The nominations for the 1978 Project edition of the Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week, to much fanfare. After a week of rampant speculation and record-setting bets in Vegas sportsbooks, it’s time to announce the winners. Next week, I’ll announce the winners of some more goofy, freeform categories that we call the Arbitrary Awards, and not long after that, I’ll post my top 10 of 1978. And now, the KMA goes to:
Best Villain/Badass: Michael Myers, played by Nick Castle in Halloween. And it’s not even close. As mentioned in the noms, this wasn’t a standout year for villainy.
For crying out loud, two whole nominees (from Patrick and The Medusa Touch) spent the majority of their respective runtimes in a goddamn coma. Which, I’ll grant, is the point of those particular movies and they’re good examples of that sort of thing, but still. Another is only really there because of the comeuppance he receives in the end (Cassavetes in The Fury). Other nominees are fine… as nominees. But none can even approach The Shape.
Best Hero/Badass: Superman / Clark Kent, played by Christopher Reeve in Superman. I mean, I guess you wouldn’t call Supes much of a “badass”, but he’s pretty clearly an archetypal hero. Much more to choose from in the nominations and this decision was much closer than for villain.
Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween was certainly in the running, and that one speaks to the notion of balanced heroism/villainy. A good villain requires a good hero. A large proportion of nominees were driven by the seemingly endless supply of martial arts flicks in 1978, some of which genuinely do stand out from the crowd. Still, I couldn’t pass on Supes.
Best Comedic Performance: John Belushi in National Lampoon’s Animal House. A bit of a cheat in that Belushi is clearly just the standout performance in an ensemble, but then, as I said, he is the standout. And he’s fabulously funny in a way that many are inspired by but few can actually imitate. Jackie Chan is always fun to watch, and Charles Grodin does a lot with a little. Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn did their best with a movie that never quite gelled. I Wanna Hold Your Hand is another ensemble piece that’s notable because of its mostly female cast, and it’s great. Cheech & Chong have never really been my thing, but I guess you have to recognize them. But Belushi’s short career means that some of these performances can only burn a bit brighter.
Breakthrough Performance: Jackie Chan in Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow. Sure, he’d been around for a while and even had minor roles in movies like Enter the Dragon, but he wasn’t really allowed to be his goofy self until these two movies. His particular brand of slapstick comedy and underdog sensibilities really emerged here and would catapult him into stardom. Both Kevin Bacon and Jamie Lee Curtis are strong runners up and would go on to have big careers. If I were writing this in 1978 (or, more likely, 1979), the other nominees would probably have presented stronger because their performances were genuinely great.
Most Visually Stunning: Days of Heaven. Terrence Malick’s insane scheme to film most of the movie during the “magic hour” truly results in amazing pastoral photography, even if the story didn’t do a whole lot for me.
The runner up would probably Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which has a bunch of memorable shots and visual wizardry. Dawn of the Dead is less visually stunning than it is “best practical effects” or some such (hmm, I feel an arbitrary award brewing here). The other nominees are no slouches, though they’re mostly there for a handful of memorable shots rather than sustained visual prowess.
Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Halloween. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, let alone 1978, and indeed, I watch it every year. The same can’t be said for many movies, and certainly not the other nominees. Which are a fine bunch, to be sure! Lots of great movies on the list and even the bad movies are memorably bad (ah, the The Manitou!) Of note here is the relative dearth of Science Fiction amongst the nominees. Even the ones that are there are arguably good demonstrations of the Intersection of Horror and SF. Anyway, I don’t know how I could even begin to justify something other than Halloween for this one.
Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake: Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’m often very hard on sequels and remakes, so my first viewing of Philip Kaufman’s stylish remake of the classic was quite a surprise. I really love both versions of the film and would recommend both (as for the other two remakes in subsequent decades… not so much). Actually, the nominees are a pretty sharp bunch. I don’t love Dawn of the Dead nearly as much as a lot of horror folks, but I have a lot of respect for the way it follows up on the original. Death on the Nile and Flying Guillotine II are both solid extensions of their respective first films and worth checking out. The other nominees might not be quite as successful, but I have fond memories of both…
Biggest Disappointment: Foul Play. I don’t hate the movie by any stretch, it’s just that it had so much potential and I wanted to love it, to find that diamond in the rough, the neglected, underrated gem that simply got overshadowed by the stars’ later successes. Or something like that. It didn’t help that it took me a while to get my hands on a copy of the thing, so my anticipation kept building. As such, it scores poorly on Joe Posnanski’s Plus-Minus Scale. None of which is to say that the other nominees weren’t worthy, just that I’d always heard that The Lord of the Rings was a bit of a mess, and thus I didn’t expect it to be great. I watched Dracula’s Dog years ago on a whim because I thought it might be fun trash, but it turned out to be just trash. Long Weekend has a pretty good reputation amongst film geeks, but while I wanted to love it (as I do with everything I watch), I could tell that it might be pressing buttons that don’t really work for me. And so on.
Best Action Sequence: Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow. I know, I know, I’m cheating, but seriously: these two movies share the same director/fight choreographer, most of the same cast and crew, and were probably made back to back in two weeks or something silly like that. And the action is just glorious. Something about Woo-Ping Yuen’s intricate style is just infinitely appealing (if you’re not familiar with his legendary Hong Kong work, I’m betting you are familiar with The Matrix, which he also worked on). And given the throngs of great Hong Kong martial arts flicks in 1978, I really needed to reward them here. The other nominees are certainly also worthy, though I struggled to find non-martial arts movies to compete. I think the two I managed to scrounge up are great though, and well worth checking out, but can’t really compete with the likes of Jackie Chan and Woo-Ping Yuen.
Best Plot Twist/Surprise: The Great Train Robbery. Michael Crichton’s underseen Victorian heist flick is a really fun, twisty thriller. I very nearly gave this to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but that movie already got an award and we like to spread things around at least a little, when we can. And I do think that The Great Train Robbery is an underrated gem that more people should check out. The other nominees are no slouches on this front, but we’re almost spoiling all this stuff just by talking about the fact that they have twists in the first place, so let’s just keep it at that…
Best High Concept Film: Heaven Can Wait. Its got a bit of a wacky premise, but Warren Beatty and Elaine May (adapting a play by Harry Segall) put it through its paces and end up in deeper water than you’d expect. The idea of this category is notoriously nebulous, so some of the nominees probably don’t fit much, and I feel like we see a lot more of this sort of thing these days than we did back in the day, but here we are.
Congrats to all the 1978 Kaedrin Movie Awards winners! Stay tuned for the Arbitrary Awards, coming next week…