Best Picture and Director 1966

1927/28 through 1997

Please select on Best Picture and one Best Director

Alfie
0
No votes
A Man for All Seasons
6
13%
The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming
0
No votes
The Sand Pebbles
1
2%
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
17
35%
Michelangelo Antonioni - Blow-Up
9
19%
Richard Brooks - The Professionals
0
No votes
Claude Lelouch - A Man and a Woman
0
No votes
Mike Nichols - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
10
21%
Fred Zinnemann - A Man for All Seasons
5
10%
 
Total votes: 48

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby Heksagon » Thu Jul 09, 2015 12:56 am

Well, I saw the disappointing, but not terrible The Sand Pebbles some while ago, so I can vote here now. My votes go to A Man for All Seasons.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby bizarre » Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:48 am

Best Picture:

Au hasard Balthazar
Blow-Up
* Persona
The Sword of Doom
Wings


Best Director:

Michelangelo Antonioni … Blow-Up
Ingmar Bergman … Persona
Robert Bresson … Au hasard Balthazar
* Kihachi Okamoto … The Sword of Doom
Nagisa Ōshima … Violence at Noon

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:06 am

Big Magilla wrote:
Greg wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:Blow Up was Antonioni's only real box-office hit, which can probably be credited mostly to what one teacher of mine called the "Come see the pubic hair" pitch. Whatever hoo-ha Virginia Woolf stirred up with its language, Blow Up delivered pictorially, and in spades -- the film was totally off-limits to someone as young as me. (I remember one upperclassman advising me it was a great movie to take a girl to -- "The sex scenes will get you both horny, and the rest is so boring you can make out through it")


Wasn't 1966 during the pre-ratings era? So, how did that work, did individual theaters decide for themselves whom to admit?

That's a great question to which I don't know the answer. In its advertising, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which was passed by the Hays Office, was advertised as SMA (suitable for mature audiences), but I don't believe any theaters showing it barred anyone under a certain age as they would under the code beginning in November, 1968. That was considered parental responsibility.

Blow-Up was the first film from a major studio (MGM) that failed to receive a pass from the Hays Office. MGM released it anyway through a subsidiary. It did not play neighborhood theaters where most kids would have access to it so I don't know if keeping anyone out under 17 would have been much of an issue.

This brings to mind another interesting question. Movie theaters were a good place for young people to get a job while still in high school. Theaters hired kids from the age of 16 in New York and I suspect elsewhere. When the Code came in and an R or X rated film such as Midnight Cowboy was originally classified, were 16 year-olds banned from working during those films' runs?


My memory is that theatres showing Virginia Woolf? posted the far more restrictive "No One Under 18 Will Be Admitted without Parent or Guardian" -- the first time such a dictate had ever been placed on an American film. "Suggested for Mature Audiences" didn't start appearing till that Fall -- it was an interim step created by what remained of The crumbling Hays office, sort of a non-binding precursor to the ratings system, and was applied to movies including Georgy Girl.

Blow-Up, as Magilla says, failed to get a Film Code seal, which forced MGM to release it under a created-just-for-the-occasion label. It was also -- surprise! -- condemned by the then still marginally relevant Catholic Legion of Decency. I don't remember exactly how they restricted audiences, but it was certainly clear to me a 14-year-old shoudn't even try to buy a ticket.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:23 am

Greg wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:Blow Up was Antonioni's only real box-office hit, which can probably be credited mostly to what one teacher of mine called the "Come see the pubic hair" pitch. Whatever hoo-ha Virginia Woolf stirred up with its language, Blow Up delivered pictorially, and in spades -- the film was totally off-limits to someone as young as me. (I remember one upperclassman advising me it was a great movie to take a girl to -- "The sex scenes will get you both horny, and the rest is so boring you can make out through it")


Wasn't 1966 during the pre-ratings era? So, how did that work, did individual theaters decide for themselves whom to admit?

That's a great question to which I don't know the answer. In its advertising, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which was passed by the Hays Office, was advertised as SMA (suitable for mature audiences), but I don't believe any theaters showing it barred anyone under a certain age as they would under the code beginning in November, 1968. That was considered parental responsibility.

Blow-Up was the first film from a major studio (MGM) that failed to receive a pass from the Hays Office. MGM released it anyway through a subsidiary. It did not play neighborhood theaters where most kids would have access to it so I don't know if keeping anyone out under 17 would have been much of an issue.

