Rocky Meets Annie Hall: The 49th (1976) And 50th (1977) Best Pictures — Fiction, Science And Beyond!!!

The dog days are upon us. Friends visit, kids swim and the heat is unremitting Texas summer. We sigh for time to reflect and apologize for the time it has taken to get back to you with the results from the EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy (EFMO) surveys of our two most recent Best Pictures: “Rocky” and “Annie Hall.”

By way of background, “Rocky” was voted the 49th Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) from among the films produced in 1976. In this movie, Sylvester Stallone plays Rocky Balboa, “The Italian Stallion,” a young fighter whose career has deadended before it began. Rocky’s been demoted at his gym, can’t get a date with Adrian at the pet store and is too goodhearted to be a bad guy. His life is over, until he gets the “chance.” That chance is the film Stallone conceived, wrote in part, helped direct and acted for The Stallion and himself, as the names reflect (only one vowel separates them) and the sequels attest (there are total of seven Rocky movies to date).

Our EFMO audience gave Rocky an 8.41 average rating out of 10. This places Stallone and The Stallion at #19 of the first 49 Best Pictures. This is a very commendable showing, and I feel it reflects the film’s wide audience appeal, inherent good manners and basic audience connectivity — despite the violence of the show’s epic finale and fight.

Of the EFMO survey questions, Rocky scored a perfect “Retrieve” for the question that: After watching the show, would you chose to leave that person with whom you are angry on the cold bare hillside or rescue him or her to the comfort of a warm cabin? Immediately after viewing Rocky, no one voted “Leave.” Everyone voted “Retrieve!” Only 7 other of the first 49 Best Pictures were so uplifting to receive zero leave votes: Cavalcade (1933), It Happened One Night (1934), You Can’t Take It With You (1938), Going My Way (1944), My Fair Lady (1964), The Sound of Music (1965) and The Sting (1973). With these films, Rocky (1976) is a wonderfully entertaining film of wide audience appeal.

I fear not so “Annie Hall.” Annie garnered the 50th Best Picture Oscar from among the films released in 1977. In so doing, the AMPAS voters passed on “Star Wars!” An exclamation point is, I think, appropriate here — considering that Star Wars was the biggest winner in the other Oscar categories, and time has proven Star Wars to be clearly the most widely entertaining show of 1977.

Who then is Annie Hall and what on earth happened?

Annie Hall is Diane Keaton and the show “Annie Hall” was written for Diane Keaton in the character of Annie Hall by Woody Allen, who plays himself as the neurologically disturbed comedian Alvy Singer, who acts very much like himself, Woody Allen, who both Woody and Alvy try for 93 minutes of steam of consciousness showtime to understand what happened to their romantic relationship with Diane, I mean Annie. Having said that, you begin to see the imbedded and confused humor that drives the picture and the intergalactic forces at play in the eyes of the AMPAS voters as they try to watch and understand the clearly alien antics of Woody, I mean Alvy. Stop here and think of open mic night in the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine with Woody-Alvy stepping to the microphone and stuttering a deadpan joke about the Emperor’s clothing that leaves the audience firing their lasers at each other in tears of laughter as half fall silently to the floor. You get the picture and it is truly a bizarre one, but the unusual craft of the show was clearly appealing to the voting craftsman of the Academy.

One must give Diane Keaton credit for an absolutely marvelous acting job which deservedly merited the 1977 Oscar for Best Actress. It might be said she was the only one who understood what Woody said, and for that she truly deserved the best actress award.

Woody Allen was chosen the Best Director over George Lucas (Star Wars) and Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind). It could be observed that the movie Annie Hall may have been recognized by the Academy voters as the best science fiction film of the year. From that perspective, Woody may be truly deserving of best director. Here it may be soothing to remember the sonorous lilts of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes as they play in the background behind Alvy.

How did our AMPAS voters survey the film?

On two EFMO questions, Annie Hall set the record for most votes received. One question asks whether the message of the film is still relevant today? A record number of viewers answered “NO!” Another question asks if this movie were a panhandler approaching your car at the intersection how much money would you hand through the window: NONE  $10  $1,000,000  MORE? Immediately after viewing the show, a record number of surveyors answered “NONE!” Overall, our EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy audience gave Annie Hall an average rating of 4.62 out of 10, placing Annie near the bottom at #47 of the first 50 Best Pictures reviewed.

