– U.S. bombs N. Vietnam
– Dylan goes electric at Newport
– Malcolm X assassinated
– Vietnam protests and Civil Rights demonstrations
Winner: The Sound of Music
– Ship of Fools
– Doctor Zhivago
– A Thousand Clowns
The Sound of Music ****out of****
Director: Robert Wise
Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Peggy Wood
Wins (5): Picture, Director, Sound, Film Editing, Music Adaptation
Nominations (10): Actress (Julie Andrews), S Actress (Peggy Wood), Cinematography (Color), Art/Set Direction (Color), Costume (Color)
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
The Sound of Music is another one of those films that I had seen so often growing up. It is really cool watching it again and seeing the film from a film-fan standpoint while at the same time recalling those memories from my childhood viewings. I’m a sucker for a good musical. I’m also fascinated with the Nazi-Germany/Holocaust aspects of WWII. The Sound of Music has a great combination of both. This film is a great example of a musical where the music and story mesh perfectly and improve the existence of the other. The music occurs naturally, beautifully and to the betterment of the story. You don’t see a number coming from a mile away like so many other musicals of the day. The story itself doesn’t overshadow the music, either. If ever a musical were to naturally happen in real life, The Sound of Music would be it. Julie Andrews, in consecutive years, plays a woman who arrives on the scene to take care of slightly unruly children. Also, in consecutive years, she is nominated for Best Actress. Andrews plays Maria, a former nun who has left a convent to pursue a job as a governess. In The Sound of Music, we are exposed to Julie Andrews’ true elegance and beauty. Christopher Plummer plays the strict father who quickly warms up to Maria. Plummer, as Georg Von Trapp, was not nominated for Supporting Actor, which is eye-brow raising. His voice is pure and he is by all means and integral part of the film. Refusing to bend to the Nazi ways, this Austrian Navy Captain is a man of integrity and a good father. The Sound of Music earned 10 nominations and 5 wins, including Picture and Director.
Doctor Zhivago***1/2 out of****
Director: David Lean
Starring: Julie Christie, Tom Courtenay, Omar Sharif, Geraldine Chaplin
Wins (5): Adapted SP, Cinematography (Color), Art/Set Direction (Color), Costume (Color), Score
Nominations (10): Picture, Director, S Actor (Tom Courtenay), Sound, Film Editing
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Doctor Zhivago is an epic film based on the novel by the same name written by Boris Pasternak. The film takes place during the Russian Revolution. Julie Christie plays Lara, a young woman romantically involved with Pasha, played by Tom Courteney (Supporting Actor nominee), who is adamant on passing out fliers for revolutionary causes in which he supports. Lara soon becomes involved with Dr. Yuri Zhivago, a young doctor played by Omar Shariff. The film follows Yuri and Lara’s romantic and secret relationship throughout rise of the Soviet Union and Pasha’s rise as an officer in that regime. The film expresses the oppression and fear from within the old and new regimes as well as the harsh weather and circumstances that Yuri and Lara abide in their travels and existence together. Doctor Zhivago, too, was nominated for 10 Oscars and won 5; taking home most of the tech awards. This film is three hours and it doesn’t really seem like it. Director David Lean also directed Lawrence of Arabia a very long film whose length hurts the film. Not here, though. Zhivago is a beautifully made film with great sets, cinematography and costumes.
Darling **1/2 out of****
Director: John Schlesinger
Starring: Julie Christie
Wins (3): Actress (Julie Christie), Original SP, Costume (B&W)
Nominations (5): Picture, Director,
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Darling is the story of Diana, a young, attractive social butterfly, who moves around from relationship to relationship with great ease. Her frequent changes in lovers provide her with great career opportunities. She models, acts and even becomes a princess. Julie Christie plays Diana and also narrates the film. Diana is never happy for long and when the fun does run out, she goes off on another expedition of unfaithfulness. John Schlesinger directs a very British-looking film that reminds me a lot of Hannah and Her Sister’s. It’s difficult to keep up with the male characters in the film and just as easy to confuse them. Diana sports some beautiful, modern garments and the film deserves the costume win. A film set in London and Paris starring one of the most beautiful women of the time playing a model would be expected to take home the Costume Oscar. We grow weary of Diana’s disloyalty and by the end of the film she has dug herself into a deep pit of unhappiness while at the same time raised to great wealth and prosperity. I completely understand why the Academy gave the Best Actress award to Julie Christie for this role. She’s in virtually every scene, she narrates and she also has an incredibly predominant role in another Best Picture nominated film, Doctor Zhivago, for which she earned no nomination. Also, it’s tough to win Best anything two years in a row and Julie Andrews won for Mary Poppins the previous year. It’s very interesting that the Academy chose to nominate a film such as this, but it does go in line with the trend of nominated British films these past few years.
