Best Picture – 1970

Official Nominations: Patton. Airport. Five Easy Pieces. Love Story. MASH.

1970 is most interesting in that the five Best Picture nominees are so different from each other. We have a biography, a disaster movie, a war satire, a romance, and sort-of-indie-drama. I’d be hard pushed to pick Love Story as a winner because it’s basically a Nicholas Sparks book come to life, though it is well acted. Airport doesn’t feel like a winner because it feels like a generic disaster flick looking back, but at the time it was groundbreaking and knocked open the door for so many more like it. Five Easy Pieces was never going to win, but it’s shame so few people know it because it has some exceptional performances and is more heartbreaking than Love Story. It’s a toss-up between MASH and Patton – two worthy winners in my opinion. As much as I love the music and performances of MASH… I think i prefer the series to the movie. My pick for winner goes to Patton – truly one of the best biographies and war films ever, filled with strong performances and memorable moments.

My Winner: Patton.

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My Nominations: Patton. Five Easy Pieces. The Conformist. MASH. Kelly’s Heroes. The Boys In The Band. Little Big Man.

Three of the actual films pass over to my list. Regular readers will know that I love suicide mission movies, ensemble movies where a group of misfits are forced into undertaking some impossible task. It shouldn’t surprise anyone then that Kelly’s Heroes makes my list – it is one of the most riveting war movies of the decade, the twist of course being that there is no grand scheme here, just a bunch of soldiers deciding to rob a bank. Good score, great cast, and plenty of action – it isn’t going to win any genuine awards, but it’s a lot of fun. The Conformist sees Bernardo Bertolucci writing and directing a beautifully stylized tale of a broken man’s need to be normal, whatever the cost. The Boys In The Band is perhaps William Freidkin’s first notable film, based off the controversial play mostly concerning a single location party and mostly homosexual characters – a film dated in some respects but still ahead of many current portrayals. Finally, Little Big Man was a hit thanks to a cast of new stars and slotting in nicely with the anti-establishment movement sweeping the US at the time. Funny, sad, and with a bunch of good performances, it’s surprising you rarely hear about this one any more.

My Winner: Patton.

Let us know in the comments what you would pick as your best film of 1970!

Best Picture – 1969

Official Nominations: Midnight Cowboy. Anne Of A Thousand Days. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Hello Dolly. Z.

1969 saw a return to form and a return to the New Hollywood. With the new decade beckoning, Vietnam raging, and fear, paranoia, and crime rising throughout the country, many younger, more adventurous film makers were emerging. Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy was the first X Rated film to win best film, featuring rampant sex and knocking more than a few boundaries to grateful dust. Dustin Hoffman features again, his relationship with newcomer Jon Voight proving highly effective. The film has memorable music, scenes, and dialogue, and portrays small town America, New York, and innocence in a less than glamorous or appealing light. This type of thins had rarely been seen before on screen even though it was surrounded audiences daily lives. Sandwiched between this and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, is the unfortunate and quite frankly embarrassed to be there Anne Of The Thousand Days. Between two films of brutal realism, and exciting freshness,  this out of touch costume drama looks like it was made during the time it was portrayed and stands out only because there are big name actors and silly clothes. Reportedly the studio plied the Academy with champagne and lavish meals to win them over. Thankfully good sense prevailed – it’s a by the numbers drama with a fine cast, but completely out of place here.

George Roy Hill’s BCATSK features Robert Redford and Paul Newman in their career defining, and probably best performances. The outlaws are portrayed in a sympathetic light, Bacharach’s famous song ensuring that we come to love these characters before they are inevitably frozen in sepia and bullets at the end. The many dreamlike sequences serve to both interrupt and strengthen the film showing that the director wasn’t sure to go for an all out adventure or merge with his prior aesthetic. Gene Kelly’s directed Hello, Dolly! is another Streisand musical, this time devoid of any music of note while Gavras’ Z is a stark, funny, and gripping thriller dealing with the assassination of a Greek politician. This one has largely become forgotten over the years but comes highly recommended for all lovers of freedom, common sense, and good movies.

Three very good films then this year, one of which has gone on to iconic status, one which is still highly revered, and one which should be re-consumed. It’s a tight one, but my choice as winner goes to Midnight Cowboy.

