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies, Nurse Ratched was ranked number 5 on the Institute's list of 50 Greatest Villains, and the film consistently ranks in the top 10 on the Internet Movie Database. In 1993, this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in their National Film Registry.

The Best Director award was won by Milos Forman. He moved to New York, where he later became a professor of film at Columbia University and co-chair (with his former teacher František Daniel) of Columbia's film division. One of his proteges was future director James Mangold, whom Forman had advised about scriptwriting.In spite of initial difficulties, he started directing in his new home country, and achieved success in 1975 with the adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which won five Academy Awards including one for direction. In 1977, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Other notable successes have been Amadeus, which won eight Academy Awards, and The People vs. Larry Flynt for which he received a Best Director Academy Award Nomination and a golden globe win.Forman's two sons Petr Forman and Matěj Forman are also movie and theatre actors.

The Best Actor award went to Jack Nicholson, internationally renowned for his often dark-themed portrayals of neurotic characters. Nicholson has been nominated for an Academy Award 12 times and has won three times (twice for Best Actor and once as Best Supporting Actor). He is tied with Walter Brennan for most acting wins by a male actor (three), and second to Katharine Hepburn for most acting wins overall (four). He is also one of only two actors nominated for an Academy Award for acting (either lead or supporting) in every decade since the 1960s; the other is Michael Caine. He has won seven Golden Globe Awards, and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2001. In 1994, he became one of the youngest actors to be awarded the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award. He is perhaps best known for his roles in the films Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, As Good as It Gets, Tim Burton's Batman, Rob Reiner's A Few Good Men and Martin Scorsese's The Departed. Nicholson started his career as an actor, writer, and producer, working for and with Roger Corman, among others. This included his screen debut in The Cry Baby Killer (1958), where he played a juvenile delinquent who panics after shooting two other teenagers, The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), in which he had a small role as a masochistic dental patient, and roles in two other Roger Corman films The Raven (1963) and The Terror (his first directing role for one day)(1963), co-starring then-wife Sandra Knight. With his acting career heading nowhere, Nicholson seemed resigned to a career behind the camera as a writer/director. His first real taste of writing success was the LSD-fueled screenplay for 1967's The Trip, which starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. However, after a spot opened up in Fonda and Hopper's Easy Rider, it led to his first big acting break. Nicholson played hard-drinking lawyer George Hanson, for which he received his first Oscar nomination. A Best Actor nomination came the following year for his persona-defining role in Five Easy Pieces (1970), which includes his famous chicken salad dialogue about getting what you want. Also that year, he appeared in the movie adaptation of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Other early, notable Nicholson roles included Hal Ashby's The Last Detail (1973), for which he was awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, and the classic Roman Polanski noir thriller, Chinatown (1974) (he was Oscar-nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for both films). He also starred in The Who's Tommy (1975), directed by Ken Russell, and Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975). Nicholson earned his first Best Actor Oscar for portraying Randle P. McMurphy in the movie adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, directed by Miloš Forman in 1975. His Oscar was matched when Louise Fletcher received the Best Actress Award for her portrayal of Nurse Ratched. After this, he began to take more unusual roles. He took a small role in The Last Tycoon, opposite Robert De Niro. He took a less sympathetic role in Arthur Penn's western The Missouri Breaks, specifically to work with Marlon Brando. He followed this by making his second directorial effort with the western comedy Goin' South. His first movie as a director was a 1971 quirky release called Drive, He Said. Although he did not garner any Academy Award attention for Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining (1980), it remains one of Nicholson's most significant roles. His next Oscar, the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, came for his role of retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment (1983), directed by James L. Brooks. Nicholson continued to work prolifically in the 80s, starring in such films as The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), Reds (1981), Prizzi's Honor (1985), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), and Ironweed (1987). Three Oscar nominations also followed (Reds, Prizzi's Honor, and Ironweed).The 1989 Batman movie, wherein Nicholson played The Joker, was an international smash hit, and a lucrative percentage deal earned Nicholson about $60 million. For his role as hot-headed Colonel Nathan R. Jessep in A Few Good Men (1992), a movie about a murder in a US Marine Corps unit, Nicholson received yet another Academy nomination. This film contained the "You can't handle the truth!" scene, which has since become widely known and imitated. Nicholson would go on to win his next Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Melvin Udall, a neurotic author with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), in the romance As Good as It Gets (1997), again directed by James L. Brooks. Nicholson's Oscar was matched with the Academy Award for Best Actress for Helen Hunt as a Manhattan waitress drawn into a love/hate friendship with Udall, a frequent diner in the restaurant in which she worked. In About Schmidt (2002), Nicholson portrayed a retired Omaha, Nebraska actuary who questions his own life and the death of his wife shortly afterward. His quiet, restrained performance stood in sharp contrast to many of his previous roles, and earned him an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor. In the comedy Anger Management, he plays an aggressive therapist assigned to help overly pacifist Adam Sandler. In 2003, Nicholson starred in Something's Gotta Give, as an aging playboy who falls for the mother (Diane Keaton) of his young girlfriend. In late 2006, Nicholson marked his return to the "dark side" as Frank Costello, a sadistic Boston Irish Mob boss presiding over Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning The Departed, a remake of Andrew Lau's Infernal Affairs. In November 2006, Nicholson began filming his next project, Rob Reiner's The Bucket List, a role for which he shaved his head. The film starred him and Morgan Freeman as dying men who fulfill their list of goals. The film was released on December 25, 2007 (limited) and January 11, 2008 (wide). In researching the role, Nicholson visited a Los Angeles hospital to see how cancer patients coped with their illnesses. He has five children by four different women; he was married once. Nicholson married Sandra Knight on June 17, 1962. The couple had one daughter, Jennifer Nicholson (born 1963) before divorcing on August 8, 1968. His other daughter, Honey Hollman (born 1981), was with Danish model Winnie Hollman. He has one son, Caleb Goddard (born 1970), with actress Susan Anspach, his Five Easy Pieces co-star. He had two children from his relationship with Rebecca Broussard, Lorraine Nicholson (born 1990) and Raymond Nicholson (born 1992). He has been romantically linked to numerous actresses and models, including Michelle Phillips, Bebe Buell, and Lara Flynn Boyle. Nicholson's longest relationship was for 17 years to actress Anjelica Huston, from 1973 to 1989, the daughter of film director John Huston. However, the relationship ended when the news reported that Rebecca Broussard had become pregnant with his child.

