1968

Main Events

 – Assassination of Martin Luther King

 – Assassination of Robert Kennedy

 – The first Big Mac

 – 60 Minutes debut

 – Launch of Apollo 8

Winner: Oliver!

Nominees:

– Funny Girl

– Rachel, Rachel

– The Lion in Winter,

– Romeo and Juliet

Oliver! ** out of ****

Director: Carol Reed

Starring: Ron Moody, Jack Wild

Wins (5): Picture, Director, Musical Score, Sound Mixing, Art Direction

Nominations (11): Actor (Moody), S Actor (Wild), Adapted SP, Costume Design, Cinematography, Film Editing

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

I don’t like this film one bit.  First off, I don’t like the music.  Second off, the film is way too long.  So, a musical with music you don’t like and a running time of 2 hours and 33 minutes can be pretty hard to bear.  If you’ve read any other Wizard of Oscar blog posts, then the excuse that a film is “too long” is starting to sound like a broken record, but running time is so important for a film.  If the film’s running time out lasts the grip of its subject matter, then it’s too long.  I’m also perplexed at the old derelict that lives in a dilapidated old house with about a dozen other boys who steal for him.  That’s pretty weird.  Sure the costumes are extraordinary and the sets monstrous and detailed, but it’s going to have to be much more than that for me to like it.  I don’t even think this should be nominated, but it’s the 60’s and it’s a musical so, naturally, it got the nomination.  It’s a weak story muddled with weak songs and typical stage acting.  I consider myself annoyed.

Funny Girl   ***1/2 out of ****

Director: William Wyler

Starring: Barbra Streisand, Omar Sharif

Wins (1): Actress (Streisand),

Nominations (7): Picture, S Actress (Medford), Musical Score, Original Song, Cinematography, Film Editing

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

This is my first Barbra Streisand film.  I’ve only ever known her as that old woman who sings (or so I’ve heard) and also who lots of other girl singers worship and idolize.  From the very beginning of this film it was very plain to see that she not only has an incredible amount of talent (both singing and acting), but that she’s funny, adorable and charming.  Funny Girl is a story of Fanny, an utterly talented young woman who quickly finds success at the Ziegfield theatre and becomes romantically involved with a rich, young man, named Nick (Omar Sharif), who has found his monetary success in the ways of gambling and betting.  Though Eric’s fortune has come from a less than wholesome means, their relationship is true.  They marry and as Fanny’s fame only increases, Eric’s clout and reputation seem to darken and he loses money until, ultimately, he reverts to an illegal scheme that lands him in prison.  Barbra Streisand tied with Katherine Hepburn for Best Actress, though Streisand easily had the better performance and deserved the win outright.  Funny Girl is a sincere film with decent music (“Don’t Rain on My Parade” and “People” being the token songs), made great mainly because of the talent, charm and lovability of Barbra Streisand.

Rachel, Rachel ***out of ****

Director: Paul Newman

Starring: Joanne Woodward, Estelle Parsons

Wins (0):

 Nominations (4): Picture, Actress (Woodward), S Actress (Estelle Parsons), Adapted SP

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

Paul Newman directs his wife, Joanne Woodward, in this character study of a middle-aged school teacher who still lives with her mother and never branches out, takes risks, dates or does anything that normal people do when they grow up.  No doubt contributing to her not cutting the chord is her still living in her childhood house, which is attached to a funeral parlor.  The film is about Rachel and her struggles at making honest attempts at breaking out of her timid stupor and doing her own things.  Rachel’s one true friend and fellow teacher, Calla, takes her to a weird church and then makes a move on her on the way home; further confusing our unfortunate spinster.  She dates an old high school friend a few times and of course it’s not until after he stops returning her calls that she has a pregnancy scare.  We get a glimpse of Rachel’s back story with flashbacks of her living in a house that is attached to a funeral parlor (i.e. coffins, bodies, death and what have you).  Eventually, Rachel comes to grips with herself, breaks free of her homebody ideology and boards a bus out of town.  Rachel, Rachel is a good film, though slow-moving and eventless, and Joanne Woodward gives a very good performance.  Did you know that Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were married for 50 years?  Wow.

