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Winner: In the Heat of the Night


– Bonnie and Clyde

– Doctor Dolittle

– The Graduate

– Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

In the Heat of the Night ***1/2 out of ****

Director: Norman Jewison

Starring: Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier

Wins (5): Picture, Actor (Steiger), Adapted SP, Sound Mixing, Film Editing

Nominations  (7): Director, Sound Effects

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

In this adaptation of the John Ball novel, A black man is arrested in suspicion of the murder of a prominent business man in a small Mississippi town.  It turns out the suspect is actually a detective from Philadelphia, named Virgil Tibbs and whom “they” call MISTER Tibbs (Sidney Poitier).  He was returning home from visiting his mother when a local policeman took him into custody.  This small town is incredibly racist and after the Police Chief clears up the identify of Mr. Tibbs, it is decided that Virgil will stay and help Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger) solve this murder mystery.  Virgil basically shows these racist cops how true detective work is done by seeing things they don’t and exposing inefficiencies in their processes.  In the Heat of the Night has an impressive, stark color that really pops off of the screen.  Rod Steiger won Best Actor for a performance that you find yourself both laughing at and hating.  In the Heat of the Night is a serious drama with moments of true humor.  A film that deals with such blatant and outright racism, though not outlandishly slapping down that card, couldn’t have come at a more opportune time with the Civil Rights Movement at its height.  I will say that films with subjects so touchy tend to go too far or get too preachy.  This is not the case with In the Heat of the Night where the story and style come first.  The message is simply a byproduct.

Bonnie and Clyde  **** out of ****

Director: Arthur Penn

Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Estelle Parsons, Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard

Wins (2): Sup Actress (Parsons), Cinematography

Nominations (10): Picture, Director, Actor (Beatty), Actress (Dunaway), Sup Actor (Hackman), Sup Actor (Pollard), Original SP, Costume

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Bonnie and Clyde is one of my all-time favorite movies.  From the costume design, the filming techniques and even the swagger of the actors themselves, this film has tons of style.  Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway taunt the audience with their sickeningly good looks starring as the outlaw couple and all-American heroes, Bonnie and Clyde.  Faye Dunaway is never as stunning as she is in this film.  Bonnie and Clyde took violence to another level.  It went beyond a “shoot’em up” and supposedly “glorified” the murders that it portrays, though the film doesn’t really glorify as much as it makes light of.  Bonnie and Clyde pick up some fellow outlaws along the way and begin a reign of terror across the Central United States.  This collective gang turns into quite an ensemble cast including: Estelle Parsons, who won the Oscar, Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollardall, who all received acting nominations.  It’s a bit of a sham to say that the film glorifies these murders, when the actual Bonnie and Clyde were, at the time, thought of as sort of heroes who were fighting against the wicked banking system that strangled the lives of hard-working Americans during the Great Depression.  There are still people alive today who can remember when this happened.  Bonnie and Clyde is entertaining, well-made and has incredible style.

Doctor Dolittle 1/2out of ****

Director: Richard Fleischer

Starring: Rex Harrison

Wins (2): Original Song, Visual Effects

 Nominations (9): Picture, Original Score, Original Song Score, Art Direction, Cinematography, Sound Mix, Film Edit

Rotten Tomatoes: 32%

This movie is so bad I’m surprised Katherine Heigl isn’t in it.  It’s a musical and opener sounds like “Nobody solves a problem like Maria” and one of the main tunes sounds like “A Spoonful of Sugar”.  This is the only musical comparison to be made to those songs as the music in Doctor Dolittle is putrid.  Rex Harrison plays this fancy-pants ex-doctor turned veterinarian who can talk to animals.  He’s a pompous, yet harmless, and talkative fellow who pays little attention to anything except learning the languages of animals.  The film takes place in 1845.  There’s a completely ridiculous flashback “explaining” how he became a veterinarian that involves an unnecessary sequence of slapstick and a parrot suggesting he become a veterinarian.  That’s it.  The good Doctor Dolittle is accused of murder when he throws a seal dressed as a baby in the ocean.  He is sentenced to an insane asylum and then escapes with the help of his friends and animals.  He eventually goes on a quest with some friends to find the Big Pink Sea Snail when they get shipwrecked on an island.  Dolittle and his gang are to be put to death by the natives when he asks a whale to move the island, causing a chasm to be closed.  They are now treated as gods.  All of a sudden, they hear this giant sneeze and it’s the Big Pink Sea Snail, who is sick and who Doctor Dolittle heals.  So how could this film be nominated in a year where the other nominees are independent, stylistic and violent?  With a very heavy, wine-and-dine Oscar campaign.  The film was a debacle from the get-go.  Its budget went thrice over and the producers dropped the ball, big-time.  Rex Harrison’s supposed drunken antics only add to the fiasco.

