The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1968

Where to begin here… I guess let’s do the recap first.

Oliver! wins Best Picture for 1968. It was the best choice among the nominees, though it was admittedly a very weak set (one of the weakest of all time). Cliff Robertson wins Best Actor for Charly (talked about here), which I feel is a bad decision, and think Peter O’Toole should have won his well-deserved Oscar instead. Best Actress was a tie between Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter and Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl (talked about here). The two were the best in the category, so it works. Best Supporting Actor was Jack Albertson for The Subject Was Roses (talked about here), which is cool, though I can’t help but wish that Gene Wilder won for The Producers. And Best Supporting Actress was Ruth Gordon for Rosemary’s Baby (talked about here), which, even though I’d have gone another way, is a good decision.

I’ll get this out of the way now, which will save me time when I talk about all the nominees: this is, indeed, one of the worst decisions of all time. Stanley Kubrick should have won this in a landslide. However, this is a completely acceptable scenario, because — not only did Carol Reed win for directing the Best Picture of the year, but him not winning Best Director for The Third Man in 1950 is the single worst decision of all time in that category. So it’s only fitting that he should win his Oscar in the second worst decision of all time in the category. Sure they fucked up, but at least they remedied one of them. (Plus Kubrick got a Special Effects Oscar, so it’s not like he went totally empty-handed. And, I like the fact that he never won, because it makes me think he was above the Academy, which is something I think we’d all like to believe.)


And the nominees were…

Anthony Harvey, The Lion in Winter

Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers

Carol Reed, Oliver!

Franco Zeffirelli, Romeo and Juliet

Harvey — The Lion in Winter is about Henry II trying to decide which of his sons will inherit the throne. Lot’s of scheming happens, and the performances are outstanding. Especially Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. Terrific. I’m not wasting time on a synopsis, since we’re here to talk about the directorial effort. Read the acting articles to hear me talk about how awesome this film is.

As for the direction — no. Can’t win. It’s standard costume drama. That is, it’s set in a castle, and is staged like a play. Not beating 2001. Not beating Oliver! Not even beating The Battle of Algiers. At best, fourth for a vote.

Kubrick — There is no proper way to describe the beauty of 2001. Plus, there’s also no real way to describe the plot. The only to do it would be a moment by moment recap. That’s not happening. This is a film that needs to be experienced. If you’ve seen it, you know. If you haven’t seen it (and are reading this blog), you know you need to see it.

Also, whether you’ve seen it or not, you probably know just how great the directorial effort on this film is. It’s one of the most revolutionary films ever made. It’s clearly the best effort. It’s not even close. I’m gonna vote for him — you have to. But, as I said, I understand him not winning, especially when you consider the fact that none of Kubrick’s films were met with much positive notice when they came out. They were always ahead of their time, and while they got Oscar nominations, not everyone was on board with them. So it makes perfect sense that he didn’t win. But still, I’m voting for him.

Pontecorvo — The Battle of Algiers is about, well — guess. France, Algeria — shit went down. And we basically see both sides fighting, back and forth, the violence escalating over the course of the film. It’s very documentary style. It’s really well done. There isn’t so much of a specific plot as much as it is an attempt to place you in the middle of these events and show you “first hand” what happened.

The film is really well-directed. It’s one of the more famous foreign films. It’s one that a lot of people — people who might not even be interested in film — may have seen. It’s really solid. But, two things. First, Carol Reed and Stanley Kubrick. Pontecorvo never had a shot. Also, again, my 8 1/2 theory — the Academy doesn’t like voting for foreign films. They don’t. So if they didn’t vote for 8 1/2, the best directorial effort from a foreign film ever nominated for an Oscar, then I’m not gonna vote for a lesser effort unless it’s clearly the only one to vote for in the category.

Reed — Oliver! is a musical version of Oliver Twist. Orphan, wants some more, gets involved with Fagin and the Artful Dodger, picks a pocket or two, somehow winds up a gentleman. Great book, great film. Fantastic musicals numbers. This is what separates old musicals from current ones. Great songwriting.

