Darkest Hour stands apart from more routine historical dramas.
“Rocky” and “Network” - one about fighting your way up and the other about fighting your way down - shared the honors Thursday as the 49th annual Academy Award nominations were announced. Each won 10 nominations, including those for best picture, actor and actress.
“Rocky” was the story of a punk prizefighter from Philadelphia who got a crack at the heavyweight title, and “Network” was about a has-been newsman encouraged to go berserk on the air.
“All the President's Men,” a tense dramatization of the Watergate crisis, placed second in the Oscar sweepstakes with eight nominations. It was also nominated for best picture, along with “Taxi Driver,” a harrowing and violent film about the underbelly of New York City, and “Bound for Glory,” based on the life of folk singer Woody Guthrie. The Oscars will be presented March 28.
The nominations represented upsets for some of the year's most highly touted blockbusters. “King Kong,” the year's most expensive and highly publicized film, crunched its way to only two nominations in minor categories. “A Star Is Born” also was all but overlooked, and the year's biggest grosser, “The Omen,” was hexed with one.
The nominations for best actor mixed poignancy with an overnight success. Peter Finch, who died of a heart attack two months ago, was nominated for “Network;”" It was the first posthumous nomination since Spencer Tracy got one for “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner” in 1968. Sylvester Stallone, an unknown who became a star in the title role of “Rocky,” also was nominated.
Other best-actor nominations went to Robert De Niro, who played the violently disturbed loner in “Taxi Driver”; Giancarlo Giannini, the scheming concentration camp inmate in “Seven Beauties,” and William Holden, who played Finch's boss in “Network.”
Nominees for best actress were Sissy Spacek, who played a shy teen-ager with psychic powers In “Carrie”; Talia Shire, who was the equally shy girlfriend in “Rocky”; Marie-Christine Barrault, a girl friend who wasn't shy at all in “Cousin Cousine”; Faye Dunaway, the savagely competitive programmer in “Network,” and Liv Ullmann, who played a psychiatrist contemplating suicide in “Face to Face.”
Stallone's nomination for best actor was paired with another one for best screenplay (he wrote “Rocky” and refused to sell it unless he could star in it). That placed him in exclusive company. Only two others have ever won acting and writing nominations in the same year: Charlie Chaplin, for “The Great Dictator” in 1940, and Orson Welles, for “Citizen Kane” in 1941.
The nominations for best supporting actor went to Burt Young, who played Talia Shire's brother in “Rocky”; Burgess Meredith, who played Rocky's veteran manager; Jason Robards, the hard-bitten executive editor in “All the President's Men”; Ned Beatty, the head of the international corporation calling the shots in “Network,” and Sir Laurence Olivier, who was a good spy but a bad dentist in “Marathon Man.” It was Olivier's ninth nomination, placing him far ahead of anyone else in total nominations (he won as best actor for “Hamlet” in 1948).
Best-supporting-actress nominees were Jane Alexander, who played a witness who helped crack the Watergate case in “All the President's Men”; Piper Laurie, making a comeback as Sissy Spacek's fanatic mother in “Carrie”; Beatrice Straight, who played Holden's wife in “Network”; Jodie Foster, the 13-year-old hooker in “Taxi Driver,” and Lee Grant, as a Jewish refugee from Nazism in “Voyage of the Damned.”
The five nominees for best director included, for the first time, two foreign directors: Ingmar Bergman, for “Face to Face,” and Lina Wertmuller, the Italian director whose films were the year's hottest imports, for “Seven Beauties.” Other nominees were John Avildsen for “Rocky,” Sidney Lumet for “Network” and Alan J. Pakula for “All the President's Men.”
The nominations for best original screenplay included one case of poetic justice: Walter Bernstein, a victim of the 1950s Hollywood blacklist, wrote “The Front” about it and was nominated. Other nominees were Stallone for “Rocky”; Wertmuller for “Seven Beauties”; Jean-Charles Tacchella and Daniele Thompson for “Cousin Cousine,” and Paddy Chayefsky for “Network.”
Nominations for screenplays adapted from other material went to William Goldman, who based “All the President's Men” on the best-seller by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward; Robert Getchell, who based “Bound for Glory” on Woody Guthrie's autobiography; Nicholas Meyer, whose “Seven-Per-Cent Solution” was, based on his own novel and the work of Arthur Conan Doyle; Steve Shagan and David Butler for “Voyage of the Damned,” and Federico Fellini and Bernardino Zapponi for “Fellini's Casanova,” based on the exploits of the most assiduous citizen of Venice.
Best foreign film nominations included one for “Nights and Days,” a Polish epic that won the 1975 Chicago Film Festival. Other nominees were “Cousin Cousine,” the French romantic comedy; Wertmuller's “Seven Beauties”; “Black and White in Color” from the Ivory Coast, and “Jacob the Liar,” from East Germany.
The nominees for best song were “Ave Satina,” which played at all the most ominous moments in “The Omen”; “Come to Me,” Peter Sellers' ill-fated plea in “The Pink Panther Strikes Again”; “Evergreen,” the love theme from “A Star Is Born”; “Gonna Fly Now,” from “Rocky,” and “A World that Never Was,” from “Half a House.”
All of the films winning major nominations are playing in the Chicago area except for “Bound for Glory,” which was held back from general release in the hope that it would get several mentions, as it did; “Seven Beauties,” which ran here earlier and will be revived next month, and “All the President's Men,” which has had several runs here and win be re-released March 26.
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