Admittedly some of our EFMO audience had never seen Annie Hall or any other Woody Allen movie. On the other hand, a few of the audience admitted to being Woody Allen fans and a few not so. Still one wonders: Would Star Wars have done any better with our EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy reviewers? Perhaps not. You know not everyone likes science fiction.

See you next time with the Best Picture of 1978, #51 on our list and counting.

Grandpa Jim

The Best Pictures Of 1973, 1974 & 1975: The Sting (#46), The Godfather Part II (#47) & One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (#48) — Back In The 70’s Again

For 1973, we have “The Sting,” the 46th movie to be awarded the Best Picture Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). With this show, we move into the second half of our EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy project to view and review each Best Picture. This is the second half because we won’t finish until 2018 when the 90th Best Picture will be selected.

In The Sting, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) are grifters who con mob boss Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) out of a suitcase full of money. The mark, Doyle, never knows that he’s been the victim of a sting. He just knows that he just lost a lot of money.

The likes and dislikes of our EFMO audience are summarized in this 100-word sentence:

This is Robert Redford and Paul Newman’s picture and almost everyone singled them out and the general acting of the supporting cast as the big like of the film; the whimsical, fun, humorous story and the wonderful music of Marvin Hamlisch (Best Score and Song) were the next likes; there were only a few dislikes, e.g. crooked cops, the strip show; and although some thought the ending a bit abrupt and the progress somewhat confusing, the film’s overall average rating of 8.33 (out of 10) places the movie solidly in the top 50% of the 46 Best Pictures reviewed to date. (101 words)

An entertaining romp through the Chicago of 1936, the one derivative word assigned to the film was: FUN.

With this first film of the second half, the EFMO survey included a new question:

A friend orders an ice cream cone for you. You take the cone, look down and see this movie as the ice cream in the cone. What flavor is the ice cream? Circle one: CHOCOLATE  VANILLA  STRAWBERRY  MINT-CHOCOLATE-CHIP

The predominant flavor selected for The Sting was MINT-CHOCOLATE-CHIP. The movie was FUN!

For 1974, the winner of the 47th Best Picture Oscar is “The Godfather Part II.”

The sentence for this second Godfather is:

The acting, especially of Robert De Niro (the young Vito Corleone) and Al Pacino (the surviving son of Vito Corleone), was the big “like” for the film; the violence (killings, revenge, abortion, ruthlessness) was the big “dislike”; some found the movie deep, profound and amazingly entertaining, others saw the show as dark, dysfunctional and hard to watch; one liked the flashbacks, one disliked the flashbacks; perhaps a revealing comment made by one viewer was that this show does not have the “class” of Godfather 1; without that added class (those good manners), Godfather 2 managed only an 8.07 rating, far less than the 9.08 of the first Godfather, and this difference in manners appears to have caused the film to finish lower, at the midpoint of the first 47 Best Pictures, #24 of 47. (134 Words)

The one word for Godfather II: MIXED.

An emerging purpose of EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy is to try to identify those elements that compose a Best Picture. We have presented that ENTERTAINMENT value and ARTISTIC worth appear to be criteria components necessary to the emergence of a Best Picture. Another element may be MANNERS: Good manners seem to lift the rating of a film, bad manners seem to sink a picture lower in the standings. As good as it is, the second Godfather might have performed better with another rub to polish off the bleak sulking and moody pouting. Bad manners do not picture well.

Our run of great actors and actresses continues. Following Redford and Newman in The Sting, and Pacino and De Niro in The Godfather Part II, we have Jack Nicholson (Randall McMurphy) and Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched) in Oregon in a hospital for the mentally ill in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” the 1975 Oscar winner and the 48th Best Picture, with Best Actor and Actress awards to Nicholson and Fletcher.

