1969

Main Events

 – Nixon in the White House

  – The Beatles’ last public performance

 – Led Zeppelin I released

  – The Godfather novel is published

  – Apollo 11 lands on the moon

Winner: Midnight Cowboy

Nominees:

– Anne of the Thousand Days

– Cool Hand Luke

– Hello, Dolly!

– Z


Midnight Cowboy ***1/2 out of ****

Director: John Schlesinger

Starring: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman

Wins (3): Director, Picture, Adapted SP

Nominations (7): Actor (Voight), Sup Actor (Hoffman), Sup Actress (Miles), Film Edit

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

Midnight Cowboy is a classic case, if not a depressing one, of the fish out of water formula.  Joe Buck (John Voight) washes dishes in Texas and thinks he can pack it up and waltz right into Manhattan and start working as a male escort exploiting all of the old, bored, rich women living in the city.  His first encounter is a complete disaster and he quickly goes through is cash reserves.  But Joe is a harmless individual who didn’t have a chance in this big city from the word go.  Joe, a self-proclaimed con-man, himself gets conned by a ratty, greasy character, named Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman).  After a few days of continued bad luck and further decent into poverty, Joe is forced to move into the gaunt and derelict apartment that Rizzo lives in.  They live in dank and horrible conditions with very little food and no money, but I suppose the real story here is their friendship.  Midnight Cowboy had an X rating at the time it won Best Picture, though that seems a harsh rating even for 40 years ago.  Midnight Cowboy emanates a feeling of despair and is a dark story of two individuals who have hit the complete and rockiest of bottoms.  From an almost tongue-in-cheek beginning to its dark second half, Midnight Cowboy takes us on an odd journey.  Voight and Hoffman each earn acting nominations for very good performances.   The ending is eerily comparable to The Graduate.

Anne of the Thousand Days  ** out of ****

Director: Charles Jarrott

Starring: Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, Anthony Quayle

Wins (1): Costume Design

Nominations (9): Picture, Actor (Burton), Actress (Bujold), Sup Actor (Quayle), Adapted SP, Original Score, Sound Mix, Art Direction, Cinematography

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%

Here we have yet another movie about Henry VIII, but this time the part of the king is played by Richard Burton.  Anne of the Thousand Days coincides with the 1966 Best Picture winner, A Man For All Seasons, but focuses on the king himself and his efforts to secure a divorce and wed his mistress, Anne Boelyn, the sister of another mistress of his.  There’s absolutely nothing special about this film.  It’s your typical costume drama with big sets and flamboyant costumes.  It’s a long film with nothing really going for it except for the fact that it stars Burton and also includes a pretty decent performance by Genevieve Bujold, though somewhat over dramatic.  Anne of the Thousand Days is a ho-hum addition to a decade full of watered-down, epic, Medieval/Elizabethan era films.  When you’re not the first on the bandwagon, you need to bring something new to the table.  This film does not.  Instead, it copies it’s predecessors in more ways than just subject and style (or lack thereof).  Anne of the Thousand Days starts off at the signing of Anne Boelyn’s death warrant, flashes back to the days just prior to the affair of Henry and Anne and then brings us back up to date.  This is very much like the format of Becket, a Medieval film and also starring Richard Burton, that starts off with King Henry II weeping at the grave of Thomas Becket and telling the story precisely as described above.  Was there a demand for such a film back in the 1960’s?  Do we really need another one of these films?  What is with the fascination of this time period by this generation past?

