Friday, October 29, 2021

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Cinema '62: Best Picture

And here we have it - the finale! The nominees for Best Picture of the Year are:

Lawrence of Arabia
nine more nominations: Best Director (WINNER), Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score (WINNER), Best Cinematography - Color (WINNER), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration - Color (WINNER), Best Film Editing (WINNER), Best Sound (WINNER)
produced by Sam Spiegel
past two-time winner, third of four nominations; BAFTA Award winner for Best Film and Best British Film, Golden Globe winner for Best Picture - Drama, National Board of Review's Top Ten Films of 1962

Adventure, political intrigue, homoeroticism, and a hero who's kind of a prick - what more do you need in your cinema? It's well-crafted, well-written, well-acted. The perfect package. I'm sorry I don't have more to say about it than that, but honestly, if you've seen it and don't understand why it won, much less was a nominee, there's nothing I can say to convince you. It plays just as well on my tiny, boxy TV with a built-in VHS as it did my HD on Blu-Ray as it does in cinemas. That's the mark of a truly transcendent film.

The Longest Day
four more nominations: Best Cinematography - Black-and-White (WINNER), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration - Color, Best Film Editing, Best Special Effects (WINNER)
produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
past winner, second and final nomination in this category; National Board of Review's Best Picture of 1962; Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture - Drama

Wow, the scale of this thing, depicting unique episodes of a decisive day that is too often summed up by intoning "the beaches of Normandy." No, here is the full story of German lack of preparedness, of the parachuters, of the decoys, of the Resistance, of friendly fire, of family dynasties risking their lives, of birthdays interrupted by shelling, of D-DAY, DAMMIT, D-DAY! The German portions are the best, I have to say, followed by all of John Wayne's scenes. Striking, too episodic to be too involving.

The Music Man
five more nominations: Best Adapted Score (WINNER), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration - Color, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design - Color, Best Sound
produced by Morton DaCosta
first and only nomination; Golden Globe winner for Best Picture - Musical

It neither surprises with subtlety nor recontextualizes our understanding of a beloved text. It's straightforward, crowd-pleasing filmmaking, content to let a delightful ensemble of talented stars sing great songs, dance about a library, and perform upper-rafters-level schtick that somehow captures the idiosyncrasies of small-town eccentricities. It works, just as sure as the Lord made little green apples, and I love it!

Mutiny on the Bounty
six more nominations: Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Cinematography - Color, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration - Color, Best Film Editing, Best Special Effects
produced by Aaron Rosenberg
first and only nomination; Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture - Drama

I know the legends behind its tumultuous production, the snickers at Brando's British accent at the premiere, the fact that it technically flopped despite being the fifth highest-grossing film of the year. But I look at the final product and I see a riveting, stirring film about survival of mind, body, and soul. There were a lot of films this year about the cruelty of seafaring life, but gosh, this one is gorgeous and depressing, and that's a combo I can't resist.

To Kill a Mockingbird
seven more nominations: Best Director, Best Actor (WINNER), Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay (WINNER), Best Original Score, Best Cinematography - Black-and-White, Best Art Direction-Set decoration - Black-and-White (WINNER)
produced by Alan J. Pakula
first of three overall nominations; BAFTA Award nominee for Best Film, Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture - Drama, NYFCC Award runner-up for Best Picture

The gentlest film here, no intermission, no musical numbers, just shy of 130 minutes. It doesn't need much more time - indeed, you could argue it stretches even that - to tell its modest tale of a childhood memory of a Significant Time in a Small Town. It does hit you where it needs to, and it doesn't even seem like it's trying - it just lets life play out the way it does.


My vote - and Oscar's - goes to:

produced by

Next week, a look at some of the year's other, non-nominated releases, followed by the Retro Hollmanns Awards!

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