With the Cuckoo’s Nest, the summarized words of our EFMO reviewers grow longer:

A intricate, serious, complex and humorous movie that bluntly and brutally displays the difficulties of mental illness and the challenges of caring for those with the disease and its various manifestations; the cruel and dishonest Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) was disliked, the faking and fun-loving Randal McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) was liked, and the other patients were uniformly viewed as funny and sad, as was the show itself and its ending; one thought the film the best movie ever, one couldn’t believe it got best picture, and another reflected on the darkness of the show with the telling observation, “Mental illness is dark”; faced with an expose’ of the dark depression gripping the mentally ill, we may all have a certain unconscious connection and silent prayer for distance; perhaps those concerns contributed to this movie – so highly rated by others – meriting only a 7.63 EthnoFamiyMovieOgraphy rating, which places the film 2/3rds of way to the bottom of the first 48 Best Pictures, #32 of 48. (166 Words)

This film is one of only 3 of the first 48 to have votes in all categories of all EFMO questions, except one: No one voted for the ice cream flavor “VANILLA.” This is not a vanilla show. It is, I believe, one of the great American films and one of the more challenging, and it is not vanilla.

The one word for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: SANITY.

With Cuckoo’s Nest, we begin to see another possible criteria linking the audience to the film: CONNECTION. We are each different with different experiences, and who we are influences how we connect with a film and how we rate and evaluate the film. Perhaps CONNECTION is another necessary factor, with ENTERTAINMENT, ART and MANNERS, in the selection of the nominees and the determination of the Best Picture. More needs be said here, but this must be enough for now.

We are back in the 70’s again, and it is I think a good place to be.

Until the next show and the next year,

Grandpa Jim

The Godfather: The 1972 45th Best Picture — Art, Entertainment Or Both?

The Godfather has long haunted the minds of recumbent males.

In this movie, the 1972 45th Best Picture, there is a quote that has those guy viewers writhing in sleepless sleep in the nightdreams of their beds: “I want Sollozzo. If not, it’s all-out war: we go to the mattresses!”

The Godfather is a fetchingly attractive and well-shot tale that winds whimsically and violently around, between and behind the lives of the members of an organized crime family now residing in and around the area of New York City, USA. The family is the Corleone family from their hometown of the same name in Sicily, Italy. Yes, the players are largely of Italian origin and the play is a Mafia film. The movie is itself a very well and politely accomplished piece of filmenship. It is a well-mannered crime show, despite the bodies strewn about the city pavements, on the courthouse steps and in the eateries — the work of our soldiers now polishing their guns with clean white cloths, eating pasta while wearing bibs, and reclining between their shootings on those troublesome mattresses.

Why the phrase “to the mattresses!” One Internet site recounts this logic from the panes of history: “In times of war or siege, Italian families would vacate their homes and rent apartments in safer areas. In order to protect themselves they would hire soldiers to sleep on the floor in shifts.” And on those floors beneath those soldiers were the original mattresses that spawned that phrase which now haunts the dreams of our recumbent males — who would, if they could, be there too with their dreamed counterparts preparing for the next sleepless battle.

This is a battle show, a crime film, a war movie, and with Patton, the 1970 43rd Best Picture, and The French Connection, the 1971 44th Best Picture, The Godfather shares that baggage that divides its audience, to a greater and lesser extent, along gender lines. Curious that three such films in linear order were of such common content and manufacture, but that is as they say the movies.

This writing is in its part a derivative portion of an ongoing study in EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy (EFMO). Along those lines, let me share with you a compilation and summary of the likes and dislikes of the viewing audience recorded on their EFMO survey forms:

The acting and the actors, especially Marlon Brando (Grandfather Vito Corleone) and Al Pacino (Son Michael Corleone) were the big “likes” followed by the superb camera work and mesmerizing music; the matter-of-fact violence and killing of the “business” of organized family crime was the big “dislike”; curiously, one disliked the baptism/murder scene while another singled the scene out as a particular like; a violent crime movie, the film so polarized the audience that one commenter described the movie as one of the greatest of all time while another reviewer could not understand how anyone could like the show; despite these apparently disparate views, the film was rated by the overall audience among the top movies viewed to date (#9 of the first 45 films), reflecting perhaps that even a polarizing topic (crime, battles, war) can result in a movie of widely recognized and appreciated artistic and entertainment value. (150 words)

Not bad, you might say, for one sentence of 150 words.

But what doe it mean for us and our study?

With that, we move from our fidgetingly divided viewers, whatever their personal genderic reasonings, to our continuing reflection on the meaning of “entertainment” within the “artistic” framework of a best picture.

“Entertainment” is the noun form of the verb “entertain.”

“Artistic” is the adjective form of the noun “art.”

