Saturday, January 26, 2008

51st Academy Awards

The 51st Academy Awards were presented April 9, 1979 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles. The ceremonies were presided over by Johnny Carson.

The Deer Hunter (1978) is an Academy Award winning American film about a trio of Rusyn American steel worker friends and their infantry service in the Vietnam War. It is loosely inspired by the German novel Three Comrades (1937), by World War I army veteran Erich Maria Remarque, that follows the lives of a trio of World War I veterans in 1920s Weimar Germany. Like that novel, The Deer Hunter meditates and explores the moral and mental consequences of war violence and politically-manipulated patriotism upon the meaning of friendship, honor, and family in a tightly-knit community. The film features Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep. The story occurs in southern Vietnam and in working-class Clairton, Pennsylvania, a Monongahela River town south of Pittsburgh. It was filmed in the Pittsburgh area; Cleveland and Mingo Junction, Ohio; Weirton, West Virginia; the North Cascades National Park, Washington State, the Patpong region of Bangkok, Thailand (as the Saigon red light district), and in Sai Yok, Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand. Thematically ambitious, The Deer Hunter is in three acts: life before war, life in war, and life after war. In the late 1960s, Rusyn-American steel workers Mike, Steven, Nick, Stanley, John, and Axel are preparing for two rites of passage: marriage and military service. Mike, Steven, and Nick are reporting to the U.S. Army and headed to fight the war in Vietnam. Steven is marrying the day before he ships out; all the friends except for Steven go on a last deer hunting trip.The Deer Hunter won Oscars in 1978 for Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Cimino), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Christopher Walken), Best Film Editing, and Best Sound. In addition, it was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Robert De Niro), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Meryl Streep), Best Cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. In 1996, The Deer Hunter was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Micahel Cimino won as Best Director for the film. With two writing credits to his name (the science fiction film Silent Running and the second Dirty Harry film, Magnum Force), Cimino moved up to directing when his spec script, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, was purchased by Clint Eastwood's production company, Malpaso. With the success of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Cimino was able to secure a stellar cast and freedom from studio interference for his second film, The Deer Hunter (1978). The picture became a massive critical and commercial success, and won a number of Oscars. On the basis of this track record, he was given free rein by United Artists for his next film, Heaven's Gate (1980). The film came in several times over budget; the result not only was a financial disaster that nearly bankrupted the studio, but Heaven's Gate became the lightning rod for the industry perception of the out-of-control state of Hollywood at that time. The film marked the end of the so-called New Hollywood era. In 1984, after being unable to finalize a deal with director Herbert Ross, surprisingly, Paramount Pictures offered the job of directing Footloose to Cimino. According to screenwriter Dean Pitchford, Cimino was at the helm of Footloose for four months, making more and more extravagant demands in terms of set construction and overall production. Finally, Paramount realized that it potentially had another Heaven's Gate on its hands. Paramount fired Cimino and finalized the deal with Herbert Ross to direct the picture, as had originally been intended.Cimino's "cops and crooks" epic Year of the Dragon, adapted by him and Oliver Stone from Robert Daley's novel, fared much better. In fact, due to it, Cimino was made an honorary Colonel in the Royal Thai Air Force. However, Year of the Dragon was also nominated for five Razzie awards, including Worst Director and Worst Screenplay. The film was also sharply criticized for providing offending stereotypes about Chinese Americans.

