The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1961
I love 1961. It’s so top-heavy. Look at your three major contenders for Best Picture: West Side Story, Judgment at Nuremberg, and The Hustler. I always say a year’s strength begins at Best Picture, and right there, this establishes this year as a strong one.
As for the rest of the decisions — Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins win Best Director for West Side Story (talked about here), and George Chakiris and Rita Moreno win Best Supporting Actor (talked about here) and Best Supporting Actress (talked about here), respectively, for the film as well. These decisions all make sense and are good (even though I probably wouldn’t have voted for any of them). When you remember the film, these all seem like good choices, but when you look at the categories, I feel as though there were better choices historically (since in Supporting Actor, you had both Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott, who were great in The Hustler and Montgomery Clift in Judgment at Nuremberg. And then in Supporting Actress, you have Judy Garland, who most people feel was horribly snubbed for Best Actress in 1954. So why wouldn’t you give it to her?). Then Best Actor was Maximilian Schell for Judgment at Nuremberg (talked about here), which I think is one of the worst decisions of all time in the category, since Schell wasn’t really a lead in the film, and because Paul Newman was so good in The Hustler (so good, in fact, that the Academy tried to remedy this snub 25 years later when he reprised the same role). And Best Actress was Sophia Loren in Two Women (talked about here). I don’t like this decision at all, but it’s tough. I love Sophia Loren, and I like that she has an Oscar, but I feel, based solely on the category, that Natalie Wood deserved it, giving a great performance in West Side Story and a great performance in Splendor in the Grass. How do you not award a year like that?
So, 1961 is a year with good decisions, though ones that — I don’t know — maybe could have or should have gone another way. But it all comes back to it being a strong year, where you can quibble about one or the other even though the actual decisions were strong. This year is a luxury year. We should be lucky to have one of these.
And the nominees were…
Fanny (Warner Bros.)
The Guns of Navarone (Columbia)
The Hustler (20th Century Fox)
Judgment at Nuremberg (United Artists)
West Side Story (United Artists) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “Bald Mountain according to tradition, is the gathering place of Satan and his followers. Here, on Walpurgnisnacht, which is the equivalent of our own Halloween, the creatures of evil gather to worship their master. Under his spell, they dance furiously until the coming of dawn and the sounds of church bells send the infernal army slinking back into their abodes of darkness.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1962
The reason I love 1962 is because of two films (at least, in this category), but look at those two films — Lawrence of Arabia and To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s justified.
The year is actually quite simple to recap as well — Lawrence of Arabia wins Best Picture and Best Director for David Lean (talked about here). There was no way it wasn’t winning either of those two awards. To Kill a Mockingbird wins Best Actor for Gregory Peck (talked about here). No one can disagree with Atticus. Then Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress were Anne Bancroft (talked about here) and Patty Duke (talked about here) for The Miracle Worker, which were both perfect decisions. The only real outlier is Best Supporting Actor, which Ed Begley won for Sweet Bird of Youth (talked about here). I don’t really see how Omar Sharif doesn’t win this for Lawrence of Arabia. Still, that decision isn’t enough to ruin the other five.
And here — it’s pretty simple. One film or the other. We know which was going to win, but many of us (including myself) have to choose the other for personal reasons. Either way, it’s pretty clear this was gonna be a good one whichever way they chose.
BEST PICTURE – 1962
And the nominees were…
Lawrence of Arabia (Columbia)
The Longest Day (20th Century Fox)
The Music Man (Warner Bros.)
Mutiny on the Bounty (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
To Kill a Mockingbird (U-I) (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1963
1963 is one of the toughest Academy years to deal with. It’s arguably worse than 1968, since, at least there, the film that one is a okay choice depending on the category. Here — you don’t know what to vote for. And it’s not that the year itself is horribly weak (though the nominees all-around were on the weak side). It’s just that the more daring films like 8 1/2 and The Cardinal weren’t nominated. So it leaves us with a category where we wonder — what do we do? (Which is probably how we got our eventual winner.)
