Official Nominations: Carol Reed. Anthony Harvey. Stanley Kubrick. Gillo Pontecorvo. Franco Zeffirelli.
Some expected nominations this year, alongside a couple of surprises. Gillo Pontecorvo makes a surprise appearance for the wonderful Battle Of Algiers – a film released in 1966 and one which had already been nominated for an Oscar the previous year (and would again be nominated in a later year). Stanley Kubrick also picks up a nomination – a surprise given that the remaining three nominees had their films featured in the Best Picture category. Although it is far from a one man movie, it is clear that 2001 is 99% Kubrick – its many faults and many good points fall to him and it can still be said to be possibly the ultimate Science Fiction movie. Carol Reed unsurprisingly picked up the win this year with his Oliver! – even all these decades later it’s still entertaining, probably the best version of Dickens’ story, but it’s still a fairly straight adaptation of a stage play so I can’t credit Reed as much as Kubrick or Pontecorvo. Rounding out the list – Zeffirelli for Romeo And Juliet and Harvey for The Lion In Winter – both stage adaptations, well directed with Zeffirelli showing his usual flair and Harvey continuing the long tradition of stilted historical dramas.
My Winner: Stanley Kubrick
My Nominations: Stanley Kubrick. George A Romero. Peter Yates. Mel Brooks. Roman Polanski. Sergio Leone. Franklin J Schaffner.
A groundbreaking year in many respects, but the official nominations don’t reflect this. Similar to my Best Picture nominations, it’s almost an entirely different list from me, with my Best Picture nominations making their way over to the Best Director category. I’m tempted to give a tie here, because so many of the directors here offer either career best’s or truly groundbreaking and innovative, timeless works. Kubrick of course crafts possibly the first modern, visual masterpiece, but more than that he takes storytelling in different challenging directions. George Romero and his small group of largely untrained actors and staff, somehow caught magic and created two new genres – the modern Zombie movie, and the elevated B movie – a low budget independent movie that is so good that it transcends its limitations and becomes something special. It’s clear that though Romero is inexperienced and flying by the seat of his pants, his story and technique are flawless and make something unforgettable.
This wasn’t the only groundbreaking horror film of the year though, with Polanski taking an altogether more urbane and suburban approach to his Rosemary’s Baby. Polanski had already chilled with the likes of Repulsion, but this time his film is all horror – again focusing on the life of a young, modern woman trapped in a circumstance beyond her control. Polanski unwraps the horror slowly, the mirror opposite of Romero’s unending onslaught, and although we get subtle hints throughout that something is very, very wrong, it isn’t until the final scene that the truth is horrifically revealed. Again, we can draw comparisons with how Night Of The Living Dead offers a final shocking scene.
On a lighter note, Mel Brooks gets a nod from me for The Producers, a film which did pick up two other nominations this year. Aside from the whip-smart script, Brooks keeps the face fast, and allows a superb cast room for improvisation – throw in songs, sets, and silliness and it’s a winner. Yates and Schaffner create their own hits, Yates showcasing the cool factor of cars, chases, Steve McQueen, and genuine, unadulterated dialogue, and Schaffner bring’s the best out of Rod Serling’s original vision for Planet Of The Apes, while adding his own touches of realism and authenticity. Finally, Sergio Leone outdoes himself by creating a more poignant, artistic Spaghetti Western, but one still filled with the realism and brutality which he previously brought to the genre. Going largely unnoticed at the time, Once Upon A Time In The West is now rightfully ranked among the best movies ever made.
My Winners: Yes, it was a year for ties, so my winners are Kubrick and Romero.
Let us know in the comments section who you think should have been winner of the Best Director of 1968!