The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

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zq333zq
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#226 Post by zq333zq » Wed Jun 09, 2010 1:12 pm

Cavalcade (Lloyd) NTSC VHS Fox
For those who might care, there is a DVD of this title in existence, and at a ridiculous price at that.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#227 Post by reno dakota » Wed Jun 09, 2010 2:37 pm

zq333zq wrote:
Cavalcade (Lloyd) NTSC VHS Fox
For those who might care, there is a DVD of this title in existence, and at a ridiculous price at that.
On that note, if anyone is having trouble finding any of the titles that have only a VHS or non-R1 DVD listing (or no listing at all), I may be able to help. Just send me a PM.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#228 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jun 09, 2010 4:29 pm

PillowRock wrote:[You know your sense of humor better than any of us do. If you read the premise and cast list of The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (with Carl Reiner and Alan Arkin as leads) and think that it sounds like something that will appeal to you, then it probably will. If it sounds to you like something that you would find unfunny / grating to watch, then it probably will be.
Completely untrue. Like Reno, I thought it would be a blast and it was in reality more a dag-blast. Expectations had nothing to do with it

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#229 Post by reno dakota » Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:37 pm

domino harvey wrote:
PillowRock wrote:[You know your sense of humor better than any of us do. If you read the premise and cast list of The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (with Carl Reiner and Alan Arkin as leads) and think that it sounds like something that will appeal to you, then it probably will. If it sounds to you like something that you would find unfunny / grating to watch, then it probably will be.
Completely untrue. Like Reno, I thought it would be a blast and it was in reality more a dag-blast. Expectations had nothing to do with it
I was actually being sincere earlier, but I'm happy it read as a joke. As I've gone through the project, I've tried to stay focused on one year at a time so as not to get overwhelmed. Consequently, there are still a few upcoming films about which I know very little, and Russians is one of them. I've also just come through a particularly withering set of nominees (1963, of course . . . comments to follow soon), so I've been [-o< that all of my remaining unknowns will turn out to be good ones. Guess I'd better prepare for The Sand Pebbles and Ship of Fools to beat the life out of me!

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#230 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:52 pm

I admire your focus. I think I have right now at least thirteen different years with partially-completed viewings and comments. Usually I just get to where I see one year is close to being wrapped-up and then light a fire under it. Right now I'm one-away from a lot of years, waiting for out of region or rare/OOP titles in the mail. 1963 is coming for me as soon as I get my America America DVD from Greece... and actually set aside a day to sit through it and Cleopatra, of course

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#231 Post by reno dakota » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:01 pm

domino harvey wrote:1963 is coming for me as soon as I get my America America DVD from Greece... and actually set aside a day to sit through it and Cleopatra, of course
I wouldn't advise watching those two on the same day, unless you can set aside the next day to recover. I look forward to reading your 1963 comments, though. Should be good.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#232 Post by reno dakota » Sun Jun 13, 2010 2:42 am

1963:

America, America – Kazan’s earnest, though uneven, love letter to his heritage. The early goings unfold in a torrent of erratically constructed episodes before hitting a mid-film lull, but Kazan steadies his approach in the final third and finds just the right tone for the film’s most moving passages. Also deserving of credit is Harold Wexler, whose keen eye gives the film its strong sense of time and place, and carries us through its weaker passages.

Cleopatra – Too big and too expensive for the Academy to ignore; alas, they really should have. The blurb on the DVD box describes it as a film “in the tradition of epic romantic adventures like Braveheart and Titanic.” What more is there to say, really? I could go on to describe the film’s flaws in exacting detail, to the surprise of no one, but instead I’ll offer the smilies version of my review: :-k :shock: :-& ](*,)

How the West Was Won – A spectacularly filmed production that is too ungainly and narratively thin for its own good. Ford’s small section is the strongest of the three, despite the fact that the material he is dealing with is light on both character and story. There are some lively moments in the other sections—the ride down the rapids and the shootout on the train—but the film falls short of making good on its grand ambitions and never quite comes together as a satisfying entertainment.