My Winner: Midnight Cowboy

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My Nominations: Midnight Cowboy.  Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Easy Rider. The Italian Job. The Wild Bunch. Z

I take the three main picks from the official list and add another three iconic films. Nothing says 1960’s counter-culture like Easy Rider and while it has dated more than some of the other movies in the list its importance cannot be underestimated. With Hopper, Fonda, and Nicholson, a realism and style which had never been mainstream before, and an assured and honest look at part of the country and its people which had been largely ignored by cinema, it is vital viewing. Not quite as influential but just as essential and a hell of a lot more fun is The Italian Job – some of the biggest names in British culture appear in this caper, probably the best of its type, and it is filled with quotable dialogue and memorable scenes all while moving at top speed. My final pick is one of the greatest Westerns ever made, a defining moment for the genre while simultaneously acting as a nail in the coffin for a genre which had dominated for the last couple of decades. Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch has the smarts to merge standard Western plot fare with ultra modern and vibrant techniques and sensibilities – the editing, the soul-searching, and of course the stylized violence are all significant. Peckinpah depicts a world filled with aging men well past their best days, yet still trying to survive using their old wits as time marches on with increasing brutality.

My Winner: The Wild Bunch.

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What is your pick for the Best Picture of 1969? Do you pick something from my list, or the official one, or something different entirely? Let us know in the comments!

Best Picture – 1968

Official Nominations: Oliver! Funny Girl. The Lion In Winter. Rachel Rachel. Romeo And Juliet.

1968 is a let down after such a groundbreaking year in ’67. Considering 2001: A Space Odyssey was not even nominated we can safely assume that the panel was either drunk or had been replaced by singing jellyfish. We have fallen back on the old familiar face of musicals and costume dramas, and although these are some of the best, that is like picking a favourite episode of Tellytubbies. The irony is that aside from the failed nominations, 1968 is one of the great years for groundbreaking movies.

Great performances, nifty sets, and some annoying brain drilling songs stop Oliver! from being a complete bare-ass towel slap. Much of Dickens’s darker stuff was removed as these sorts of musicals are largely aimed at children and idiots, and the film is at least 40 minutes too long. At least much of it looks grim, although then again being a homeless orphan surrounded by rapists and murderers has never looked so appealing.

Funny Face is another musical, this time starring Barbara Streisand and as such should never be spoken of again. The Lion In Winter is an Anthony Harvey directed costume drama featuring a strong cast and some ‘wonderful’ sets and costumes. The actors quickly chew these to pieces though and the film is forgotten. Paul Newman’s Rachel, Rachel is the only film worth speaking about at length here, although it isn’t really worth speaking about. It features strong female characters in a variety of situations and has some fine performances. Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is probably the best version of the story, bright, tragic, with a decent score and even some nudity thrown in. This is overall an extremely poor year for nominations and I’m struggling to pick a winner. Just to annoy as many people as possible though, I’ll go for Rachel, Rachel. It has no singing.

My Winner: Rachel, Rachel.

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My Nominations: 2001- A Space Odyssey. Bullitt. Night Of The Living Dead. Once Upon A Time In The West. Planet Of The Apes. The Producers. Rosemary’s Baby.

For the first time (I think) my list of Nominations does not feature any from the Official List, and each one of them is infinitely stronger, more important, and more entertaining than those actually selected. It is a mystery still why a number of these movies were not nominated and their absence must go down as some of the biggest snubs in Oscar history. 2001 is frequently cited as the greatest sci-fi movie of all time, one of the most influential films ever made, and is rarely far from the top of any fan or critic’s best overall movie. Similarly, Once Upon A Time In The West is regarded as one of the finest Westerns ever made, Rosemary’s Baby is a landmark in horror, and The Producers remains an endearing satire. From a purely entertainment perspective, Planet of The Apes is hard to beat – a great adventure led by a strong cast and ideas and closed with one of cinema’s most shocking twists, while Bullitt is another Steve McQueen vehicle featuring memorable performances, music, and car chases. If I’m choosing with my heart though, there can only be one winner this year for me, and that is George A Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead. Made on a shoestring with a bunch of amateurs and friends, more than any other horror film of its generation pulled the genre from the old world into the new – nothing is black or white, the main character can die, and sometimes the good guys don’t win. It is as powerful and haunting a horror movie as you will ever see and certain moments will live with you till you’re in the grave. AND BEYOND!

My Winner: Night Of The Living Dead.