This brings to mind another interesting question. Movie theaters were a good place for young people to get a job while still in high school. Theaters hired kids from the age of 16 in New York and I suspect elsewhere. When the Code came in and an R or X rated film such as Midnight Cowboy was originally classified, were 16 year-olds banned from working during those films' runs?

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:37 pm

Au Hasard Balthazar is a bit like Tokyo Story -- it achieves depths so profound it feels almost silly to lament it wasn't a part of this awards nonsense.

Of the other also-rans, I admire The Gospel According to St. Matthew, and also get a lot of pleasure out of Seconds, which feels somewhat like a feature film version of a great Twilight Zone episode.

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming plays a lot like the comedy version of The Invaders/49th Parallel. This isn't to say one couldn't make a great movie with laughs about Cold War tensions -- obviously Kubrick did that just two years prior. But that was smart, black comedy, whereas this is just broad and silly. As Mister Tee says, it's just not all that funny. And by the end, it just becomes so ludicrous -- look, if only we had a child dangling from a church steeple, we could end the Cold War and all be friends! What nonsense.

The Sand Pebbles is probably the more boring movie, though at least in its seriousness it never becomes laughable. Still, it's a pretty dull historical affair, and Steve McQueen was never really much of an actor. I'll agree that the McQueen/Mako bond is a compelling enough angle, but there are a lot of dreary subplots surrounding it, and the movie just goes on and on. And besides, I have to draw the line with Robert Wise SOMEWHERE, right?

I like to call stuff like A Man and a Woman "you-had-to-be-there" cinema. I guess at the time, Claude Lelouch's narrative and stylistic experiments were considered hip enough to make the movie somewhat of a sensation, but to me, when viewed today, they don't seem to be in service of all that much. In fact, I remember getting to the end of the movie and thinking, that's it? THAT was the plot? The score is swoon-worthy, but it's a pretty thin trifle of a story dressed up in art-house clothes.

I saw The Professionals not long after I first saw The Wild Bunch, and the proximity did not do the earlier film any benefit. Peckinpah's film felt, thematically and stylistically, like a bold modern western. The Professionals, by contrast, seemed to flirt with some of the same elements, but ultimately packaged them in a far more traditional, crowd-pleasing mold. It may not be fair to compare The Professionals to the more revolutionary westerns in the years ahead, but unfortunately I can't help it. This isn't to say I think Richard Brooks's film is bad -- it's engaging enough. But I don't think it's nearly as stylistically singular an effort as what loomed over the horizon.

Alfie is a funny and dramatically resonant movie that taps into the spirit of its era while creating a very compelling central character that allows it to hold up even today. And it's really worth noting that that character -- and Michael Caine's infectious embodiment of it -- is the chief reason the movie still plays. But I do have to ask a question posed by the film's title song: "What's it all about?" By movie's end, I wasn't completely sure what the filmmakers' point of view towards this character was, or what thematic idea was meant to be conveyed by the simultaneous judgment toward and embrace of Alfie's lifestyle. It's a good time capsule piece, but not, for me, meaty enough a narrative to choose as Best Picture.

A Man for All Seasons is among the more intelligent pieces of period pageantry during this era. It's got fine performances, especially by Paul Scofield in a role that was made for an actor to soar, but also by those on the sidelines such as Robert Shaw and Wendy Hiller. And the writing does seem to have some contemporary relevance, but never feels heavy-handed, avoiding obvious parallels to the revolutions burgeoning in the country at that point. But compared to the other options, it does lack a certain spark. As I've said before, I think Fred Zinnemann was a perfectly solid director, but he wasn't one with great imagination, and while I feel this is a respectable effort, I share Mister Tee's feeling that it's a bit distant to vote for in this lineup.

And this ballot contains Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, one of the very best adaptations of a stage play in movie history. It's not just that the film features Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor bringing a lot of the sizzle of their own tempestuous relationship to the screen, resulting in career best performances for both. It's that Mike Nichols (and his cinematographers) create a genuinely visually impressive movie without actually expanding the play all that much. It's the shots themselves -- strikingly framed, evocatively lit, full of movement within the frame and from the camera itself -- that give the movie an energy that more stuffy adaptations lack. And, of course, it's a pretty great play on the page, full of bracing dialogue, despicable yet human characters, and plot turns that still manage to surprise even in the wake of so many imitators. It's definitely the Best Picture nominee that reaches me the most, and gets my easy vote.

