Friday, September 25, 2015

Cinema '65: Best Picture of the Year

We're all here for Best Picture, right? Let's get on with it.

A very modern film, cheeky and bitchy, frank and real. Does it go on a little bit? Yes -- I think the holiday in Capri lasts a little longer than necessary, and while I like the ending, it feels, to me, like it kind of just stops. Maybe because narration is sprinkled throughout, until suddenly it isn't? It feels ungrateful to complain about it, though -- great performances, thrilling direction.

Doctor Zhivago
People don't talk enough about what a gas this movie is! It's not that there are great bursts of humor, but there is some wit sprinkled, no matter how dark it gets. An engaging love story, a thrilling account of war and revolution, a perfect (and consistent) bookend. Everyone's at the top of their game, from the cast to the composer to the designers.

Ship of Fools
Critics of the time dismissed this as a Grand Hotel on a boat; I, personally, can't believe that's considered a dismissal. Every member of the large ensemble gets a moment to shine; never once in its two-and-a-half-hour running time does it get dull.

The Sound of Music
Magical. Goosebumps at the first notes....tears at "Climb Ev'ry Mountain"...and everything in between, in between. It's a perfect movie that never over-sentimentalizes itself, remembering the realities of the world it inhabits and sticking them in when you least expect it. And it has one of the greatest performances in a movie-musical.

A Thousand Clowns
Though it tries to open itself up, it cannot escape its stage roots. That's not a problem in and of itself; the problem is that it's just not interesting. Despite a fine and convincing ensemble, it's a very written piece, with the sort of tiresome characters you would never even want to identify with. Director and ensemble make a valiant effort, but this is a dud.


The Academy voted for The Sound of Music....and damn it to hell, I vote for...


Because perfection is undeniable...though I confess there are two correct answers to this conundrum.

Over the next week, I'll reveal my personal picks for the year of 1965. Stay tuned....

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cinema '65: The Model and La Condesa

A pretty groovy race, this, with reigning champion Julie Andrews facing off against new discovery Julie Christie -- plus Oscar winner Simone Signoret in a semi-supporting role, Cannes-honored Samantha Eggar, and newcomer Elizabeth Hartman!

Eighty percent of this lineup was up for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama, at the Golden Globes. Eggar won there, also; the only Drama nominee not to make it in here was Maggie Smith for Othello, though she wound up in Supporting, if you recall. I still think it's interesting that Christie's Globe nom was for Darling and not Doctor Zhivago. Oh, of course, Darling was her star-making role, but the Globes were quite big on Zhivago. It's worth noting, too, that the Globes have often given two slots to one actress, and she was honored for both performances by the National Board of Review.

Julie Andrews, of course, won the Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical -- a cakewalk, really, since the competition consisted of Barbara Harris fussing about in A Thousand Clowns, Natalie Wood almost-but-not-quite-convincingly playing a fifteen-year-old in Inside Daisy Clover, and Jane Fonda ably taking on the lead in Cat Ballou -- but let us recall, it's a pre-respectability Jane Fonda. Rita Tushingham was nominated for The Knack...and How to Get It, but I did not see it and so cannot comment.

Andrews, Tushingham, and Smith (nominated for Young Cassidy) lost to Christie when they went up against her for Best British Actress at the BAFTAs -- yes, it would another three years before the Brits allowed their countrymen to compete with foreigners in single categories. The Foreign Actress lineup was something else -- Fonda for Cat Ballou, Signoret for Ship of Fools, Lila Kedrova for Zorba the Greek (she won the Supporting Actress Oscar the previous year), and the winner (!)....Patricia Neal in In Harm's Way! A worthy honoree.

In the end, Christie proved unstoppable -- in addition to all her other plaudits, she went home with the Academy Award.

But did she deserve it? Let's talk about it:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cinema '65: The Shadow and The Sweet-Heart

One thing I don't think I've ever done is look at Original Song through the lens of the Grammy Awards -- which is crazy, because there are always chunks of time when the two go together, and not just because the music industry honors soundtracks.

In 1965, two of the nominees for Best Original Song were also up for Song of the Year...and one of them for Record of the Year. That one was "The Shadow of Your Smile" from The Sandpiper, which actually won Song of the Year over "I Will Wait for You" from The Umbrella of Cherbourg and "Yesterday" from Help!. And as you'll see, I have...thoughts...about that.

Help!, by the way, also competed against The Sandpiper and The Umbellas of Cherbourg for the Soundtrack Grammy, though it was completely shut out at the Oscars. The follow-up to Original Screenplay nominee A Hard Day's Night, Help! is a bizarre caper film in which the Beatles tour the world in an attempt to escape an Eastern cult bent on taking a sacrificial ring that somehow wound up with Ringo. Only seven of the fourteen songs on the album are in the film; none of them are "Yesterday".

