Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Day Eleven: The Others, 1969

As you see, I only go in on about eleven categories in these Oscar retrospectives. Naturally, that doesn't cover all the nominees. Here are four more films nominated at the 1969 Oscars:

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Day Ten: Best Picture, 1969

I mentioned it in last month's 1968 retrospective - '67 was the announcement of New Hollywood, '68 was the last gasp of Old Hollywood...and '69 is where '67 paid off.

Even Anne of the Thousand Days, a prime example of Royal Melodrama, puts such an emphasis on sex and semen that it could only have been touched by a major studio in this period (well...unless Otto Preminger had his hands on it). Even the Western, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, is a hangout buddy flick with a decidedly non-western score, unorthodox romantic trio, and a fare-thee-well to the genre. Even the standard Liberal Cause Drama is the cynical, French-language, Socialist-sympathizing Z. Only Hello, Dolly! actually stands as a prime example of the Big Studio Musical, albeit with some anarchic twists. And Midnight Cowboy...well, hell, ain't nothing like Midnight Cowboy. Maybe that's why it won:

The nominees, after the jump...

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Day Nine: Best Supporting Actress, 1969

Best Actor had one; Best Actress and Best Director each had three; Best Supporting Actor had four; hell. But only Best Supporting Actress had a roster of all first-timers.

It doesn't happen all that often. So where were the members of last year's class? Lynn Carlin was doing television; she'd be back on the big screen the next year in ...tick...tick...tick.... Sondra Locke was filming a movie that also wouldn't come out 'til 1970, Cover Me Babe. Estelle Parsons, who had ridden her 1967 Oscar win to a follow-up 1968 nomination, was upgraded to leading lady status for the comedy Don't Drink the Water. Reigning winner Ruth Gordon also had an arguably lead role, playing the thorn in psycho-biddy Geraldine Page's side in the thriller What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?. Only Kay Medford had a definite supporting role in a 1969 film - Angel in My Pocket, a little-seen Andy Griffith film that resulted in the latter ending his film deal with Universal.

And so that left the field open for five newcomers, none of whom were Brenda Vaccaro. Why mention Brenda Vaccaro? Well, believe it or not, either of these names could have been hers. Vaccaro has, perhaps, the most screentime of any woman in Midnight Cowboy, appearing as a party girl who brings Joe Buck home with her. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for the performance, but co-star Sylvia Miles got the Oscar nod. Meanwhile, Goldie Hawn's Cactus Flower performance wound up winning the Oscar:

But did you know that Vaccaro originated that role on Broadway? She was even nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, losing out to Zoe Caldwell for Tennessee Williams' Slapstick Tragedy (Caldwell also won the Tony for originating The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie on Broadway). Vaccaro would have to wait another six years for an Oscar nomination, when she was honored for her work in Once is Not Enough. Her fellow nominee that year? Midnight Cowboy's own Sylvia Miles...

Back to 1969, friends. The nominees are....

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Day Seven: Music, 1969

Music time, folks - a ten-deep one, as we look at the nominees for both Best Score and Best Musical Score.

Naturally, John Williams shows up in both categories, the first of many times he would be double-nominated. He had recently broken-through with his nomination in Best Adaptation and/or Treatment Score (as Best Musical Score was then known) for Valley of the Dolls in 1967. Thus was launched one of the most successful careers in all of show business, the rare composer that's also a household name: 24 Grammys, seven BAFTA Awards, five Oscars, four Golden Globes. His movie themes can be heard in theme parks across the world, and his theme for the NBC Nightly News can be heard, er, nightly.

Let's hear the competition after the jump.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Day Six: Best Actress, 1969

Every single nominee here was a five-for-five transfer from the Golden Globes' Best Actress in a Drama category. That has only happened one other time, in 1995: Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking), Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas), Sharon Stone (Casino), Meryl Streep (The Bridges of Madison County) and Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility). Stone won the Globe, but Sarandon won the Oscar.

If one wants to stretch it a bit, one could also count 1962, in which the Academy's lineup of Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker), Bette Davis (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), Katharine Hepburn (Long Day's Journey Into Night), Geraldine Page (Sweet Bird of Youth) and Lee Remick (Days of Wine and Roses) were also all up for the Drama Actress Golden Globe...albeit within an expanded slate of ten nominees. Page won the Globe, Bancroft the Oscar.

And in 1969, Geneviève Bujold won the Globe...while Maggie Smith won the Oscar:

The nominees, after the jump....

