Ship of Fools
The Sound of Music (winner)
A Thousand Clowns
Based on the list of the five nominees, 1965 would seem to be a pretty paltry year, but it was quite a good one. Right off the top, Repulsion, The Train, Von Ryan’s Express, and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold seemed to be noteworthy enough to merit some attention. This was also the year for Thunderball, which is a better James Bond film than it’s usually given credit for being. Sadly, The War Game was made for BBC television, so it was ineligible. On the foreign front, we have Pierrot le Fou, The Shop on Main Street, The Battle of Algiers, and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The one I’m not sure about but think might make this list for me eventually is The Collector.
Weeding through the Nominees
5: My dislike of The Sound of Music is hardly news to regular readers of this site. It’s in my personal bottom-5 of Best Picture winners, so it’s showing up on the bottom here shouldn’t be a shock at all. I’ll admit good production values and even good casting and a few good songs, but this film is little more than diabetes on celluloid, and I plan to spend the rest of my life not watching it again. I’ve seen it multiple times and I’m done with it.
4: I know I watched Darling within the last 12 months, but I’ll be damned if I can recall much about it. I remember Julie Christie being fantastic and that’s about it. A great performance does not a Best Picture make, and that’s absolutely the case here. I suppose I also remember this being a film that I would have a hard time recommending, which also makes it a difficult case for Best Picture. It’s probably better than its position here, but when a film doesn’t leave a firm impression, it doesn’t bode well.
3: A Thousand Clowns sort of falls into the same category as Darling in the sense that I don’t have a great deal of memory of it. If I squint a little, I can get more of it back than I can of Darling, though. Still, it suffers the exact same problem in that the only thing it really has to recommend it, and that’s the singular performance of, in this case, Jason Robards. In an odd way, from what I recall of the two, there are some distinct similarities, but as often happens, the dissolute Robards character is more of a hero while the dissolute Christie character is a reprobate. Still, I like this film a little more.
2: The benefit that Dr. Zhivago has over the previous three films listed is that it is truly an epic in every sense of the word. It’s a grand story told against a grand backdrop, and for no other reason, it deserves a good amount of consideration. But while it is a grand story and a tragic romance, what I remember about it more than anything else is a bunch of close ups of Omar Sharif just on the verge of tears. I don’t have a lot of good memories of this film, but it does deserve some respect for the scope of the story and remaining understandable all the way thorugh.
1: This leaves us with Ship of Fools, and I have to admit, this is the saddest, weakest, and most unenthusiastic endorsement I’ve given to a film or a performance in this series so far. I thought Ship of Fools was a pretty good film, but I wouldn’t in a hundred years suggest that it was anything close to deserving of being a Best Picture film. I like the story and the way the whole thing works, but I can’t for a moment really think that it should have won. It’s the best of the five in my opinion, but I’d be tempted mightily to write in a different candidate.
For English-language films, the best of the year in my opinion were (in no specific order) Von Ryan’s Express, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and The Train. But in truth, 1965 is all about the foreign films with a very strong field. I would pick all four of the non-English films I listed above over all five of the nominees given, and if I had to pick one, I’d go with The Battle of Algiers or The Shop on Main Street.