Lilies of the Field – If you ever want to watch Sidney Poitier carry an entire film, look no further than this nominee. The story is typical inspirational fodder, though done reasonable well. There are several awkward attempts at comedy here—the early English lessons with the nuns; the lean breakfast; the “one-man cathedral” becoming a group effort—but the more Poitier is on screen, the more the film works.

Tom Jones – A 128 minute adaptation of a 1000 page novel—it’s messy for sure, and just a bit crazy, but loads of fun all the same. The effect of cramming so much material into so short a running time could have been disastrous, but the wit of the screenplay, the energy of the editing, and the dead-on clarity with which the title character is presented (not to mention the charm Albert Finney brings to the role), are more than enough to hold the film together. Yes, I rather liked it.

My vote: Tom Jones


1964:

Becket – I enjoyed this one more than I expected to at the outset, due almost entirely to the performances of Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. The intensity they bring to their roles, particularly in their scenes together, elevates this film from a well-made historical drama to a very curious and compelling ‘love’ story (that word, in fact, passes between them no fewer than, oh, twenty times throughout the film) that is also, per the tomb-side framing device, an extended exercise in penance. Despite how well all of this works, I think stronger writing and a willingness to scale down the production even further might have resulted in an more compelling and emotionally textured film. Still, I am happy that Glenville dared to deliver as intimate a story as he did.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – I have mixed feelings about this one. The first half is exhilarating entertainment. Its crisp, witty writing pushes its near-screwball (full screwball?) plot to some really impressive peaks, such as George C. Scott's perfectly delivered line, ". . . no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops. Depending on the breaks.” Then the Dr. Strangelove character rolls onto the scene and the film begins to lose its way. I’ve seen the clip of Peter Sellers wrestling his out-of-control arm (to keep it from hailing Hitler) enough times, in enough contexts, to know that this performance is widely considered to be a comedic triumph. I suppose I can understand why, but nothing Strangelove says or does works for me in the slightest. Sellers’ best moments, I think, are his understated ones, and the film’s best moments belong (almost entirely) to Scott.

Mary Poppins – Yet another musical nominee that did not move me or entertain me much at all. There is no shortage of energy driving this project, and its staging is certainly creative, but the only moment that really drew me in was the performance of the “Tuppence” song, with its effortless transition to the vignette involving the old woman (Jane Darwell) and the birds. Apart from this, I had trouble connecting in any meaningful way with what the film was trying to do. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s a bad film, but I do think I might have liked it more had I seen it at least once in my childhood.

My Fair Lady – I’m not sure this material works well as a musical, and this adaptation certainly pales in comparison to the Asquith & Howard version, but Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison bring so much to their roles that by the end the whole exercise felt worthwhile. One problem for me (with many musicals, really) is that the songs do more to interrupt the flow of the story than they do to enrich any of the characters or narrative developments they are designed to highlight. This film is at its best in the stretches between the songs, when Cukor allows the humor and clever construction of Shaw’s dialogue to work its charms.

Zorba the Greek – This one was a real surprise. I thought I recalled reading some pretty negative reviews of it a while back, so I’d been putting off watching it. Well, my fears were unfounded. The two men are wonderful together—Anthony Quinn in an exuberant performance, and Alan Bates in a shy, lonely one—and the energy of their friendship carries the film along nicely. Plot-wise, there is an eleventh-hour development involving Irene Papas’ character that seemed to me both highly improbable and not very well-handled (particularly given the tone of the material that directly follows). Fortunately, the film manages to find its way again (after a few more twists and turns, of course) and ends with much humor and joy.

My vote: Dr. Strangelove (on the strength of its first half, and just barely over Zorba)

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#233 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:21 pm

I have no idea how it holds up (yet), but how does one go through childhood without being exposed to Mary Poppins?!

1967
Bonnie and Clyde
Not as good as its reputation would suggest but not so far off the trodden critical path either. In any other year of nominations, this wouldn't have a chance, but here we are at the alleged cinematic crossroads and it's the only path to take. As much as I'm fascinated by the Oscars, and regardless of what this year's choices represent culturally, could there be a less interesting group of nominees in strictly cinematic terms?