The Best Actress award winner was Louise Fletcher. Fletcher began appearing in several television productions, including the highest-rated episode of Maverick. She married Jerry Bick and took time off to raise her two children; she eventually divorced Bick, who died in 2004. In 1974, she returned to film in Thieves Like Us. Miloš Forman saw her, and cast her (possibly because of her height and bearing) as McMurphy's nemesis Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also appeared in such films as The Cheap Detective, Exorcist II: The Heretic, Firestarter, Brainstorm, Flowers in the Attic, Big Eden, Two Moon Junction, and as Sebastian's aunt in Cruel Intentions. Fletcher also co-starred in at least one made-for-tv movie The Karen Carpenter Story as Karen and Richard Carpenter's mother Agnes. Fletcher was nominated for an Emmy Award for her recurring role on the television series Picket Fences. She also had a continuing role in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the scheming Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami. Fletcher played the character of Ruth Shorter, a supporting role, in the 2005 film, Aurora Borealis, alongside Joshua Jackson and Donald Sutherland, and appeared in the Fox Faith film The Last Sin Eater. Fletcher married literary agent and producer Jerry Bick in 1960, divorcing in 1977. The couple had two sons, John Dashiell Bick and Andrew Wilson Bick.

George Burns was an Academy Award-winning Jewish-American comedian, actor and writer. His career spanned vaudeville, film, radio and television, with and without his equally legendary wife, Gracie Allen. His arched eyebrow and cigar smoke punctuation became familiar trademarks for over three quarters of a century. Enjoying a remarkable career resurrection that began at age 79, and ended shortly before his death at age 100, George Burns was as well known in the last two decades of his life as at any other time during his career. Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen was born into a show business family; she met George Burns and the two immediately launched a new partnership, with Gracie asking serious questions and George delivering the punchlines. Burns knew something was wrong when the audience ignored his jokes but snickered at Gracie's questions. Burns cannily flipped the act around: after a Hoboken, New Jersey performance in which they tested the new style for the first time, Burns's hunch proved right. Gracie was the better 'laugh-getter', especially with the "illogical logic" that informed her responses to Burns's prompting comments or questions.George and Gracie fell in love along the way, and married in Cleveland, Ohio on January 7, 1926, somewhat daring for those times, considering Burns's Jewish and Allen's Irish Catholic upbringing. Getting a start in motion pictures with a series of comic short films, their feature credits in the mid- to late-1930s included The Big Broadcast of 1932; International House in 1933; Six of a Kind in 1934; The Big Broadcast of 1936; The Big Broadcast of 1937; A Damsel in Distress in 1937 and College Swing in 1938, in which Bob Hope made one of his early film appearances. After fighting a long battle with heart disease, Gracie suffered a fatal heart attack in her home on August 27, 1964. Her exact age remains a mystery to this day. After Gracie's death George immersed himself in work. McCadden Productions co-produced the television series No Time for Sergeants, based on the hit Broadway play. At the same time, he toured the U.S. playing nightclub and theater engagements. Then, in 1974, Jack Benny signed to play one of the lead roles in the film version of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys (Red Skelton was originally the other). Benny's health had begun to fail, however, and he advised his manager Irving Fein to let longtime friend Burns fill in for him on a series of nightclub dates to which Benny had committed around the U.S.Burns replaced Benny in the film as well as the club tour, a move that turned out to be the one of the biggest breaks of his career: his performance as faded vaudevillian Al Lewis earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and secured his career resurgence for good. At age 80, Burns