This distinction between verb and noun may be critical to our ongoing study of the meaning of the phrase “best picture” and its application by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in the selection of the “Best Picture.” More will be said of this later in following EFMO writings. For now and for this movie, I would ask you to observe that “entertain” is the battling verb action of impacting a viewing audience, and the merit of “entertain” would appear to be determined by the extent the movie moves the viewers. “Art,” on the other hand, is a recumbent noun state that can be seen in large measure as independent of the wider viewing audience, though some may recognize and appreciate it more than others, because art resides more in the realm of the studied particularist pausing to peruse a scene or object as one would an impressionistic painting on a wall or the lines of a new cell phone in a case. The merit of “art” is more the merit of the work itself and not how it moves the viewer.

The point is that “entertain” and “art” may represent very different points of view and effect. In one (entertain), the entire audience is riding raucously and noisily atop a rollercoaster at break-neck speeds at a local amusement park packed with fans below waving and clapping at the people above traversing the tracks. In the other (art), a solitary individual in the audience is closeted in a cloistered gallery siting quietly on a bench, referencing a guidebook and staring at a recognized work of creative genius. One is participatory, the other observatory. In one I am close and involved, the other apart and disengaged. One pulls me into the intricacies of the scene as an active participant, the other pushes me back to watch and appreciate from a safe and removed distance.

Art or entertainment?

It depends on your point of view and effect.

Are you on the mattress admiring the gun or in the street firing the pistol?

The Godfather allows you to lose yourself in the action or isolate yourself in the object of the moment.

In allowing its audience both, the movie itself becomes it seems a truly great best picture for all its viewers.

 

Art, entertainment or both?

Your point of view.

And effect.

 

Grandpa Jim

 

The French Connection: Three Films Versus Five; Good Manners Versus Bad; Art Versus Entertainment — Yours To Decide The 1971 Best Picture

Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo are narcotics cops in New York City. I like their names and nicknames. Their work is dirty.

While investigating an anticipated shipment of drugs, Popeye and Cloudy draw a connection to two French visitors, who they refer to as Frog 1 and Frog 2. The chase is on.

After a memorable and partially unscripted car race by Popeye below chasing Frog 2 above in an elevated train across Brooklyn, Popeye shoots Frog 2 in the back, killing the suspected criminal, who — it should be said, I guess, by way of justification — had tried to shoot and kill Popeye before the chase began. Do not make Popeye Doyle mad. He is a “bad” cop.

The elderly and more refined smuggler, Frog 1, attempts to close the deal and deliver the goods. Popeye and Cloudy intervene and the rest is in the movie, the ending and the closing credits.

A commendable cops and robbers show with very good acting, the film was awarded the Best Picture statuette by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) for the year 1971.

I too thought well of the movie.

The EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy (EFMO) audience not so.

Of the first 44 Best Pictures viewed to this point, the EFMO viewers gave this movie a 6.30 out of 10.00 (10 great; 1 not). That’s #36 of 44, the bottom 20%. Responding to the EFMO survey question whether after viewing the show you would be influenced to leave someone you are angry with on a bare hillside in the snow or retrieve them to a warm cabin, a majority said “LEAVE.” That’s only the 6th time out of the first 44 Best Pictures, our disfavored personage has been left so behind in the freezing cold.

What a sad lament this is.

And, “Why for?”

Consider the following sentence summarizing the audience likes and dislikes:

“Some liked and some disliked the show; the acting and chase scene were likes, while police violence and the ending were singled out as dislikes — although it should be noted that some liked the ending; the subject is cops and robbers, and, like war, this appears to be a polarizing topic, which, when presented with the brutal unfinished bareness of this film, may present an entertainment hurdle for those preferring a more balanced and determined process and endpoint.”

Cops and robbers (1971 The French Connection) are violent and ill mannered. So are war and warriors (1970 Patton). As are drugs, bums and prostitutes (1969 Midnight Cowboy). The last three Best Pictures (1969, 1970 and 1971) portray leading individuals with bad manners. And the average rating for those three pictures is the lowest 3-picture average since the inception of the Oscars.

The five prior Best Pictures (1964 My Fair Lady, 1965 The Sound of Music, 1966 A Man For All Seasons, 1967 In The Heat Of The Night and 1968 Oliver) portray leading individuals with good manners. And the 5-picture average for those films is the highest since the Oscars began.

