Captain Newman, M.D.
Lilies of the Field
Sundays and Cybele
Tom Jones (winner)
There are some fine nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay 1963, but also a lot of snubs. Some of those are naturally the sort of films that don’t attract a great deal of attention come Oscar time. It should be worth noting that I’m not sure if The Birds would have been an eligible film. It’s based on a story by Daphne du Maurier, but I don’t know if it was a published story. As for those non-Oscar films, The Raven, a comedy “horror” film loosely based on Poe’s poem would never swing a nomination. The same is true of Black Sabbath. Sadly, it’s also true of the now-classic The Haunting. The Leopard and Contempt were going to be hard-sells based on their not being in English. I wouldn’t nominate Cleopatra, but I’m a little surprised it wasn’t nominated, something I could also say about The Cardinal. There are three films I think do belong here more than several of the nominees. The first is The Servant, although it might have been too dark for Oscar at the time. The Great Escape seems like a significant miss in this category. The biggest miss for me, though, is This Sporting Life.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. First, I’m getting rid of winner Tom Jones. While it’s nice that this is the film that made the career of Albert Finney, there’s not a lot here to recommend it. It’s little more than a fluff piece, and given the other movies released in 1963, I have no idea how it got this much acclaim or how it won anything, let alone Best Picture and this Oscar. If the Academy and its voters had any real sense, this wouldn’t have been able to sniff a nomination in this category.
4. Captain Newman, M.D. is one of those films that has no idea what it wants to be. Is it a drama? A comedy? Kind of both and kind of neither. That makes it difficult for me to look at it with a great deal of enjoyment when none of the parts of it are that great and none of the parts of it are representative of the film. The performances are good enough, but the story isn’t that interesting and I can’t think of a single reason to want to go back and watch it again. It’s in fourth only because it’s less offensive than Tom Jones in real ways.
3. With Lilies of the Field, we’re at least getting to movies that I think have some reason to be here, even if I wouldn’t nominate them myself. In this case, the problem isn’t that I dislike the movie, but that the story isn’t nearly the best part of it. For my tastes, this relies far too heavily on what I think is an uninteresting clash of personalities. I liked it well enough for what it is, but the best part of it is that Sidney Poitier is clearly having a great time in the role. It might be better than I’m giving it credit.
2. Sundays and Cybele is one of those movies I’m happy to have seen, but that is depressing enough that I’m not sure I want to watch it again any time soon. The story is a good one, and if I’m honest, if we’re going to have just one foreign language nominee for this year, this would be my pick. It’s the first nomination where I’m really comfortable that the film deserves to be here. It’s not my pick for the win, but in an open field, it’s the first one that would be somewhere in my list of nominations.
1. This means that, given the five nominations we have, that Hud is going to be my choice. Hud is one of those films that is absolutely dominated and driven by its performances, but it’s also a rare film that has those performances because of a tremendously powerful screenplay. I’m happy with this nomination, and had Hud walked off with the top prize, I would not have complained about it too much. Alas, we live in a world where that didn’t happen, and so I need to take more drastic measures.
Depending on the day that you ask me, my top two for this Oscar will be This Sporting Life and The Great Escape. It will really depend on my mood. I think This Sporting Life is probably the better movie in a lot of ways, but The Great Escape is the more important one, and definitely the one that I’m more likely to want to watch. Either one would work for me.