Peter Glenville: Becket
Stanley Kubrick: Dr. Strangelove
Robert Stevenson: Mary Poppins
George Cukor: My Fair Lady (winner)
Michael Cacoyannis: Zorba the Greek
Looking at the nominations in general for 1964, I have to wonder if the Academy realized that there were more than five movies released in this year. The nominations for Best Director are exactly the same as those for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Certainly there are some other options here. In the “I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard good things” category we have Cy Endfield and Zulu, Don Siegel’s version of The Killers, Arthur Hiller and The Americanization of Emily, and Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe, which I literally have sitting on my desk at the moment. On the “not in English” front, we have Vittorio de Sica and Marriage Italian-Style, Phillipe de Broca’s interesting That Man from Rio, Jacques Demy and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and Kaneto Shindo’s work in Onibaba. I’d want to nominate Hiroshi Teshigahara for The Woman in the Dunes as well, but he was nominated the following year. Bryan Forbes for Séance on a Wet Afternoon might make the cut from me, as might Samuel Fuller and The Naked Kiss. One of the films with the longest impact from1964 is A Hard Day’s Night, and much of that comes from Richard Lester.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I didn’t like Zorba the Greek as much as I thought I would in part because it wasn’t the movie that I thought it was going to be. That’s not specifically Michael Cacoyannis’s fault, but he is the man responsible for the film. That’s also not why the film and Cacoyannis are landing in fifth. No, the reason is that I’m not sure what he actually did that is particularly noteworthy here. It’s a fine film for what it is and the direction is good, but I don’t particularly see it as anything that noteworthy, especially with the films that were left off.
4. I can say about the same thing for Peter Glenville and Becket. It’s a fine movie with two tremendous performances, but beyond those performances, I’m not sure what Glenville did here. When you consider that those two monster performances came from Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole, Glenville’s accomplishment at directing them seems a bit diminished. Again, while the movie is good and Glenville is certainly at least partially responsible for that, with the directors who were left off here, I don’t think he belongs.
3. I rather like My Fair Lady and I like a lot of the work of George Cukor. I think it could be fairly argued that Cukor, who in 1964 earned his fifth nomination and first Oscar win, won because he hadn’t before despite being so important in the earlier days of Hollywood. His nomination for My Fair Lady came more than 30 years after his first nomination, and Oscar certainly has a history of giving lifetime achievement awards to people in the guise of a competitive one. Sure, Cukor deserved an Oscar in his career. He just didn’t earn this one.
2. Of these five movies, Mary Poppins is my least favorite. I understand that a great number of people have fond memories of it and view it through a haze of nostalgia, but I’m not one of them. These days, it’s nothing particularly special to direct actors essentially in front of a green screen, but in 1964, it was considerably rarer. Stevenson managed to do this and make a coherent film despite a good part of it not being there. I like this nomination despite not loving the film, and I could even see arguing for Stevenson to win.
1. There are some people who don’t like Dr. Strangelove. I know this because every time I mention the movie on this blog, someone comments how they don’t really like the movie that much, and it’s not always the same person. Regardless, this is my blog and I get to pick the winner I want, and for 1964, that winner is Stanley Kubrick. The genius of the film is that everyone plays it completely straight when there is nothing straight about the entire film. Everything builds from that, and it’s what makes the whole thing work. Kubrick wins.