Good versus bad manners.

It appears good manners travel better and are more entertaining than bad manners — even 50 years later.

A word on “entertaining.” There is a great controversy whether the Best Picture award should be an award for primarily entertainment value or primarily artistic value. At the 1st Academy Award Ceremony in Los Angeles on May 16, 1929, two Oscars were awarded for Best Pictures: one for “Outstanding Picture” (entertainment value) and one for “Unique and Artistic Picture” (artistic value). The next year the categories were combined to one for “Best Picture.”

Since 1929, the Academy has studiously avoided placing any meaningful criteria on the definition of the “Best Picture” or any practical limitations on the voting members of the Academy in making their choices.

Entertainment versus art.

Perhaps this is another reason why some movies travel well and are appreciated years later, and some are not?

This is far too heady a subject for a short discussion.

Suffice to say the last three shows have not traveled as well as the prior five.

Allow you to opine in your own heads whether this is a matter of manners, entertainment or art.

And always remember there is another movie next year.

See you in 1972.

 

Grandpa Jim

 

Patton: The 1970 Best Picture — Some Things Do Not Change . . . Even For Film

George S. Patton was an American general and a hero of the second world war. General Patton was given to gruff, colorful and direct overstatement. He was not one to mince words.

George C. Scott plays Patton in the 1970 Oscar-winning Best Picture, for which he was voted the Best Actor of that year. George C. Scott is an American acting legend and a hero to many. At the awards ceremony, Actor Scott refused his Oscar with the addition of some colorful phraseology of his own. He was not one to mince words.

General and Actor in their ways were it seems much the same.

This is a war picture. It starts with Patton in North Africa, where the General pins on his third star and brilliantly maneuvers the American tanks to chase the Nazi General Rommel onto an airplane to Berlin with a head cold. The fighting moves to Sicily, where General Patton bests the British in the race to Messina. At which point, the General’s words in the Actor’s mouth effectively remove him from favor. He retires to England to waive speeches to British ladies in a ruse to confuse the Germans. Patton does not enjoy this domestic, if salutary, role; and the General’s words in the Actor’s mouth again get him into trouble and relegate the able warrior to the back seat and away from the action. After the Allied invasion of France, General Patton receives his fourth star and is allowed to return to his beloved tanks and their able soldiers. Patton drives the Third Army across France toward the German homeland. At this point and to the north, the Germans rally and counterattack in force, bulging the Allied lines into the freezing winter and surrounding the Americans in the pivotal Belgium town of Bastogne. This is where we and the world see the true Patton. The General rallies his men to do the impossible. The Third Army pivots and turns, fights through the frozen slush and numbing cold, breaks the German stranglehold, and rescues their stranded comrades — all of this as the newsreels turn and the world watches in wide-eyed amazement. The General has secured his place in history and the Actor his place in film. There is some more, some not unexpected verbal mishaps, but the war is soon over. Our General and Actor walk slowly off into the quiet evening as the show ends. This is a war film and the war is over.

EhtnoFamilyMovieOgraphy (EFMO) does not end with that final scene. There is a survey to fill out and the resulting data to manipulate.

One of the questions on the EFMO survey is this: “If this movie were a branch of the federal government (Executive, Legislative, Judicial), which branch do you feel describes this film?” For this film, no one circled Legislative or Judicial. Everyone circled Executive. This has happened just once before for another war film, Lawrence of Arabia.

Surprisingly, as many people rated the film 1 and 2 (at the low end) as rated the film 9 and 10 (at the high end). Why? What’s going on here?

Let’s look at the summary sentence that reflects the audience comments:

“Some viewers liked the movie as a war movie and some disliked the movie because it is a war movie; George C. Scott’s portrayal of Patton was generally applauded; Patton was appreciated for his honesty, determination, strength and patriotism, which were countered by his big mouth, politics, the press and the sad realities of war; overall, this is a war movie and for that reason its overall rating is low — somewhat of a surprise that war has such a polarizing effect on otherwise thoughtful and objective viewers of cinema, but then again in the fine realm of entertainment is there ever truly detachment?”

