Oscars 1967: If We Picked The Winners (Best Picture)

Graduate You may have heard how a week or two ago, while speaking at the opening of a new media center at the University of Southern California, the titans of blockbuster filmmaking, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, ominously predicted a forthcoming "implosion" of the movie industry and its current business model. This controversial prophecy, which has drawn a slew of interesting responses throughout the cyber-cinephile community, is based on the fact that, as far as Spielberg and Lucas see it, the studios' current reliance on prefabricated, ready-made, focus-group-tested movies, with a connection to some preexisting, market-proven intellectual property, can not go on indefinitely. The auteurs posit that at some point audiences will tire of these glorified 2-hour tests in simple pattern recognition (my words, not theirs) and that when the movie-going public reaches this saturation point, a sudden and financially disastrous summer blockbuster backlash will forever change the production and distribution landscape of the film industry. Now, putting aside whatever snide remark you want to make about the irony of Lucas and Spielberg bemoaning the pervasive commercialization of cinema (although I would state that I don't think Spielberg ever maliciously contributed to the commoditization of film except maybe in his acquiescence to the pressures of making a fourth Indiana Jones movie), it is an interesting theory, and one that I pray is true. While some have called the grim prediction preposterous, it actually isn't without precedence. In fact, if Spielberg and Lucas prove to be accurate augurs, it wouldn't be the first time the film industry was reborn again due to a lack of fresh ideas. The 1950's was, in terms of mainstream American cinema, an abysmal decade for the advancement of film as an art. While, as always, there are exceptions, in general, the American films of 1950's gave in to every negative impulse of drama. Maybe in a vain attempt to differentiate itself from the oncoming threat of television, the studios' answer to everything in the 1950's was apparently, "Let's make it bigger". The "issues" were bigger, the "emotions" were bigger, the "realism" was bigger, and sometimes the screen was just literally larger, but whatever the case, like a man with a bruised ego, it was all hot air. The only cinematic neophytes of the era who were able to cut through the hyperbole and find something meaningful were actors such as James Dean and Marlon Brando, the former who would not survive the excesses of the era, and the latter who would only be able to cover up serious emotional problems (including a massive eating disorder) for about the span of the decade. By the early to mid-1960's, the industry was in dire straits. People had tired of the tricks and gimmicks of the 1950's that had manage to slow the bleeding of the end of the studio era and after big-budget flops such as Tora, Tora, Tora, and Hello, Dolly!, the studios were at their wits end. Then the late 1960's came around (and more specifically, 1967) and the anointed "New Hollywood" and its forthcoming renaissance began. This new generation would go on to create the greatest decade in cinema history, 1970's, but it was in its roots, 1967, that you find the most exciting examples of cinema. The new auteurs were still honing their craft, but what they lacked in polish they made up for with an abundance of passion. This emotional devotion to creation is palpable, which is why 1967 is the brilliant year that it is. For the most part, though probably filled with old-timers of the Hollywood of yesteryear, the Academy did a decent job recognizing the films of the new generation. The largest glaring omission, and the film that is actually my favorite of the year, is Cool Hand Luke. The film and the character "Cool Hand Luke" is one of the coolest creations in film history, the ultimate rebel (a much less self-aware version of A Rebel Without a Cause), a true existential warrior. How the Academy passed over the film, especially in favor of one particularly miserable film I will be discussing briefly, is a mystery that I frankly don't want to uncover. Another great American film that should have received consideration for the top prize is The Dirty Dozen, a fun "group of men on a mission" movie that would later influence such great work as Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. Finally, there are two films from around the era that certainly were deserving of Best Picture nominations but whose eligibility for the year 1967 is questionable. The first is Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The film was first released in 1966, but did not receive an American release until 1967, so I don't know what year the Academy would have considered it eligible. Whichever year it fell under the proper eligibility though, it definitely should have been nominated, although considering its undeniably genre-esque flourishes (some of which the movie helped establish), it was never going to be seriously considered by the Academy anyway. The last case is that of The Battle of Algiers, which is a strange case indeed. First released internationally in 1966, and receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film that year, the film would not receive an American release until 1967. However, somehow the film managed to receive Oscar nominations for Best Director and Screenplay in 1968, hopping over 1967. Had it been eligible though, it too should have absolutely been included into the list of the year's five best films. Now though, it's on to the actual nominees.
Contributor
Contributor

A film fanatic at a very young age, starting with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies and gradually moving up to more sophisticated fare, at around the age of ten he became inexplicably obsessed with all things Oscar. With the incredibly trivial power of being able to chronologically name every Best Picture winner from memory, his lifelong goal is to see every Oscar nominated film, in every major category, in the history of the Academy Awards.

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