1958 is a year — I think this is my first time talking about it since I’ve been writing these articles. I never really decided my feelings on the year as a whole. I agree with a lot of the decisions, but, for some reason this year just kind of feels like a blank to me.
Gigi won Best Picture, which is why it feels like a blank to most people. It wasn’t a terrible decision, mostly because the year itself didn’t really have a standout nominee. The Defiant Ones was also nominated, and that’s really the film that people can point to the best out of the other nominees and say it should have won, but both that and Gigi feel like films that, in most years, would be solid #2s. You know? I like them but, I just don’t see either of them as being winners. The other three nominees this year were Auntie Mame, which is a good film but kind of a bloated entry in the Best Picture nominees, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which is a great film but is very stagy and feels more like an “actors'” film more than a Best Picture winner, and Separate Tables, which is a solid film and a classy film, but not a Best Picture winner. So, this year is kind of a year of all fours without a solid five. That’s why I think it this year doesn’t really stand out among the really good ones.
As for the rest of the year, Best Actor went to David Niven for Separate Tables, which is more of a career achievement than anything. Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier probably split the vote for The Defiant Ones, Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof — I don’t know, maybe he was too new to the industry to win over a veteran — and Spencer Tracy for The Old Man and the Sea, which is a Spencer Tracy nomination. So I guess that makes sense. Best Supporting Actor went to Burl Ives for The Big Country, which makes perfect sense, as he was great in that and great also in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof this year (kind of strange he didn’t win for that, but, hey, a win’s a win). Best Supporting Actress went to Wendy Hiller for Separate Tables, which was a great opportunity to give a veteran an Oscar in a relatively weak category. And Best Director was Vincente Minnelli for Gigi, which was a perfect decision, since Minnelli deserved an Oscar and didn’t get one the other time he was nominated in 1951. So, that’s 1958. A good year but not a great year. One that might be unfairly swept under the rug because of an unflashy Best Picture decision. (more…)