Sunday, August 11, 2019

More Coming Attractions, 1969

This week, we continue the great adventure through the films of 1969 with the nominees for Best Actress, Best Score, Best Musical Score, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Picture of the Year. Featuring:

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Further Thoughts: 1969 in Review(s)

Further thoughts on some of the 1969 films discussed earlier this week.

Alice's Restaurant
dir: Arthur Penn
pr: Hillard Elkins / Joseph Manduke
scr: Venable Herndon and Arthur Penn, from the song by Arlo Guthrie
cin: Michael Nebbia

Overall an admirable, if cautious and somewhat skeptical, attempt to humanize and sympathize with a misunderstood movement, balancing clear-eyed observations about using "freedom" and "protest" to excuse shirking your own responsibilities with criticism of the establishment's adherence to form and appearance. If only Penn could consistently pay off on the characters he introduces, or handle the tonal whiplash between the comedy of the song and the drama of his and Herndon's additions. Guthrie proves a surprisingly compelling presence on screen.

Sex, class, change, and more, after the jump..

Friday, August 9, 2019

Day Five: Best Supporting Actor, 1969

We wrap up this first week with 1969 with a look at Best Supporting Actor:

Fifty years later, one name rings out above all the rest: Jack Nicholson. While he was no newcomer to Hollywood - he made his movie debut 11 years earlier in The Cry Baby Killer and contributed to the screenplay for the Monkees film Head - Easy Rider announced him as a true presence to be reckoned with, a Star for the ages. He may be approaching his tenth year of retirement, but Nicholson still looms large in the industry - my God, I still hear twenty-somethings debate his performance in Batman, get bowled over by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, quote Anger Management.

Also worth mentioning: Rupert Crosse's nomination makes it the first in this category for a black actor. Crosse was an Actor's Studio alum who trained under John Cassavetes and is best known for his work in the director's Shadows...although, sadly, I first knew him as the actor who had to drop out of The Last Detail due to cancer. It would be another 12 years before another black actor  was nominated (Howard Rollins, Ragtime) and another year after that before one would win (Lou Gossett, Jr., An Officer and a Gentleman). Fifty years later, Mahershala Ali stands as the reigning Best Supporting Actor champ, the only black actor to win it twice. Here is the legacy of Rupert Crosse.

Nicholson, Crosse, and the rest of the competition - after the jump...

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Day Four: Best Director, 1969

Fifty years ago, when Best Picture was still only five-wide, it was common to see a marked difference between that category and the Best Director lineup - 1969, for instance, is only three-for-five. While it's rarer nowadays, it occasionally happens - just this past year, Pawel Pawlikowski was nominated for Cold War, which did not get a Best Picture citation. Rarer still than the Lone Director Nominee is the Best Director Orphan, in which the nominated helmer is the sole representative of their film. This was more common in the early days of the Oscars, but has since, become the kind of phenomenon trivia buffs love to bring up - David Lynch has been the Director Orphan twice (Blue Velvet, Mulholland Dr.), Martin Scorsese once....

But I think only Arthur Penn can boast of not just being a Best Director Orphan, but of being the only person nominated for a film based on a song. Alice's Restaurant is based on the Arlo Guthrie song-story of the same name, and if you've ever listened to the radio on Thanksgiving Day, chances are you've heard it. I believe one station - can't remember if it was my own South Florida or another or many - even played the song on repeat, non-stop, until they hit a particular number in their pledge drive. Annually.

So yes, that's an Oscar-nominated story! Did Penn do it justice? A look at his work and his fellow nominees, after the jump...

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Day Three: Best Adapted Screenplay, 1969

Just as certain filmmakers come with automatic awards heat to their name (Spielberg, Scorsese, Nolan), there are some authors whose work is so well-thought-of, any adaptation is ready for Oscar buzz. Does it always pan out?

Playwright Maxwell Anderson's work inspired many an awards-caliber film, such as Oscar nominees The Bad Seed, Knickerbocker Holiday, and The Private Lives of Elizbeth and Essex, and Oscar winners Joan of Arc and Key Largo. He himself was even Oscar-nominated for one of his many screenwriting contributions - in this case, All Quiet on the Western Front - and was an uncredited contributor to films like Ben-Hur and The Life of a Bengal Lancer.

Filmmakers keep returning to Philip Roth again and again - most recently, Ewan McGregor with American Pastoral and James Schamus with Indignation - yet only Goodbye Columbus has had any success with audiences, critics, and Oscar. The closest anything ever came to duplicating that success? Possibly Elegy, the 2008 adaptation of The Dying Animal starring Ben Kingsley.