Doctor Dolittle Vigorously unenjoyable musical about man who sings love song to seal. We all know the nomination here is a joke, but sitting through the film gives you a lot of time to think about anything but what's happening on screen (or not happening). Who exactly was the core audience here? Certainly not children, who have far less patience than adults. And certainly not adults, who have far less patience than kids. You'd think Fox would think this one out a bit before nearly ruining their studio over it. Adding insult to injury, I saw this back to back with the Alamo. Could there be a worse Oscar Embarrassment Double Feature?

the Graduate The counterculture picks the oddest cinematic icons and this is no exception. A mildly unpleasant bit of agist agitprop that left me more annoyed than entertained. Nothing in the picture is particularly clever or well-imagined, and the film's complicity in the protagonist's affair gives the whole thing an unseemly air. But whatever, enjoy your "masterpiece," folks.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Exactly as subtle as you'd expect a Stanley Kramer treatise on miscegenation to be. Free spirited white girl brings home black Christ to meet the fam and all heck breaks loose. The young man is wallpaper, the daughter his match, the maid is shrill, the friends superfluous, the Catholic a parader of feel-goodery, the black parents stoic and static, and the white parents challenged and resolute. Only Spencer Tracy escapes unscathed and it is solely on him that the whole exercise is even bearable.

In the Heat of the Night Almost underdone by Jewison's more directorly notions (Is this guy aiming for the Fred Zimmerman spot, re: horrible second-unit work). Seeing Poitier in yet another Noble Black role gets thin, but Steiger has fun with what little he's given. The pic is entertaining, sure, but I was surprised at how inconsequential it all felt. The win here was obviously one of the academy's occasional bones thrown to the popular favorite (see: the French Connection, the Departed). As a side-note, the first sequel They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! is one of the worst films I've ever seen. The third sequel (in character name only) the Organization fares a bit better, in that it only just totally sucks.

My vote: Bonnie and Clyde

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#234 Post by reno dakota » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:31 pm

domino harvey wrote:I have no idea how it holds up (yet), but how does one go through childhood without being exposed to Mary Poppins?!
That's a good question. Maybe my parents had something against dancing penguins.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#235 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:36 pm

On a related note, I thought I had seen Doctor Dolittle as a kid. Turns out I was thinking of the Incredible Mr Limpet. Quality aside, I suspect that one would have at least been fun to sit through again

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#236 Post by reno dakota » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:54 pm

Doctor Dolittle is another one that I didn't see . . . and I'm not looking forward to it now!

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#237 Post by Minkin » Tue Jun 15, 2010 3:23 am

reno dakota wrote:
domino harvey wrote:I have no idea how it holds up (yet), but how does one go through childhood without being exposed to Mary Poppins?!
That's a good question. Maybe my parents had something against dancing penguins.
With good reason. Yes, I posted the video on Worst cover thread by accident, instead of train video. The "Lots of" series presents a satisfying solution to most all discussions, with Doctor Dolittle being among the original "lots and lots of premise in excess."

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#238 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 29, 2010 11:17 am

1966
Alfie
The oversexed titular character makes Tom Jones look like a eunuch, but he lacks all charm inherent in that antecedent. Charm, apparently, is what others have gained from this misogynistic piece of shit though. Oh look at that scamp Alfie, calling women "it" and fucking a chorus line of interchangeable ladies as he makes his way through the film. The alleged lessons he encounters are insulting, mainly because the film doesn't for a moment ever pass real judgment and think of Caine's character as anything but aces. I don't mind a film where the main character is an asshole, but I mind when the film thinks he's still a hero.

