Friday, September 19, 2014

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 1967

The Contenders:
Bonnie and Clyde
Doctor Dolittle
The Graduate
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
In the Heat of the Night (winner)

What’s Missing

Right off the bat, we’re missing Cool Hand Luke here, and that film is better than at least three of the contenders. I think I can make a strong case for Wait Until Dark as well. Other films that don’t get enough love are Point Blank, The Dirty Dozen and 2 or 3 Things I Know about Her. Sticking on the non-English front, I’d toss up Le Samourai and Closely Watched Trains as films that could compete pretty well with our five on the list. I might add in Playtime as well, although it’s not my favorite Tati film. Lovers of the obscure will recognize this as the release year of Quatermass and the Pit. For fun, MST3K fans can revel in 1967 being the release year of Catalina Caper.

Weeding through the Nominees

5: Let’s be blunt: there’s no reason with all of the great ignored films from this year that Doctor Dolittle belongs within fifty feet of the list. I kind of like Doctor Dolittle, but I would never suggest that it belongs here in a year with this many strong films. Almost certainly there was politics involved in getting it a nomination, and I hold whomever responsible for the snub of Cool Hand Luke. I haven’t seen all of the Best Picture nominees from all of the years yet, but I’m guessing if I did a top-ten bad nominations, this would be on it.

4: Since Doctor Dolittle is such a bad nomination, it’s easy to remember. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is the one I have trouble remembering as a nomination. This is a good film and an interesting one for the time, but again, it’s not a film that really needed to be nominated because there are plenty of better films from 1967. The biggest issue with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is that it hasn’t aged well. While it might have been edgy 45 or so years ago, today it comes across as sort of a nothing.

3: I don’t like The Graduate. In fact, of the five movies nominated, it’s the film I like the least. That said, I recognize that this is a genuinely well-made film and an influential one. I just dislike every character in it and I don’t think terribly much of the plot. If I were judging these completely on my personal preference, this would be on the bottom. But, I do need to recognize that this film is influential and has affected a lot of the films that came after it. I suppose I can be convinced that it’s not a terrible nomination. I just don’t like it.

2: In a lot of ways Bonnie and Clyde getting a nomination in itself is a victory. This nomination is symbolic of a change that was starting in Hollywood in this year and that eventually came to fruition a few years later. A lot of people would argue that Bonnie and Clyde should have won this year and it’s an argument I can make as well. This was a daring film, which meant that it probably didn’t really have a chance of winning. Take this vote today, and I’m pretty sure this is your winner, and I’m not sure I completely disagree.

1: Of the five nominated movies, In the Heat of the Night is my favorite. The thing I like about it is that it’s far smarter than most people remember. We remember the slap in the greenhouse, but we forget that this film would have been a short subject had it specifically been about the racist South. No, it’s smarter than that, and a great deal of the plot and many of the complications come from the reality that our putative hero Virgil Tibbs is in many ways just as much of a racist as the rednecks. I’m happy with this win, but not entirely satisfied. This is a good choice, but there's a better choice to be had.

My Choice

As much as I’m okay with In the Heat of the Night winning, and as much as I’d be okay with Bonnie and Clyde winning, the real winner here is Cool Hand Luke, which was completely robbed of a nomination. Now, I don’t know if it would have won if nominated, but it would have at least been in the running, where it deserved to be. Technically, this is an “Oscar fucked up” case, but because I do genuinely think my two top spots could be argued, I’m not going to be as harsh as I could be. That said, we should be talking about Cool Hand Luke as 1967’s winner.

Final Analysis

12 comments:

  1. I agree. I think Cool Hand Luke should be the winner here. Granted, I've only seen 2 of the nominated films, but CHL is easily the best (and my favorite) of those I've seen.

    I thought I was alone in the Graduate hate. I was not a film of that whatsoever--not just the characters and plot (both of which I did not care much for), but I could also not get into the rather blaring soundtrack. Guess I'm not a Simon and Garfunkel fan. And if you're not a G&F fan, The Graduate makes for a tough sit.

    I also would have been cool with Le Samourai in the running, despite its foreign status. Another fantastic movie.

    Finally, I thought it was funny you mentioned how dated Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is, considering they remade it a few years back with Ashton Kutcher. (And I'm pretty sure it didn't do all that well.)

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    1. In the Heat of the Night is worth your time. It's surprisingly good and it holds up pretty well. Still, Cool Hand Luke really hasn't aged much.

      The Graduate feels like one of those films that you need to see at the right age. The early 40s is not the right age in my case. I want to slap Benjamin Braddock straight across the damn face.

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  2. Cool Hand Luke clearly should have been on the list. I'd give it the nod over In the Heat of the Night but that film is also excellent so I won't complain. I was nine that year and it was the first time I paid much attention to any of the awards stuff. I remember rooting for Dr. Doolittle because of Talk to the Animals. It is not a good film as the adult me came to realize.

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    1. That's why I didn't go for the full pissed off rating for this year. In the Heat of the Night is still a damn fine movie.

      I get the kid love for Doctor Dolittle. I liked it as a kid, too, but it really doesn't belong here, does it?

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  3. I'd have to say that overall this was a down year for nominees. Other than the music and the beauty of the young Katharine Ross, I felt The Graduate was hugely overated and had not aged very well - far worse than Guess Who's Coming to Dinner had aged. I'd have this last of the five nominees.

    Le Samourai would make my list of "deserved a nomination." A film you didn't mention that I'd toss in is a personal favorite and completes the Sidney Poitier 1967 trifecta - To Sir, With Love.

    Among the five nominees, I can't really argue with In the Heat of the Night as the winner.

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    1. As it happens, I haven't seen To Sir, With Love, but it's one I should probably watch.

      I do genuinely think In the Heat of the Night is the best of the five. It's just not the best of the year.

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    2. I'm not sure how being a teacher may or may not change how you perceive To Sir, With Love. I do know that more than one person who has seen it in more recent times has not been that impressed by it, commenting "It's just another inspirational teacher story". The thing is, it's wasn't "just another" one of those when it came out. It's that so many films have used the same formula since - real life teacher/sports coach comes in and achieves success with people everyone else has written off as a lost cause.

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    3. Stand and Deliver and Freedom Writers come to mind immediately. I'm familiar with where the film goes; I just haven't gotten to it.

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    4. And Lean on Me and Dead Poets Society and Coach Carter and Miracle and The Rookie and Mona Lisa Smile and Dangerous Minds and Mr. Holland's Opus and Taare Zameen Par and......

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    5. And Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Miracle Worker, Blackboard Jungle, Educating Rita, The Emperor's Club, Music of the Heart, ...

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  4. I seem to be the only one left on this thread that still likes The Graduate, but it's still my choice for the top spot (But I'm an S & G fan. Sorry, Nick). I still like Dr. Doolittle after all these years, but it was folly nominating it for Best Picture. In Cold Blood or Cool Hand Luke would have been a much better choices for a nomination. Many feel that Bonnie and Clyde should have gotten the top spot, which wouldn't have been a bad choice either.

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    1. I understand the love for The Graduate. I just don't feel it myself. For me, it's another film that I got to at the wrong point in life. Had I seen it 20 years earlier, who knows what my opinion would be?

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