Ship of Fools **out of****
Director: Stanley Kramer
Starring: Vivien Leigh, Simone Signoret, Lee Marvin, Oskar Werner, Michael Dunn
Wins (2): Cinematography (B&W), Art/Set Direction (B&W)
Nominations (8): Picture, Actor (Oskar Werner), Actress (Simone Signoret), Sup Actor (Michael Dunn), Adapted SP, Costume (B&W),
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Ship of Fools is very much in the vein of those great, yet small films with well-written dialogue, great acting and a good message. However, this film seems aware of its potential and gets way too preachy. The message is, “Don’t be a racist, but realize that everyone is”. If you didn’t know that the director was Stanley Kramer, you might suspect that you were watching a David Lynch film for it opens on the deck of a cruise ship when a dwarf breaks the 4th wall and briefs the audience for what is about to occur. The term, “Ship of Fools” is an old one used to depict passengers on a ship with no pilot and with no idea of where they are going. The film essentially moves from conversation to conversation between a dozen different characters that talk, shuffle, meet one another, cross paths with one another, eat, drink, dance, argue and in some cases, have affairs. The cinematography should be noted as a good job and rightfully won the Oscar. It pans and weaves around while the passengers converse. The premise sounds fascinating, but in execution it falls flat. I repeat, “It’s way too preachy”. What’s more, some of the acting is a bit off as the dialogue calls for a level of melodrama that some of the actors can’t seem to pull off. Vivien Leigh handles this best and gives a great performance, but was not nominated. Her scene at the vanity alone deserves mention. The film ends with these characters all arriving at port and going to meet their family or wherever it is that they are going. Will these folks put into practice the lessons they’ve learned on their trip? The dwarf looks addresses the audience again at the end and the film is over. Simone Signoret won for Supporting Actress. She’s okay, but nothing special. Who would have thought that someone so beautiful earlier on in her life would turn out to look just like Michael Gambon in her later years.
A Thousand Clowns N/A out of****
Director: Fred Coe
Wins (1): Actor (Martin Balsam)
Nominations (4): Picture, Adapted SP, Music Adaptation
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
I can only find this on video and don’t have a VCR.
Should Have Won: The Sound of Music
There was obviously some great competition between The Sound of Music and Doctor Zhivago. Both films are epic period pieces taking place in the first half of the 20th century with running times at around 3 hours. Both are great stories. Both films received 10 nominations and 5 wins. The Sound of Music, of course, won Best Picture, Director and Film Editing, which typically happens with Best Picture winners. Doctor Zhivago took home most of the Tech awards: Cinematography, Art/Set Direction/Costume. Both films won a musical award. Both films had a beautiful leading lady nominated for Best Actress (Christie for a different film). Both are great films, but The Sound of Music cleaned house at the box office. In fact, when adjusting for inflation, The Sound of Music is #3 on the all time list for Domestic Grosses. Quite frankly, The Sound of Music is the better of the two.
I could take or leave Darling. It’s an interesting film and there are some really good things about it, but it just didn’t stick with me. Ship of Fools just isn’t that great a film. It’s got great aspirations, but fails to pull through.
This mid-to-late 1960’s trend of more independent, small movies getting acclaim is picking up a lot of speed with the nominations of Ship of Fools and Darling and by 1969 the Academy will have awarded John Schlesinger with a Best Picture.