A Man For All Seasons Piety is not a difficult thing to portray, as Paul Scolfield shows in this inexplicable Oscar sweeper. His performance is so workman like, especially when compared to the smoldering volcano that is Richard Burton in Virginia Woolf, that the win here is not as upsetting as it is confounding. The direction by Zinnemann is, as usual, pedestrian-- this truly looks like a TV movie, and wears all action as such.

the Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming Aren't comedies supposed to be funny? No sense of timing, laborious set-ups without punchlines, obnoxious one-note characters, and a listless mise-en-scene all add up to a total cinematic dead zone. The obviousness of the finale's forehead-slapping togetherness only adds insult to injury. Screw Russia, go to war with Hollywood for green-lighting this

the Sand Pebbles Another year, another long epic. This one is a particular slog not just due to its episodic nature, but thanks to it being composed of past Best Pic noms. Why, there's the forbidden interracial love between a serviceman and an Asian native from Sayonora! Say, are things getting tough onboard the ship? Why not tease at a Caine Mutiny redux! And the list goes on. Watching this movie was like sitting through three or four movies I didn't want to see. Robert Wise can occasionally be a very good director, but he slips into Desert Rats' inane procedural mode in the first third, and even worse, from thereafter the film bears no directorial mark at all. Against all odds, I was longing for a confusing revisit to the steamship engines as the third hour began. Steve McQueen is a nonentity and his nom here was an Elizabeth Taylor-redux. Candice Bergen somehow managed a career after this.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The calm opening credits give way to a two-plus hour running sprint toward the obliteration of a relationship kept together by a willful lie, and the devastation that comes from its acknowledgement is haunting. Astonishing acting all around, a visceral directorial approach, and grand source material give this film a timeless relevancy.

My Vote: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#239 Post by reno dakota » Tue Jun 29, 2010 1:29 pm

I'll be posting my 1966 comments soon, but I just want to say, domino, that I agree completely with your assessments here. In particular, I think you've nailed what is so wrongheaded and decidedly not charming about Alfie.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#240 Post by reno dakota » Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:29 pm

1965:

Darling – I had high expectations going into this one, given the strength of the cast and Schlesinger being at the helm, so it’s perhaps my fault that I found it to be a very minor work. There’s nothing particularly bad about the film, exactly, but there’s hardly anything worth getting excited about either. The episodic nature of the narrative didn’t help much, and neither did the superficial treatment of the few important relationships that anchor the story. But mostly I think my dissatisfaction with this one boils down to the fact that, as much as I like Julie Christie, I didn’t find Diana to be a particularly endearing character. Results my vary.

Doctor Zhivago – Starts strong and seems to promise a rich and complex novelistic narrative, but it loses its way somewhere in a passage through the Urals and begins to feel very long and shapeless from there. Credit here goes to the actors—particularly Omar Sharif’s bighearted and moving performance in the title role—for somehow holding the whole thing together. I doubt I’ll ever look at a Lean epic and think that the length and uneven tone and pacing are good directorial choices, but I cannot deny that a fair amount of this picture worked in spite of my frustration with Lean’s approach.

Ship of Fools – It’s fair to say that I was against this one from its opening scene, in which a character stares directly into the camera and informs us that the ship he is aboard is indeed a ship of fools . . . you know, in case we hadn’t guessed. Screenwriting doesn’t get any better than this, folks! The only worthwhile storyline to be found in the tedious mess that follows is the one involving Oskar Werner and Simone Signoret, both of whom manage to infuse their characters with tenderness and grace. Other than that, the film is little more than a parade of hollow episodes that grow increasingly wearisome.

The Sound of Music – File this one alongside The Wizard of Oz as a film that I loved as a kid, but don’t have much passion for these days. It’s hard not to be charmed (at least occasionally) by Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, and there are some touching moments here and there. But the problem, for me, is that the bulk of the film consists in alternations between the overly saccharine and the overly simple and innocent, with the songs growing more and more difficult to bear as the iterations mount.

A Thousand Clowns – When I saw this one for the first time a few years ago, I didn’t like it at all. Its erratic editing and sound design, along with Coe’s uneven direction, were just too much for me. Well, after a second viewing, I still think these problems are present, but somehow they didn’t bother me quite as much as they did before. The things that really stood out for me this time were the quirky energy of the film, its creative and occasionally poignant writing, and Jason Robards’ very affecting performance. I still think it’s too messy to be a great film, and I wouldn’t blame anyone who found it unbearable, but this time it did manage to work its charms on me.