was the oldest Oscar winner in the history of the Academy Awards, a record that would remain until Jessica Tandy won an Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. In 1977, Burns made another hit film, Oh, God!, playing the omnipotent title role opposite singer John Denver as an earnest but befuddled supermarket manager, whom God picks at random to revive His message.Burns continued to work well into his nineties, writing a number of books and appearing in television and films. One of his last films was 18 Again!, based on a half-novelty, country music based hit single In this film, he played a self-made millionaire industrialist who switched bodies with his awkward, artistic, eighteen-year-old grandson (played by Charlie Schlatter). On January 20, 1996, George celebrated his one hundredth birthday, but was no longer mobile enough to perform and instead spent the evening at home. On March 9, 1996, just forty-nine days after his milestone birthday, Burns died in his Beverly Hills home.

Lee Grant established herself as a dramatic actress on Broadway while a teenager, earning praise for her role as a shoplifter in the play Detective Story. She made her film debut in the movie version of Detective Story, receiving her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination, and winning the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to testify against her husband, the playwright Arnold Manoff, father of her daughter, actress Dinah Manoff, Grant refused to testify and was ultimately blacklisted. She continued to work in theater and resumed her film career in the early 1960s, appearing in the television series Peyton Place. She won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama for that role. Grant received subsequent Academy Award nominations for The Landlord (1970), and Voyage of the Damned (1976). She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Shampoo (1975). She has directed several documentary films, including Down and Out in America (1986) which won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. In recent years she directed a series of Intimate Portrait episodes (for Lifetime Television) that celebrated a diverse range of accomplished women. Grant appeared as a cunning lawyer/murderess on an episode of Columbo, for which she was nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie. Competing against herself, she received the award for her other Emmy-nominated performance in The Neon Ceiling.

Dersu Uzala is a 1975 joint Soviet-Japanese film production directed by Akira Kurosawa. This film is based on the 1923 memoir of the same title by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev, about his exploration of the Sikhote-Alin region of Siberia in 1902-10. The film depicts Arsenyev (played by Yury Solomin) leading a series of mapping expeditions in the region, where he and his team soon encounter an old Nanai hunter, Dersu Uzala (1849-1908). Dersu Uzala teaches the men many valuable lessons about wilderness survival and the meaning of life, eventually becoming a close friend of the explorer. In the film, the Nanai people are referred to by their obsolete Russian name, Gol'ds. The film won the Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival and the 1975 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

"I'm Easy" was a popular music hit in 1976 in the United States. The song was featured in the movie Nashville, written and performed by Keith Carradine. The song is a tender ballad about a lover who is utterly guileless and in awe of the object of his love. In the film, the lyrics are bitterly ironic. Carradine's character, Tom, is a manipulative womanizer. When Tom performs the song at the "Exit In" (a real-life Nashville music club, the scene was actually shot there) he dedicates it to "a special someone." Several women in the audience, recent and future conquests, believe the song is written for them. Moreover, the viewer is aware that Tom has plagiarized the opening bars from his chauffeur. "I'm Easy" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song - Motion Picture, in 1976. (This was the only winner for Nashville among its five Academy Award nominations.)

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