Director is tougher, because I do think Mike Nichols's achievement on Woolf is very notable, but I feel that Michelangelo Antonioni's directorial achievement is just at a different level than his competition. Antonioni takes flack in some more populist circles for being a very cerebral director -- I personally don't mind the self-consciously arty side of his work, so that's never bothered me -- but here he was able to take his fondness for plotless-ness and turn out something that was not only bafflingly open to interpretation, but unexpectedly gripping as well. When I first saw the wordless, blow-up photograph sequence -- alone in my apartment, by the way -- I was unnerved in a manner I rarely have been when watching a film. And yet, somehow, the simple montage of images created a feeling of such unbearable tension I was left utterly chilled. We may not know exactly what happened in the park that day, but the suggestion of danger lurking out there is almost even scarier than any violence we could actually see. I'd vote Antonioni Best Director just for this sequence alone, but the fact that he manages to sustain his ambiguous high-wire act throughout the rest of the film further solidifies his accomplishment in my book. Plus, the film has been hugely influential for thrillers in the decades since, so I'll also give a tip of my hat to the ground Antonioni broke here.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby Greg » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:47 pm

Mister Tee wrote:Blow Up was Antonioni's only real box-office hit, which can probably be credited mostly to what one teacher of mine called the "Come see the pubic hair" pitch. Whatever hoo-ha Virginia Woolf stirred up with its language, Blow Up delivered pictorially, and in spades -- the film was totally off-limits to someone as young as me. (I remember one upperclassman advising me it was a great movie to take a girl to -- "The sex scenes will get you both horny, and the rest is so boring you can make out through it")


Wasn't 1966 during the pre-ratings era? So, how did that work, did individual theaters decide for themselves whom to admit?
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Re: Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:25 pm

My favorite film of 1966 that didn't make the best picture list was easily Georgy Girl -- a misfit story that couldn't have more perfectly suited my 14-year-old self, and became my favorite movie until Midnight Cowboy turned up a few years later. It was with some trepidation that I took another look at it a year or two ago...but I was surprised to love it almost as much. I think, as Brit hits of the time go, it's a lot more interesting/surprising than Alfie, with a great central character (who's sympathetic and alot more self-sufficient than she seems on initial view) and multiple wonderful performances -- Redgrave and Bates became lifelong loves for me.

Apart from that, in a bad year, there's not alot I like that went unrecognized -- except Au Hasard Bathazar, which as far as I know was not remotely on the radar back then, and even today seems to exist on too elevated a plane for it be discussed in such crass terms as whether it rates an Oscar.

The battle for weakest actual nominee I guess is a toss-up between The Sand Pebbles and The Russians Are Coming. The former is probably harder to sit through these days, given its length, but at least elements of the story are interesting (as noted by Magilla, the McQueen/Mako relationship was engrossing), and it's one of the few dimensional leading roles Steve McQueen ever managed to land (not that he was so strong an actor as to have deserved many more).

I found The Russians Are Coming bafflingly unfunny even in 1966. Bosley Crowther was soon to lose his NY Times critic's job for his obtuseness over Bonnie and Clyde, but for me his willingness to praise vapid things like this should have got him 86-ed sooner. I think he and his fellow critics were so eager to praise the "we're all brothers under the skin" moral of the film that they neglected to note that a comedy is supposed to be funny -- such laughs as the film got were strictly TV-level. Alan Arkin's gentle bemusement -- especially in among all those inveterate over-actors -- is the one delicate touch in the whole tiresome enterprise.

Jumping to the directing side for a moment: the slating of The Professionals, not just here but under screenplay as well, is a real puzzler -- and I say this as someone who saw and enjoyed the film at the time. But every time I look in on the film when it turns up on TCM, it looks like a pretty routine western, distinguished only by its then top-line cast and what was for its time an unexpected narrative twist. Richard Brooks got (and deserved) those same two nominations a year later, but here he seems to have just had the right credentials to fill a vacuum.

