President: John F. Kennedy
Height of Cold War: Soviet missiles detected in Cuba
U.S. established presence in Vietnam
John Glenn first American to orbit the Earth
Winner: Lawrence of Arabia
– The Longest Day
– The Music Man
– Mutiny on the Bounty
– To Kill a Mockingbird
Director: David Lean
Starring: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn
Wins (7): Picture, Director, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction (Color), Cinematography (Color), Film Editing
Nominations (10): Actor (O’Toole), S. Actor (Sharif), Adapted SP
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
I’m not on the Lawrence of Arabia bandwagon. It is quite unnecessarily 3 hours and 36 minutes long. The film would benefit if only just a half-hour shorter in length, which could easily be attained if the lengthy segue shots of the desert were cut. These shots, both frequent and long in nature, exist purely to emphasize just how big the desert is. We get it. The endless running time is a true homage to that. However, the length is really the only negative thing I can say. Technically, Lawrence of Arabia is a great film and I suppose I can begin to understand how it was voted Best Picture in 1962. It fits the Best Picture criteria. It was based on an actual person. It starts off with the death of the main character and goes back to tell how this individual came to prominence. It recounts history. It involves war. These types of films are what we call “Oscar Bait”. At the end of the day, there are some over-indulgences that prevent me from appreciating it.
Lawrence arrives back at the military base after a long journey through the dessert with his non-British friend. They are extremely dirty and worn. Lawrence orders himself and his friend lemonade as the other soldiers look on completely stunned.
Final Verdict: Should have been nominated.
The Longest Day **** out of ****
Starring: Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Kenneth Moore, Richard Todd, Red Buttons, John Wayne, Irina Demick
Wins (2): Cinematography (B&W), Visual Effects
Nominations (5): Picture, Art Direction (B&W), Film Editing
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
The Longest Day is a fantastic and realistic war film. I got the impression that the film exists more to education than to entertain, yet it does both. The Longest Day does things in story-telling that I’m sure paved the way for later films. For instance, the film will introduce a character via subtitles on the screen as the scene (and dialogue) progresses. It’s all so nonchalant and subtle. The film may not reference the title of this character again. The Longest Day focuses on the events leading up to and occurring on D-Day (June 6, 1944) and is based on the novel by the same name written by Cornelius Ryan. It gives an overview of those events and from what I understand is fairly accurate. The film cuts back and forth through several storylines that unfold in several different countries throughout the film. These storylines cohesively merge, although in separate locations, into one huge inter-related sequence of events that is still being remembered today. I appreciated the fact that those scenes occurring in foreign countries used the native language of those countries with English subtitles; giving it a level of authenticity. This too had to be something not too often done prior to this film. The Longest Day employed up to 6 different directors. It’s got an all star cast, but not once was I distracted by the cameos. Rather, I was absolutely convinced of these characters. The Longest Day is one of the best war films out there and provides a great history lesson.
Final Verdict: Should have been nominated
Director: Morton DaCosta
Starring: Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hacket, Ron Howard
Wins (1): Adapt Score
Nominations (6): Picture, Sound Recording, Art Direction (C), Costume Design (C), Film Editing
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
The Music Man embraces its play-like atmosphere by keeping that “stagey” appearance in every scene. The set design is crafted incredibly and the cinematography gives us the feeling that these sets never end. It definitely earned its technical nominations that year. The song and dance numbers are pretty campy, but they are so well executed that one can look past that to see the true accomplishment and appreciate it. This film too is pretty long clocking in at 2 ½ hours. There are no real stand outs as far as great songs go, but all in all it’s a decent film. However, it doesn’t belong in the Best Picture discussion.
The opening scene on the train where the salesmen sing along with the sounds of the train is a great scene. It’s got a fantastic set that looks in at the side of the train from the outside as if the outer wall was removed.
Final Verdict: Should not have been nominated
Director: Lewis Milestone
Starring: Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, Richard Harris
Nominations (7): Picture, Original Score, Original Song, Art Direction (C), Cinematography (C), Film Editing, Visual Effects
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Mutiny on the Bounty is another attempt at adapting the classic novel written by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall in 1932 and which is based on an actual mutiny that occurred in 1789. The story is of Captain William Bligh who treats his men horribly. Bligh is played by Trevor Howard and the protagonist, Fletcher Christian, is played by Marlon Brando. Brando took a good bit of criticism due to his poor British accent, but I didn’t think he was that bad. The ship ventures off to a Pacific island where endless amounts of grass-skirted women dance to drums and stand side-by-side in the crystal clear water. Lots of time in the film is spent on these types of shots and I couldn’t help but think it was to show off its cinematography, which used the Ultra Panavision 70 Widescreen process (first film credited to use this) and provides an incredibly wide aspect ratio. Mutiny on the Bounty is just under three hours, but could have easily been edited into two hours. It’s not necessarily a bad movie, but the fact that it is so long really takes away from the rest of the film. Too much time is spent on the mundane. One positive thing about the film is the beautiful and bright cinematography. Films involving ships and oceans have opportunities to let the cinematography shine and Mutiny on the Bounty does so. It’s problem is that it doesn’t know when to stop.
