Friday, February 8, 2013

Best Picture Winners: 1963-1967

1963
Winner: Tom Jones
Director: Tony Richardson
Distributed by: Lopert Pictures

Tom Jones is a rare Oscar winner, as it was both foreign (British) and a comedy. Tom Jones is about a man (Albert Finney) who is the biggest player of all time, though he only truly loves one woman. Alas, she is of a different social class than he! He is but a commoner to her, though she shares his affections! So he travels around the world and has sex with everyone. Literally. Well, maybe not everyone, but almost every woman he meets. Did I mention this takes place in the 18th century? Well it does. The only reason this movie was even considered for contention was because the Hays code went out of style. The Hays code was basically Hollywood's censor for a few decades. That is, until TV could show you things movies couldn't. The movie has a funny sense of humor, as the whole beginning is portrayed as a silent movie, and Jones has a habit of breaking the 4th wall and speaking directly to the audience. An unusual comedy that ended up winning Best Picture. I haven't seen this one so I don't know if I can compare it to any comedies these days, but I sincerely doubt the Academy will go for any of the comedies that are around these days. Imagine The Hangover winning Best Picture. Yeah, not gonna happen. Tom Jones went up against some mediocre competition and it apparently had enough class to propel it to the grand prize.


1964
Winner: My Fair Lady
Director: George Cukor
Distributed by: Warner Bros.

My Fair Lady, also known as Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, also known as She's All That for modern audiences. Yes, they all follow the same basic premise: man is popular or of a higher social class, takes bet from big jerk that he can turn plain girl of lower social class into high class lady, man really falls in love, girl finds out about bet and gets angry at man, they reconcile in the end. The difference between the others and this one? This ones a musical, and not a terrible one at that. My Fair Lady was just the movie the Academy wanted at the time, something colorful and full of songs, not like Becket, Dr. Strangelove, or Zorba the Greek. The one other nomination that was in the same vein as My Fair Lady was Mary Poppins. For whatever reason though, the Academy liked My Fair Lady better. Dr. Strangelove is probably considered the real winner, as its legacy has lasted far longer than My Fair Lady. I guess people really liked Audrey Hepburn, even if someone else had to sing her part for her.


1965
Winner: The Sound of Music
Director: Robert Wise
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Wow, the Academy and Hollywood really like musicals for a while there. Don't worry. It'll change. The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and Nazis, is the story of a nun who becomes a governess, then marries a Navy man, then takes him and his children and run from Hitler. Oh, and there's a ton of singing. Hitler doesn't sing, though. This isn't Springtime for Hitler. The Sound of Music beat out Docter Zhivago, the epic David Lean film based off the Russian classic. I guess Nazi's attacking is better than Communists? The Sound of Music won five Oscars, including Director and Score and displaced Gone with the Wind as the highest grossing film of all time (though not in the long run). I'm sure the movie making a ton of money didn't hurt its Oscar chances.


1966
Winner: A Man for All Seasons
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

The biopic of saint and martyr, Sir Thomas More, delves into the predicament he was put into when King Henry VIII (or the ape as I called him when I was young) splits from the Catholic church, thus creating the Church of England. Paul Scofield plays More, a role which nabbed him a Best Actor Oscar. Scofield wasn't the first choice for More, as the producers feared his name wasn't big enough to draw in audiences. They asked Richard Burton but he declined. Laurence Olivier was considered next but Zinnemann was adamant on Scofield. Sometimes the director knows who's right for the part. Another fun fact: this was John Hurt's first major film role, playing the role of Richard Rich (aka Richey Rich). Probably the biggest competition for A Man for All Seasons was Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Here was the problem though; Woolf was nominated for all eligible categories. Yikes. It probably was Scofield's performance, because it beat out Woolf who was the favorite. Not nominated, but probably could have won that year were The Battle of Algiers and The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly. Honestly the western would have had my vote. Love that movie.



1967
Winner: In the Heat of the Night
Director: Norman Jewison
Distributed by: United Artists

Philadelphia Homicide detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is first accused of murder, then asked to help in the murder case in a bigoted town in Mississippi. Police Chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) is at first wary of the northern detective but by the end of the film, they have a mutual respect for each other. The film is probably best known for the line "They call me, Mr. Tibbs!" Of course, the first time my generation heard any reference to this film was Pumbaa's line in The Lion King, "They call me, Mr. Pig!" The movie was shocking to some audiences, as it should have been. Remember that we are smack dab in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, and this movie showed a black man striking a white man in retaliation. Honestly, the edgy-ness of the movie was probably what got it the Oscar. This is another one of those years where any one could have won and no one would have batted an eye. The other nominees were: Bonnie & Clyde, Dr. Doolittle, The Graduate, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Yeah, that's a tough one. Night ended up winning not only Best Picture, but Best Actor (Rod Steiger), Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Poitier wasn't nominated for either Guess Who or Night, but don't feel too bad, he was awarded Best Actor for his role in Lillies of the Field a few years earlier, becoming the first African-American to win in that category.

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