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.



Grandpa Jim

The 89th Academy Awards: Is AMPAS Still Relevant In The Selection Of The Best Picture?

Many of us watched the 89th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday evening, February 26, 2017.

Some of us may still be in shock over the awarding of the Oscar for Best Picture.

The Best Picture award is the key event of the night, the opening of the envelope we all anticipate, the highlight of the evening.

They opened the wrong envelope. It wasn’t their fault. They, Bonnie and Clyde, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, did not hold up the event. The robbery duo of 50-years past were handed the wrong envelope. They opened the envelope containing the name of the Best Actress winner, Emma Stone of La La Land. Perplexed, they passed the card, looked at each other, and with a funny Warren shrug on her side, Faye announced to the audience, “La La Land.”

La La Land’s producers and cast rushed to the stage and jubilantly received and cradled their Oscars. As we watched, mice scurried in the background and we wondered what was happening. Mumbles and jumbles rushed to the microphone and kindly, worriedly and interruptively announced, “I’m sorry, there’s a mistake.”

Moonlight had won, not La La Land, as the scene collapsed in a nervous rush to the commercial break.

But does this, one of the greatest guffaws in Oscar history, end there?

Or is there something more to the story?

Are there contributing causes?

For 65 years, a certain process had existed.

For 65 years, no more than five films in a given year had been nominated for Best Picture.

For all that very considerable time (1944-2009), the Academy’s voters had been called to cast a single vote for one of the Best Picture nominees. The winner was simply and straightforwardly the nominated film that received the most votes. The method employed was one called First-Past-The-Post voting.

In 2009, however, the voting and tabulation process were changed to something called Instant Runoff Voting or Alternative Voting or Transferable Voting or Ranked-Choice Voting or Preferential Voting. Don’t ask what it is or how it works? The explanation will hurt your head. The process is used in national elections in several countries. In this year, do we need say more? Elections are one thing; Oscars, we had hoped, are another.

In 2009, things were radically changed. Since then and with due respect, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has been nominating far too many films and using a process that is far too complicated for the Best Picture determination.

Evidence the fact that they can’t even get the envelopes straight.

Please note that this is not a comment on the picture finally selected by the Academy and so confusedly announced on the TV. This is a comment addressed to the credibility of the process employed to select the Best Picture. More fundamentally, it is also a guarded statement of concern regarding the continued relevance of the Academy and its Best Picture award.

A process should be seen as credible.

For the Best Picture process to be credible, it might be said that the process should be transparent and understandable both to the AMPAS voting participants and the movie audiences intended to receive the results.

A process that nominates too many films and is too complicated may not meet this standard.

On the one hand, the Academy could be viewed as abdicating its responsibility to the movie-going public and its voters in not make an expert judgment as to the very best nominees for Best Picture for that year. There is a concern here that this responsibility has not been met where there are too many candidates. In fact, there will only be one Best Picture; and in reality, it is unlikely there are more than two or three comparable films for that particular year. Judgment needs to be exercised before the ballots are distributed.

On the other hand, a process that is too complicated and perhaps best served in other applications could be viewed as doing a disservice to the AMPAS voters by not allowing their views to be reflected fully and truly in the results. Furthermore, a complicated exercise more appropriate for degreed statisticians may do a disservice to the more widely represented theatre audiences by not being fully transparent or easily understandable to the average ticket holder. Ballots should be easily marked and results straightforwardly tabulated.

Again, this is not to question the result for the Best Picture selected for 2016.

With deference and respect to the Academy, it is to question the continued relevance of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the exercise of its unique responsibilities to nominate the best pictures of the year, to assist the AMPAS voters in their selection of the one Best Picture, and to present a winner determined by a credible process. That process should reflect at its heart that the Oscar is determined and presented not by the Academy, not by the AMPAS voters and not by stars on a stage, but by the moviegoing audiences around the world who love the magic of film and are the true measure of a movies worth.

Allegiance is owed, by the Academy and its voters, first and foremost to those audiences.

When the maintenance of this sacred bond ceases to be the primary and determinative factor in the process of selecting and presenting the Best Picture, the risk exists that the Academy may have lost its credibility and relevance in the eyes of those it serves.

It is our sincere hope that this has not yet happened.

The debacle of the other night raised eyebrows.

The changes of the past years raise doubts.

It is for now to quell those concerns.

With hope for the future.

Grandpa Jim