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The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered (Best Picture, 1967-1968)

The Oscar Quest began in May of 2010. I finished about fifteen months later, and wrote it up for this site. That was essentially the first thing I did on here. Five years have passed since then. I’ve grown as a person. My tastes have changed, matured (or gotten more immature, in some cases). So it feels fitting, on the five year anniversary of the site and of the Oscar Quest, to revisit it.

I want to see just how my opinions about things have changed over the past five years. I didn’t do any particular work or catch-up for this. I didn’t go back and watch all the movies again. Some I went back to see naturally, others I haven’t watched in five years. I really just want to go back and rewrite the whole thing as a more mature person, less concerned with making points about certain categories and films than with just analyzing the whole thing as objectively as I can to give people who are interested as much information as possible.

This is the more mature version of the Oscar Quest. Updated, more in-depth, as objective as possible, less hostile. You can still read the old articles, but know that those are of a certain time, and these represent the present.

1967

Bonnie and Clyde

Doctor Dolittle

The Graduate

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

In the Heat of the Night

Analysis:

Bonnie and Clyde is one of the most famous films of all time.

They rob banks.

There’s gonna be a lot of “you know what this movie is” in this category. Because they’re all really iconic.

Doctor Dolittle. One of these things is not like the other.

I hate having to say bad things about this film, but it’s not a great nominee. It’s the lone leftover film from a Hollywood that is no more. Not even its subject matter is modern. It was a bomb too.

Rex Harrison can talk to animals. And he sings in his talk-singing way that he did in My Fair Lady.

It’s a fine film. Cutesy and all that. Shouldn’t have been nominated, fifth in the category, and might have been the worst winner of all time (bottom three for sure) had it won. Sucks, but it happened in the wrong year. No one questions this if it happened a year in either direction. Here, it looks like, “You chose this over (Cool Hand Luke, The Dirty Dozen, Two for the Road, In Cold Blood)?” Oh well.

The Graduate. Yup.

I love it when the movies are so big everyone knows him. Saves me the trouble.

One of the most iconic films ever made. A classic in every sense of the word. And still hilarious 50 years later.

All these movies turn 50 this year, by the way.

But yeah, clearly amazing, clearly in the conversation, and one of three (if not four) movies that could justifiably be the vote here.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Sidney Poitier.

Spoiler.

He’s who’s coming to dinner.

And his parents.

As much as people want to hate on this movie for seeming so dated and so “simple” thematically — go ahead and watch Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in this movie and try not to lose your shit. They keep this movie grounded.

And yes, this movie is a classic, and yes, this movie is good enough to be considered among the other four. It could easily be taken. I understand that it’s probably the least of the four in terms of holding up as a winner, but the least here is still pretty decent all time.

In the Heat of the Night is a movie that I was against the first time through. Just because I didn’t like it as a winner. That was foolish. That was sentiment toward the other nominees and nothing else. This is a great film and a great winner. You can’t deny this.

You want progressive? How’s this:

A murder is committed in a small southern town. A white cop and a black detective have to work together to solve it. It’s great.

This is easily something that could have won and should have won. Top three, and it’s in the conversation with all the others. So rather than justify that, let’s try to pick a winner.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: What if I took Doctor Dolittle here? You’d all assume I was doing it on purpose just to be a dick. And that’s probably true. That’s really the only way that would happen. Unless I truly felt it was my favorite film in the category. Which… yeah, the more likelihood is me being a dick. And not even I would go that far.

I love Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but it’s the least of the remaining four. I like it enough to take it over In the Heat of the Night, but not enough to take it over the other two, which are better films and I honestly even like them better. Though that does let me know, if I am willing to take it over In the Heat of the Night, that I don’t love In the Heat of the Night enough to take it, so that’s coming right off, despite me being okay with it winning.

It’s between Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, the two films that history tells us are the best two of 1967 that would have been the best winners. This is a straight 50/50 choice there. I don’t know what the fuck to do.

All around, I think Bonnie and Clyde is the best choice and the film that would have best encapsulated 1967 historically, had it won. But I like The Graduate better, and it’s just as good a choice on a lot of levels. So I’m gonna vote for that. And say it won 51/49 over Bonnie and Clyde, just because I like it better and for no other reason. You can’t go wrong with either. Shit, you can’t go wrong with In the Heat of the Night! This category is stacked. Which is only gonna make you feel worse when we get to next year.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. Bonnie and Clyde
  2. The Graduate
  3. In the Heat of the Night
  4. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
  5. Doctor Dolittle

Rankings (films):

  1. The Graduate
  2. Bonnie and Clyde
  3. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
  4. In the Heat of the Night
  5. Doctor Dolittle

My Vote: The Graduate

Recommendations:

The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night — all around essential. The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde are in the top 100, the other two, if they’re not in the top 100, they’re real close. Must see for anyone who loves movies.