The Graduate  ***1/2 out of ****

Director: Mike Nichols

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katherine Ross

Wins (1): Director

Nominations (7): Picture, Actor (Hoffman), Actress (Bancroft), Sup Actress (Ross), Adapted SP, Cinematography,

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%

I’ve never really been on the bandwagon, but with my third viewing it sunk in much more.  Mike Leigh directs two very solid films in back-to-back years.  The Graduate is the story of the over-achieving early college graduate, Benjamin Braddock, who comes home for the summer tired of the attention he receives from his parents’ rich friends and desperate to find his own identity.  Benjamin begins an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the wife of a good friend of his parents and the mother of a friend from school.  Dustin Hoffman perfectly plays the inexperienced and uncomfortable young man in a secret relationship with a woman twice his age.  Things get sour when her daughter comes home and, receiving pressure from his parents, he feels forced to take out the daughter of Mrs. Robinson, Elaine, played by Katharine Ross.  Mrs. Robinson, of course is furious.  Their subsequent date is perhaps one of the most uncomfortable scenes ever made; taking place at a strip club in order to turn her off.  However, the two hit it off soon after when he starts to feel bad and takes her somewhere else.  Just prior to their next date, Benjamin waits in his car in the rain when a desperate and deranged-looking Mrs. Robinson threatens Benjamin if he takes her out.  Everyone always speaks of the ending, but my favorite shot in the entire film is the dawn of understanding on Elaine’s face after she sees her mom through the door when Benjamin is about to reveal the name of the woman he’s been having an affair with.  Seeing her mother in the door, she realizes the very woman is her own mother.  The Camera slowly comes into focus from Mrs. Robinson to Elaine as Elaine’s own understanding comes into focus.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner  **1/2out of ****

Director: Stanley Kramer

Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier, Beah Richards, Cecil Kellaway

Wins (2): Actress (Hepburn), Original SP

Nominations (10): Picture, Director, Actor (Tracy), Sup Actor (Kellaway), Sup Actress (Richards), Adaptation Score, Art Directon, Film Editing

Rotten Tomatoes: 65%

Stanley Kramer is preachy. He has a knack for pointing his finger at the audience for being racist.  With 1965’s Ship of Fools and now Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Stanley Kramer loves to hold up a mirror to his audience and have them hate what they see.  Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a story about a rich, upper class white female, Joey, (Katherine Houghton) who is to be married to a middle class black male, Dr. John (Sidney Poitier).  The initial reactions of her mother (Katherine Hepburn) and father (Spencer Tracey) are meant to hit close to home.  Her father, Matt, is the editor of a liberal publication so his discontent at the outset easily exposes his hypocritical behavior.  The excuse her parents give is that Joey and John are moving too fast since the couple have barely known each other a fortnight.  Matt wrestles with their unfortunate situation throughout the entire film, which takes place in a span of mere hours.  Conveniently, John gets his parents to fly out to L.A. so that they can all wriggle around in this hotbed together.  It’s not surprising that their reactions also show some hint of racism.  In the end, it’s Matt, the right old white man, who preaches to everyone how wrong they are to be prejudice and how they should be more accepting.  This same old, white rich man who struggled more than any character in the film is now playing the part of preacher.  In actuality, John and Joey should’ve had the common courtesy to tell their parents that they’re engaged to a person of different color before dropping the bomb on her parents in front of the significant other.  Kramer’s message from his last two films is, “Everyone is a racist”.  He points out the problems without coming up with any sort of solution.  Kramer purposely creates racist reactions in people simply because they weren’t given the heads-up.  I know why it’s nominated and I’m not saying it shouldn’t be.  It’s a sensitive, yet timely subject, but I don’t think this film would fly today.


Should Have Won: Bonnie and Clyde

I realize that it’s not feasible that this film really could have won at the time, but this is my favorite of the 5.  I’m okay with In the Heat of the Night winning.  It’s a hot-button issue, but the film itself is legit.  In 1967, the country was in the midst of a very heated Civil Rights movement and the Best Picture nominees in the latter part of this decade definitely show it.  It’s quite remarkable how an industry can speak out in such a way as the movie industry has done.  You can literally take a country’s temperature by just watching the Academy’s opinion of the best films of these years.  There was another movement taking place at this time and it had to do with the movie industry.  Fading out are those prevalent and lengthy epic films with over dramatic acting and watered-down dialogue.  Coming in are those smaller, independent films with a true message, sex, violence and harsh realism.

 Other Films To Consider

Cool Hand Luke

In Cold Blood


Overall Year Score – 70%


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