In this project, I’ll be watching each Best Picture winner, regardless of if I’ve already seen it, at random years, and then watching the two nominees with the most Oscar nominations for that year to find out, in my pompous assessment, if the Academy made the right choice. If I’ve already seen the subsequent nominee, I’ll move on to the next most nominated for that year.
The 33rd Academy Award Best Picture nominees I watched: The Apartment, The Alamo (7), Sons and Lovers (7)
[ bold = winner / italics = losers (nominations) ]
When I watched these: December 24th – 26th, 2017
The snacks: way too many peppermint white chocolate bits
The year: 1960.
Did I skip any of the movies?: Nope.
So why did the other movies lose?
“Remember the Alamo” is the slogan, yet the movie is somewhat forgettable. We wait through a lengthy series of events, including the oversized caricatures Travis and Bowie butting heads (humorously at times) and John Wayne/Davy Crockett playing the usual drunken big-fisted brawler doing things his way, to finally arrive at the big battle and subsequent brutal slaughter of the Alamo occupants. The film has a couple of nice moments, including a handful from the underplayed Frankie Avalon, and a heart-wrenching speech delivered by a blind wife to the generals who look to dismiss her husband from battle. Overall, this turns out to be hyper-patriotic fodder that caters to Cold War America and lovers of the western genre.
Sons and Lovers takes an entirely different approach to reminding us of life’s fragility. The D.H. Lawrence novel-turned-screenplay is a brilliant treatise on morality, destiny, loneliness, and the influence of family and those who influence our decisions. The film is carried by Dean Stockwell, who plays the son of an alcoholic coal miner and an overbearing mother, both of whose suggestions pinball the young Paul around. Things get further complicated when Paul falls for the chaste Miriam (Sears) and later the strong-willed yet emotionally weak Clara (Ure). It’s a carousel of spectacular performances, but a victory might have been hindered by a lackluster performance from Sears. This film probably had the best chance to take on 1960’s Best Picture winner.
So why did The Apartment win?
The Apartment is a cunning, quick, and culturally relevant film that takes on several controversial issues: infidelity (to the nth degree), suicide, drug use, alcoholism, vertical mobility, and sexism. Lemmon plays regular dude C.C. Baxter, who is being taken advantage of by supervisors that condescend to him with the nickname “buddy boy”, and who falls for an elevator clerk that has a complicated relationship with a top figure in the company hierarchy. Lemmon is funny, Maclaine is cute, the dialogue is smart, and the film’s undertone is deadly serious. It lays out some fundamental flaws of humanity and manages to entertain us.
The movie that should have won: The Apartment
Billy Wilder is a directorial legend, and Lemmon is a beast. The film also has a happy ending — something the other two movies I watched were pre-ordained to omit. The Academy overlooked a true contender in Hitchcock’s Psycho, but I’m not sure it even quite measures up.