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
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.
What is your pick for the Best Cinematography of 1966? Let us know in the comments!
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
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.
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!
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
What do you think of my nominations? What is your pick for the best film of 1965? Let us know in the comments!
Official Nominations: America America, Lillies Of The Field, Tom Jones, How The West Was Won, Cleopatra.
1963’s Best Picture list is quite similar to the previous year’s category- a mix of epics on a previously unseen scale versus smaller character pieces. While the epic won in 62, Tony Richardson’s adaptation of Fielding’s Tom Jones charmed the panel this time round with its old style humour and modern techniques. Although it won the big prize, all eyes were on Cleopatra– one of the most expensive and expansive movies ever made, one which made an icon of its star, and one which remains huge today. My winner though is yet another John Ford epic Western- How The West Was Won, his last of any success. The ambition on display surpasses Cleopatra given that it covers not just the course of one woman’s life, but much of North American history. Its accurate portrayal of early frontier life, settlers, and the introduction of rail and beyond remains the benchmark by which historical Western dramas are gauged.
Rounding out the nominations are Elia Kazan’s Roots-like America, America, and Lillies Of The Field, an ultimately boring tale which is important, and memorable mainly due to Poitier’s landmark win.
My Winner: How The West Was Won
My Nominations: 8 And A Half. The Birds. Dementia 13. From Russia With Love. The Great Escape. The Haunting. Jason And The Argonauts.
My choices for nominations this year provide a rarity, in that not one of the official selections appears in my list/none of my selections appear on the official list. Some of my picks did garner nominations in other categories, while others are bewilderingly absent from the ceremony. My first nomination is Fellini’s 8 And A Half, now not only rightly regarded as one of the best examples non-American film making, but as one of the best films of all time. Released and respected with almost universal acclaim it is an influential piece of Avant Garde cinema whose ideas and visuals have filtered through the films of some of the best film-makers to come out of the last 6 decades. Rarely before or since has a piece of art so accurately portrayed the creative building process and the pressures which come with it.
Equally loved and influential is another Hitchcock classic from his most impressive period- The Birds. A horror movie, both visceral and psychological, a romance of sorts, a seemingly simple story with a tonne of dark, shadowy themes bubbling underneath and with characters who may not be what they seem. In a stark twist, not many of these issues are resolved and we are left with an open-ended final scene proving again that Hitchcock was still pushing boundaries and toying with his audience. Filled with scares and iconic moments, it remains a breathtaking thriller today.
My next choice is less well-known but one which has gained some respect in recent years due to it’s director’s star quality-Dementia 13 is a low budget horror movie dealing with meta techniques in a refreshing way. Admittedly rushed and filled with inconsistencies, mostly due to Coppola and Corman’s creative disagreements, this is much more than the Psycho rip ff it was created and billed as. The death scenes are powerful, the scheming characters deliciously evil, the ending superb, and the location and atmosphere many notches above your typical Corman fare.
Following swiftly on from tha huge success of Dr No., From Russia With Love provides more thrills and greater insight into the character of James Bond, and introduces many more of the series staples. Although I find the action less extravagant than the predecessor and the locations less exotic, this is a much more taut thriller and paints Bond as more than a Secret Agent on a mission- here is becomes human, with moral ambiguities and a darker side. The humour is present in every scene, in the writing, the acting, and the visuals thanks to Young’s masterful command, yet it is all done with an abandon which mirrors Bond himself- every action which isn’t for his own interest or for the mission is careless and unnecessary, except for the viewer.
Proving that it was a strong year for clever horror,The Haunting provides more scares which are more the product of our imaginations rather than anything obvious forced upon us. Probably still the best example of the Haunted House film, this has all the creaky floors, tense atmosphere, suspicious characters, dark corners, and brain rumbling sounds that you would expect. It is an example of the old style gothic horror beginning to merge with the new school which would emerge over the next 10 years, sinister, bleak, modern, but still rooted in the scares audiences were accustomed to. Wise gets the most out of Jackson’s story by focussing on sound and character and makes sure that he splits the audience by making us question Nell’s involvement and responses.
Rounding up my nominations are two rip-roaring adventures- one taken from myths and legends, the other taken from recent human history. Jason And The Argonauts remains one of the best examples of Ancient Greek (or otherwise) legends adapted for the big screen. Not only is the action fantastic, the plot engaging, the pace redline, and the special effects astounding, but the attention given to the relationship between God and Man is of great importance. Of any of the old world epics, this relationship was the driving force behind each tale, the reason for each character’s thoughts and actions, and the cause of their emotions written down, and our emotions experienced reading about them. The classic story follows the prophecy of a young man destined to usurp and rule, overthrowing the current tyrant, his voyage for The Golden Fleece, the comrades and dangers he encounters along the way, and it is a highly entertaining tale thanks to some inspired performances and those wonderful effect in each set piece. It is a film which was a big part of my childhood, which is still enjoy today, and which I hope my children will love.
