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!