The film is really great, and the directorial effort is fine. Nothing outstanding, but fine. The outstanding part is Carol Reed’s not having an Oscar. That’s what was outstanding. Since 1950. So as much as Kubrick should have won this category — this was the Best Picture winner and Carol Reed needed an Oscar. So it’s acceptable.

Zeffirelli — Romeo and Juliet. You know the story. You’ve seen this version if you went to high school. Olivia Hussey is gorgeous in this film. She also has the biggest rack I’ve ever seen a 16 year old girl have. That’s not meant to be creepy — she was 16 when they shot this, and she’s topless in the film. Seriously, look at them. It’s crazy. She is alos stunningly gorgeous. Few actresses have the ability to actually stir up physical feelings in me without actually saying anything. Like, Audrey Hepburn, if I just saw her, I’d go, “Yeah, she’s okay.” But seeing her act — that’s what made me fall in love with her. Elizabeth Taylor — she ain’t have to say a goddamn word. I am watching every little thing she does. She’s stunningly gorgeous. That’s what Olivia Hussey was for me in this movie.

Also, I love the film. This is one of the few Shakespeare films I could watch any time. That says a lot, coming from a person who doesn’t like Shakespeare films.

As for the directorial effort — no. Too stagy. Great, but, not against Kubrick. Can’t do it. Sorry, Franco. Love that you got nominated, though. You totally deserved it.

My Thoughts: No contest. Kubrick wins this by a mile based on individual effort.

My Vote: Kubrick

Should Have Won: Kubrick

Is the result acceptable?: No. But also yes. I said it up in the intro. Reed should have won Best Director for The Third Man in 1950 (or, at the very least, for The Fallen Idol in 1949). Both times he lost to an obviously (and by that, I mean — watch the films) weaker effort. I consider him losing in 1950 to be the worst Best Director decision of all time. So he’d earned one of these twice over. And he directed the film that won Best Picture for this year. So him winning, to me, is perfectly acceptable because, 1) you can never really fault a Picture/Director link, no matter how bad a decision is was, because — well, you vote one you vote the other. It’s always somewhat acceptable. And 2) Reed deserved an Oscar.

So, while Kubrick was clearly the right choice here, I totally understand them giving it to Reed. So it is acceptable, even though it’s a bad decision.

Ones I suggest you see: 2001 — seriously? You should know you need to see this. If you can, try to see this in a theater, so you can get the full experience of the film. And bring me with you. I want to see this in a theater again too. (But, yes, it’s essential. You’re not a real film person unless you’ve seen this. It’s its own merit badge. You can’t graduate without it.) Don’t be a regular person.

Oliver! is a delightful film. I don’t know why you wouldn’t watch it. First, chances are you read the book in high school. So you know the story. And this is the most well-known telling of it. So why not see it? It’s fun, and it technically counts as having read the book (so long as you can bullshit enough to pass the tests). Seriously, see this movie. Don’t be a schmuck.

Romeo and Juliet is also the best (straight, non Baz Luhrmann version. No chaser here) screen version of the play, so that’s a reason to see it. Plus, I guarantee you, anyone in high school English has seen this version. Do you really want to be the one person who hasn’t seen this film? So see it. Don’t be fucking ignorant.

The Lion in Winter is an awesome film. If you love dialogue and acting — this is a film you need to see. It’s so great. Everything about this film is great. Sure, it’s a British costume drama, but it’s an awesome one. Trust me, you won’t regret this one. See this movie. Don’t be so elitist.

The Battle of Algiers is a good movie. I didn’t love it, but I liked it a lot. It’s well directed too. One of the most famous and respected foreign films. I strongly recommend this one. Don’t be so mainstream.


5) Pontecorvo

4) Harvey

4) Zeffirelli

3) Reed

1) Kubrick

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