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Best Picture – 1967

Official Nominations: In The Heat Of The Night. Bonnie And Clyde. Doctor Dolittle. The Graduate. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

As mentioned in my Awards summary post, this year marked a major shift in US culture, and in the movies which viewers wanted to see. There is one obviously out of place film here while every other entry deals with tougher stuff, from racism to violence to sexual taboos, all mirroring the shifting landscape of the time. Four of these films are superb, while Doctor Dolittle is a light, fluffy, yet still enjoyable piece – a very strong year. Doctor Dolittle went notoriously over budget and wasn’t well received critically or commercially, which makes it an extremely strange choice for Best Picture nominee – it’s almost as if The Academy just had to throw a musical in there to try to cling on to the past, or have something a little brighter amidst all of the chaos. Why they didn’t go for The Jungle Book if that was the case, remains a mystery – the story goes that Fox executives lavished Academy members with gifts in order to recoup losses and gain some positivity for the film. Nevertheless, some of the songs are fun, the locations and animals are pretty, and the performances are okay, but it is entirely out of place alongside the other features.

Official winner, In The Heat of The Night, is a timely piece given the subject matter and the race relations crisis in the US at the time. A startlingly frank and mature piece, the film deals with racism face on and doesn’t shy away from any controversy, featuring a number of iconic quotes and scenes. One of the first films to deal with an African American in a true position of power, in an honest fashion, it has a great script and fantastic performances – a worthy winner. Also dealing with racial issues, and also starring Sidney Poitier is Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner – ostensibly a comedy, but a revealing one given the subject matter of interracial marriage which was still illegal in many States of the US in 1967. A fine film with fine performances, it feels a little dated now and much of the comedy is too soft and of its time to hit the mark with current audiences. An altogether more fiery relationship can be seen in Bonnie And Clyde, ironically a film which does not feel as dated given the period depicted. A taboo blasting film, one which spoke to a younger generation of movie -goer, touching upon sex and violence in ways never depicted on screen before, and with two searing performances by its leads, it remains a classic, fast paced drama, filled with vitality. The final nomination also spoke to a New Generation of post-adolescents and depicting that hope of a lifetime for may – to be seduced by an older woman. Although it was handled in a humourous fashion, the writers discuss sex, seduction, infatuation with both youth and experience in a way that had never been seen before. Luckily the script is tight and the direction strong, and it is so filled with iconic moments that critics couldn’t fail to be charmed. Hoffman and Bancroft lead the strong cast, helping to make this my winner.

My Winner: The Graduate

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Mrs Bouvier!!

My Nominations: The Graduate. Bonnie And Clyde. Cool Hand Luke. In The Heat Of The Night. The Dirty Dozen. The Fearless Vampire Killers. Wait Until Dark. You Only Live Twice.

Three of the official winners come over to my list of nominations, joining a mixture of action, horror, drama, and comedy. Cool Hand Luke missing out on an official nomination always seemed like a strange snub,especially given its successes in other categories and with it being up against Doctor Doolittle. Cool Hand Luke is as iconic a 60s movie as any other you could name, and another which taps into the new wave of rebellion and desire for change which was sweeping the nation. Iconic moments, performances, and dialogue along with a good soundtrack and story which is both tragic and hopeful, it’s one which remains fresh and relevant today. Packing in the action and bringing together a ragtag group of outlaws and rebels to undertake a dangerous mission a la The Seven Samurai is the always enjoyable The Dirty Dozen – a film packed with stars which follows one of my favourite movie tropes – the identification of a select group, their training, and their mission – and its one of the best of its type. Polanski continues a fine run of form with The Fearlesss Vampire Killers, one of the original modern horror comedies which blends satire with farce, and animation with dreamlike fairytale visuals.Keeping on the horror side is an underrated one which apes Hitchcock more successfully that most which try – Terence Young’s Wait Until Dark. Featuring some of the most tense moments committed to film, it’s a shame this one is lesser known but inevitable that it will be remade, though who could top Hepburn, Arkin, and Crenna? My final nomination, and a controversial choice, is one of my favourite James Bond films – You Only Live Twice. Action packed, filled with great music and one liners, some of the best Production Design and set pieces in the series, strong bad guys, girls, and gadgets, it’s my selfish pick for the Best Film of 1967.

My Winner: You Only Live Twice.

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Do you agree with my picks? What is your favourite film of 1967? Let us know in the comments!

Best Cinematography – 1966

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Official Nominations: BW: Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? The Fortune Cookie. Georgy Girl. Is Paris Burning? Seconds. Colour: A Man For All Seasons. Fantastic Voyage. Hawaii. The Professionals. The Sand Pebbles.

Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and A Man For All Seasons picked up the wins this year, increasing their impressive respective tallies. Arguably strange choices in both places, particularly as Is Paris Burning? and Seconds have much more impressive and innovative work. On the colour side the winner is an expected and fine choice, but each of the other nominees could arguably be a better choice.

My Winner: BW: Seconds. Colour: Fantastic Voyage

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My Nominations: The Bible In The Beginning. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. The Plague Of The Zombies. Is Paris Burning? Seconds. Fantastic Voyage. Hawaii. The Sand Pebbles.