My vote: There were far better films eligible this year (the directors had the good sense to nominate Teshigahara for Woman in the Dunes, for instance), but unsurprisingly we get another weak group of nominees. I don’t love any of these films, but A Thousand Clowns is the least problematic of the bunch and thus gets my vote.


1966:

Alfie – Unfocused and, frankly, rather repellant. Michael Caine’s man-child womanizer is hardly worth building an entire film around, and none of the supporting characters or surrounding plotlines offers anything redeeming. Had I found Caine’s character more sympathetic, the film might have struck me as simply dull rather than frustratingly awful. I cannot imagine how anyone involved with this production thought this material was worth bringing to the screen.

A Man For All Seasons – A perfectly ordinary film. Paul Scofield delivers a sympathetic Thomas More, and the wisely restrained period detail serves the film reasonably well. However, there really is nothing remarkable to be found either in the writing or in Zinnemann’s direction. Long stretches of the film move along with little energy, and some passages feel downright uninspired, with the end result being neither a disaster nor a triumph.

The Russians Are Coming the Russians are Coming – A comedy that is far more grating than it is funny. The initial hysteria of the townspeople is fairly amusing, but these sequence should have been played for bigger laughs. As it is, the writing in these sequences (and elsewhere, really) is too sloppy to have much of a comedic bite and too flat to infuse the film with any sort of intrigue. I really didn’t mind the film during its first half hour or so, and I smiled a number of times at what was happening on screen after that, but boy did the whole exercise wear out its welcome in a hurry!

The Sand Pebbles – Oh my! There are so many things wrong with this one that I barely know where to begin. From it’s ludicrous storyline, which wanders aimlessly from one inhumane and/or inflammatory passage to another (with plenty of dull downtime in between), to its utter inability to deliver plot developments worth caring about, to the fact that one of the most sympathetic characters in the whole thing is brutalized repeatedly and savagely killed before the intermission—there is no end to the ways in which this film fails. My dissatisfaction is down to the screenplay, mostly, but there’s nothing much to cheer about in Wise’s direction or in the performances from the bulk of the cast. Someone needs to explain to me why this deserved any of its nominations . . . or why the entire second half of the film was necessary at all.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Acidic film about world’s most toxic marriage. The bitterness and vengeful cruelty on display here is extreme as husband and wife, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, have each managed to drain away every bit of goodness in the other . . . or so it seems. Their histrionic behavior gives the film its raw energy, but it also works to conceal—until just the right moment—the sad truth at the core of their marriage. I do have some minor reservations about Albee’s plot mechanics, but otherwise I found the whole thing exhilarating and, in its last few minutes, quite moving.

My vote: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#241 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 29, 2010 5:10 pm

I think as far as the Sand Pebbles goes, Hollywood was rewarding a royally messed up production that nearly killed Steve McQueen coupled with Wise-o-mania still riding high post-Sound of Music. And allegedly the whole thing was an-anti war parable for Vietnam, but you got me there. While we're slagging on the film though, and it deserves it, how about that attack on the little fishing boat that somehow produced fifty or sixty victims, all popping up five a a time like in a FPS video game? "Yeah man, war totally suckssssssssssshoot those fuckers! Wooooooo!!!!" Almost as bad as that terrible scene you allude to where the poor coolie has his chest slashed repeatedly so as to sell how stupid the very plot mechanics of the film itself are-- "Pacifism don't work, but neither do war! WHAT A CONUNDRUM!"

