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 1973 through the month of May
Plenty of films from 1973 were well-awarded, but unremembered. Today, I’ll knock out the rest of the films I’ve been wanting to cover.
Directed by Mark Rydell
John J. Baggs Jr. (James Caan) is a US Navy sailor on leave. When receiving treatment for a cyst, his records are lost and he is forced to remain on the base until he is reassigned. Given a nightly “Cinderella Liberty” pass, Baggs meets and falls in love with hooker Maggie (Oscar-nominated Marsha Mason). Baggs begins spending time with Maggie’s son Doug (Kirk Calloway) and the three form an abnormal family unit.
Though known for his tough and gruff persona, Caan portrays a sweet-hearted idiot who is constantly screwed over by an uncaring world and his own ignorance. Despite her Oscar nomination, I did not love Mason’s performance, which is underdeveloped. This is more about Baggs than it is about Maggie. She is never given a ton to do besides be seductive. The film takes some oddly cruel turns, with the final few scenes coming out of nowhere. Undercooked and overthought.
The Paper Chase
Directed by James Bridges
First-year student James Hart (Timothy Bottoms) is attending Harvard Law School under Professor Charles W. Kingsfield (Oscar-winner John Houseman). Overwhelmed and overworked, Hart joins a study group of students while romancing Susan Fields (Lindsay Wagner). Fields turns out to be Kingsfield’s daughter, leading to a number of issues for Hart as he struggles to make it through the school year.
More than anything else, this film reinforces how difficult and time-consuming being a law student can be. There is no glamour to the proceedings, just the hope that you will eventually graduate and become a lawyer. Bottoms is fine, but his focus as the main character is a mistake. Houseman is the draw and he frankly should be around more. His booming baritone and authoritarian presence looms large over everything that happens after his introduction. I enjoyed it more than I expected, but it is highly flawed.
Bang the Drum Slowly
Directed by John D. Hancock
Henry Wiggen (Michael Moriarty) is the start pitcher for the fictional New York Mammoths. His friend and catcher Bruce Pearson (Robert De Niro) learns he is dying of Hogkin’s disease. Despite the diagnosis, Bruce asks Henry to keep it quiet and play the season as if nothing has happened. Mammoths manager Dutch Schnell (Oscar-nominated Vincent Gardenia) knows something is up, but can’t figure out what. The season drags on as the men attempt to live their lives with the knowledge.
A decidedly fine film, it’s nothing like what you would expect from a baseball movie. The fact that these characters are professional athletes is almost an afterthought. De Niro is the draw, but he feels wildly miscast. As does Moriarty, who garners a shocking amount of screentime despite his lack of charisma. Gardenia is great as the constantly confused manager. By no means essential, the film didn’t do anything wrong, but it certainly didn’t blow me away.
The Long Goodbye
Directed by Robert Altman
Private detective Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) helps his friend Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton) across the border to Mexico. When the police arrest Marlowe for questioning about the murder of Lennox’s wife and Terry’s suicide, Marlowe investigates to discover the truth about his friend. Along the way, he comes across drunk writer Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden), his wife Eileen (Nina van Pallandt), and local gangster Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell).
Altman ascews anything resembling with Raymond Chandler wrote about his most famous character. Instead, Altman covers the setting with grime and smoke. This is a world of disdain and despair. Gould is his perfect star as a man who falls into mystery as opposed to seeking it out. It’s a quick, enjoyable watch that makes you want to dive deeper into the atmosphere.
That does it for 1973! Check out what I feel are the best films of 1973 below.
Best Films of 1973
Best of the Year
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