The Lion in Winter
Romeo and Juliet
This is such a strong year regardless of the actual nominees. As usual, let’s get rid of the ones like Witchfinder General that would never earn a nomination. We can put Targets in that category as well, along with Planet of the Apes and, sadly Night of the Living Dead, which has proven to be far more influential and important than anyone could have hoped. Interesting possibilities would include Bullitt and Ice Station Zebra. Had the Academy desired a foreign-language film in the mix, they could have done a lot worse than The Hour of the Wolf. Other interesting possibilities include The Swimmer, Rosemary’s Baby, and Once Upon a Time in the West. The big miss? The epic, “I can’t believe they missed it” nomination? 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. It’s generally believed that the win for Oliver! is more or less the last gasp of old Hollywood trying to flex its muscle. Based on the nominees, there’s no real reason beyond that that a film like Oliver! would be nominated, let alone win. While there’s nothing inherently terrible about the movie, there’s not a great deal that’s great about it, either. And, for whatever reason, I saw this pretty much every year as a kid on television. Well, I don’t have to watch it again, so I probably won’t.
4. Funny Girl reminded me in some ways of Cabaret. That’s a weird connection, I admit, so I should explain. I don’t like Sally Bowles from Cabaret as a character, but I sympathize with her to an extent. The same is true to a much lesser extent with Fanny Brice. I don’t like her as a character because she very much appears to be the sort of person who needs all eyes on her at all times. That’s a trait that bothers me, and because of it, I’m never going to get to a place where I like a movie about that sort of character.
3. We’re in similar territory with Romeo and Juliet. Any frequent readers here will likely recall my comments that I genuinely dislike the play, since that’s something I mention every time R&J shows up here in any respect. The best thing about this version of the story is that our title characters actually look the part and are close to the right ages. This is a decent enough version of the story. It’s pretty far more than it is good, and honestly, that’s all I really have to say about it. I wouldn’t bother to nominate it.
2. Rachel, Rachel is a very odd movie, one that is essentially a coming-of-age story for a 35-year-old woman. It’s not a movie I loved, but it’s the first of these nominees that I can say that I liked at all, and while it’s not a movie I would choose to watch again any time soon and I wouldn’t nominate it based on the other movies available, it’s at least something I think is worth watching and considering. It’s sad that in a year that is ultimately this good that my second-place finisher qualifies there by virtue of “I didn’t hate it.”
1. Of the five nominees, The Lion in Winter is head and shoulders above its closest rival and so far ahead of the others that it can’t see them it the rearview mirror. It’s also the only one of the five actual nominees that would make my list of five. In truth, had The Lion in Winter won this Oscar, I wouldn’t have been terribly upset, and while I think the statue should by rights go elsewhere, I would at least be content knowing that it had ended up in the hands of people who at least came close to earning it.
In the most perfect of worlds, Night of the Living Dead and Targets aren’t going to be nominated. Rosemary’s Baby would have a better chance, and 2001: A Space Odyssey would have a chance as well. All three would be better choices than the actual winner. If we put this in the realm of movies that could legitimately be nominated (thus leaving out Night of the Living Dead and Targets), I’d likely add Once Upon a Time in the West and Bullitt. While 2001 is a movie that I find slow, I can’t deny that it is great in all the best and most important ways, and that it is “best” in the ways that Oscar likes. Ultimately, that’s where I’m going even if it’s not my favorite movie of the year.