The works of James Leo Herlihy had their time in the Hollywood spotlight: 1959's Blue Denim was a Golden Globe nominee while 1962's All Fall Down was a Cannes competitor and National Board of Review winner. Midnight Cowboy was the only film version of his work to make it to the Oscars, and the last significant adaptation of any of his work.

Horace McCoy, like Maxwell Anderson, was known in 1930s Hollywood as a screenwriter, though he originally arrived from Texas to pursue acting. As with his books, he contributed mostly to pulp crime dramas - a genre rarely afforded the respect it deserves. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? is, to date, his only brush with Oscar.

It is believed by many - or at least, the authors of Inside Oscar - that Z benefited from a heavy awards campaign, and so we may not be surprised upon hearing that Vasili Vasilikos' other works, while internationally-renowned, rarely inspired cinematic treatments outside his native Greece - though there was a 2012 remake of Z released in India, titled Shanghai.

Their works did inspire nominations at least once - and there they are. The Adapted Screenplay nominees of 1969:

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Day Two: Best Actor, 1969

What a difference 50 years makes, huh?

In 1969, all these men were stars, nigh untouchable - the newcomer was Jon Voight, winner of the Most Promising Male Golden Globe. The rest were legends, heartthrobs, cover stars, and even though they each courted their fair share of controversy, their status was unquestionable. Members of the public may object to the politics of one, the treatment of women by another, but we shrugged and said, "That's Hollywood!"

Fast forward 50 years. Voight, who finally won an Oscar for the anti-war film Coming Home, is a divisive figure politically, and while he currently enjoys a regular job on Ray Donovan, it's hard to imagine him being embraced again by the Academy. In 2017, Dustin Hoffman was accused of sexual misconduct by seven different women whose experiences crossed decades. John Wayne, who had plenty of critics during his lifetime, was recently blasted on social media for racist and white supremacist opinions he gave during a 1971 Playboy interview. Richard Burton comes off reasonably well, if mostly best-known for being Mr. Liz Taylor, while Peter O'Toole...actually, I think we're good with Peter O'Toole - I think it helps that both men's main troubles were rooted in their alcoholism, and each sobered up.

The point being, our perceptions of people and the standards to which we hold our stars have changed significantly since The Duke was crowned king - or at least, people are more careful about who they publicly praise. Yesterday's idols are today's unmentionables. That's what I see when I take a look at this lineup: either dead, canceled, or both.

But have the performances held up? Let's take a look!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Day One: Original Song, 1969

So we begin our journey through the Oscar-nominated films of 1969.

It's not often that one of the biggest wins of the night goes to Best Original Song, but here we are. Like "Moon River" eight years earlier, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" was an immediate phenomenon, the #4 song of 1970, and apparently, an automatic addition to the American Songbook, with at least thirteen cover versions from all over the world released within a year of the initial B.J. Thomas recording. I even remember the first time heard it: middle school, listening to South Florida's oldies radio, Majic 102.7, hosted by the Tall Italian himself, Tom Caminiti. You've heard it, your parents have heard it, everyone knows it. It helps that it came from the number one film of the year.

The rest of the field were all future standards. My sister used to play "Jean" on the piano; Lea Salonga performs "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" as part of a Legrand-Bergman medley in her recent concert album The Story of My Life: Live from Manila; "True Grit" was as tied to Glen Campbell's legacy as "Wichita Lineman". It's a lineup of genuine hits and legends - let's take a listen.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Coming Attractions: 1969

Starting Monday, we celebrate a LOT of 50th anniversaries with the 1969 Retrospective! The first two weeks take us through the Oscar nominees in eleven categories, followed by a week of talk on other movies, culminating in my personal Top Ten and Retro Hollmann Awards in week four.

Week One: the nominees for Best Original Song, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor, featuring...

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Thursday, August 1, 2019

The 1968 Retro Hollmann Awards, Part Two

Here it is, the concluding chapter of the 1968 Retro Hollmann Awards - and therefore, the conclusion of my look at 1968. Make sure you catch up with Part One of the awards, as well as the full list of nominations and the Top Ten. Onward...

Best Score

1. War and Peace
Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov

2. The Young Girls of Rochefort
Michel Legrand

3. Romeo and Juliet
Nino Rota

4. Rosemary's Baby
Christopher Komeda

5. Yellow Submarine
George Martin

The remaining awards - writing, directing, lead acting, Best Picture - and Original Song! - after the jump.