The Lion in Winter  ***1/2 out of ****

Director: Anthony Harvey

Starring: Katherine Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Hopkins

Wins (3): Actress (Hepburn), Adapted SP, Original Score

Nominations (7): Picture, Director, Actor (O’Toole), Costume Design

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

Peter O’Toole once again plays King Henry II, but this time an older version.  (In 1964 he played a younger Henry II in Becket).  The Lion in Winter is a smartly written, stagey film about the dignified disagreement between Henry and his wife, Eleanor, who is played by Katherine Hepburn.  The two disagree over which of their 3 sons should inherit the throne.  The film is quite Shakespearean in that it’s full of manipulative characters with their scheming and back stabbing and hiding behind curtains.  Of all the costume dramas or play adaptations from the Medieval/Elizabethean times, The Lion in Winter is the best.  The script is very good and the film itself seems to be completely relevant to the history of the matter, but with witty banter and smart dialogue written in.  The acting, editing and cinematography do their part to bring the film up to a level of legitimacy and of course, it’s not too long!  However, The Lion in Winter is not without its medieval cliché’s, though I think tongue-in-cheek.  One that always sticks out to me with movies like this is the horrible table manners shown by some of the characters.  The tearing of the meat off the bone with the teeth and the greasy mouths and the chugging from the goblets takes place in The Lion in Winter, but here it’s perhaps done amusingly, much like in Tom Jones (1963).  The film takes place at Christmas time and there’s a great line that sums up this royal families’ dysfunction when Peter O’Toole asks, “What shall we hang, the holly or each other?”  A sarcastic and witty Katherine Hepburn (tied for Best Actress with Streisand) is absolutely the best part of the film.  As Henry and Eleanor fight and bargain for their favored sons, the sons themselves fight and parlay amongst each other.  This would have made a great musical.

Romeo and Juliet ** out of ****

Director: Franco Zeffirelli

Starring:

Wins (2): Costume Design, Cinematography

Nominations (4): Picture, Director

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

I just didn’t feel this version.  There’s nothing altogether new and fresh about it, at least watching it 40 years later there isn’t.  It’s obviously a product of the late 60’s, but whether or not the filmmaker marked this film with a 60’s vibe purposely still has me skeptical.  In this rendition, Romeo and Juliet are quite young, which from what I understand, more accurately reflects the age of the young lovers in Shakespeare’s play from which it was based, so I guess that could be something new.  The costumes are brightly colored and the families can be discerned by this scheme.  The Capulets are bright orange while the Montagues sport a dark green.  Romeo and Juliet is set in a small Italian town with cobble stoned streets and closely connected buildings interspersed with narrow, hilly alleyways.  One of the big problems I had with the film was its apparent voice-overs.  It really is distracting watching a movie powered by beautiful, lyrical dialogue when the actors have been dubbed over in post production.  The film won the Oscar for Cinematography and it is indeed well framed and shot, but there wasn’t much for competition that year except for, Oh, I don’t know, maybe 2001: A Space Odyssey, which didn’t even get a nomination?  Head scratcher there.  Also, Romeo looks like Zack Efron.

FINAL VERDICT

Should Have Won:          2001: A Space Odyssey

Of the nominated films, Funny Girl should have won.  If I can take my pick of any film, then it goes to 2001 A Space Odyssey.  1968 is one of the more boring years of the decade and the Best Picture nominees, as a whole, left me rather uninspired.  Another big, stagey musical took home the best picture and all 5 of the Best Picture nominees were adapted from another source, which further iterates my point of it being a boring year.  There were just no great films with an original idea.  2001: A Space Odyssey earned a Best Director nomination for Stanley Kubrick and I think there’s no question that it should have been nominated for Best Picture. There’s one year left in the decade and I’m beginning to get a little antsy knowing that the 1970’s is just one post away, now.

 Other Films to Consider

Rosemary’s Baby

The Producers

2001: A Space Odyssey

The Battle of Algiers

 

Overall Year Score – 70%

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