Best Cast – 1969

My Nominations: The Wild Bunch. Midnight Cowboy. Anne Of The Thousand Days. Battle Of Britain. Butch Cassidy And The Cassidy Kid. The Italian Job. Marlowe. Marooned. Oh What A Lovely War. They Shoot Horses Don’t They. True Grit.

As always with this category, we have a bonanza of possibilities, and as always your personal preference may come down to the cast who give the most consistently strong performances regardless of size, or the cast which includes the most big hitters popping up in worthwhile roles.

This year we have a mixture of epics with large and varied casts, to smaller productions with a few main players. The Wild Bunch falls into the first category, a Western which sees the likes of William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Warren Oates, and Strother Martin all giving performances which cover fury, violence, futility, despair, and camaraderie. On the flip side we have Midnight Cowboy with Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight giving defining performances with Sylvia Miles, Bob Balaban, and Ruth White backing them. BCATSK takes this a little further with Katherine Ross holding her own alongside Robert Redford and Paul Newman – with support from Strother Martin, Cloris Leachman and others.

Anne Of The Thousand Days is another historical costume drama, so as expected you have an ensemble of classically trained actors hamming it up – Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, Anthony Quayle, and Irene Papas included. Battle Of Britain went all out in crafting a recognizable ensemble – Laurence Olivier, Ian McShane, Trevor Howard, Michael Caine, Robert Shaw, Susannah York, Christopher Plummer, Curt Jurgens are just a few of the familiar faces popping up in roles of varying degrees. Keeping the end up for the Brits again is Michael Caine in The Italian Job, and joining him are Noel Coward, Benny Hill, John Le Mesurier and many more.

Marlowe is a hard boiled American affair led by James Garner, but Rita Morena, Jackie Coogan, and of course Bruce Lee all appear in memorable roles. Marooned sees Richard Crenna, Gene Hackman, and James Franciscus trapped in space while Gregory Peck tries to bring them back to earth safely, while True Grit features John Wayne as a pirate cowboy. Strother Martin is there again of course, along with Kim Darby, Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall, and Glen Campbell. They Shoot Horses Don’t They features Susannah York again, with Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern, Gig Young, Bonnie Bedalia and other dancing around and getting sweaty and stressed, while Oh What A Lovely War throws as many stars at us as possible – Miss Yorke once more (though Strother Martin is notably absent), a bunch of Redgraves, Ralph Richardson, Olivier, Maggie Smith, John Gielgud, Ian Holm etc etc. Take your pick. My winner is for the ensemble with the most meaningful performances.

My Winner: The Wild Bunch

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1969 you would choose as the winner of Best Cast, along with your reasons!

 

Best Make-Up – 1969

Even with two special Awards in the last few years, the Academy was still not prepared to dedicate a yearly category for those responsible for Make-up. In their defence, it would be another few years until enough films with suitable quality were being regularly released, but lets see what 1969 had to offer.

My Nominations: They Shoot Horses Don’t They. The Wild Bunch. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.

Not a lot to be honest.

My Winner: The Wild Bunch

What is your pick? Let us know in the comments!

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!