The Best Actor award went to Jon Voight for Coming Home. Voight, an Oscar-winner and four-time nominee, has had a long and distinguished career as both a leading man and, in recent years, character actor, with an extensive range. He came to prominence at the end of the sixties, with a riveting performance as a would-be hustler in 1969's Best Picture winner, Midnight Cowboy, for which he earned his first Academy Award nomination. Throughout the following decades, Voight built his reputation with an array of challenging roles and has appeared in such landmark films as 1972's Deliverance, and 1978's Coming Home, for which he received an Academy Award for Best Actor. Voight's impersonation of the late sportscaster/journalist Howard Cosell, in 2001's biopic Ali, earned Voight critical raves and his fourth Oscar nomination. He is also the estranged father of actress Angelina Jolie. Voight's film debut did not come until 1967, when he took a part in Phillip Kaufman's crimefighter spoof, Fearless Frank. Voight also took a small role in 1967's western, Hour of the Gun, directed by veteran helmer John Sturges. That year he and Lauri Peters were divorced, after five years of marriage. In 1968 Voight took the lead role in counterculture director Paul Williams' Out of It. While Voight pursued acting, his brother Wes found success as a songwriter under the nom de plume Chip Taylor. Taylor penned The Troggs' 1966 hit, Wild Thing, as well as Angel of the Morning. Another of Jon's brothers, Barry Voight, studied Geology at Columbia University and would become a renowned volcanologist at the Pennsylvania State University. In 1969, Voight was cast in the groundbreaking Midnight Cowboy, a film that would make his career, establishing him as one of the premier actors of his generation. Voight played Joe Buck, a naïve male hustler from Texas, adrift in New York City. He comes under the tutelage of Dustin Hoffman's Ratso Rizzo, a tubercular petty thief and con artist. Both Voight and co-star Hoffman were nominated for Best Actor but lost out to John Wayne, star of that year's True Grit. Now a "name" actor, in 1970 Voight went on to join the all-star cast of Mike Nichols' ill-fated adaptation of Catch-22. Adapted by Buck Henry from Joseph Heller's comic anti-war novel, and featuring the acting talents of Voight, Alan Arkin as the main character of John Yossarian, Anthony Perkins, Art Garfunkel, Bob Newhart, Richard Benjamin, and Orson Welles, the film failed to connect with either the critics or audiences, despite the film's intentional parallels with the then-raging war in Vietnam. Voight next appeared in 1972's Deliverance, directed by John Boorman, from a script that poet James Dickey had helped to adapt from his novel of the same name. The story of a canoe trip gone awry in a feral, backwoods America, the film resonated on several levels, tapping into urban anxieties about the untamed country and modern man's fear of his own darker instincts. The film and the performances of Voight and co-star Burt Reynolds received great critical acclaim and were popular with audiences. On 12 December 1971 Voight married model Marcheline Bertrand. Their son James Haven was born in 1973, followed by daughter Angelina Jolie in 1975. Both children would go on to enter their father's business, James as an actor and assistant director, and Angelina as a major Oscar-winning movie star in her own right. Voight played a directionless young boxer in 1973's The All American Boy, then appeared in the 1974 film, Conrack, directed by Martin Ritt. Based on Pat Conroy's autobiographical novel The Water Is Wide, Voight acted out the title character, an idealistic young schoolteacher sent to teach underprivileged black children on a remote South Carolina island. The same year he appeared in The Odessa File, based on Frederick Forsyth's thriller, acting out a young German journalist who discovers a conspiracy to protect former Nazis, still operating within Germany. This film first teamed him with the actor-director Maximilian Schell, for whom Voight would appear in 1976's End of the Game, a psychological thriller based on a story by the famed Swiss novelist and playwright, Friedrich Dürrenmatt. In 1978, Voight assumed a role that would earn him a second major triumph, that of the paraplegic Vietnam vet Luke Martin in the Hal Ashby-directed film Coming Home. The film marked the beginning of the post-Vietnam War era and reflected a coming-to-terms with the emotional costs of both the war and the anti-war movement. The presence of Jane Fonda in the female lead assured some controversy, given her outspoken views during the war, but her portrayal of a military wife who volunteers her