Oscar Blindspots: The Rest of 1972

It might be 50 years late, but I’ll be catching up on all the Oscar nominees and winners I have missed from the year 1972 through the month of May

Plenty of films from 1972 were well-awarded, but unremembered. Today, I’ll knock out the rest of the films I’ve been wanting to cover.

Fat City
Directed by John Huston

Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) is a boxer past his prime. Attempting a comeback, he stumbles upon young amateur Ernie Munger (Jeff Bridges). Seeing his potential, Billy steers Ernie in the direction of his former trainer Ruben (Nicholas Colasanto). Constantly stopping and starting with boxing, Billy meets and moves in with combative barfly Oma (Oscar-nominated Susan Tyrrell). Every character lives their life waiting for their big break.

Though not a ball of sunshine, this film really socked me. Keach is incredible. His broken down boxer feels 20 years older than he actually is. In fact, everyone in this film feels like they are the right circumstances away from their big break (that will definitely never come). A sobering look at a group of people who are all painfully ignorant of their own despair. Painfully poignant but oddly hopeful. No one is outwardly evil, but no one is good either. Another film that stews in the gray areas of life.

Travels with My Aunt
Directed by George Cukor

While attending his mother’s funeral, Henry Pulling (Alec McCowen) meets his eccentric aunt Augusta Bertram (Oscar-nominated Maggie Smith). Wrapped up in a kidnapping scheme, August drags Henry along to attempt to raise money for the ransom of her lover Ercole Visconti (Robert Stephens).

From the beginning, Smith is going big. It’s all too much for the film to contain. It’s not a bad performance, per say, but it’s not a good one. Louis Gossett Jr. is around and is a fun distraction, but the film has no idea what it wants to be. A real mess that every actor seemed to enjoy making.

The Ruling Class
Directed by Peter Medak

Following the accidental death of his father, Jack Gurney (Oscar-nominated Peter O’Toole) becomes the 14th Earl of Gurney. He’s also a paranoid schizophrenic and believes he’s Jesus. The Gurney family attempts to commit Jack through various schemes, but what they push him towards ends up being much more unsettling.

Few films have a better idea than turning O’Toole up to 11 and let the man cook. That’s exactly what is happening here. The film may be overlong and filled with rapid lunacy, but it also feels like a precursor to Armando Iannucci’s rapid-fire brand of vulgar comedy. Two-and-a-half hours is a lot, but I enjoyed every insane minute. O’Toole is spectacular and so is Arthur Lowe as a fed-up butler.

Young Winston
Directed by Richard Attenborough

Young Winston Churchill (Simon Ward) wants to make a name for himself. Struggling in school and faced with the pressures from his mother (Anne Bancroft) as well as his Member of Parliament father (Robert Shaw), Winston joins the army and attempts to distinguish himself on the battlefield and in the papers.

While not exactly the most captivating film, Attenborough is much more in his zone when the action is ramped up. Unfortunately, the film focuses far too much on the non-action. Ward does a passable Churchill impression but Robert Shaw is the best-in-show as the proud, deteriorating head of the Churchill family. Mostly a snooze.

Murmur of the Heart
Directed by Louis Malle

15-year-old Laurent (Benoit Ferreux) is coming of age in 1954 France. Pushed by rebellious brothers, he discovers shoplifting and sex. Following a bout with scarlet fever and diagnosed with a heart murmur, his beautiful and loving mother (Lea Massari) accompanies him to a sanitarium to recover.

There is a big “twist” near the film’s climax, but the film treats it without any sort of judgement that it’s a welcome surprise. More than anything, the film focuses on how terrible a 15-year-old boy can be when he thinks he knows anything about the world. Ferreux is good, Massari is exceptional. One of the more pleasant surprises from the year.

That does it for 1972! Check out what I feel are the Best Films of 1972

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