For Your Reconsideration: 1969 Academy Awards

FOR YOUR RECONSIDERATION: in this segment i will look back at various years in the history of the academy awards and reconsider their nominations and winners. the focus will be on the "best picture" category, but that discussion will often lead to looking at some of the other categories and films/artists - and my final pick for best picture will not necessarily be even one of the five nominated films. also, since i can obviously not go and watch every movie released in the year in discussion, i reserve the right to follow up these posts in the future if/when i see other films from said oscar year that change my current verdicts.

 

Broadcast Date: April 14th, 1969

NOMINEES (winners in bold)

Picture:
OLIVER!, Funny Girl, The Lion in Winter, Rachel, Rachel, Romeo And Juliet

Actor:
CLIFF ROBERTSON in Charly, Alan Arkin in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Alan Bates in The Fixer, Ron Moody in Oliver!, Peter O'Toole in The Lion in Winter

Actress:
KATHARINE HEPBURN in The Lion in Winter and BARBRA STREISAND in Funny Girl (tie), Patricia Neal in The Subject Was Roses, Vanessa Redgrave in Isadora, Joanne Woodward in Rachel, Rachel

Supporting Actor:
JACK ALBERTSON in The Subject Was Roses, Seymour Cassel in Faces, Daniel Massey in Star!, Jack Wild in Oliver!, Gene Wilder in The Producers

Supporting Actress:
RUTH GORDON in Rosemary's Baby, Lynn Carlin in Faces, Sondra Locke in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Kay Medford in Funny Girl, Estelle Parsons in Rachel, Rachel

Director:
SIR CAROL REED for Oliver!, Anthony Harvey for The Lion in Winter, Stanley Kubrick for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gillo Pontecorvo for "The Battle of Algiers", Franco Zeffirelli for Romeo And Juliet

 

Oliver! is a great musical. for me a musical has to do two things right: like any film it has to be a good movie with good acting and a good script, yada yada yada. but, then a musical also has the extra burden of the songs to deal with, and if they aren't good then it doesn't matter how good the "movie" is, it won't be a success for me (and i would assume for others as well). well, Oliver! gets them both right. the movie itself is fun and sweet and the songs are great and many of them have made their way into our popular songbook. i had never seen this film before about a week ago and yet i recognized a bunch of the songs throughout the film and am still singing them to myself today (as a write this as a matter of fact).

 

Funny Girl was barbara streisands first film and she is incredible in it. really this is her film. she is on screen about 95% of the time and the real success or failure of this film rides on her shoulders. and she carries this one to a complete success. the film is the story of comedienne fannie brice and her rise from the lower east side to great success with the ziegfeld follies. fanny is very funny and has an incredible voice, but she is also self-conscious about not being "beautiful" like the popular stars, and barbara captures this all so well. the film is a simply told biography. it doesn't do anything different or special with the story, but that's okay, cause it is a good story and with barbara in the lead one can't help but be engaged.

 

 

The Lion In Winter is so good! i went into this thing expecting a somewhat dry royal drama, but what i got was a film that felt like masterpiece theatre written by david mamet.... the year is 1183. it is christmas. king henry II, his (imprisoned) wife, his mistress, his three sons and king philip of france. his plan is to name his successor over the holidays but things don't go as planned as all the participants plot and scheme to try and get what they want. this ain't your parents british royal drama!! the dialogue is fast and witty and the film moves from one plot to another taking us right along with it. the performances are great all around, but hepburn and o'toole are just fantastic. when they are on screen together i was completely mesmerized by these two screen legends. Oh ya, don;t forget the great score (won the oscar for best score).

 

Rachel, Rachel is another first among the best picture nominees. the film is paul newman's directorial debut and it stars is wife joanne woodward as a new england school teacher living with her mother upstairs from the funeral home that her dad used to run and own when she was a little girl (they sold it after he died). rachel is innocent and smart, and sexually repressed and emotionally confused and completely stuck in a rut. she has bursts of fantasy in which she lets the person she wants to be out and then pulls it back in to be the person she is (then often berates herself for not being stronger). when an old acquaintance comes into town she lets herself out of her shell a little, but it isn't smooth and easy. woodward is great and gives rachel so much more depth behind the simple/quiet exterior.

