The 1978 Project: Arbitrary Awards

The 1978 Project edition of the Kaedrin Movie Awards were finished off last week. The idea is to recognize aspects of films that aren’t reflected in more traditional awards or other praise like a Top 10 list. However, any awards system will fail to capture all the nuances and complexity available; hence the Arbitrary Awards, an opportunity to commend movies that are weird or flawed in ways that don’t conform to normal standards. A few of these “awards” have become an annual tradition, but most are just, well, arbitrary. If you’re curious as to how this has played out over more recent years, you can see more Arbitrary Awards here: [2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

The “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else” Award for Worst Dialogue: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! This is one of those things where the whole package is so bad that it almost boomerangs back around to being good. Still the dialogue is silly at best. “Hey, can somebody please pass the ketchup?” Oof. Sadly, there are tons of 1978 movies that could compete for this award, but let’s not dwell on it, ok?

The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: The Redeemer: Son of Satan! What’s that? You’ve never heard of this movie? That’s probably for the best. There actually are some interesting bits about the movie, but the characters are pretty dumb and it’s the sort of thing that I only caught up with because it was easily available on streaming…

Best Badass/Villain (non-Human Edition): Zombies in Dawn of the Dead. I don’t love this movie nearly as much as most horror fanatics, but it is a good movie and it’s impossible to deny the influence of the Romero zombie sequence, this movie chief among them.

The “Weiner” Award for Unparalleled Access to Documentary Subjects: Koko: A Talking Gorilla. While not quite the coup that the category’s namesake implies, it’s great that someone was able to get so much footage of Koko while we could…

Most Weirdly Impressive Pedigree Applied to a Silly Premise: Magic. Directed by Richard Attenborough, written by William Goldman, starring Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, and Ed Lauter, none of whom are particularly well known for horror movies (except for Hopkins’ turn as Hannibal Lecter over a decade later). All in service of a ventriloquist vs killer dummy tale! And it works, too… They play it completely straight and the movie is legit pretty great. Also of note for this category: Piranha. Total Jaws ripoff, but it’s directed by Joe Dante and written by John Sayles.

Best Meme Derived from a 1978 Movie: Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Of course, it’s a bit of a spoiler, but that shot of Donald Sutherland at the end is an all time classic meme base.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers meme

Lots of Halloween memes also available for sure, as well as Grease and National Lampoon’s Animal House, but really it’s that Body Snatchers ending that takes it.

Best Exploding Head: Dawn of the Dead. Tom Savini is clearly a champion of the category, and this is probably his earliest example of that sort of thing. However, worth noting some strong competition from The Fury, which actually might be better because you know the character whose head is exploding and thus it has more of an impact… Anyway, two top tier exploding heads means this is a pretty great year for horror movies, no?

Best Motion Picture Score: Superman by John Williams. I suppose that whole late-70s early-80s corridor is dominated by Williams, but there’s a reason for that. Strong competition from John Carpenter’s quickie Halloween score; simple but memorable and extremely effective. Giorgio Moroder’s score for Midnight Express won the Oscar and is certainly in the conversation as well…

Best Death Scene: Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow. I mean, come on, look at this thing. Might be a best of all time, let alone 1978.

Weirdest Plot Device with a Surprisingly Historical Precedent: Death Force. Our hero washes up on a Pacific island and encounters two Japanese soldiers who did not believe that WWII had ended (the movie is set towards the end of Vietnam). This was a real thing, though not quite widespread. “Hiroo Onoda remained in the jungle on Lubang Island near Luzon, in the Philippines, until 1974 because he did not believe that the war had ended.” Good for him, I guess. Anyway, Death Force is an absurd movie for more than just this historical note, but it’s worth calling out.

The Mumblecore Precursor Award: Girlfriends. Greta Gerwig owes a lot to Girlfriends. I guess perhaps not technically mumblecore, but still.

Most Harrowing Gameplay: The Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter. I have my issues with the movie, but that sequence is just expertly constructed and basically makes the whole exercise worthwhile.

Best Tarantino Referenced Movie: The Inglorious Bastards is the obvious choice for an obvious reason, but a more obscure option would be Five Deadly Venoms (aka The Five Venoms), which Tarantino lifted some sound effects from for the Kill Bill movies. I’m sure there are dozens of other references and tidbits that Tarantino has culled from 1978 movies, but those were the two that jumped out at me…

So there you have it, the 1978 Arbitrary Awards are in the books. Stay tuned for a Top 10 list (along with the requisite Honorable Mentions) and perhaps some additional 1978 Project thoughts in the coming weeks.

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