In another bit of news, Tom Jones won the Award for Best New Artist! And he was quite busy in Hollywood, too, recording the title song for the James Bond flick Thunderball, as well as one of his two most popular songs, "What's New Pussycat?" from the film What's New Pussycat? -- which wound up being nominated right here!

Let's take a look at these Grammy-honored songs and their other competitors, after the jump.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cinema '65: The Artist and the Messiah

'Twas the days of the roadshow picture, when two-hour flicks had intermissions and comedies could last 3 hours. Take the family, pay the fee, spend the day gazing up at the widescreen pleasures the studios could afford to bring you. In LA, you can still get that kind of thrill from the occasional screening at the Egyptian -- South Pacific on a brand new print! Auntie Mame! Lawrence of Arabia anniversary tribute -- and when I do go, I wish others had such an opportunity, for some films are true big-screen experiences.

The five nominees for Color Cinematography are all such films -- beautiful, detailed, and awe-inspiring. Well, four of them anyway. Let's look.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Cinema '65: The Man from Tokyo

What a wacky year, this 1965! 

David Lean, according to Behind Oscar, was shocked to learn that he was among the five Academy Award nominees for Best Director -- for the Directors Guild had not included him in their end-of-year honors! That's just crazy -- how does an Oscar-winning filmmaker not get some traction for helming yet another box office hit?

Actually, the DGA nominees were, altogether, an odd bunch. Regard: the only men to make it in both shortlists were John Schlesinger (with whom we fell in love thanks to Sunday Bloody Sunday) for the very modern Darling, and Robert Wise for his family-friendly musical The Sound of Music.

Can you imagine an alternate reality where it's Sidney J. Furie and his fascinating spy thriller The Ipcress File that go down in Oscar History? What about Elliot Silverstein for the comedy-western Cat Ballou? I am surprised The Pawnbroker's Sidney Lumet did not make it in -- he was previously nominated for 12 Angry Men, after all, and the film had caused quite a stir.

At the Golden Globes, Lean, Schlesinger, and Wise were joined by beloved industry titan William Wyler, whose The Collector had netted acting honors for both leads at the Cannes Film Festival. This foursome would repeat here. A Patch of Blue director Guy Green would not be as fortunate, but hey -- he got to say he was a Golden Globe nominee.

No, instead of Furie, Silverstein, Lumet, or Green -- instead of even Stanley Kramer or Fred Coe, whose respective films, Ship of Fools and A Thousand Clowns, were both up for Best Picture -- the Directors Branch made a shocking pick with Hiroshi Teshigahara, the Japanese filmmaker behind Woman in the Dunes, an avant-garde slow-burn that must be seen to be believed.

And what do we make of this line-up? Behold, after the jump.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cinema '65: The Brother and the Revolutionary

Sometimes the nominees for Best Supporting Actor are honest to God character actors in supporting roles, instead of character actors in leading roles (J.K. Simmons in Whiplash), or A-Listers "slumming" it in character roles (Bradley Cooper in American Hustle). The year 1965 is almost there, but Oscar will be Oscar, and so...

I always do a DDL Test with supporting actor nominees -- if Daniel Day-Lewis played it, would it still be supporting? In the case of Frank Finlay as Iago in Othello, I think not; otherwise, though, most definitely. And he'd probably win each time, too.

Everyone here was on their first nomination -- though at the time, Martin Balsam felt his nomination was also due to his being "snubbed" for Breakfast at Tiffany's. Maybe he was right -- certainly enough goodwill and excitement had built up around him, and he walked away with the Oscar.

He's better with a mustache, I think
As for the others -- Michael Dunn becomes the first Little Person (I believe) nominated for an Oscar, Ian Bannen's double duty in The Flight of the Phoenix and The Hill nets him a nod for the former, Tom Courtenay lands the first of two career nominations so far (perhaps 45 Years will change things?), and Frank Finlay is nominated, too.

After the jump.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Cinema '65: Hymns and Balalaikas!

A musical, three epics, and a drama.

Let's take some time to listen to some music, shall we?

Alex North for The Agony and the Ecstasy
It's lovely, the right mix of epic, intimate, and holy. It's your typical roadshow sound, really.

Maurice Jarre for Doctor Zhivago
Now this is how you do an epic roadshow score! "Lara's Theme" sweeps you into the romance, revealing itself in unexpected moments -- like a moon shining in the sky, a beacon showing the way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cinema '65: A Patch of Blue, A Scale of Grey

The War! It happened in black-and-white! At least, that's the way Oscar preferred looking at it, with three war films nominated in Cinematography; the other two contenders were a leading-up-to-the-War film and a social issues drama. Well, OK, I suppose they were both social issues dramas, but only one of them had Nazis.