Doctor Dolittle is fun. Not essential, not even overly great. But it’s fine and worth a watch if you happen to catch it on TCM one day. Totally decent movie. Moderate recommend.

The Last Word: In the Heat of the Night is a top 40 winner all time. It is. I’m sure I said something differently last time, but that’s why we’re doing this now. My opinions are more honest and objective now. I’m not a fucking 22 year old with biases against things because I preferred other choices. That said, while it is a great winner, there were better winners to be had in this category. Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, had either won, would have been top 20 all-time choices. So the verdict here is — great, but could have been better. So they definitely didn’t do anything bad, they just had better choices that history has dictated were better. Now, I can understand Bonnie and Clyde not having won because I bet some people hated it at the time. It was too progressive and too violent for them. There’s always an old guard that hates the film of the year for some antiquated reason. But The Graduate… that won Best Director. I’m surprised they didn’t vote for that. But hey, they picked a good winner. So they did okay.

– – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – –

1968

Funny Girl

The Lion in Winter

Oliver!

Rachel, Rachel

Romeo and Juliet

Analysis:

Funny Girl is a biopic of Fanny Brice. You know, her.

That’s the beauty of a good biopic. They make its subject well known by most people, even if they might not otherwise have any idea who that person is.

What, like most non-sports people would know who Jake LaMotta is now if not for Raging Bull?

Barbra Streisand bursts onto the scene as Fanny, and this is a musical about a girl who is not overly good-looking (though she’s Barbra Streisand, so not exactly homely), but wants to be a singer. So she finds her niche in being a comedian, who can also sing as well. Great movie. Oh, and she marries a gangster. Which is cool.

Solid movie all around. This would be a #5 most years. Here, it’s dated as fuck. Big and bloated and stagey and all the things Hollywood was trying to get away from. Would have made a terrible winner. Great film, but not the best choice. Also a film that would be a #4 or #5 most years. So it’s not something I really consider. I have to, because this year is shit, but normally I wouldn’t go anywhere near this as a choice.

The Lion in Winter is possibly the best of these 60s costume dramas. If A Man for All Seasons hadn’t already won, this might have.

It’s Peter O’Toole’s Henry II years after the Becket affair. He’s dealing with which of his three sons he’ll give the throne to. He brings his wife Eleanor, who’s been banished to a castle far away, back for the holidays. And there, she (and her sons) conspire for power. It’s pretty much the internal power struggle between a family. It’s all of our holiday get-togethers, but here the throne is at stake. Usually at our house, cousin Danny and Aunt Ellen go outside and talk about making sure next Christmas is at Grandma Jane’s house. Here, two of the sons conspire with France to fuck Dad’s shit up. So, you know, similarities.

This movie is great. One of the best written movies of all time. The writing, and the performances, are all top notch. I’d never look to vote for this at all. But in 1968 — everything is fair game. And this might be my preferred choice, when all is said and done. So there’s that.

Oliver! is a musical version of Oliver Twist.

You know how people see Martin Scorsese winning for The Departed and think of how shallow it is compared to his other works?

Carol Reed won his Oscar for this. And he directed The Third Man. But hey, a win’s a win, right?

This movie is fun, but it’s long. And it’s stagnant. They have big dance numbers, but it’s stagnant. It’s a fine film. A solid movie that you can like and enjoy and all that. But a winner? This is only a winner because of the category it’s in and nothing else. You put this in any other year and it’s a ho hum nominee nobody really thinks twice about. But here, you have to consider it. Mostly because here, you have to consider anything.

Rachel, Rachel is Paul Newman’s directorial debut. I wonder if that had something to do with the Best Picture nomination.

It was tied for fifth most nominations, so it’s not a completely out of nowhere nomination. Oliver! had the most nominations, clearing the field by 3. Funny Girl was second. The Lion in Winter was tied for third with Star!, which… imagine that. Two exclamatory titles in the Best Picture race. Rachel Rachel was tied for fifth, with Romeo and Juliet and 2001. Sometimes a year is just weak.

Joanne Woodward plays a spinster schoolteacher who lives with her domineering mother. She meets a former classmate and starts seeing him. She starts to fall in love. And then she finds out he’s married, wants nothing to do with her, and she might be pregnant. Which makes her summer a whole lot more interesting.

It’s hard to describe this film. There’s much more going on than that, and that’s not entirely the plot. It’s a character study of this woman coming into her own. And it’s good. There’s no denying that it’s a solid, well-acted, well-made film. But a Best Picture nominee? Maybe in another year. Here, it only drags down the category and takes a weak category and makes it one of the weakest of all time. I’d honestly take every other film over this, and it’s just a blank #5 for me. Good film, but — no.

Romeo and Juliet. You know it.

This is the best pure screen version of it.