However, my winner this year, and there really can be only one winner, is The Great Escape. A film of Allied spirit which is held dear to this day by the British public, and which remains iconic throughout the world thanks to the characters, the performances, the music, the action, the shocking violence, the camaraderie, the sets, the cinematography, everything. Even with its length, this is one of those films which, if I watch a few minutes of I have to watch it all- those movies are rare and perhaps only a handful appear each decade. The story is based on true events and given an obviously glossy, camp makeover which may instantly turn some critics off, but at the heart this is truly reflective of the hope and despair which POWs went through. It shows the nature of evil, it shows the undying will of human nature, but blurs those lines by showing us treachery, apprehension, and doubt on behalf of the good and bad sides, and never at one point is anything black and white. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading and go watch.
My Winner: The Great Escape.
Who would your pick for Best Film of 1963 be – let us know in the comments, and pick your favourite in the poll!
Official Nominations: 1962 was, above all, a year of epics, with Lawrence Of Arabia, The Longest Day, and The Mutiny On The Bounty all providing big budget thrills. It was also the year of MAN with the major nominees featuring near all male casts. Indeed, LOA is the only Best Picture Winner to have credited roles for only one sex. David Lean showed that he was the undisputed king of the epic, and that he could go one better with his all encompassing tale, while a couple of smaller scale films- Morton DaCosta’s The Music Man (a faithful screen adaptation of the Broadway hit), and Robert Mulligan’s To Kill A Mockingbird had just as great an impact. Lean’s earlier success with River Kwai meant he was a directorial force to be reckoned with while Darryl F. Zanuck was a massive Hollywood legend with numerous wins and nominations bursting out of his trophy cabinet- he assembled a strong cast of directors and actors to make another all star cast. My winner though, sneaking in behind the defence, is Milestone’s Mutiny On The Bounty; this remake out does the original in every way, with great performances from the 3 leads, Brando, Howard, and Harris, it is an exciting, harsh voyage which was not well received at the time. Arabia is almost too clean, too refined, while The Longest Day was groundbreaking but lacks something entertaining. The Music Man, for me, is just another throwaway musical, while with Mockingbird I struggle to look past the fact that it was one of those books forced upon us in school, and I don’t share the same love for it as many do.
My Winner: The Mutiny On The Bounty
My Nominations: Cape Fear. Dr. No. Lolita. The Mutiny On The Bounty. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? The Manchurian Candidate.
I’m torn between winners from my personal nominations because there are several hits here, with Cape Fear being an outstanding thriller, Dr. No kick starting one of the greatest movie franchises, and Lolita being yet another Kubrick classic. As it’s my blog it comes down to personal preference so while Dr No is by no means the best or my favourite Bond film it gets my vote. Rarely before had we seen such a fascinating and winning mix of action, humour, drama, tension all weaved around a strong plot with subersive characters and good performances. This is the starting point for all modern action movies and gave other film-makers a new benchmark to aspire to.
1961’s best film category was an axis of sorts- it was the last time for a few years that a truly classic Hollywood style musical was nominated; sure, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, and The Sound Of Music were on their way but I see those films as part of the new breed. Also being ushered in this year was a slightly more hard-edged, yet patriotically heroic war film. This type of war film would take favour away from Westerns and the more traditionally simple War films which had gone before. Of course it would not be until Vietnam that America really began to depict War on film in a much more realistic and dark tone. The panel selected Wise and Robbins’s irritating yet entertaining enough song and dance extravaganza West Side Story as winner. A better choice would have been The Guns Of Navarone. The three-way attack of Peck, Niven, and Quinn worked remarkably well and cemented the cliché of a crack team of handpicked experts sent on an important suicide mission. Add Foreman’s witty script to Tiomkin’s groundbreaking score, throw in some famous set pieces and strong action and we have ourselves a winner.
Josh Logan’s unfortunately titled Fanny was a surprise hit, and while funny and touching enough isn’t strong enough to win, while Kramer’s Nuremberg is a tense and taught drama with some horrific, real life images. Hollywood may not have been ready for this film, and perhaps if made a few years later it could have been a winner. The final nomination went to the always entertaining The Hustler, by Robert Rossen. This realistic portrayal merged the classic noir feel with modern-day, and the tough guy characters of old with a newer, emotionally scarred male hero. Newman’s performance of Fast Eddie ensured the character would go down in history, and the film arguably paved the way for later hits such as Rocky. I can’t really pick between Hustler and Navarone, both are winners for me, but for the sake of ending this paragraph I’ll edge towards The Hustler.