Tom Jones, aside from Best Picture, won Best Director for Tony Richardson (talked about here). It’s not a good decision (How does Fellini not win?), but it’s understandable. Best Actor this year was Sidney Poitier for Lilies of the Field (talked about here), which is a great decision historically, but they really did pick one of the worst performances to award him for (he’s seriously playing a magical negro). Best Actress was Patricia Neal for Hud (talked about here), which I don’t love as a decision, but I guess is okay. Melvyn Douglas won Best Supporting Actor for the film (talked about here), which I am okay with. (It’s his second win, in 1979, that I hate.) And Best Supporting Actress was Margaret Ruherford for The V.I.P.s (talked about here), which — there really was no other choice in the category, logistically. So, meh. Whatever.
Overall, what 1963 got right was giving Sidney Poitier an Oscar. Otherwise, the other decisions are either forgettable or just okay. The real weakness for this year is the fact that the Best Picture category consisted of a comedy, a religious film that’s not really about anything, an epic western that’s more entertainment than “Best Picture,” a film about a Greek immigrant, which is terrific but seems to be little-seen (the kind of movie that would be nominated that people wouldn’t know about), and an epic failure (that’s great, but still thought of as a disaster). What do you vote for with that?
And the nominees were…
America, America (Warner Bros.)
Cleopatra (20th Century Fox)
How the West Was Won (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Lilies of the Field (United Artists)
Tom Jones (United Artists) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “People do not give it credence that a young girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood. But it did happen. I was just 14 years of age when a coward by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down and robbed him of his life and his horse and two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band. Chaney was a hired man and Papa had taken him up to Fort Smith to help lead back a string of Mustang ponies he’d bought. In town, Chaney had fallen to drink and cards and lost all his money. He got it into his head he was being cheated and went back to the boarding house for his Henry rifle. When Papa tried to intervene, Chaney shot him. Chaney fled. He could have walked his horse, for not a soul in that city could be bothered to give chase. No doubt Chaney fancied himself scot-free. But he was wrong. You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free, except the grace of God.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1964
I’m very torn about 1964. There’s a lot of, “Yeah… but, oh… but, yeah…but –” involved. I love My Fair Lady. I love it. I really do. But, on the other hand, it’s kind of old-fashioned, and a bit overly long, and a bit on-the-nose as a winner. And yet — (see what I mean?)
Outside of Best Picture, My Fair Lady wins Best Director for George Cukor (talked about here), which — finally! Holy shit, was the man overdue. Him winning here is like Martin Scorsese winning for The Departed. It’s like, “Where was this 25 years ago?” It also won Best Actor for Rex Harrison (talked about here). It was a good decision. I love Rex Harrison (and Peter Sellers — he was never gonna get it, so it’s not really worth griping about). Best Actress was Julie Andrews for Mary Poppins (talked about here), which, first, she was Mary Poppins, and second, this probably (or possibly) kept her from winning the year after this, when Julie Christie really should have won (and did). Best Supporting Actor was Peter Ustinov for Topkapi (talked about here), which was a spirited decision in a rather weak category. And Best Supporting Actress was Lila Kedrova for Zorba the Greek (talked about here), which was fine, I guess, but how they could continue to pass up Agnes Moorehead, the epitome of this award (kind of like the way they kept passing up Claude Rains for Supporting Actor) is just ridiculous.
So, in all, an okay year. It’s just — here. We all love Dr. Strangelove. And we all think it should have won. But we all know that it would never win. We know it wouldn’t. Not here. (Maybe not ever.) So it’s a moot point about what should have happened. The most we can do is vote one way and accept the other.
BEST PICTURE – 1964
And the nominees are…
Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Columbia)
Mary Poppins (Disney, Buena Vista)
My Fair Lady (Warner Bros.)
Zorba the Greek (20th Century Fox) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “I couldn’t be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it’s possible to get another. There’s only one Maltese Falcon.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1965
1965 is a playing card year. I mean that in the sense of — there’s a scene in My Cousin Vinny where Pesci explains that the prosecution’s case looks like a brick, and will be presented as such, but in reality, is as thin as a playing card, because the fact remains that the boys are innocent. And that’s what I feel about this year. On the surface, a good year and a good choice. But, when you look at it more closely — it might not be what it appears.