It is. I know you all like Baz Luhrmann, but that’s not a pure version. That’s a pop version.

This version’s best.

I get why they nominated it. You make the “best” version of a Shakespeare movie and it makes sense that they’d give it a nomination. Not gonna take it at all. You know me and Shakespeare films. We’ll get to it more in a second, but there’s no way I’m taking this regardless. I have my rules and I’m sticking to them. For better or worse.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: I hate this category. So much. Because 1967 is one thing. But this is an industry in turnaround. They’re getting rid of all the old shit and transitioning into the new shit. So they’re almost clinging to these old-style Best Picture nominees that just look dated as hell.

I’m not gonna get into the argument of — 2001, Rosemary’s Baby, The Producers, or even technically Battle of Algiers — not being nominated. That’s what it is. But these five nominees… my god, do I have to?

I can’t take Romeo and Juliet on principle, even though (and I’m not kidding about this), it’s legitimately a third choice. It could even be considered a second choice without argument. That’s fucked up.

Rachel, Rachel, probably shouldn’t have been nominated and is fifth choice. A small drama that no one remembers and would have been a horrible winner. It’s an acting and writing nominee at best. Not gonna take it.

The remaining choices: Shakespeare, bloated musical, bloated musical with great central performance, costume drama. All of these are choices that feel backwards for the way the Academy is trending.

I’ll start this by saying — all of these are about the same level as far as choices go. Nothing here holds up particularly better than the others.

Funny Girl is the first one off for me. It’s just not something I like enough to take. It should be a fifth choice in the category, but isn’t. Fair enough. Not taking it.

I can’t take Romeo and Juliet, so that’s off. But again, legitimate third choice. And there’s an argument to be made that it might have held up better than Oliver! has. So there’s that. But I can’t take it because principles.

That leaves Oliver! and The Lion in Winter. I’m slightly prejudiced against The Lion in Winter because A Man for All Seasons already won, and who needs two of those kinds of movies winning so close to one another? But Oliver isn’t that much better. It’s long, it’s overdone, it’s fine, but it’s not a classic. You have a toss up of two ho hum choices. So, with that being the case, I’m gonna take my favorite of the two. Which is The Lion in Winter.

Honestly, were it not for my principles, Romeo and Juliet would have been this close to being the vote.

That’s why each Best Picture category needs to be taken on its own. The choice is the choice because of the year, nothing else.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. The Lion in Winter
  2. Romeo and Juliet
  3. Oliver!
  4. Funny Girl
  5. Rachel, Rachel

Rankings (films):

  1. The Lion in Winter
  2. Romeo and Juliet
  3. Oliver!
  4. Funny Girl
  5. Rachel, Rachel

My Vote: The Lion in Winter

Recommendations:

The Lion in Winter is almost essential. Won a couple of Oscars, is a classy film. High recommend at worst, but worth seeing, especially if you like these costume dramas or stuff like The Tudors or those historical shows of the like.

Oliver! is a Best Picture winner, making it a certain degree of essential. It’s a really good musical. A lot of fun, high recommend, close to essential because of the Best Picture win, but if you didn’t see this, it wouldn’t be the biggest mistake in the world. You probably should see it, because it’s Oliver Twist and everyone knows that story. And it’s an easy watch. Might as well.

Romeo and Juliet is a film you’ve probably seen along your travels. Any school teaching this will show it to you at some point. It’s a classic. Completely essential because it’s the best screen version of possibly the most famous play ever written. Must see.

Funny Girl is essential for Oscar buffs, and very iconic all around. It’s probably not essential, but given how iconic the Streisand performance is and a lot of the elements in it — you should see it. High recommend. The Streisand performance is so good. And it’s William Wyler. Worth seeing all around, even if it’s not top tier essential.

Rachel, Rachel is a solid drama directed by Paul Newman. Solid recommend, definitely worth seeing, but not essential in the least.

The Last Word: Meh. All around it would have been a “meh” winner. The Lion in Winter probably holds up best, just because Oliver! hasn’t held up that well. It’s a winner, but that’s it. It’s reputation isn’t bolstered because it won. The Lion in Winter holds up just as fine as a winner, and seems to have a higher reputation. So that’s probably the best choice here. And, if we’re being honest, Romeo and Juliet isn’t bad considering the competition. It’s a classic, people respect it — it might be second choice here as a winner. That’s just because Oliver! is a bottom 15/20 all time winner. Hasn’t held up great at all. I mean, sure, the argument here is that the best film of the year and best choice, historically, wasn’t nominated. But that’s a whole other conversation. Talking purely category, I think your best bets, historically, are The Lion in Winter and Romeo and Juliet. Those at least would be like, below average, but solid winners. Oliver! is a below average, “I guess…” winner. Good film, but not a great choice historically.

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(Read more Oscar Quest articles.)

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