Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The Guns of Navarone
Judgment at Nuremberg (winner)
West Side Story
I’ve evidently seen fewer movies from 1961 than I thought I had, at least for this award. I don’t dislike the five nominees, to be honest, but there is some room. I should come clean from the start here, saying that there are two films that have a good reputation. I haven’t seen either The Children’s Hour or A Raisin in the Sun, though, so I can’t really comment on them. I have a fondness for Mysterious Island even though I know it’s pretty much goof nonsense. The subject matter may have kept The Mark off the docket for this award. If I had to add only one, my choice would be for The Innocents, which is scary and a solid adaptation of the source material.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. The Guns of Navarone is a movie that very much reminds me of my childhood. I grew up on war movies in no small part, and Navarone is a war film and an action film from start to finish. I like it more than my third and fourth place finishers. So why is it in fifth place? Because if I was making my own set of nominations across the board for this Oscar year, I might put this film in the running for some awards, but it would never occur to me to think about it for its screenplay. It doesn’t belong here.
4. Truthfully, I have trouble ranking these movies because I like three of them and understand the respect for the other two. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is being put near the bottom here for a few specific reasons. This is a film I want to like more than I do. It’s a film where Audrey Hepburn’s presence helps get over the fact that Holly Golightly is a pretty awful human being. It’s also a film that hasn’t really aged well thanks to a really racist performance from Mickey Rooney. So, while I understand the love, I can’t quite feel it myself.
3. Truthfully, West Side Story probably deserves to be higher than third place. I cannot fault the music and the songs, for instance—some of the songs are classics. I’ve said before, though, that I dislike the base story. Romeo and Juliet is probably my least favorite Shakespearean play, or at least my least favorite of the ones that are widely known. Because of that West Side Story is going to have an uphill battle getting me to appreciate it at all. Again, I get the love for it, but since I dislike the story itself, it doesn’t have a chance.
2. I think I can see voting for The Hustler for this award, and were this someone’s choice, I don’t think I would have a real issue with it (and honestly, I can say the same about West Side Story). I like a lot of the elements of The Hustler, in particular the way the characters play out across the screen. There’s so much to appreciate here. This is a deep film, one that digs far into just how broken people can be. It just feels a little too late. It feels like it should be more at home in the heart of the noir era rather than the start of the ‘60s.
1. This is a surprisingly strong year in terms of the nominations, and I admit that I’m hampered by having not seen The Children’s Hour and A Raisin in the Sun. While there may not be a ton of traditional snubs here, the five nominations are, generally speaking, strong. Judgment at Nuremberg is an important movie, one that brings up important moral points and difficulties. There is a great deal here, and the sort of film that works by putting good and evil not just against each other but on both sides of the conflict. It’s the sort of film that creates conversation after viewing, and that’s rare. It’s also a good indication that the film’s screenplay has done what it set out to do. It was the right choice.