Tuesday, April 16, 2019

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Day Ten: Best Picture, 1961

Best Picture: the last award given at the Oscars, the last Oscar category we're covering for 1961. Doesn't mean we're done with the year as a whole, though! I've still my own personal picks for the Best of the Year.

But that's still to come. Let's focus on the Academy's picks today, shall we? After the jump...

produced by Joshua Logan
Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture - Drama, NBR - Top Ten Films

Beautifully photographed, detailed production design, solid performances all around. A Best Picture nomination seems a little much, but not a bad way to waste a couple of hours. Of course, I've yet to see the Marseilles Trilogy upon which it is based, so it could be that I only like it out of ignorance?

The Guns of Navarone
produced by Carl Foreman
Golden Globe Winner for Best Picture - Drama

Great set-pieces, stirring score, terrific performance from David Niven. Hobbled, though, by a miscast Gregory Peck, bloated runtime, and under-developed supporting characters. Fine entertainment, but again - Best Picture? For whom?

The Hustler
produced by Robert Rossen
BAFTA Award Winner for Best Film, NBR - Top Ten Films

Gritty, unflinching look at desperate people, individuals who can only play it cool for so long before their grasping gets the best of them. Anchored by out-of-this-world-terrific performances from its leading players. Looks terrific without getting glossy: you can smell the stale cigarette smoke.

Judgment at Nuremberg
produced by Stanley Kramer
BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film, Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture - Drama, NBR - Top Ten, NYFCC Runner-Up for Best Film

As Pilate once sang: "We both have truths; are mine the same as yours?" That's at the heart of this courtroom drama, interrogating the culpability of Germany's citizens in Nazi crimes. Written empathetically for all involved, but that makes it no less certain in what is Right - and knows too well that this is a history that may repeat itself yet again. Shows you can be sympathetic without skirting issues.

West Side Story
produced by Robert Wise
Golden Globe Winner for Best Picture - Musical, NYFCC Award for Best Film, NBR - Top Ten, BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film

Breathtaking on every level: performances, cinematography, choreography, editing, all of it. It flies by, but that doesn't lessen its devastating impact, showing how the children suffer - make each other suffer - for pride, prejudice, misplaced outrage...and how the adults enable, quietly encourage it. And it does it all through song and dance!

Also in the conversation:
  • L'Avventura (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film, Cannes - Jury Prize) - Like I said with Monica Vitti - I don't get this movie! I don't like it! **
  • Babes in Toyland (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture - Musical) - Hokey, but it is for kids. **
  • Ballad of a Soldier (BAFTA Award Winner for Best Film, Cannes - In Competition) - What was it Cornelia Robson said of Linnet Doyle in Death on the Nile? "So beautiful, she put a lump in your throat." That's this movie, to me.  *****
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture - Comedy) - Problematic, but what it gets right it does extremely right: the wild party, Holly getting drunk, "Moon River", the cat, 2-E... ****
  • El Cid (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture - Drama) - Not exactly revolutionary, a lot problematic, even seems to be cast with a shrug - but it's entertaining enough! ***
  • La Dolce Vita (Cannes - Palm d'Or, BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film) - A vision, poignant and dreamy, off-kilter and yet very real. Masterful. *****
  • Flower Drum Song (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture - Musical) - The first of its kind - how lucky it is, that it's also genuinely great - and surprisingly sexy! *****
  • Girl with a Suitcase (Cannes - In Competition) - didn't see it
  • Goodbye Again (Cannes - In Competition) - Balances rom-com and aging drama skillfully, Bergman devastating and funny. ****
  • The Hoodlum Priest (Cannes - In Competition, NBR - Top Ten) - didn't see it
  • The Innocents (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film and Best British Film, NBR - Top Ten) - Could probably do even more by showing less. Still, effective, and a great showcase for Deborah Kerr. *****
  • A Majority of One (Golden Globe Winner for Best Picture - Comedy) - Despite my misgivings over its casting and some subplots, I have a place in my heart for this film. Maybe it's Rosalind Russell, maybe it's the effectiveness of that final scene, but there is something. ****
  • The Mark (Cannes - In Competition) - Don't know about that ending, but overall, a sincere attempt to grapple with and humanize a tricky topic. ***
  • Odd Obsession (Cannes - Jury Prize) - They really weren't kidding with that "odd" moniker. **
  • One, Two, Three (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture - Comedy, NBR - Top Ten) - Dated and quite funny! Communist Horst Buchholz is a Horst Buccholz I could get with. ***
  • The Parent Trap (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture - Comedy) - A screwball kids' film, a sensitive romance of reconciliation. Truly has it all! ****
  • Pocketful of Miracles (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture - Comedy) - Undercuts its leading lady's plot with an over-emphasis on gangster hijinks. **
  • Question 7 (NBR Winner for Best Film) - Handsomely executed even if it does blur the line between resistance and propaganda. ***
  • A Raisin in the Sun (Cannes - In Competition) - A perfect stage-to-screen adaptation because it understands what makes this material work. A triumph. *****
  • Rocco and His Brothers (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film) - A frustrating but effective film about family as both support system and poisonous obstacle. ****
  • Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (BAFTA Award Winner for Best British Film, BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Film) - Great stuff. *****
  • Splendor in the Grass (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture - Drama) - Hand-wringingly self-serious. **
  • Summer and Smoke (NBR - Top Ten Films) - Terrible. *
  • Two Women (Cannes - In Competition) - An interesting sit for the most part, even if its downer final act feels a bit much. ***
  • The Young Doctors (NBR - Top Ten) - Very much an Arthur Hailey story, seeking to educate within the melodrama. Which isn't bad if you like that sort of thing. I do! ***

The juggernaut of the evening was West Side Story, ending the night with ten Oscars:

As for me...well, yeah. My pick for Best Picture is also my pick for Musical Score, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Director:

produced by Robert Wise

Tomorrow - a brief look at 1961's other Academy Award nominees: The Absent-Minded Professor, Back Street, Claudelle Inglish, Immortal Love, One-Eyed Jacks and Yojimbo.

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