Plus, it's looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#242 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 29, 2010 5:11 pm

ooooong

Oh, and how about the pathetic Frenchy, who is made out to be a hero for buying his wife, a character who means so much that she's stripped, sold, and then discarded to an offhandedly-mentioned offscreen death, because that's how much she was worth to even the filmmakers.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#243 Post by reno dakota » Tue Jun 29, 2010 5:28 pm

domino harvey wrote:Oh, and how about the pathetic Frenchy, who is made out to be a hero for buying his wife, a character who means so much that she's stripped, sold, and then discarded to an offhandedly-mentioned offscreen death, because that's how much she was worth to even the filmmakers.
We should be thankful for small miracles here because I'm sure Wise & co. had a full-on torture/mutilation sequence planned for her otherwise. What a shitty film! I suppose it is up the Academy's alley in certain ways, and I know people like it, but I just don't understand why.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#244 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 03, 2010 11:11 am

1963
America, America
Elia Kazan had Vincente Minnelli luck, as his worst films kept winning Best Picture, but here's a good film that earned its nomination. I went in with trepidation, as I thought this was going to be a three hour film about the well-trod immigrant struggle in America, but of course the film understands that the more interesting angle is the journey to get to America. I can understand the hesitancy towards Best Pic noms like this, which like Decision Before Dawn and Rachel Rachel are really just Hollywood rewarding a non-Hollywood film so long as its made by one of its own. But you know what? Those films are all in the top tier of noms, regardless of politics.

Cleopatra For all the bitching and moaning about this one on the board and elsewhere, I was prepared for a disaster but I quite enjoyed the film. At the very least the film put all its money up on the screen, and there are examples of spectacle that still retained their power of shock, such as Cleopatra's entrance into Rome. Mankiewicz also got his most out of Taylor's inflated paycheck, staging her in necklines so plunging that at a certain point the film gives up and just starts parading her around nude (or as close as you could get-- this film is surprisingly cheesecake). True, the film loses all momentum once the great Rex Harrison is murdered, but I still found myself watching compulsively. And I saw Donen's Staircase recently, so it was also just fun to watch Harrison and Burton interact in a slightly-less queening fashion.

How the West Was Won Talking about this Cinerama demo reel as a movie seems flawed, like discussing a roller coaster based on a YouTube video. The film is big and long and has a lot of stars, but the novelty of the experience never gives way to any of the cinematic pleasures one seeks in a film. The curved Smilebox presentation on the Blu-ray is a nice touch, but I still feel like this requires the kind of context only gained with a time machine.

Lilies of the Field There are a lot of flaws in play here, but the most fatal is the total lack of inquisitive interest on the part of the filmmakers in anything depicted in the film. While watching, I saw opportunity after opportunity to entertain and enlighten get passed by for... well, nothing, really. There aren't even any characters here. Hell, there aren't even any archetypes. There's just some actors saying lines, occasionally laying a brick, and calling it a day. And on a personal pet peeve-level, is there anything more annoying in a film than lengthy scenes where English-speakers attempt to teach foreigners the language? Nein.

Tom Jones Well, as stated by others, it's a mess, but it's not without its charms. The chaotic comedy is only applied in fits and starts and the film would have benefited from either more or less of that aspect. I'm curious how this pic plays to someone who hasn't read the book-- is it even comprehensible? Finney is quite good, full of the boyish charm and devilishness the role requires. Unsurprisingly, even with three nominations doled out on the supporting actresses, Susannah York, the best thing here, got snubbed. This one doesn't have my vote, but the Academy's choice doesn't upset me either.

My Vote: America America

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#245 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jul 04, 2010 8:21 am

Of course everyone who sees Cleopatra should then go on to watch Carry On Cleo (filmed on many of the same sets) for some light relief!

It was interesting to hear on the commentary that Cleopatra was actually intended to be longer and released as two three hour films, one on Julius Caesar and the other focused on Mark Anthony, but instead was cut down to the one four hour film. Perhaps it would have actually worked better longer - at least we would have gotten some more Rex Harrison!

The Taylor-Burton section is kind of static but perhaps we could think of it as a similarly insular but less explicit version of In The Realm Of The Senses! And it makes a great contrasting double bill with the decidedly less opulent Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf!