services to help disabled vets was well-received. Voight, who was awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, played an embittered paraplegic, reportedly based on real-life Vietnam veteran-turned-anti-war activist Ron Kovic, with whom Fonda falls in love. The film included a much-talked-about love scene between the two. The film was major winner at the Oscars that year with Jane Fonda winning her second Best Actress statuette and presenter Diana Ross calling Voight to the podium, where she presented him with his first Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.Voight's marriage to Marcheline Bertrand failed in 1978. It appeared that Voight's career had lost some momentum, with a shortage of good roles available. In 1985, however, he hooked up with Russian writer and director Andrei Konchalovsky to play the role of escaped con Manny Manheim in the existential action film Runaway Train. The script was based on a story by Akira Kurosawa, and paired Voight with Eric Roberts as a fellow escapee.For his ferocious, somewhat over-the-top performance, Voight received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and won the Golden Globe's award for Best Actor. Roberts was also honored for his performance, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.In 1995 Voight played a role in the acclaimed crime film, Heat, directed by Michael Mann and starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, and appeared in the television films Convict Cowboy, and The Tin Soldier, also directing the latter film.Voight next appeared in 1996's blockbuster Mission: Impossible, based on the popular television series from the 1960s, directed by Brian DePalma and starring Tom Cruise. Voight played the role of spymaster James Phelps, a role originated by Peter Graves in the television series. Fans and stars of TV series were outraged at the depiction of Phelps being a traitor. The year 1997 was a busy time for Voight in which he appeared in six films, beginning with Rosewood, directed by Boyz N the Hood director John Singleton. Voight joined a cast that included Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, and Michael Rooker in the true tale of the 1923 destruction of the primarily black town of Rosewood, Florida, by the white residents of nearby Sumner. Voight next appeared in the exotic action film Anaconda, alongside Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, and Eric Stoltz. Set in the Amazon, Voight played Paul Sarone, a snake hunter obsessed with a fabled giant anaconda, who hijacks an unwitting National Geographic film crew looking for a remote Indian tribe. Voight next appeared in Oliver Stone's U Turn. He made a cameo appearance as a blind man in this eccentric neo-noir starring Sean Penn and Lopez. Voight took a supporting role in The Rainmaker, adopted from the John Grisham novel and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. He played an unscrupulous lawyer representing an insurance company, facing off with a neophyte lawyer played by Matt Damon. His last film of 1997 was Boys Will Be Boys, a family comedy directed by Dom DeLuise. He also took a substantial role in Tony Scott's 1997 political thriller, Enemy of the State, in which Voight played the heavy opposite Will Smith's heroic lawyer.Voight next nailed down the role of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 2001's blockbuster, Pearl Harbor, reportedly beating out Gene Hackman for the role (his performance was received favorably by critics). Also that year, he appeared as Lord Croft, father of the title character of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Based on the popular video game, the digital adventuress was played on the big screen by Voight's own real-life daughter, Angelina Jolie. Director Michael Mann tagged Voight for a small, but crucial role in the 2001 biopic Ali, which starred Will Smith as the controversial former heavyweight champ, Muhammad Ali. Voight was almost unrecognizable under his make-up and toupee, as he impersonated the sports broadcaster Howard Cosell. In the critically-acclaimed CBS miniseries Pope John Paul II, released in December 2005, Voight portrayed the pontiff from the time of his election until his death, garnering an Emmy nomination for the part. Also in 2004, Voight joined Nicolas Cage, in National Treasure. He played Patrick Gates, the father of Cage's character. In 2007, he played United States Secretary of Defense John Keller in the summer blockbuster film Transformers. Also in 2007, Voight reprised his role as Patrick Gates, the father of Ben Gates, in the sequel to National Treasure, National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

