Saturday, February 9, 2013

Best Picture Winners: 1968-1972

Winner: Oliver!
Director: Carol Reed
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

Oliver! is the film based off the Broadway musical based off the Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist. You all know the tale; a orphan boy falls under the influence of pickpockets but longs for a real family. Y'know, Oliver & Company! This film marks the end of the Academy's love affair with musicals, as it probably realized after awarding this one Best Picture that they had made a terrible mistake. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine film, but better than Romeo and Juliet and The Lion in Winter? Not even close. Not even nominated that year was 2001: A Space Odyssey, Night of the Living Dead, Planet of the Apes, and The Producers. I really don't know how to explain Oliver!'s win except by pointing at the Academy's obsession with musicals. My sister completely disagrees with my sentiments on Oliver!, because it holds  a special place in her heart. In other words, she watched it 50 million times when she was little. It was even the first musical that she watched. I can appreciate it too, but please sir, we don't want some more. A funny thing about this Oscar year: Barbara Streisand caused a controversy when she voted for herself for Best Actress, thus causing a tie between her and Katherine Hepburn. Streisand wasn't supposed to be able to vote, but the Academy waived the two year waiting period, thus letting her vote. This was the first and last time that two actresses won the award at the same time.

Winner: Midnight Cowboy
Director: John Schlesinger
Distributed by: United Artists

The Academy apparently regretted its decision from last year and went with a film that was a complete polar opposite to Oliver! Instead of dealing with a lovable orphan looking for a family, this film dealt with a Texas native (John Voight) who moved to New York City to become a male prostitute. Did I mention that this is the only X-rated film to win Best Picture, and probably the last? It was initially given an R rating but when a psychologist analyzed the film, they recommended that it be rated X for the homosexual scenes. Two years later the scope for an R rating was widened and the film became rated R when it was reissued without any scenes being altered. This one still confuses me, because I've always kind of assumed that the Oscar voters were a bunch of old people (they aren't) that had very specific tastes. The Academy will surprise you every once in a while, though it's not always good. Never seen this one personally, so I can't tell you whether or not it was the right call or not. Others will say that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid should have won that year. All that I know is that Hello Dolly didn't win, and that was a sign that musicals were officially dead to the Academy.Oh, and in case you ever wondered where "Hey, I'm walking here!" came from, it's from this movie. It wasn't staged either, Hoffman almost got ran over and he ad-libbed.

Winner: Patton
Director: Franklin J. Schaffer
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Patton is another film that I saw in high school history class. In fact, I think every movie my teacher showed us was winner of Best Picture except for Zulu (the others being All Quiet on the Western Front and Amadeus). Patton is a biopic of the effective, yet infuriating general for the U.S. during the Second World War. I can see why the Academy went with this film; it had a remarkable performance by George C. Scott as Patton and and intriguing story to boot (namely the slapping incident). Not to mention it has a ton of iconic scenes (opening in front of U.S. flag) and memorable lines (Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!). Scott would win the Oscar for his performance but famously refused it, as he disagreed with the whole notion of acting competitions. It didn't stop the Academy from nominating him later for The Hospital. This is a semi-controversial year, as some feel that Altman's M*A*S*H* should have taken home the prize. Other nominees like Five Easy Pieces, Airport, and Love Story weren't as close to the big prize. Wait....they nominated Love Story? Ewwwwwww. You really can't go wrong with either Patton or M*A*S*H*, so if you're in the mood for a war related movie, check both of these out.

Winner: The French Connection
Director: William Friedkin
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

 Another Oscar winner that I've seen, but don't remember all that much about. Except for the car chase scene. That's probably the most famous part of the whole movie and also what helped it nab the win over A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, The Last Picture Show, and Nicholas and Alexandra. I can't really imagine A Clockwork Orange winning, but they went with Midnight Cowboy, so what do I know? The film deals with two narcotics cops (Gene Hackman and Roy Schnieder) stumbling onto a massive heroin ring with a French connection. Like I said, the chase scene was a first of its kind and is still impressive today. Friedkin edited the whole chase scene while listening to Santana's "Black Magic Woman," giving the whole chase a "sort of a pre-ordained rhythm." Now I'm actually a little curious how it would look with that music playing instead. The film won not only Best Picture, but Best Director (Friedkin), and Best Actor (Gene Hackman) among others. The French Connection had a sequel years later with Hackman, but nobody cares about it.

Winner: The Godfather
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

What I can I say about the film that hasn't already been said? It's got incredible acting, amazing cinematography, and a great director to boot. You've got Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, Al Pacino as the reluctant college educated youngest son, Michael Corleone, James Caan as the hot head Sonny Corleone, and Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, the informally adopted son and family lawyer. I could go on and on with all the big name actors. Do yourself a favor and see this movie if you haven't already. Even if you don't like gangster movies, you can't help but be enthralled by the Corleone family. The Godfather won handily, but don't think it wasn't a competitive year. Cabaret and Deliverance were up for the Oscar too, and they aren't slouches. In fact, they probably could have won in any other year, but instead they faced The Godfather, considered one of the best movies of all time. The film only won three Oscars, however. Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Brando became the second Best Actor winner to refuse his Oscar, and instead sent Sacheen Littlefeather, an aspiring actress and Native American to read why he didn't want the award. Brando had written 15 pages that detailed the wrong-doings of the film industry unto Native Americans. When producers found out, they told Littlefeather to be off in 60 seconds or else she would be physically removed. Roger Moore (who was presenting the award) kept the Oscar until an armed guard from the Academy came by to pick it up. Littlefeather's acting career didn't take off after this point. Brando later claimed that all he wanted to do was bring the plight of the Native American people to public knowledge.

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