The Sound of Music, outside of Best Picture, wins Best Director for Robert Wise (talked about here). That’s standard operating procedure. Best Actor was Lee Marvin for Cat Ballou (talked about here), which I think is a terrible decision, yet I can’t be too angry with it because I love Lee Marvin. Still, bad decision. Best Actress was Julie Christie for Darling (talked about here), which was such a great decision. Between that and Doctor Zhivago — man did she deserve that. Best Supporting Actor was Martin Balsam for A Thousand Clowns (talked about here), which — one of the worst Best Supporting Actor categories of all time, so — sure. And Best Supporting Actress was Shelley Winters for A Patch of Blue (talked about here), which she totally deserved. And the film is amazing too. Great decision.
So, fine year, fine decisions, for the most part. This is a year I don’t think is quite that good a decision. And on the other side of the coin, I’m not quite sure what beats it. This is a really interesting year to talk about, and one that I don’t think is as simple as you’d think it is.
And the nominees were…
Doctor Zhivago (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Ship of Fools (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
The Sound of Music (20th Century Fox)
A Thousand Clowns (United Artists) (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1966
I like me some 1966. I don’t love it. But I like it. It’s a good year. Not terribly memorable, but a year begins with its Best Picture nominees/winner. And this year’s winner (along with the only other potential winner) is a very stagy film. Amazing, but stagy. Which isn’t as sexy as some of the other winners. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a good film.
A Man for All Seasons, outside of Best Picture, wins Fred Zinnemann his second Best Director Oscar (talked about here), which, with this, High Noon and From Here to Eternity (not to mention all the other great films he directed), he’s earned two, and Best Actor for Paul Scofield (talked about here). He did do a great job, and it was really close between him and Richard Burton. Both were very deserving. He was incredible. Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress were Elizabeth Taylor (talked about here) and Sandy Dennis (talked about here) for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, both of whom I felt were deserving in their respective categories (Taylor much more so. She just destroyed the rest of that category). And Best Supporting Actor was Walter Matthau for The Fortune Cookie (talked about here), which — oh man, watch this movie and that performance. It’s genius. It’s a comic role that he plays like a noir. It’s glorious.
So that’s 1966. A very strong year. Every category went with either the best decision or one of the top two. But it’s not very sexy. Some sexiness, but more-so very solid. Maybe we’ll call this the “good husband” year.
BEST PICTURE – 1966
And the nominees were…
A Man for All Seasons (Columbia)
The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming (United Artists)
The Sand Pebbles (20th Century Fox)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Warner Bros.) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1967
This is the year everything changed. After a decade of the crumbling of the studio system, studios not knowing how to handle the changing times, the failures of this big-budget roadshow musicals, the rampant runaway production going on — something snapped. For a few years, these smaller, grittier, counter-culture films were starting to pop up. But this year is where one of them finally broke through into the mainstream: Bonnie and Clyde. Not to mention, you see a huge influx of socially conscious films among the nominees this year. Dealing with race and violence and sex — topics that were completely taboo less than a decade earlier. 1967 is the most socially important year in the history of cinema. No other year holds a candle to it in terms of social importance.
The year is also wonderfully spread out. They managed to get every major film an award. In the Heat of the Night wins Best Picture and Best Actor for Rod Steiger (talked about here). Steiger was pretty due by this point, so that was nice (even though I’d say Spencer Tracy and Paul Newman gave better performances. Not to mention an un-nominated and horribly snubbed Sidney Poitier). Best Actress was Katharine Hepburn for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (talked about here), a solid choice. Best Supporting Actor was George Kennedy for Cool Hand Luke (talked about here), which is so awesome I don’t even want to talk about it lest I somehow jinx it 45 years after the fact. Best Supporting Actress was Estelle Parsons for Bonnie and Clyde (talked about here), which — wow. If you’ve seen the performance, you know. And Best Director was Mike Nichols for The Graduate (talked about here), which he deserved, between this and not winning for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? the year before this. So, overall, they did a great job of awarding all the great films from the year.
However — and I’ve said this a lot — I can’t help but feel this Best Picture decision is a cop out decision.
