- The Tree Of Wooden Clogs
- The Deer Hunter
- An Unmarried Woman
- Autumn Sonata
- Koko: A Talking Gorilla
- Anna’s Meetings
- Midnight Express
It’s the battle of the Vietnam angst movies in 1978, and while the race was tight that year, the years since have proven The Deer Hunter to be the far more moving, intelligent and shrewd of the two films vying for the top slot (the other being Coming Home). I do enjoy Jon Voight’s passionate work as the veteran who experiences the nation’s intolerance upon returning home from his years in battle, but the more soulfully moving work by Robert De Niro in Michael Cimino’s masterpiece gets my vote. Toning down all the emotional disturbance of Taxi Driver, De Niro gives a very quiet performance as a man struggling to accept his world after it has been broken into a billion pieces.
The standout performance of 1978 is the inimitable, sadly now departed Jill Clayburgh in Paul Mazursky’s An Unmarried Woman. The film beautifully and intelligently examines the life of someone who is forced into the position of becoming a modern woman against her will, and does so without cloying fanfare or contrived situations.
Years before his intense eyes and off-kilter New York accent would make him the King of Creepy, Christopher Walken gave a moving, subtle and deservedly Oscar-winning performance in The Deer Hunter as the member of a group of friends who goes to Vietnam and leaves behind a part of his soul. Which of course means I must take back my earlier statement in part, since his smooth ability to show his character losing his soul is what actually led to his reign as the King of Creepy (well, that and his kickass performance in The Dead Zone a few years later).
Maggie Smith made Academy Awards history when she won an Oscar for playing an Oscar loser. Neil Simon’s California Suite is an overall middling affair, mainly an excuse to get a bunch of famous faces interacting with each other over a few lame jokes, but the film really kicks into life with Smith’s scenes as an insecure actress who is having difficulty living with the fact that her worst fears are coming true. Her success with this film was followed, strangely, by a stint at Ontario’s Stratford Theatre for a few years before a comeback in the mid-80s saw her become everyone’s favourite British character actress (which, thanks to a little man named Harry Potter, she’ll pretty much hold on to for as long as she stays alive).
Michael Cimino, The Deer Hunter