Movie: The Paper Chase
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (John Houseman), Best Sound, Best Adapted ScreenplayWins/Snubs: John Houseman won for playing a real ass of a professor. I haven't seen (or really heard of) the other nominees in this category: Bang the Drum Slowly: Vincent Gardenia, Save the Tiger: Jack Gilford, The Exorcist: Jason Miller, The Last Detail: Randy Quaid. Who knew Randy Quaid is "Oscar nominee Randy Quaid"? Save the Tiger won for Best Actor for Jack Lemmon, but wasn't nominated for Best Picture. I really want to focus on more of these films. What a blind spot I've opened up. I've seen The Sting that won in 1974 and American Graffiti, but very few others.
James Hart (character actor Timothy Bottoms) is a first year law student at Harvard. He comes from a less rigorous, or prestigious background, and struggles to keep up for a little while, and joins a study group with a group of other really great character actors, Edward Herrmann, James Naughton, and Graham Beckel. They agree to break up their classes and give each other outlines to help study. Based on my own experience with law school friends (and watching Legally Blonde), this is pretty common. Hart chooses contracts, taught by a real stickler, Charles Kingsland (John Houseman). One of the other problems with Hart keeping up is that he's fallen for a girl, Susan (Lindsay Wagner), which is a huge distraction from the studying they need to do. Even more complicated, Susan is Kindsland's daughter.
The movie is fairly slow, looking really closely at the details of getting through your first year of law school. But as an example of law school in the 70's, there are just a few women, and most of the men are married. Pretty different from how it works today. Houseman is perfect as a jerk who gets a lot of his own importance from tearing down his students. Hart wants to get under his skin to understand how to impress him, but mostly realizes that Kingsland was just like him. Houseman is great as the professor who DOESN'T go over the line breaking down his students - reminiscent of School Ties, Dead Poet's Society, Legally Blonde, and With Honors. The romantic story line is very much on the side, but satisfying. Not a great movie overall, but a really good performance.