BEST PICTURE – 1967
And the nominees were…
Bonnie and Clyde (Warner Bros., Seven Arts)
Doctor Dolittle (20th Century Fox)
The Graduate (Embassy)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Columbia)
In the Heat of the Night (United Artists) (more…)
PIc of the Day: “The Ballet of The Red Shoes is from a fairy tale by Hans Andersen. It is the story of a young girl who is devoured with an ambition to attend a dance in a pair of Red Shoes. She gets the shoes and goes to the dance. For a time, all goes well and she is very happy. At the end of the evening she is tired and wants to go home, but the Red Shoes are not tired. In fact, the Red Shoes are never tired. They dance her out into the street, they dance her over the mountains and valleys, through fields and forests, through night and day. Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on.” “What happens in the end?” “Oh, in the end, she dies.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1968
Talk about a really tough year. 1968 is, quite literally, the transition year for Hollywood. This is the year the business went from Old Hollywood to New Hollywood. (Oscar-wise. In terms of the actual movies, the transition was there until 1970/1971.) The year before this, you had the landmark films like Bonnie and Clyde, and the year after this, you’ll see one of them win Best Picture. Here — you get the last gasp of old Hollywood. All the choices here as so unabashedly old Hollywood. And in return we get a pretty weak set of nominees. 1966, this would have been a good list. 1968 — not so much.
Oliver! wins Best Picture, mostly because it’s the lesser of five evils. If you’re gonna give in, might as well have fun with it. The film also wins Carol Reed his twenty years-overdue Best Director statue (talked about here), which is not a great decision, since Kubrick really should have won for 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Carol Reed needed to win, so it has to be acceptable. (This year feels a lot like 2006, where there was no winner, and someone needed to win Best Director, so they went and voted for their film too for Best Picture, because, “Why not?”) Best Actor was Cliff Robertson for Charly (talked about here), which I don’t particularly like, simply because this was Peter O’Toole’s one chance to really win. Best Actress was a tie (the only exact tie in Academy history) between Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter and Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl (talked about here). They were the best in the category, so it worked out fine. Best Supporting Actor was Jack Albertson for The Subject Was Roses (talked about here), which was a fine decision, he was really great in the film. And Best Supporting Actress was Ruth Gordon for Rosemary’s Baby (talked about here), which I wouldn’t have voted for but is a fine decision.
So, overall, they did the best with what they had to work with for 1968. Still, though — it’s pretty weak. But, it is a prime example of “out with the old.” I do like it for that reason.
And the nominees are…
Funny Girl (Columbia)
The Lion in Winter (Avco Embassy)
Rachel, Rachel (Warner Bros.)
Romeo and Juliet (Paramount) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1969
Ah, 1969. The year, as I like to call it, 1967 took effect. Sure, the film landscape changed in 1967 with Bonnie and Clyde and all that, but the Academy was pretty much business as usual until now. This was their first real embrace of the new type of filmmaking that was taking over the industry. I’m still amazed it happened.
Midnight Cowboy, outside of Best Picture, won Best Director for John Schlesinger (talked about here). He’d had one of those coming for a few years, so it’s nice to see a perfect scenario for him to win one. Best Actor was John Wayne for True Grit (talked about here), which — John Wayne was one of four actors who could have won an Oscar at any point and it would have been okay, no matter who he beat. The other three were Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, and after a certain period, Paul Newman. They transcend the awards. So him winning was automatically a good decision (even though it’s a shame about Richard Burton). Best Actress was Maggie Smith for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (talked about here), which is nice. Maggie is awesome. I’d have gone another way, but the decision was fine. Best Supporting Actor was Gig Young for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (talked about here), which, in a weak category, it was the best decision. And Best Supporting Actress was Goldie Hawn for Cactus Flower (talked about here). I like the decision, but man, was Catherine Burns amazing in Last Summer.
1969 is a hugely successful year. All the decisions are terrific. And a great year, of course, starts with a great Best Picture winner.
BEST PICTURE – 1969
And the nominees were…
Anne of the Thousand Days (Universal)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (20th Century Fox)
Hello, Dolly! (20th Century Fox)
Midnight Cowboy (United Artists)
Z (Cinema V) (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1970
1970 is one of those years that I call “checkpoint” years. As in, you’re going and looking at all the Best Picture winners, and you go, “Like that, like that, don’t like that, oh man, that one’s horrible…” But when you get to this one, you see Patton and go, “Uh huh,” and you move on. Because it’s unquestionably a film that was gonna win. Gone With the Wind is like that. Lawrence of Arabia. These years are checkpoint years, because you mentally rest for a second before moving on.
