Most Best Picture winners have sufficient redeeming qualities to make a counter argument difficult. Whereas “Citizen Kane” is now considered one of the best films of all time, Orson Welles was an experimental troublemaker at the time and the Academy wasn’t daring enough. “Dances With Wolves” was a personal epic but now “Goodfellas” is though of by some as Scorcese’s best work in his long career.
I chose 1964 as my final entry in this year’s Academy Awards blog series. Five years later, the dramatic (and, at the time, X-rated) “Midnight Cowboy” won and independent auteurs would take over from the studio system. Here are the nominees with an asterisk by the winner:
Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
*My Fair Lady
Zorba the Greek
A large scale musical adapted from a Broadway hit is the epitome of the Old Hollywood. Add into the mix legendary director George Cukor and the stiff-upper-lip Rex Harrison and there is no doubt it would be the winner.
But, what IF the Academy recognized the genius of Stanley Kubrick then? What if they compared two movies with similar themes released the same year (the other being the staid “Fail Safe”)? What if they admitted witnessing one of the greatest comic acting performances, times 3, in the screen personas of Peter Sellers?
“Dr. Strangelove” was timely and provocative, using satire to show us the madness of the nuclear build up and the blind devotion to technology. In comparison to the other films nominated that year, it was the little picture with the big message.
Whether this was Kubrick’s best work is the subject for another discussion. Sadly, outside of an Oscar win for Special Effects for “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Stanley Kubrick was never fully honored for his meticulous craftsmanship.
And now, on April 25, the Academy will dispense their statues to another group of film-makers. After that, let the discussions begin.