In 1966, A Man and a Woman was deemed adult enough a 14-year-old wasn't allowed entry (not that a movie with subtitles would have drawn me in at that age, anyway). By the time I did see it -- in my early 30s -- it seemed not only tame, but lame enough that one wondered what possessed audiences and the Academy to flip for it so massively. It probably just hit the sweet spot for the emerging art house audience: a tiny bit disorienting (jagged time sequences still new to US filmgoers), its style slightly off-center (wow -- some of it in color, some not!), and protagonists daringly outside the young/happy norm of American films. Oh, and a glisteningly romantic score from yet another French composer. (Does it mean anything that the group that did best at the Oscars from this era of French films were the composers? Delerue, Legrand, Lai, Jarre all took prizes at some point) I wonder if roughly the same film, only in English, would have caused the same art-house swoon?

Back to the best picture grouping: I've already semi-dismissed Alfie by saying I found it inferior to Georgy Girl. This is not to say it's less than a decent, engaging movie. But I never found it as funny as many claimed it to be, and I also found its denouement surprisingly judgmental; you could almost imagine the movie being shown to religious groups as illustrating The Wages of Sin. So, while I enjoyed it enough while I was watching it -- particularly because of the new kind of charisma displayed by Michael Caine in the title role -- I didn't think it resonated in any way. (I should add that I find Bill Naughton a tiresome writer in many ways; I thought The Family Way was even less inspired, despite strong contributions from the film's actors)

The remaining three films are the ones that generally come up when one speaks of the best of 1966. A Man for All Seasons arrived in December and got excellent reviews, to the great relief of some critics and, certainly, Academy voters, who up till then were looking at the prospect of voting their top prizes to movies widely viewed as dirty. Seasons is no question the best of the many mid-century British history films of the era. It had often sprightly dialogue, a commanding central character, and a sense of place that was beyond most other such efforts -- Scofield and company gave the impression of people living and breathing in their environments, as opposed to actors declaiming in front of elaborate flats. However, I have to say I also view the main conflict as rather vanilla, with Thomas More too clearly on the side of the angels (not to mention with more than his share of the good lines). Plus it may be that, for me, even this genre at its best fails to engage me the way more contemporary ones do.

Blow Up was Antonioni's only real box-office hit, which can probably be credited mostly to what one teacher of mine called the "Come see the pubic hair" pitch. Whatever hoo-ha Virginia Woolf stirred up with its language, Blow Up delivered pictorially, and in spades -- the film was totally off-limits to someone as young as me. (I remember one upperclassman advising me it was a great movie to take a girl to -- "The sex scenes will get you both horny, and the rest is so boring you can make out through it") I didn't finally see it until college, and, I must confess, my first reaction to it was that it had taken a perfectly interesting mystery plot and goobered it up with surrealist hokum. Okay, I was still semi-young. I saw the film again, sometime in the 90s, and found it pretty mesmerizing. My view, in fact, was somewhat turned on its head: I now thought that, by tackling this intriguing mystery plot but taking it where he did, he'd wandered gently into the mainstream without sacrificing his own unique voice. (Not unlike what Albee did in writing Virginia Woolf, to jump ahead a tad) Clearly one has to consider Antonioni as the directorial choice.

But in the end I've opted for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Mike Nichols as a tandem. The best picture choice is easy: Woolf is a vastly superior play to A Man for All Seasons (or Alfie, for that matter), and translated to the screen with pretty much all its power intact (give or take "angel boobs" for "monkey tits"). Eric's take on it is interesting, esp. vis a vis Boys in the Band (though I would argue another difference between the two is that Virginia Woolf only stumbles into well-made-play territory, where Boys in the Band wallows in it). Whatever Albee meant to be writing about, what he churned out is intensely personal, for me far more than his other plays, and has been reaching audiences for half a century in one different production after another. My decision to honor Nichols as well as the film partly comes from knowing there are two must-choose directors next year, and if I opt for Nichols here I can make sure both get my vote at some point. But I also want to salute him for a part of directing we tend to which we tend to give short shrift around here: getting performances out of actors. No one is particularly surprised he got great work out of Richard Burton (though it was close to the last such performance for him), and Sandy Dennis was maybe a case of perfect casting. But bringing Elizabeth Taylor to that performance deserves kudos, and I'm giving it to Nichols by voting him best director.

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby Reza » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:13 am

Voted for A Man For All Seasons & Mike Nichols.