Outside of Best Picture, Patton wins Best Director for Franklin Schaffner (talked about here) and Best Actor for George C. Scott (talked about here). Both were terrific decisions (though huge shout out to James Earl Jones in The Great White Hope. I’m not kidding when I say (racism notwithstanding) in almost any other year, he wins hands down). Best Actress this year was Glenda Jackson for Women in Love (talked about here), which is the single worst decision of all time by the Academy, in any category, bar none. (I hate it, in case you couldn’t tell.) Best Supporting Actor was John Mills for Ryan’s Daughter (talked about here), which I consider probably one of the worst three decisions of all time in the Best Supporting Actor category. And Best Supporting Actress was Helen Hayes for Airport (talked about here), which was a wonderful veteran Oscar. I’m glad she won.
So, overall, 1970 is a solid year. However, due to my insane love for another film, I will not be voting for the obvious choice in Patton here. I don’t care what anyone says, but Love Story, to me, is one of the greatest films ever made. Man’s gotta vote with his heart.
BEST PICTURE – 1970
And the nominees are…
Five Easy Pieces (Columbia)
Love Story (Paramount)
MASH (20th Century Fox)
Patton (20th Century Fox) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “I know that Moscow has planted a mole, and I know it is one of five men. Allenine: Tinker. Haydon: Tailor. Bland: Soldier. We leave out ‘Sailor,’ too much like ‘Tailor.’ Esterhase: Poorman.” “And the fifth?” “Smiley.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1971
The 70s had balls. That’s the best way to describe it. In the 80s, you’d look at this list and assume Nicholas and Alexandra was going to win. In the 60s, you’d assume Fiddler on the Roof. Nothing against either of those films, they’re both actually really amazing (this entire list is), it’s just — here, in the 70s — the right film won.
Outside of Best Picture, The French Connection won Best Director for William Friedkin (talked about here) and Best Actor for Gene Hackman (talked about here). Both were awesome decisions. Best Actress was Jane Fonda for Klute (talked about here), which is another great decision and another 70s decision. Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress were Ben Johnson (talked about here) and Cloris Leachman (talked about here) from The Last Picture Show. I don’t love either decision, but am more okay with Supporting Actress. Still, I’d have gone another way on both of them.
Again, though, the 70s are just terrific at awarding good things. There’s so much good stuff nominated that almost no matter what they choose, the result will be good (or at the very least, acceptable). It’s amazing.
BEST PICTURE – 1971
And the nominees were…
A Clockwork Orange (Warner Bros.)
Fiddler on the Roof (United Artists)
The French Connection (20th Century Fox)
The Last Picture Show (Columbia)
Nicholas and Alexandra (Columbia) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “You really think you can fly that thing?” “You really think you can do all that bullshit you just said?”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1972
There is nothing to say about 1972 except: The Godfather. I rest my case.
Outside of Best Picture, Marlon Brando wins Best Actor for the film (talked about here). Duh. Best Actress goes to Liza Minnelli for Cabaret (talked about here), Joel Grey wins Best Supporting Actor for the film (talked about here), and Bob Fosse wins Best Director for it (talked about here). I love the Best Actress decision, hate the Best Supporting Actor decision (seriously, not James Caan or Al Pacino?) and am completely perplexed by the Best Director decision (I love Bob Fosse, but even the DGA went with Coppola. But it worked out, since both Coppola and Fosse ended up with Oscars.) And the only award left was Eileen Heckart winning Best Supporting Actress for Butterflies Are Free (talked about here), which — okay. It was a weak category, and is pretty irrelevant historically.
Seriously, though — The Godfather. Let’s not play around here.
BEST PICTURE – 1972
And the nominees were…
Cabaret (Allied Artists)
Deliverance (Warner Bros.)
The Emigrants (Warner Bros.)
The Godfather (Paramount)
Sounder (20th Century Fox) (more…)