 

Romeo And Juliet is the epitome of a movie that you watch knowing exactly how it is going to end. i mean not only is it stated right in the opening dialogue, but, unless you have been living under a rock for the last 500 years, you know the story of these star-crossed lovers. i don't know the stats on it, but i would think that Romeo And Juliet is one of, if not the most, filmed stories in movie history, so it's not like it hasn't been done before. zifforelli's version is traditional. there is no modern setting or pop music (like in the great version baz luhrmann did in the 90s), but rather a great telling of a great story. the leads are great in their roles and the cinematography (oscar winning) is beautiful.

 

 

LOOKIN' AT THE LIST: to me this years list of nominees felt like that segment from Sesame Street, "one of these things is not like the other ones." can you find the one that "doesn't" belong?  we have the full-blow hollywood musical, Oliver!. we have the big comedy/musical Funny Girl. next there is the beautiful dramatic and romantic production of one of the greatest stories ever told, Romeo And Juliet. then there is the large and star-studded attraction, The Lion In Winter. and finally we have the small town character study drama, Rachel, Rachel... if you answered Rachel, Rachel then you would be right. how that little film made it onto the list, among all these big and grand films is quite interesting.

the other interesting thing that struck me when watching these films was that it was 1968.

-on january 30th, 1968 the viet cong launched the tet offensive which many pin-point as the turning point in american mass public opinion against the war in vietnam.

- on februrary 8th a civil rights protest staged at an all-white bowling alley in south carolina is broken up by highway patrolmen and three college students are killed.

- in august police clash with protesters in chicago outside of the democratic national convention

- in march president johnson announces that he will not seek re-election

- on april 4th martin luther king jr. is assassinated

- on april 11th, lbj signs the civil rights act of 1968

and so on.... you get the idea. 1968 is a huge year in the history of america and i found it kind of interesting to see that the nominated movies do not reflect that at all. in fact, the films nominated feel like an attempt to escape from the realities of the world and the time. you got two musicals, a classic love story a royal political drama set hundreds of years in the past and actually only one film set in the present day, Rachel, Rachel - and this one makes no reference to political and historical times they are in. - i should say here, that i don't say this to at all diminish the value of the nominated films, but rather to point out some interesting ideas that crossed my mind while watching the movies and thinking about the year in question.

look at some of the other films released that year: The Battle Of Algiers about the bloody algerian revolution as they fight the french for their independence (the french having just left vietnam defeated). 2001: A Space Odyssey which looks at mans evolution and the evolution of violence and technology and power and what could possibly be in store for the future. those are two examples of films that seem to be making a much more relevant statement to the times and a harder look at mankind and yet both were passed over for nominations (although both did get best director nods and "Algiers" was nominated for best foreign film. also, they both lost in the screenplay category to mel brooks' The Producers - more fun escapist fare)...1968 was also the year of The Planet Of The Apes which was is a satire of sorts and is trying to say something about mankind and nuclear war and violence and class structure, etc... (not that i am saying it deserved a best picture nomination).

 

THE RECONSIDERATION:

to get an even fuller view of the year in film and where i am coming from based on what i have seen...

films among the years' nominees that i haven't seen: The Fixer, The Battle Of Algiers, Charly, The Subject Was Roses....

films i have seen with nominated outside of the top five categories: Bullitt, The Thomas Crown Affaire, The Planet Of the Apes, The Odd Couple,

 

THE NOMINEES: although i hadn't seen any of the best picture nominees before, i went into this week of viewing already knowing which film deserved to win this year. and, now, after having seen all five films and a few others from the year in question, my opinion hasn't changed. 1968 should have belonged to 2001.

not only was 2001: A Space Odyssey the best film that year, it is one of the best - and it could be argued the best - films of all time!! i would also argue that Rosemary's Baby being left off the best film list was a mistake as well.

given that, it means that room would need to be made on the list for both those films. so what should go? well, i would drop Rachel, Rachel to give 2001 a spot and then to make room for Rosemary's Baby i think either Funny Girl or Romeo And Juliet would have to go - although i did really like both films. and i'm also thinking that polanski would edge out zeffirelli and take over his spot on the best director list (remember that i haven't seen The Battle Of Algiers, whose director, gillo pontecorvo, is also among the best director nominees. so i can't make a judgment on that spot)

THE WINNER: 2001: A space Odyssey

 

RECAP: as much as i really did love Oliver! and feel it did deserve the nomination, it was not the best movie released in 1968. in fact, of the five nominees the best of the bunch is The Lion In Winter, and in many other years it would get my vote for best picture. but in the year of 2001: A Space Odyssey every other movie is just fighting for second place!

 

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