Sunday, February 23, 2014

Great Films that Didn't Receive Any Oscar Nominations, 1960-1978

Continuing my celebration of great films that didn't receive the Oscar nominations which they deserved, here are some of the finest examples of un-nominated films from the 1960s and 1970s.

Peeping Tom (1960)
Michael Powell is one of the greatest directors of all time and his career-ending Peeping Tom forever changed the horror genre and more significantly, how audiences relate to their inevitably voyeuristic cinematic experiences. This film was too disturbing for audiences of the time, and even today it packs a mean punch. Mark (Carl Boehm) carries his camera everywhere, intent on capturing an elusive emotion that seemingly can only be found on the faces of women about to die. The excellent supporting cast includes Moira Shearer.

Should have been nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Powell), Best Original Screenplay (Leo Marks), Best Film Editing (Noreen Ackland)

Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Undoubtedly a technical tour-de-force, this family-friendly adventure film from the Disney Studios is a vast improvement over Johann Wyss's proselytizing treatise for boys and one of the most entertaining adventure films ever made. John Mills and Dorothy McGuire head the cast of Swiss castaways who must protect themselves from pirates. The design in this film is extraordinary, particularly the tree-house (built in an actual, live tree on Tobago), which was fully functional from the running water to the cooler.

Should have been nominated for: Best Adapted Screenplay (Lowell S. Hawley), Best Art Direction, Color (John Howell)
A Shot in the Dark (1964)
This is the best installment in Blake Edwards's Pink Panther series. Brilliant comedic actor Peter Sellers plays Inspector Clousseau, a hapless French detective determined to solve a murder, whether he has to infiltrate a nudist camp, go on a wild date with the sexy suspect, or give his boss (Herbert Lom) a nervous breakdown. An uproarious comedy with a sexy sixties vibe and a great soundtrack by Henry Mancini.

Should have been nominated for: Best Actor (Peter Sellers), Best Supporting Actor (Herbert Lom), Best Original Song ("Shadows of Paris" - Henry Mancini and Robert Wells)

The World of Henry Orient (1964) 
A wacky comedy with a bitter aftertaste, this film stars Peter Sellers as a narcissistic, womanizing pianist on the verge of being a has-been, who becomes the object of an adolescent infatuation when schoolgirl Valerie (Tippy Walker) reads about him in a magazine. Val and her friend Marion (Merrie Spaeth) are soon following their hero everywhere, while Orient believes that they're spies sent by the husband of his lover. The film is one of the most musically literate films I've ever seen, including a brilliant spoof of twentieth century music.

Should have been nominated for: Best Actor (Peter Sellers), Best Supporting Actress (Angela Lansbury)

Chimes at Midnight (1965)
A copyright dispute has thrust this masterpiece, Orson Welles's greatest film, into obscurity and made it difficult to watch legally. Welles plays Falstaff, a character who obsessed him, in his own brilliant adaptation, made up of various bits and pieces of five of Shakespeare's plays. It is impossible to exaggerate the genius of this film - supremely moving, hilariously funny, soul-crushingly tragic, it is one of the few perfect films.

Should have been nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director (Orson Welles), Best Actor (Orson Welles), Best Adapted Screenplay (Orson Welles), Best Film Editing (Fritz Muller)

The Saragossa Manuscript (1965)
Based on a classic Polish novel by Jan Potocki, this film follows Alfonso von Worden (Zbigniew Cybulski), as he attempts to find a shortcut through the Sierra Morena Mountains. He soon becomes entangled in an enchantment, or a dream, or portal through time, depending on one's interpretation. His adventure is sensual, frightening, antic, and sexy, making this film all but unclassifiable. A restored version of the film, financed by Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, was happily released in 2001.

Should have been nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director (Wojciech Has), Best Foreign Language Film, Best Art Direction, Black and White (Jerzy Skarzynski), Best Costume Design, Black and White (Lydia and Jerzy Skarzynski)

The Red and the White (1967)
This Hungarian film about the Russian Civil War is a pacifist masterpiece, capturing the confusion and toss-of-a-coin luck that characterize any armed conflict, but particularly a civil war. The film was banned in the Soviet Union for its politics and anti-heroic depiction of warfare, but its fully radical spirit is imparted by Jancso's complete rejection of war-film cinematic conventions. It is not possible to choose a side, for who belongs to which army remains unclear, nor can one sympathize with a protagonist, for there is none. A subversive film that deserves a larger audience.

Should have been nominated for: Best Director (Miklos Jancso), Best Foreign Language Film

If... (1968)
 Malcolm McDowell's film debut is a damning condemnation of the British public school, and by extension the sort of quasi-Fascist conformism that often reigns in materialistic societies. The film is as disturbing as it is prescient, depicting the violent impulses that over the past few decades have resulted in school shootings. McDowell is mesmerizing as the rebellious student who won't tow the line, preferring to escape the campus and steal motorbikes, while trolling for girls. If... fatally blasts the sentimental nostalgia of films like Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

Should have been nominated for: Best Director (Lindsay Anderson), Best Actor (Malcolm McDowell), Best Original Screenplay (David Sherwin and John Howlett), Best Film Editing (David Gladwell)

Shame (1968)
Bergman's war film is not set in a specific time, place, or conflict; he instead places his characters in the midst of a chaotic war that immerses the viewer in the terrifying experience of lived war, rather than remembered war. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann are two musicians who have retired to their country home since their orchestra has been disbanded because of the war. With no means of getting up-to-date news, the war mercilessly overwhelms them, and they are reduced to actions that would have appalled them mere minutes before.

Should have been nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director (Ingmar Bergman), Best Actor (Max von Sydow), Best Actress (Liv Ullmann), Best Original Screenplay (Ingmar Bergman), Best Foreign Language Film

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
This Australian film is about a school excursion to Hanging Rock on Valentine's Day 1900, one that will have strange and incredible consequences for everyone involved. Several schoolgirls and a teacher disappear during a climb on the rock and no easy explanation presents itself. A sensual film about sexual repression, loss, and infatuation, Picnic at Hanging Rock is both mystery and fantasy. Plus, the cinematography is stunning.

Should have been nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director (Peter Weir), Best Costume Design (Judith Dorsman), Best Cinematography (Russell Boyd)

Watership Down (1978)
This British animated film is a solid adaptation of Richard Adams's marvelous novel about a group of rabbits who must leave their warren, about to be apocalyptically destroyed by human developers, and found a new one, only to be challenged by the war-like leader of a neighboring warren. Watership Down is really not a kids' film - it's far too graphically violent - but it succeeds as an exploration of the brutality of survival. The film also does an excellent job of portraying the complex Lapine culture, more completely explained in Adams's novel.

Should have been nominated for: Best Adapted Screenplay (Martin Rosen), Best Original Song ("Bright Eyes" - Mike Batt)

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