So, what have we got? In Harm's Way, Otto Preminger's epic about Navy men and women in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. King Rat, Bryan Forbes' dark comedy about the hustle in a POW camp. Morituri, Bernhard Wicki's thriller about a saboteur aboard a German shipping boat. A Patch of Blue, Guy Green's blind girl-meets-black boy romance. Ship of Fools, Stanley Kramer's ensemble drama about humanity, baby, which went home with the Oscar.

What's happening here, Ernie?
But what do I make of all of it? Glad you asked.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Cinema '65: The Sistine Chapel and the Salzburg Gazebo

Prestige roadshow epics only, please -- this is the Art Direction-Set Decoration category.

Only Hollywood roman à clef Inside Daisy Clover could break up the whiff of Oscar Bait that permeates this category -- and by the way, lest we think otherwise, I'm a fan of Oscar Bait, and feel Daisy is easily the weakest film here. We have the Michelangelo vs. The Warrior Pope drama-dsiguised-as-an-epic The Agony and the Ecstasy, which is a surprising treat. There's the period romance and actual epic Doctor Zhivago. The intimate in tone, epic in scope Jesus biopic The Greatest Story Ever Told. And the smash musical The Sound of Music.

Zhivago won

Let's get to it, shall we?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Cinema '65: The Abbess and the Racist

A returning champ...a veteran honored...a writer...a second go-rounder...and the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I'm sure one of the surprising omissions from 1965's Supporting Actress lineup was Joan Blondell in The Cincinnati Kid. Blondell, after all, had been nominated for the Golden Globe and won at the National Board of Review. But it's not as though the eventual nominees were without love.

At the Golden Globes, Ruth Gordon, Joyce Redman, and Peggy Wood were nominated alongside the aforementioned Blondell and Thelma Ritter for Boeing Boeing.

You may have noticed...only the Academy honored Shelley Winters' work as the monster momma in A Patch of Blue. Of course, Shelley's was the winning performance, scoring a second Oscar for the actress on her third nomination -- and she would return for The Poseidon Adventure in 1972.

But obviously, the real story here is the first of many nominations for the incomparable Maggie Smith. This was her first nomination at the Oscars; the very same role got her nominated at the Golden Globes for Lead Actress in a Drama. Smith was also honored at the BAFTAs...albeit as Best British Actress for Young Cassidy. As we all know, she would soon return with 1969's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie -- and this time, she would win the Oscar.

But for now...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Cinema '65: The Spy and the Gunslinger

A comic performance dominating the year? Strange but true: Lee Marvin's role as a drunken gunman and his evil nose-less brother in the western spoof Cat Ballou won Best Actor honors from the National Board of Review, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the Berlin Film Festival -- oh, and the Academy.

It's a rare moment for an industry that famously undervalues comedy. Especially since most of the other nominees went unrecognized the rest of the year. Richard Burton -- nominated at the Oscars for Becket the year previous -- won Best British Actor at the BAFTAs...but for the next year, and winning for both The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Oskar Werner was nominated at the Golden Globes, but he was getting more attention for his supporting performance in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Rod Steiger, at least, was nominated for a Globe and won for the previous year's Berlin Film Festival -- his was the critical darling.

Then there was Laurence Olivier in blackface, which showed up nowhere else.

And what did I make of it all? After the jump, please.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cinema '65: Ann-Margret Dances, Jason Robards Marches

Ah, Adapted Score, the unusual Oscar category now relegated to history, alongside Best Choreography and Best Assistant Director. We've discussed the odd history of this category before, so like -- let's just get to it.

Cat Ballou
DeVol, adapting the music of Jerry Livingston
A surprising use of electric guitars makes Cat Ballou stand out among other westerns, western comedies, comedies... DeVol takes the central theme by David and Livingston, using it romantically, ominously, triumphantly, even dancing-ly! It's wonderfully straight-faced.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cinema '65: Kinky Sex and the Singing French

What an unusual group, these contenders for Best Original Screenplay!

Two of them are rather frank about sex: adultery, live-in loving, and homosexuality in Darling; impotence and kink in Casanova '70.

Two of them are comedies: Casanova '70, and the period ensemble screwballer Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.

Two of them are foreign-language films: Casanova '70, and the French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a romance that is completely sung-through.

Indeed, the only American one, The Train, is set (and was shot) in France -- a World War II thriller about art-thieving Nazis, the same tale that inspired The Monuments Men.

It's a bizarre group to see together -- but that's not to say it's an unwelcome group.

Take a look for yourself after the jump