Jane Fonda won as Best Actress for Coming Home and Maggie Smith as Best Supporting Actress for California Suite. The Best Supporting Actor award was won by Christopher Walken for The Deer Hunter. Walken is a prolific actor who has spent more than 50 years on stage and screen. He has appeared in over 100 movie and television roles, including The Deer Hunter, The Dead Zone, A View to a Kill, At Close Range, King of New York, Batman Returns, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, The Funeral and Catch Me If You Can, and in TV's Kojak and The Naked City. Walken gained a cult following in the 1990s as the Archangel Gabriel in the first three The Prophecy movies, as well as his frequent guest host appearances on Saturday Night Live. In the United States, films featuring Walken have grossed over $1.8 billion. In 1979, Walken won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Deer Hunter, where he played a disturbed Vietnam veteran alongside Robert De Niro. Walken was nominated again in 2002 for Catch Me if You Can. He won the Clarence Derwent Award for his performance in The Lion in Winter in 1966 and an Obie for his 1975 performance in Kid Champion. He has played the main role in the Shakespeare plays Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Coriolanus. Walken made his feature film debut with a small role opposite Sean Connery in Sidney Lumet's The Anderson Tapes in 1971. In 1972, Walken played his first starring role in The Mind Snatchers. He plays a sociopathic American soldier stationed in Germany, in a science fiction film which deals with mind control and normalization. Woody Allen's 1977 film Annie Hall has Walken playing the suicidal brother of Annie Hall (Diane Keaton); In 1978, he appeared in Shoot the Sun Down, a western filmed in 1976 and co-starring Margot Kidder. Walken won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in the controversial 1978 film, The Deer Hunter. He plays a young Pennsylvania steelworker who is emotionally destroyed by the Vietnam War. To help achieve a gaunt appearance for the role, Walken ate nothing but bananas and rice for a week. Walken's first film of the 1980s was the controversial Heaven's Gate, helmed by Deer Hunter director Michael Cimino. Walken also starred in the 1981 action-adventure The Dogs of War directed by Jack Cardiff. Walken then played schoolteacher-turned-psychic Johnny Smith in David Cronenberg's 1983 adaptation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone. That same year, Walken also starred in Brainstorm alongside Natalie Wood and, in a minor role, his wife Georgianne. In 1985, Walken played a James Bond villain, Max Zorin, in A View to a Kill. Walken dyed his hair blond to befit Zorin's origins as a Nazi experiment. In 1992, Walken again played the leading villain in Batman Returns as millionaire industrialist Max Shreck. Walken's next major film role was opposite Dennis Hopper in True Romance, scripted by Quentin Tarantino. His so-called "Sicilian scene" has been hailed by critics as the best scene in the film. Walken has a supporting role in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, as a Vietnam veteran giving his dead comrade's son the family's prized possession, a gold watch, while explaining in graphic detail how he had hidden it from the Vietcong by smuggling it in his own rectum. In 1999, Walken played Calvin Webber in the romantic comedy Blast from th Past. Webber is a brilliant but eccentric Cal Tech nuclear physicist whose fears of a nuclear war lead him to build an enormous fallout shelter beneath his suburban home. The same year, he appeared as The Headless Horseman in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci.Walken played Frank Abagnale, Sr. in Catch Me If You Can, a film directed by Steven Spielberg. It is inspired by the story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a con artist who passed himself off as several identities and forged millions of dollars worth of checks, with an FBI agent (played by Tom Hanks) hot on his trail. His portrayal earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.He costarred in the 2007 film adaptation Hairspray where he is seen singing and dancing in a romantic duet with John Travolta, as well as an eccentric but cruel crime lord and ping-pong enthusiast Feng, in the 2007 comedy Balls of Fury opposite Dan Fogler.Walken has been married to Georgianne Walken (née Thon) since 1969. She is a casting director, most notably for The Sopranos. They live in rural Connecticut.

Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (French: Préparez vos mouchoirs) is a 1978 romantic comedy directed by Bertrand Blier. The Film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

"Last Dance" is a song written by the late Paul Jabara. It was sung by Donna Summer for the Thank God It's Friday soundtrack in 1978. "Last Dance" won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It is one of Summer's favorite songs and remains one of her most popular hits in the US.

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