The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1964
Love 1964. My Fair Lady and Dr. Strangelove (and Mary Poppins!) are up for Best Picture. Obviously My Fair Lady is gonna win. My Fair Lady is always gonna win. It wins Best Picture, this category, and Best Actor for Rex Harrison (talked about here). Great decisions, since you know they were never gonna give Strangelove any love (they’re not that cool).
Best Actress was Julie Andrews for Mary Poppins. Self-explanatory. Best Supporting Actor was Peter Ustinov for Topkapi (talked about here). Blank, but not bad. And Best Supporting Actress was Lila Kedrova for Zorba the Greek, which, as I said here, is okay. The category was weak and she was an okay choice (though, really, Academy. No Agnes Moorehead?)
And this one — whether you love Strangelove or not — George Cukor had this earned twenty years before this.
BEST DIRECTOR – 1964
And the nominees were…
George Cukor, My Fair Lady
Michael Cacoyannis, Zorba the Greek
Peter Glenville, Becket
Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Robert Stevenson, Mary Poppins
Cukor — My Fair Lady is My Fair Lady. Professor Higgins, Eliza, the rain in Spain, wouldn’t it be loverly, I’ve grown accustomed to her face, where the devil are my slippers?
Classic film, great music, perfect film. Cukor was also well overdue by this point. It’s amazing he didn’t manage to win one of these before now. Add that to the fact that you know the straight-laced Academy (by and large) would never vote in Dr. Strangelove. So that makes Cukor an easy winner. Thank god, too. This is one of the best directors of all time, if we’re talking classical Hollywood.
Cacoyannis — Zorba the Greek is a great film about the joys of life. Zorba is such a great character. The scene of him dancing makes me feel better every time I see it.
As for the direction — it’s fine, but, not worth a vote. There are three really classic and iconic efforts here, and I think we can all agree that Stanley Kubrick and George Cukor deserve an Oscar more than Michael Cacoyannis. So that’s why I’m not really spending too much time here. It seems unnecessary when I know I won’t be voting for it.
The film is great though. Definitely see it.
Glenville — Becket is a great costume drama about Henry II and thomas Becket, his drinking buddy who he appoints as archbishop of Canterbury, because he thinks having his buddy there will allow him some measure of control over the position. But it doesn’t work like that. Becket becomes a big thorn in his side, because he’s doing what’s right for him to do in the position, and not just catering to his friend’s needs. It’s a really good film. Burton and O’Toole are great.
This is the last film I’d vote for in this category, because, as a costume drama, that means the whole thing was shot in castles and is very stagy. They just stand in well-designed rooms and talk. This wasn’t a directorial effort, it was a staged play shot on cameras. So I can’t vote for it. But the film’s great. So we have that.
Kubrick — Dr. Strangelove. I think you know it.
For a film that gave us such images as the aircrafts refueling and looking like they’re fucking, Slim Pickens riding the bomb, the President and advisors around the poker table, and Dr. Strangelove suddenly able to walk — I think this was pretty deserved. I’m voting for it. No need to explain the obvious.
Stevenson — It’s Mary Poppins. You’ve probably heard of it.
This is a positively delightful film. A year earlier, this might have swept everything. Here — no shot. Shame, but no shot. Love this movie, though. It’s so great.
My Thoughts: It’s Kubrick and Cukor. Cukor deserved it, and was always gonna win, but Kubrick is still my vote. Gotta go all or nothing with Picture/Director.
My Vote: Kubrick
Should Have Won: Cukor, Kubrick
Is the result acceptable?: Yeah. This dude is a legend. He totally deserved one of these. I know Kubrick too, but — Cukor’s on the tail end of 30 years. Kubrick should have won 4 years after this.
Ones I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen My Fair Lady, Dr. Strangelove or Mary Poppins — you’re dead to me, and you’re doing it wrong.
Zorba the Greek is an utterly delightful film that all should see. It’ll make you feel better about everything.
Becket is an incredible film. Really, really great. Definitely worth checking out because the performances are outstanding.