Final Verdict: Should not have been nominated
Director: Robert Mulligan
Starring: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, Robert Duvall
Wins (3): Actor (Peck), Adapted SP, Art Direction (B&W)
Nominations (8): Picture, Director, S. Actress (Badham), Original Score, Cinematography (B&W)
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the greatest movies ever made. Based on the book by Harper Lee, the film already has a great story to go on. It helps that the casting is perfect and Robert Mulligan’s direction could not have been better. This is Gregory Peck’s greatest performance (he won the Oscar) and the authenticity of the southern dialect in the film keeps it real. In fact, this film gives a strikingly accurate depiction of life in the South during that time period. This is quite often performed as a play and you get that sense in some scenes, but the film doesn’t hold itself to that. It goes bigger when it needs to, but effectively uses that stage feel when it benefits the film. One of best things about To Kill A Mockingbird are the children, Dil, Scout, played by Mary Badham and nominated for Supporting Actress, and Jem, played by Phillip Alford. The idea of innocent kids running around, playing hard and getting into shenanigans strikes a chord with me.
Final Verdict: Should have been nominated.
Other Films Not Nominated
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: James Mason, Shelley Winters, Sue Lyon, Peter Sellers
Nominations (1): Adapted SP
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Lolita is a very entertaining film considering it’s about a man, Humbert, so infatuated with a young girl, Lolita, played by Sue Lyon, that he marries her mother so that he can be near her. The mother, played by Shelley Winters, is deprived of affection and attention and turns to Humbert, played by James Mason, to fill the void. There’s also the mysterious purpose and presence of Clare Quilty, who is played by Peter Sellers. It’s a fascinating and enjoyable film, even if the subject matter is disturbing. However, it is very impressive how Kubrick keeps the film at a slightly comedic level and doesn’t veer too far over into seriousness. I’m sure that was a complicated task to undertake, but it’s executed brilliantly. Lolita is early Stanley Kubrick and doesn’t contain much of the signature style that one finds in his later films. It’s great to see a legendary director’s early work for perspective on how he’s developed over time. Lolita isn’t without style, though. It is a great film and one that belonged in the Best Picture race.
Final Verdict: Should have been nominated instead of The Music Man.
Director: Arthur Penn
Starring: Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke
Wins (2): Actress (Bancroft), S. Actress (Duke)
Nominations (5): Director, Adapted SP, Costume Design (B&W)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
The Miracle Worker is a truly wonderful film with exceptional acting and direction. From the first scene to the last, every performance, whether over-dramatic or subtle, is perfectly done. The darker lighting creates an ominous mood for the audience as we embark on a very trying period of time in which the teacher, Annie Sullivan, played by Anne Bancroft, struggles with the deaf, blind and dumb, Helen Keller, played by Patty Duke. Bancroft and Duke both won Oscars for Lead and Supporting Actress, respectively. This film, like so many others from this year, has that play feel and it works just as well as the best of them.
The opening scene where Helen’s parents see how she has become unresponsive is both an intense and stylistically melodramatic scene. The scene where Anne Sullivan attempts to make Helen eat from the table like a normal person is exhausting with the slightest hint of slapstick. One can see just how physically demanding the parts for these to women were in this scene.
Final Verdict: Should have been nominated instead of Mutiny on the Bounty
Should Have Been Nominated:
– The Longest Day
– The Miracle Worker
– Lawrence of Arabia
For me, this is no contest. To Kill a Mockingbird is both one of the greatest books ever written and films ever made. It does and will continue to stand the test of time. It seems to exist in several different genres. It’s a courtroom drama, it deals with race, it’s a depiction of life in the South and it’s based on a play. It is a perfect film. At the time I can only assume that Lawrence of Arabia was just larger than life. Come to think of it, if these films were to come out today, I bet Lawrence of Arabia would still win. It’s Oscar Bait through and through. But for me, To Kill a Mockingbird leaves the other films in the dust.