My picks for 1966:

Best Picture
1. A Man for All Seasons
2. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
3. The Professionals
4. Blow-Up
5. Alfie

The 6th Spot: Born Free

Best Director
1. Mike Nichols, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
2. Fred Zinnemann, A Man for All Seasons
3. Michelangelo Antonioni, Blow-Up
4. Richard Brooks, The Professionals
5. Claude Lelouche, A Man and a Woman

The 6th Spot: Lewis Gilbert, Alfie

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby Eric » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:32 am

Edward Albee may not think Virginia Woolf can be transposed into a scenario involving four men. He's technically right (e.g. the business about the poof going puff, et al), but the fact remains that it represents one of the last great roars of gay American expression -- veiled, coded, full of insinuation -- before the post-Stonewall, post-Boys in the Band era. In fact, Boys in the Band feels like a rehash of many of the same themes Virginia Woolf covers, but in existing as an explicit document I think it set its own expiration date. The difference between the two makes a strong argument in favor of implicit subtext, and that's the double-edged sword of breakthroughs: eventually they're going to look dated and naive. The language of Virginia Woolf was of course incredibly frank at the time, but the reason it retains its power now is the notion that the strong language is concealing even stronger, more unsettling truths. Do straight couples fight? Of course they do. But to me there's just something undeniably queer in the chemistry between George and Martha, something that one picks up like a slant pheromone.

The man who would later go one to direct The Birdcage, um, doesn't entirely pick up on the scent, which is enough to throw my director vote Antonioni's way. But happily Nichols headed up a technical team whose talents were flamboyant enough in any number of other ways that its double-digit nomination haul is defensible. The movie is basically the entire thesis of Mark Harris's fantastic Pictures at a Revolution distilled into a single film.

All that said, my top-ranking film of 1966 is one of my favorite a-g paeans to hetero lust:

01. Breakaway
02. Au Hasard Balthazar
03. Kill Baby, Kill!
04. Hold Me While I'm Naked
05. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
06. Unsere Afrikareise
07. Masculin féminin
08. Black Girl
09. Blow-Up
10. Seconds

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Re: Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby Greg » Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:17 pm

I don't know if this is unuque for Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, but it received a nomination for everything that is was truly eligible. The owner and waitress at the bar might be technically supporting roles, but they were too small to be truly eligible even for supporting nominations; and, it might have had some visual and sound effects, but their use would have been too limited to be truly elgible in those categories.
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Best Picture and Director 1966

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:55 pm

We are approaching the end of the longest stretch in which I agreed with the Academy's Best Picture choices (1960-1967).

To me, the 60s was the most fascinating period in movie history. Unlike the swift transition from silents to talkies or from the pre-Code era to the long thirty plus years under the thumb of the Production Code, the transition out of that era was gradual, then deliberate with no holds barred.

The point of no return was 1966, which saw the release of Mike Nichols film of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with its then shocking language as well as an increase in the release of British and European films with franker situations than Hollywood yet dared produce. That said, I doubt Woolf would have scored a near-record 13 Oscar nominations and 5 wins if the Academy were no longer doling out separate awards for black-and-white and color films, a practice it stopped with this year's awards. Still, it was the year's most talked about film and one of only two really possible Oscar winners.

The other contender was, of course, Fred Zinnemann's A Man for All Seasons, a period film, a thinking man's religious film and a film that was seen at the time as a parallel to contemporary times in that Thomas More's defiance of Henry VIII was something akin to the growing resistance to the draft during the escalation of the Vietnam War.

Everything else was an also-ran, although Lewis Gilbert's send-up of the mod life-style in Alfie was certainly worthy of its Best Picture nomination. Robert Wise's The Sand Pebbles and Norman Jewison's The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming are OK if not really Oscar worthy, but there's something to like in both of them - Steve McQueen's interactions with Mako in the former; the non-scary Russians in the latter.

Since basically everything else is a fill-in I would fill out my ballot with Jan Kadar's The Shop on Main Street and Pier Paoul Pasolini's The Gospel According of St. Matthew, though John Frankenheimer's Seconds; John Ford's 7 Women (his last film);James Hill's Born Free and Silvio Narizzano's Georgy Girl would be perfectly acceptable choices as would The Professionals and Blow-Up which earned Best Director nods for Richard Brooks and Michelangelo Antonioni, respectively.

The only nomination I really have a problem with is Claude Lelouch for Best Director for the sleep inducing A Man and a Woman. Any of the directors of the other films I mentioned would have been a better choice.

I voted for Seasons and Zinnemann.


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