The one word for the show: “War.” The average rating for Patton: 7.15. That moves the film down to #33 of the 43 Best Pictures viewed to date. Not since the third Best Picture in 1930, All Quiet On the Western Front, have we had a similar result. The word for that movie was also “War” and the average rating of 7.30 for that film is not much different than for Patton. Even among the great war films, there is not that much different.

Perhaps we should not be surprised by the result.

There is in war that which separates and is not well received.

This is just a movie, but it is nonetheless the depiction of war; and in that the film and the reality appear to share in the same result.

Some things it seems do not change, and war it seems is one of those things that does not — for itself, for its audience and for the film.

Even for a great film, it is still a war show.

And war is war.

 

Grandpa Jim

Midnight Cowboy: The Last Best Picture Show Of The 60’s — Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

It is with trepidation, I write this post.

Trepidation is defined as a feeling of fear or agitation about something that may happen. The word is from Latin words meaning to tremble with alarm.

Change can be sad and alarming. In one of his most famous songs, Pet Seeger follows the flowers from a young girl’s hands to the young man going off to war to her placing the flowers on his gravestone. Where have all the flowers gone?

With the 1969 Best Picture, “Midnight Cowboy,” we lose something. With a naive trembling, we set the youthful blooms of the first forty-two years of the Best Pictures down and stand sadly to step away into a new era of cinema.

A theatrical exuberance inhabits those first forty-two years of Oscar-winning Best Pictures. From 1928 to 1969, there is a celluloid youth and energy that at times almost bubbles over to entertain its audience. Perhaps that is that. The films of the first five decades of the Oscars are largely entertaining. For the 20’s to the 30’s into the 40’s through the 50’s and continuing to most of the 60’s, the cinema is there to entertain, to captivate and draw away, to lose one’s self in the magic of film, to lift and soar in moments of near thoughtless reverie and delight.

Could it continue forever?

The message was delivered. There needs to be more thought, more art in the Best Picture. It had been thought movies were entertainment and entertainment was the movies. Now will movies be more art and entertainment and art and entertainment less the movies?

This is, of course, for the audience to decide, not a humble ethnofamilymovieographer. Ours is simply to watch and record.

One of the questions on the post-show EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy Survey is this:

“You stop at a crowded intersection during rush hour in the rain. This movie approaches as a panhandler. Assume you have unlimited cash on your person and you regularly give to panhandlers. Circle how much money you would hand through the window:  NONE  $10  $1,000,000  MORE”

Of the first forty-two Best Pictures, the window was rolled up on “Midnight Cowboy” more than any other film. More people circled “NONE” than ever before. And, for the first time, the panhandler was not handed a “$1,000,000” or “MORE” by anyone in the audience. A few “$10” bills were flung through the window, but that was that.

The distillation of the “Likes” and “Dislikes” from the surveys resulted in the following summary sentence:

“Most appreciated the acting and the actors, especially the portrayal of ‘Ratso’ Rizzo by Dustin Hoffman, described by one viewer as one of the great method actors of our time; and although some found love and redemption in the brotherly caring relationship that develops between Cowboy Joe Buck and Rizzo, most disliked the movie and characterized the story of the show variously as sordid, bleak, depressing, pointless, degrading, immoral, disgusting, dark and demoralizing — to the the point that a number of viewers summarized simply by saying they disliked everything, reflecting perhaps a picture garnering limited critical appreciation but providing little audience enjoyment; there is little joy in this show.”

It is with some trepidation that we move to the Best Pictures of the 70’s.

The 60’s have had a marvelous run of first-rate shows. My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, A Man for All Seasons, In the Heat of the Night, and Oliver represent together the five most highly rated shows to date to play in consecutive order. They are magnificent entertainment. Unfortunately, Midnight Cowboy was not viewed as so entertaining. In fact, it received the second lowest rating (3.19) given to any of the first 42 Best Pictures, barely doing better than the rating of 3.17 for Tom Jones (the lowest score to date).

Is it time to begin to tremble with alarm?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time passing.

When will they ever learn?

Long time ago.

What will the future hold?

Long time passing.

 

Grandpa Jim

 

A Man For All Seasons, In The Heat Of The Night and Oliver: The Best Pictures Of 1966, 1967 and 1968 — Does The String Continue?