My Nominations: The Guns Of Navarone. The Hustler. Breakfast At Tiffany’s. The Innocents. Yojimbo. La Dolce Vita.
I’ve added a quartet of notable absentees to my list of nominations; Breakfast At Tiffany’s is a timeless slice of 60s chic, while La Dolce Vita can be described in the same way but was even more groundbreaking. From Great Britain comes Jack Clayton’s chilling The Innocents, while Kurosawa’s epic Yojimbo paved the way for countless one men army action movies.
My Winner: The Hustler
As always, feel free to vote in the poll and leave your comments on 1961’s Best Picture.
The Sixties, as a decade, saw the continuation of prominent historical epics, but also saw the emergence of important sub-genres including spaghetti westerns, psychological and violent horror movies, spy movies, and more elaborate and intelligent Sci-fi and comedies with greater special effects. Looking at the top 3 grossing movies of 1960 is interesting- 1 is a family/kids movie, 2 is an adults only horror, and 3 is a classic epic. There is definitely more variation than in previous decades. Several big names died this year, Clark Gable being the biggest, while a number of up and comers had their debuts including Jane Fonda, Peter O’Toole, and Robert Redford. A number of stellar foreign movies had a lasting impact when they appeared this year, pushing the boundaries of sex, philosophy, violence, and technique on screen.
Official Nominations: 1960 saw Billy Wilder team up once again successfully with Jack Lemmon to create The Apartment, a film noted for its controversial themes of adultery at the time. Then again, Wilder was never one to shy away from controversy or censorship, and remains one of the few directors who achieved both commercial and critical success repeatedly when dealing with taboo. The Apartment remained the last Black and White film to win Best Picture until 2012.
While hardly a stellar year for Best Film nominations, Wilder faced stiff enough competition from wandering Stalwart John Wayne (The Alamo) as well as a trio of big hitting dramas. While these other films did well enough with the other categories, The Apartment won the big one- the USA was in the mood for humour, and Wilder delivered again, even without Monroe. The Apartment, while not a great favourite of mine, gets my pick too – the dialogue has the usual snap and wit we would expect, the performances are all top notch, and we are left with some eternal one-liners.
Brooks’s Elmer Gantry was just as taboo as what Wilder was doing, featuring a sexually aggressive conman who sells the more fiery side of religion to frightened townspeople, although unlike the book, the movie presents us with a lighter character, but quite a dark ending. Cardiff’s Sons and Lovers is a by the numbers take on D. H. Lawrence’s novel, while The Sundowners is an interesting tale about marriage, fatherhood, and freedom, yet has that old Hollywood sheen which means I am not too affected by it.
My Nominations: None of my nominations for Best Picture 1960 were nominated in your reality. Thanks to the power of The Spac Hole, history has righted itself, and those truly worthy have won their place on the list. Each of the films listed below were laregely successful and were winners in other categories but The Spac Hole and the creatures which traverse it reached far eyelessly to discover the truth. When all realities converge and smash together in an unknown point in The Spac Hole, the below films came out on top: Village Of The Damned: In an unexpectedly strong year for intelligent horror films, Village Of The Damned earns its place thanks to a great idea executed tightly and some chilling performances and sequences. Spartacus: Kubrick’s epic comes as close as any to being the definitive epic, just as he would come as close as anyone to making the definitive Sci-Fi and Horror later in his career. Peeping Tom: Not getting the positive recognition it deserved until much later, this was seen as a much more depraved version of Psycho and subsequently was forgotten until later generations discovered its grisly power. The Magnificent Seven: Just about the most entertaining Western ever made with a terrific cast on top form, full of pathos, action, humour, and heart this is an oft overlooked gem. Psycho: Hitchcock near single handledly redesigned a genre, setting up a number of stereotypes which echo in any horror movie made today. The genius lies in the fact that when watching Psycho now, nothing seems like a stereotype or cliche even when we have seen it a hundred times in a hundred different movies. Truly chilling yet with a strong plot and characterisation this was one of the first movies to show that this dirty litle genre could be as respectable as any other.
As a fan of the more extreme side of cinema, I ask you to join me, as I explore the history of Cinema's most extreme movies with all the sex, violence and symbolism intact. I'm here to reflect on the extreme movies that have come and gone to see what they mean, see what makes them so extreme, and of course, see if they're any good.