Friday, April 5, 2019

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Day Five: Best Director, 1961

We wrap the first week of 1961 with Best Director. If you missed out on the rest of the week, just click on these words. If you haven't missed out, welcome back.

The nominees after the jump....
Federico Fellini for La Dolce Vita
first of four nominations

There's a palpable anger and sadness in every scene. The people are bored and cruel, the streets are almost empty; miracles are a show business, show business is grotesque. The nights offer fleeting, dreamlike experiences, but dreams aren't real - and can often be nightmares. Haunting.

Stanley Kramer for Judgment at Nuremberg
second of three nominations; Golden Globe Winner, DGA Award Nominee

In a dialogue-heavy film, he keeps things moving, interesting - yes, cinematic! Gets great performances from his cast. The conceit of having the film begin in multiple languages before going through the translators into an all-English production works beautifully.

Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise for West Side Story
Robbins' first and only nomination, Wise's second of three nominations and first of two wins; DGA Award Winners, Golden Globe Nominees, NYFCC Award Runners-Up

Whether it's the dialogue-less opening sequence, passionate "America", the co-ed rumble that is the dance at the gym, explosive "Cool", every shot and cut prioritizes narrative and spectacle - simultaneously. The transition to book scenes is seamless. The performances are perfect. It is flawless!

Robert Rossen for The Hustler
second and final nomination; NYFCC Award Winner, DGA Award Nominee

Those performances didn't come from nowhere; Rossen brings out the humanity in these desperate people, patiently watching them destroy themselves. Covers pool and billiards clearly, excitingly - not knowing how it all works, I can follow with the proper excitement. Knows when to hold back.

J. Lee Thompson for The Guns of Navarone
first and only nomination; DGA Award Nominee, Golden Globe Nominee

While some sequences do seem to go on longer than necessary, on the whole, it's constantly moving and always exciting - even long dialogue scenes can be as exciting as a night-time mountain climb, a credit to Thompson's staging and work with actors.

Also in the conversation:

  • Marlon Brando for One-Eyed Jacks (DGA Award Nominee) - Believes way too much in pauses, but he's almost got a perfect movie. ****
  • Frank Capra for Pocketful of Miracles (DGA Award Nominee) - Good fun! ***
  • Jack Clayton for The Innocents (NBR Award Winner, DGA Award Nominee) - Little room left for ambiguity and yet...those performances! The atmosphere! ****
  • Blake Edwards for Breakfast at Tiffany's (DGA Award Nominee) - We all know the issue, and it looms large. An otherwise winning film. ****
  • Peter Glenville for Summer and Smoke (DGA Award Nominee) - Poorly judged on almost every level. **
  • John Huston for The Misfits (DGA Award Nominee) - Probably the best possible version that could be done! ***
  • Elia Kazan for Splendor in the Grass (DGA Award Nominee) - 😬 **
  • Henry Koster for Flower Drum Song (DGA Award Nominee) - Transitions aren't always perfect, but boy, do I love what he did overall. ****
  • Mervyn LeRoy for A Majority of One (DGA Award Nominee) - Carefully-calibrated throughout to make the greatest impact by the end, and that ain't hay. ****
  • Philip Leacock for Hand in Hand (DGA Award Nominee) - didn't see it!
  • Joshua Logan for Fanny (DGA Award Nominee) - It looks beautiful and it's well-acted. What's to dislike? ***
  • Anthony Mann for El Cid (DGA Award Nominee, Golden Globe Nominee) - The scale looks astounding, but he does surprisingly little with it - and yet...I was entertained. ***
  • Robert Mulligan for The Great Impostor (DGA Award Nominee) - Funny! ***
  • Daniel Petrie for A Raisin in the Sun (DGA Award Nominee) - Despite rarely leaving that single set, Petrie overcomes any feeling of "theatre" by trusting his performers, the material, his camera. *****
  • Robert Stevenson for The Absent-Minded Professor (DGA Award Nominee) - Good! ***
  • Peter Ustinov for Romanoff and Juliet (DGA Award Nominee) - didn't see it!
  • William Wyler for The Children's Hour (DGA Award Nominee, Golden Globe Nominee) - Oh my gosh, what a mood he creates: horrifying, stifling, empathetic, tragic. *****


For the first of only two times in Oscar history, the Academy handed the award to a team:

And so do Iiiiiiiiiii!:


Next week! We start with Best Supporting Actress - Fay Bainter (The Children's Hour), Judy Garland (Judgment at Nuremberg), Lotte Lenya (The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone), Una Merkel (Summer and Smoke) and Rita Moreno (West Side Story). Then on to Adapted Screenplay, Original Song, Actress, and Best Picture, featuring:

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