The Apartment (winner)
Sons and Lovers
As is often the case, I find that there are a number of movies from the year in question that aren’t typically considered Oscar quality or caliber that I like quite a bit. Black Sunday has one of my favorite movie openings ever, but as a low-rent horror film, it’s not going to get a lot of play. Peeping Tom ruined the career of Michael Powell and wasn’t appreciated until decades later. Eyes Without a Face has the same problems as Black Sunday, as does Village of the Damned. On the foreign front, we have Breathless, Never on Sunday, and La Dolce Vita, any of which would make an interesting addition to the current list. Other interesting possibilities include Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Magnificent Seven, and Psycho, which did earn a nomination for Hitchcock. The biggest surprise miss in my opinion is Spartacus. I probably wouldn’t nominate it, but I’m a little shocked that it wasn’t. The biggest miss in my opinion, and it’s a big one, is Inherit the Wind.
Weeding through the Nominees
4. The Alamo has some of the same issues. At the very least, we have a big, ol’ battle to anticipate at the end of the film, but it takes a really long time for the movie to get there. It’s a two-hour slog to get to the point where I actually start to be interested in what is happening. Cut an hour out of the first two hours, and you have my attention. As it stands, though, there’s a lot of the first part of this film that genuinely doesn’t have my attention. It’s not a bad film; it’s just not one that I care too terribly much for.
3. Sons and Lovers is a queer duck of a nomination, and comes in third specifically (and only) because I liked it a little more than I liked both The Alamo and The Sundowners. It feels again like its nominations come specifically from being a film that is about the kind of things Oscar voters care about—an artist being held down by society and family and all of that yearning to break free in artistic expression. Fine, but it’s all so damn Freudian that I have trouble taking it that seriously. Like the first two I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t put this in the nominations given the ability to make my own list.
2. I was surprised by Elmer Gantry and liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Part of that comes from Burt Lancaster, Arthur Kennedy, and Shirley Jones. But it’s a much more compelling story than I would have thought going in. This is a film that explores religion in real ways, and I find it fascinating that in 1960 there would be a film that has an avowed atheist as its most moral character. My problem with the film is the ending, which I don’t really buy. That’s an issue, and it’s one that keeps it off the top position.
1. What we’re left with is The Apartment, and given the five movies that were nominated, it’s absolutely the clear choice here. This is one of Billy Wilder’s more interesting movies because it is so much a comedy and a romance and yet is simultaneously so dark in so many ways. I like The Apartment quite a bit, and, given the nominations, am happy to say that Oscar got the right pick. The problem is that the right films weren’t nominated. The Apartment should be in the mix, but it’s not what I would prefer as my winner for this year. Still, for what we have, it's the right choice
My choice is Inherit the Wind, which is ultimately one of my favorite movies of the decade let alone the year of 1960. It is that because the story is such a good one and because it is still completely relevant today. It is because of the wonderful performances of Fredric March and Spencer Tracy. It is because it demonstrates that Gene Kelly could do more than just dance and sing. There’s no good reason it was left out of the list of nominees, and had it been nominated, it would be my choice without any hesitation.