Only five films from the official nominations make it over to my list, and to those I add an epic and two genre classics. Giuseppe Rotunno would gain fame later with a nomination for All That Jazz, but his sweeping shots of the approach to The Ark and the generally lavish shots in The Bible: In The Beginning deserve more recognition. Similarly, The Plague Of The Zombies leaves a lsasting impression on the viewer thanks to Arthur Grant’s bleak, atmospheric shots of a claustrophobic English village. The undisputed winner, and yet another shocking omission by The Academy, must be Tonino Delli Colli’s work on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Taking all the tropes of the famous US Westerns of previous decades, and continuing on the path laid out by Dallamano on the previous Dollars movies, the film remains uncompromisingly vast and beautiful today. Horizons stretch out endlessly, specks in the distance draw the eye just as much as the full screen withered faces of the cast – how much of this is actually down to Leone is up for debate. Either way, it’s a clean winner.

My Winner: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

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What is your pick for the Best Cinematography of 1966? Let us know in the comments!

 

Best Picture – 1966

Official Nominations: Alfie. A Man For All Seasons. The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? The Sand Pebbles

1966 saw Beatlemania and a love of all things British making an impact on The Academy. It was the height of the Swinging 60s, and for a brief moment, London seemed like the Capital of the world again. Lewis Gilbert and Michael Caine teamed up to make one of their most popular films (Alfie) respectively, yet it now seems like an overly camp, overly out-of-time curio. Okay performances, but it’s possibly best viewed as a relic of a long lost era. Zinneman’s unfortunately uninspired A Man For All Seasons reeks of stage adaptation, though good performances save it from being unwatchable. Even with this British invasion, the final three films officially nominated are distinctly North American affairs. Jewison’s The Russians Are Coming (I won’t say it twice) is a daft farce, full of funny and ridiculous moments which Kafka would have been proud of, while Nichols’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? is a groundbreaking film mostly because of its adult content. Full of shocking language and innuendo for the time, as well as frank discussions about sex, the script is a powerful and engaging series of arguments and insults delivered well by the unexpected cast of Burton, Segal, Mason, and the beefed up Taylor. Viewers wondered if this was what Burton and Taylor were really like. In addition to this it must be noted that it is the only film ever to have been nominated in every category in which it was eligible. My winner though goes to the All-American The Sand Pebbles, by Robert Wise. The gung-ho cast of Steve McQueen, Mako, Attenborough, Crenna, and more make this a winner even though it is overly long and has the typical inaccuracies we come to expect when Hollywood speaks of the past. Even though Woolf is the best film here, I’ll go against the grain.

My Winner: The Sand Pebbles

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My Nominations: Blow Up. Born Free. Fahrenheit 451. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Torn Curtain. The Sand Pebbles. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Out of the official nominations, only The Sand Pebbles and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? get The Spac Hole’s Seal Of Approval. Added to my list of nominations are a selection of worldwide hits, most of which are rightly held up as classics today. Arguably Antonioni’s best film, Blowup merged Italian flair and lust with the exuberance of the British swinging sixties, all wrapped up in a boundary-pushing story of existentialism and murder. The sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll proved to be a hit with audiences and forced Hollywood to realise that the world had moved on, and was no longer only interested in white picket fences, singing and dancing, and dogs being swept away from Kansas. Bringing a different flair to Bradbury’s under-appreciated vision of the future, Truffaut’s Farenheit 451 does a decent job of capturing the fears of the story whilst delivering poignant visuals. Like Antonioni, this was Truffaut’s first English film. Keeping with the English theme, Hitchcock returns with Torn Curtain, a typically tight political thriller which few people speak of when regarding the Director’s best work. It may not be his best, but it is a highlight of his twilight career. In a completely different type of film, Born Free is a timeless tale of love, dedication, and nature, and is a movie which deserves to be shown to children yearly, just like The Snowman or It’s A Wonderful Life. My winner though has to be Leone’s masterpiece. After a few brilliant attempts, he cements everything that he set out to do to the Western genre, and gives us arguably the genre’s finest film. Violent, gritty, stunningly beautiful, and with iconic performances and a sharp script, it is one of the all-time greats.

My Winner: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

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What do you think is the best film of 1966? Or more importantly, what is your favourite of 1966? Let us know in the comments!

Best Picture: 1965

Official Nominations: The Sound Of Music. Dr. Zhivago. Darling. A Thousand Clowns. Ship Of Fools.

