The Lion in Winter (winner)
The Odd Couple
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I am actually a little surprised that Oliver! didn’t win this despite my believe that it doesn’t belong anywhere near a nomination. I did win Best Picture, though, and it would have been a very safe choice. I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong with it as a movie, except that it is safe, and the kid playing the title role is a complete non-entity. Truthfully, I’m going to be biased here in the best of circumstances. I’ve never been much of a fan of Charles Dickens, so an adaptation of Dickens has an uphill fight here.
4. Rachel, Rachel is a difficult film, and not one I would choose to revisit very often, if ever again. It contains a very good performance from Joanne Woodward, and at least some of that has to come from the screenplay. But does it really belong here? Ultimately, while it concerns the life of a 35-year-old woman, it is also a coming-of-age story, and in that respect, it hits a lot of clichés. It’s as if The 40-Year-Old Virgin was made decades earlier and made to be taken seriously. That’s an uphill fight, too.
3. I like The Odd Couple well enough, but I think it tends to suffer from what most Neil Simon plays and screenplays suffer from: it’s far too clever for its own good. No one in the world really talks like a Neil Simon character. That’s fine for science fiction or fantasy or horror, but not when your main characters are real people in the real world. No one is that snappy with a comeback, and very few people are as extreme as Oscar and Felix. Give me a little time to think about it, and I might switch this with Rachel, Rachel for fourth.
2. The Lion in Winter won this Oscar, and I don’t want to be the person to take it away, regardless of the fact that it wouldn’t be my choice. This is a case where Oscar chose very, very well. I can’t really argue against Oscar’s choice here at all except to say that I would pick a different film. This is a tight and vicious little screenplay, one that is filled with anger and vitriol and the kind of dialogue that comes from years of contempt. In most years in the ‘60s, it would be my choice without any thought, and it’s damn close here. It’s a fine choice, but not my choice.
1. That goes to Rosemary’s Baby, a film so good that in one of Oscar’s least favorite genres and in a year where the old guard was clinging by its fingernails enough to reward Oliver! for Best Picture, it still managed to swing two nominations and a win for Ruth Gordon. Sure, Polanski’s direction helps this movie a great deal, but that direction depends on a screenplay that is perfectly paced and contains just enough mystery to make doubts plausible until the very end. More than fifty years later, it’s a stunner, and should have won.