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#246 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jul 04, 2010 9:49 am

It really does feel like two different films joined with an intermission, and honestly, I'd rather have had more of the first film and none of the second! I'm surprised Fox didn't go for it, unless they had so little confidence in the first that they were afraid of no one going to see the second part. But then again, the film is structured to avoid payoffs for the Caesar storyline, probably because Mankiewicz had already been there done that and wasn't keen to retread-- which is why I suspect we get such a rushed playing-out of the assassination sequence in the Caesar section-- so it wouldn't really work on its own either

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#247 Post by reno dakota » Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:56 pm

1967:

Bonnie and Clyde – The best nominee of the bunch. Beatty and Dunaway offer us a surprisingly sensual and sympathetic pair of outlaws, and Penn’s direction keeps the energy and tension levels high throughout the film. I could have done without the over-the-top hysteria of Estelle Parson’s performance (the Academy should have waited a year to award her for her far better work in Rachel, Rachel), and the editing of the final sequence has always seemed gratuitous to me, but it’s hard to complain about little missteps when the film does so many things right.

Doctor Dolittle – A total cinematic dead-zone. Not only does it have nothing to offer in the way of entertainment or intrigue, it’s also hard to imagine who was supposed to be the target audience for this unrelentingly irritating affair. While watching it, I actually felt bad for the cast—Rex Harrison especially—due to their being marooned in such an overstuffed and dimwitted production. I hope it was fun to make, but watching it was hell. Move over Around the World in Eighty Days, because this is now the worst film I’ve seen specifically for this project.

The Graduate – I appreciate how ground-breaking this film must have felt at the time, but it has always felt deeply dishonest to me. It takes great pride in presenting (trying to shock us with?) the taboo Hoffman/Bancroft relationship, but it constructs the relationship in such a clumsy way, almost daring us to take it seriously. Then, lest we actually do start to take it seriously, it obliterates it by spinning it into a series of venomous recriminations before offering us the substitute Hoffman/Ross relationship, which plays like a perfunctory version of the original. I never once believed that these characters, with these purported emotions/motivations, would actually have behaved as they do throughout the film. This plot-necessitated sham has always bothered me and I am just not able to get beyond it.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – A film that’s sort of like a very well staged train wreck—unsettling, not always easy to watch, but too unbelievable to look away. It’s a Stanley Kramer film, so the fact that the story comes across as a blunt object lesson in racial tolerance is not likely to be surprising. What I didn’t expect going in, however, was that I would be so happy just to have Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Sidney Poitier in the same film, navigating this heavy-handed material with ease. They bring a great deal of humanity to their characters and make wadding through the many layers of plot contrivances seem like not such a bad way to spend 100 or so minutes.

In the Heat of the Night – This is the sort of film whose Best Picture win feels deserved, even though it’s not the best of the nominees. It’s tightly written, intelligently directed (until the very end), driven by two complex and well-matched performances, and the whole thing is fluidly paced and very entertaining. Maybe it does spend too much time mining the local racism, and perhaps the seeds of the twist ending could have been better developed and threaded throughout the story, but none of these plot concerns is able to compromise the film’s true strength—the relationship between Steiger and Poitier. The scene they share over a bottle of Bourbon was, for me, not only the most honest exchange these character have, but also the film’s finest moment.

My vote: Bonnie and Clyde


1968:

Funny Girl – One of the better musicals to be nominated in this category. Wyler is quite good at building films around compelling relationships, and he usually manages to get lived-in, emotionally resonant performances from his lead actors. Both are certainly true of this film. Barbara Streisand gives us an immensely likeable character here, as does Omar Sharif, and their negotiation of their relationship—through good times and rocky ones—anchors the film. At 154 minutes, though, the film does feel long and it has several slow patches throughout (mostly songs or theatre sequences that felt like plot-padding), but it was never dull or irritating. And, for an Oscar musical, that’s quite remarkable.

The Lion in Winter – A solid film that plays like an unofficial sequel to Becket. Peter O’Toole reprises his role from that film and links it to this one by giving us (more or less) a continuation of his blustery Henry II. As good as he is here, he is overshadowed by Katharine Hepburn, who gets the wittiest lines and steals every scene she’s in, and Anthony Hopkins, who somehow manages to construct an emotionally complex character despite having only a handful of weighty scenes. The acting is certainly the highlight here, but the story itself—with its layers of plotting and backstabbing—is engaging in its own right.