1965 saw the unfortunate (and hugely successful) return of the musical, with Robert Wise’s hideous The Sound Of Music darkening our minds for ever more. Cut and pasted from the Broadway hit, simply watching it will force your teeth to decay due to an onslaught of Saccharine – naturally, this is to expected given the subject matter- WWII. As all humans with brains will remember, the Second World War was a wonderful time, full of frolicking, singing, and care-free sun-filled days romping through the hills. Sure there was genocide, rape, murder, and intestines flying through the air in most countries – but that only provides more reason to be cheery. The film is essentially swine mix;  a series of happy jingles which a lazy advertiser could use to sell ambivalence. The acting is mostly smiles and winks; the script is hijinks filled nonsense, but at least it all looks very pretty. Well done to the crane operator. Obviously it was the official winner.

Schlesinger’s Darling is the age-old, but never more relevant than now, story of a young, beautiful woman driven by the desire for fortune and fame. Julie Christie plays Diana in her first major and award-winning role – a woman who sells her beauty and self to climb the ladder only to find that, surprise upon surprise, happiness is not at the top. Christie gives a standout performance in this funny and refreshingly dark film which shows that then, as today, it is very easy to be a whore but difficult to get rid of the stench. Christie caps off a momentous year appearing as Lara in David Lean’s typically huge Doctor Zhivago. Thanks to Christie, Lean’s all encompassing eye, and to Omar Sharif’s commanding performance this is the definitive screen version of the story. Add Jarre’s score and the film has epic stamped all over it. However, like most Lean films it is too long and can be accused of glossing over many of the novel’s subtleties and sub-plots. For a beast of a book though this is understandable. Kramer’s Ship Of Fools was a dark horse, featuring Vivian Leigh’s final performance. It tells of a cruise liner to Germany and the various people on board, foreshadowing the dark days of the War which were to come. It is gentle and slow-paced, but with strong performances and enough variety in the characters and plot – the overall message of the film isn’t hammered in either, but is there for the viewer to mull over like most Kramer movies.

So, from a personal standpoint this was a pretty poor year with nothing particularly deserving of my all important praise. I leave my prize to Fred Coe’s virtually unknown A Thousand Clowns as it is both funny and touching with solid performances and an endearing story about parenthood, responsibility, and conforming not for society, but for those who need you.

My Winner: A Thousand Clowns

 My Nominations: For A Few Dollars More. The Ipcress File. Repulsion. Thunderball. Red Beard.

1965 is not a favourite year for movies for me, but as with any year a few goodies always shine through. For this year’s nominations I’ve gone with 5 different films, none of which is truly an American film. Leone and Eastwood partner again for their explosive pseudo-sequel to A Fistful Of Dollars. The story is more of a revenge tale than the original and increases its focus on the supporting characters played by Lee Van Cleef and Gian Maria Volonte. More action, an updated score, and the same inventive direction from Leone ensure this is another hit. Seeing his films being remade with great success in the US, Akira Kurosawa unleashes an altogether different beast from what his foreign audiences were used to. Toshiro Mifune stars in Red Beard, his last partnership with Kurosawa, telling the story of a weathered Doctor and a student taken under his wing. It is a compassionate tale about mortality, humanity, and the lengths some go to to care for the ill.

Leaping over Continents to the UK for the final 3 films we once again encounter 007 with his latest effort Thunderball. While not as exciting or inventive as previous Bonds, the film still has many classic moments, particularly in the action scenes. Michael Caine tries his hand at being a more realistic, downbeat secret agent than his fellow world-saver, and helps to make The Ipcress File a genuine pretender to Bond’s crown. While there remains a wry humour, Harry cares less about saving the world and drinking Martinis and more about his salary and supermarkets, and the plot is delivered more as a thriller than an action movie. Rounding up the list is Roman Polanski’s first English language film, and one which arguably remains his best. Repulsion takes horror, on a gender level, to places it had never been near before. Catherine Deneuve stars as an awkward young woman who withdraws into herself and her apartment, slowly becoming engulfed by vivid hallucinations which lead her on a path of murder and destruction. This was, and is groundbreaking stuff, the scenes of carnage are nightmarish and awful, yet brutally real, and the fact that it happens to a beautiful young woman in a normal house, in a normal street makes everything more shocking. After years of fear being expected from outside sources, the 60s saw cinema, and art as a whole, internalize; violence, darkness, and fear were not something caused by distant countries, but were coming from next door, and often from within. It almost seems cheap to label this as horror, given how most people view that genre, but this is horrific stuff and should be seen by anyone with an interest in cinema’s darker side.

My Winner: Repulsion

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What do you think of my nominations? What is your pick for the best film of 1965? Let us know in the comments!