Friday, November 28, 2014

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 1965

The Contenders:
Darling
Dr. Zhivago
Ship of Fools
The Sound of Music (winner)
A Thousand Clowns

What’s Missing

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.

My Choices

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.

Final Analysis

20 comments:

  1. I've seen The Sound of Music (it's been a while) and A Thousand Clowns (I like it lots) but I haven't seen any of the other nominees. I agree you have to go looking elsewhere for the best movies of 1965.

    The Battle of Algiers and The Shop on Main Street are both great choices.

    My own personal favorite movies for 1965 (It's a tie that I doubt I will ever resolve) are Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and What's New, Pussycat! They weren't likely to have been nominated for anything in 1965.

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  2. (Actually, I think I have seen Ship of Fools, but I don't remember what happened. I sort of remember a really really great and diverse cast not really doing anything. Does that sound accurate? Or am I getting it mixed up with something else?)

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    1. I think you just like movies with the word "pussycat" in the title. I should also mention that 1965 is the year of record for Vinyl, which is the worst movie I've ever seen.

      And yes, that's about right for Ship of Fools. There's a lot of pre-war fascist overtones to it, but it's pretty talkie and not much action-y. Great cast, though, and well written.

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    2. Hey, 1965 was a great year for movies with "pussycat" in the title!

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  3. My insulin levels are clearly better regulated than yours. I'd go for Zhivago, but TSOM was the blockbuster of the 60s and still beloved by millions (also hated by million including you).

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    1. Oh, I fully understand exactly why The Sound of Music won, and on a very real level, it was probably the best pick of the five. I just hate it.

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  4. My mom and sister watched The Sound of Music a lot when I was a kid, but I probably haven't sat down and watched it in 25 years. I've seen that and A Thousand Clowns, but neither jumps out at me as being a top pick. The obvious one is definitely The Battle of Algiers, though I know it isn't the type that wins Best Picture. I watched it earlier this year and was blown away by it.

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    1. That's pretty much my thinking, too. It's a hell of a great movie, and it should've gotten some love more than just the nominations it got.

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  5. Dr. Zhivago and Sound Of Music are both ok for me. Overlong epics with high and low points. Battle of Algiers and The Shop On Main Street are two of the best films I have seen period. Great choices.

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    1. I'm with you there. I'd pick either of those over all five of the actual nominees.

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  6. From those that I've seen, For A Few Dollars More is the best film of 1965, hands down...!

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    1. There are always a few that I miss. That's a good one.

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  7. From the five contenders, I'd pick Dr Zhivago. Not limiting myself, Repulsion would have won.

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    1. I can get behind both of those, even if I disagree with both of those assessments.

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  8. This will be no surprise to you, but I'd have The Sound of Music as the winner of the five nominees. Julie is definitely my pick for the worst nominee that year.

    Among the non-nominees I agree that The Battle of Algiers is definitely worthy of a nomination, at the very least.

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    1. I think you mean Darling instead of Julie.

      I get all of the The Sound of Music love and I don't give anyone grief over it. In a lot of ways, it really is the best-made film of the five nominees, so I completely understand why it did win...although it won in a pretty weak field.

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    2. Yes, Darling as played by Julie Christie. I thoroughly disliked her character.

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    3. I think we're supposed to dislike her.

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  9. A Thousand Clowns has always been a personal favorite mine, though I'm still a little surprised it was nominated for Best Picture. I disagree with you on Vinyl in that I think Blonde Cobra is much worse. I like many of Stanley Kramer's movies, though not too keen on Ship of Fools. I can understand why people hate or love The Sound of Music. It's almost as divisive as A Clockwork Orange! But I think both of your top two choices are good ones. I can go with those two.

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    1. While I still maintain Vinyl as the worst thing I've ever seen, Blonde Cobra would certainly fly in those same circles.

      This was such a weird year for nominees. I get why The Sound of Music is probably the right choice beyond my personal objections, but none of them really seem to fit for me.

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