Oliver! – The most surprising thing about this film is not that it’s a musical (doesn’t Dickensian England just scream out to be the backdrop for sacchrine songs and choreographed street scenes?), or that it takes the wooden-central-character/lively-supporting-characters formula to new heights, or even that it won Best Picture; no, the most astonishing detail is that it was directed by Carol Reed. Clearly I have not payed enough attention to his works after The Third Man, so maybe the stages leading to this are plain to see, but wow! As for the film itself, I liked too much of it to lump it in with the worst of the Oscar-nominated musicals, but I didn’t like nearly enough of it to think that it deserved any awards. A so-so nominee, through and through.

Rachel, Rachel – Newman’s directorial debut is a wonderful gem of a movie. Joanne Woodward is radiant here in a performance that exudes both fragility and easygoing charm, and Estelle Parsons nearly steals the show as the lonely, tenderhearted best friend. So many of the film’s crucial sequences involve the thoughts and memories of Woodward’s character, and the screenplay and Newman’s direction are masterful in the way that they render this emotionally rich material with a surprisingly delicate touch. This one was a complete delight.

Romeo and Juliet – I don’t believe I’ve seen a better adaptation of the play than this film. The actors who play Romeo and Juliet are convincing in their roles and, for once, they are the right ages for the parts. Zeffirelli’s direction brings much life to the material, and Nino Rota’s score is lovely and perfectly suits the story. This is still one of my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, but I did enjoy this rendering of it quite a bit.

My vote: Rachel, Rachel

Finished! \:D/

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reno dakota
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#248 Post by reno dakota » Sun Jul 11, 2010 9:04 pm

My complete ballot:

1927-28: Artistic: Sunrise / Production: Seventh Heaven
1928-29: The Patriot <--- In true Academy fashion, I'm voting for a film I haven't seen!
1929-30: All Quiet on the Western Front
1930-31: Trader Horn
1931-32: Shanghai Express
1932-33: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang!
1934: It Happened One Night
1935: Ruggles of Red Gap
1936: Dodsworth
1937: Stage Door
1938: Grand Illusion
1939: Stagecoach
1940: Rebecca
1941: Citizen Kane
1942: The Magnificent Ambersons
1943: The Ox-Bow Incident
1944: Gaslight
1945: Mildred Pierce
1946: The Best Years of Our Lives
1947: The Bishop’s Wife
1948: The Red Shoes
1949: The Heiress
1950: All About Eve
1951: Decision Before Dawn
1952: The Quiet Man
1953: Shane
1954: On the Waterfront
1955: Mister Roberts
1956: Friendly Persuasion
1957: Peyton Place
1958: The Defiant Ones
1959: Room at the Top
1960: The Apartment
1961: The Hustler
1962: To Kill a Mockingbird
1963: Tom Jones
1964: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
1965: A Thousand Clowns
1966: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
1967: Bonnie and Clyde
1968: Rachel, Rachel

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domino harvey
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#249 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jul 11, 2010 9:10 pm

It was brought to my attention that in the late sixties there was a Hollywood starlet paper doll fad and while it's not surprising that Joanne Woodward would warrant an inclusion in such a project, it did surprise me to discover that one of the character outfits selected for little girls to choose from was from Rachel Rachel. Because there's a film ten year old girls can really connect with.

I'll talk more about it when I finish 1968, but Rachel Rachel being nominated for Best Picture is one of those bones thrown to relevancy that become increasingly scarcer the deeper I get into this project (though I saw it before I concocted this harebrained list scheme). Good job getting through it alive, I'm right behind you!

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reno dakota
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#250 Post by reno dakota » Sun Jul 11, 2010 9:29 pm

Rachel, Rachel was certainly one of the high points of the project for me. It didn't feel like Oscar-bait, didn't pander to the audience, and didn't for one minute try to be big, explosive, or "important" to try to draw attention to itself. It's one of the few 1960s BP nominees that will be on my mind once the 1960s list project comes around.
domino harvey wrote:Good job getting through it alive, I'm right behind you!
Good luck, particularly with those big sets in the 30s and 40s!

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