The Sound of Music, the 1965 Oscar-winning Best Picture, was given an average rating of 9.57 by the EthnoFamlyMovieOgraphy (EFMO) viewing audience. Only two other films of the first 38 Best Pictures received higher after-viewing ratings: Ben Hur (1960) at 9.77 and Gone With the Wind (1939) with a 9.63 rating. With the previous year’s winner, My Fair Lady (1964) at 9.43, we have the highest average rating (9.29) for two consecutive films in the first 38 years of the Academy’s history. My Fair Lady (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965) represent the best two-picture run to date.

The question is: “Are we on a roll and will the string continue?”

For 1966, A Man for All Seasons was voted Best Picture. In this award-winning film (six Oscars), Paul Scofield received the Best Actor statuette for his portrayal of Sir Thomas More, the bright and balanced Lord Chancellor of England, who lost his head over the boisterous and unbalanced dalliances of King Henry VIII. The summary sentence derived from the EFMO comments follows:

“Everyone liked Paul Scofield’s acting in presenting Thomas More as a loyal family man of values, faith, principles and conviction; many disliked the bad guys (Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and Richard Rich), and while some quibbled with historical inaccuracies in the script and were curt with the lack of plot developing the relationship between More and the King, these ‘dislike’ comments largely supported an appreciation of the effective acting portrayals of these convincingly dispicable characters; so that overall the virtuous and villainous themes of the show are viewed as trumped in the comments by an appreciation of the truly outstanding acting of Scofield and the supporting actors and actresses — good and bad.”

The one word for the film was: “acting.” The acting is superb. The film achieved an 8.87 EFMO rating, placing it in the #11 slot of the 39 Best Pictures to this point. This very respectable performance was enough to make My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music and A Man for All Seasons, the most highly rated three-picture run to date.

Can the string continue?

For 1967, the OSCAR for Best Picture was presented to In the Heat of the Night. In this show, a murder occurs in a small Southern town. A black police detective from Philadelphia is enlisted by the small-town white sheriff to sift through the prejudices and identify the killer. The EFMO sentence for the film is:

“Another very well acted Best Picture with the relationship portrayed between the white Southern Sheriff (Rod Steiger) and the black Northern Detective (Sidney Poitier) being the big “like’ of the show, while some disliked and reflected on the prejudicial treatment of blacks then and today.”

The one word was “relationship.” In a troubled time, this was an encouraging story of an unlikely and appreciated friendship. The film received an EFMO audience rating at 8.33, placing it at #21 of the first 40 Best Pictures. In combination with the three prior films, this average rating was high enough to continue the overall string. My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, A Man for All Seasons, and now In the Heat of the Night represent the best four-picture run in the first 40 years of the Best Pictures.

Can we hope to extend this streak for one more show?

Of the films of 1968, Oliver had the temerity to step out, ask for and receive the Best Picture Oscar. Thrown from his bleak orphanage home, the innocent Oliver sings his way through the misguided teachings of the miserly Fagin and the monstrous traps of dangerous Bill Sikes to find, with the help of kind Nancy, relatives and friends in a bright new home on street filled with music. All of which merited the following summary sentence:

“Another well received, almost operatic, musical — the songs, lyrics, dancing and sets were generally appreciated; most hated the bad guys (Fagin and Bill Sikes, especially), loved the good guys (Oliver and Nancy) and commented favorably on the acting (except for Bill Sikes – terrible actor); there was love, gumption and redemption in the presence of child abuse, criminal meanness and difficult-to-watch suffering (hard-to-view matters that may have contributed to the lower rating of the show); all of this was captured in an oddly suspenseful and entertaining film set in a very bleak time period, indeed — which makes the selection of a single word for the movie a challenging undertaking.”

Yes, what word for Oliver? “Gumption” of course, for it took courage, drive and action for Oliver to fight back to the right side of town. A delightful musical but with some difficult trappings, the film garnered a rating of of 7.79, placing it at #27 of the first 41 Best Pictures. Yet, overall, with the last four pictures, we do have the best five-picture run to date in Best Picture history.

My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, A Man for All Seasons, In the Heat of the Night, and Oliver represent, in their combined average, the five most highly rated EFMO films to occur in a row — 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968. In the first 41 years of the Best Pictures, this five-year run presents the very best viewing.

Will this string continue to 1969?

How will the ’60’s end?

Be here to see.

Soon.

 

Grandpa Jim