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid **** out of ****

Director: George Roy Hill

Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katherine Ross

Wins (4): Original SP, Original Score, Original Song, Cinematography

 Nominations (3): Picture, Director, Sound Mix

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

This film had me hooked from its opening scene.  Conrad Hall’s beautifully sleek cinematography helps put this Western in its place as one of the greatest films ever.  The Black and Gold filtered style of the opening card scene is reminiscent of what a photo taken on that day and left to age until now would look like; time-worn and faded.   Parts of the film even have the edges blacked out to give it that older look.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford, the Clooney/Pitt combination of the 60’s and 70’s.  Our two train and bank robbers take their sidekick, Etta, played by a very beautiful Katherine Ross and head up to New York City in what is a wonderfully creative time-lapse montage of old piano bar music coupled with black and white pictures depicting the trio doing many different things in the city.   They then head to Bolivia where, after robbing many banks, they go clean and briefly work as payroll guards.  It’s rare to find a Western of this quality, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of the best there is.  The duo of Newman and Redford getting into trouble, always on the go and always giving each other a hard time works so well here as there certainly is a bit of humor mixed in.  Credit must be given to the strong screenplay by William Goldman along with the great acting, but it’s the cinematography that stands out as spectacular.  The film is capped off with one of the best endings to a movie ever.

Hello, Dolly!  *1/2 out of ****

Director: Gene Kelly

Starring: Barbra Streisand, Walter Mathau

Wins (3): Musical Score, Art Direction, Sound Mix

Nominations (4): Picture, Costume, Cinematography, Film Edit

Rotten Tomatoes: 53%

Hello, Dolly! is a weak film.  The music is actually pretty good and there are some likeable characters in it, but the film itself really seems to have no essence.  It’s like a lifeless, soulless body walking around talking, breathing and singing, but, without a soul.  The film seemed to continue on and on aimlessly.  I would, at times, awaken from a dream-like trance only to find that the film was still playing.  How much time had gone by or whether or not the film had completed and started over automatically I may never know, but the fact remains that it seemed interminable.  As if testing the laws of the absurd or merely my patience, the dance numbers were scoffingly long and drawn out; rendering a response not unlike, “Is this for real?”.  Hello, Dolly! had the right idea in casting Barbra Streisand, whose mere presence can charm the life into any bloated carcass floating along a riverbank.  Unfortunately, they used her sparingly and in a supporting role.  Barbra must take center stage!  The lead seemed to fall in the lap of Michael Crawford, though his part requires he sing with the panache of a young school boy just bounding through the doors of puberty, so we don’t really get to hear him bring his really good heavy Phantomy stuff.

Z ***1/2 out of ****

Director: Costa-Gravas

Starring:

Wins (2): Foreign, Film Edit

Nominations (3): Picture, Director, Adapted SP

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Z is a great French political thriller directed by Costa Gavras and based on Vassilis Vassilikos’ 1966 novel about a political activist group trying to break free their country from the clutches of an evil government.  This peaceful activist group is under constant repression and violence and the film itself surrounds the mystery of its leader’s assassination by a group of patsies regularly hired out by the government to start trouble at peaceful rallies.  The film unfolds a thick and twisted mystery before that is riveting to say the least.  Z is a fast-paced, quick-edited film with a great story, if not somewhat hard to follow (much more so because it’s in French).  It’s a fantastic film that absolutely earned its nomination as one of the five best films of the year and its Film Editing Oscar win is clearly deserved.  Though it’s hard to follow, the story is compelling and the film really projects a feeling of hopelessness and despair among the members of this group as well as the citizens of that country.  The constant cover-up and blatant disregard for what is right is appalling and the film expertly gives off that feeling.  Gavras pulls off an extremely well-made film here.

FINAL VERDICT

Should Have Won:          Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

 

Butch Cassidy is the clear winner this year.  Its perfect mix of style, humor and serious subject matter makes for a perfect concoction of a movie.  Midnight Cowboy is a great film, but I don’t wander if awarding it Best Picture was more of a statement by the people than it was something earned by the film.  Nevertheless, I sense a pull in the right direction.  Hello, Dolly! and Anne of the Thousand Days are typical musical, costume dramas from this decade and ones that are quickly becoming old hat for me.  Z is a great film and kudos for including it in the Best Picture race.

 I’m glad to finally be out of the 1960’s.  You can tell this decade is winding down into a more realistic style of films, but the big-budget, musical, epic films still hold sway over the movie industry as well as the Academy voters.  I am excited to be entering the refresh decade that is the 1970’s.

Other Films to Consider

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

True Grit

Easy Rider

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Overall Year Score – 73%

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