Tag Archives: The Graduate

The Also Rans – The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (Best Picture Nominee 1966)

Russians are coming.jpgDirected by Norman Jewison

Screenplay by William Rose, based upon the novel by Nathaniel Benchley

Starring Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Alan Arkin, Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters, Paul Ford and Theodore Bikel

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming might’ve been nominated for Best Picture – and Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and a couple others – but it had zero chance of winning.  And by zero, I mean zero.  There’s always one or two of those kind of films in any Best Picture race and in 1966 The Russians are Coming was it.

One reason was history: Since the beginning, only six comedies have won the Oscar for Best Picture.  Ironically, at the time Russians came out, it would’ve had a better chance than it does today, because at that time five comedies had won Best Picture.  In the fifty years since, just one.  In a very real way its zero chance of winning in 1966 has steadily fallen below zero since. Continue reading

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The Best Picture Project — Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Midnight Cowboy.jpgMidnight Cowboy (1969)

Directed by John Schlesinger

Written by Waldo Salt, based upon the novel by James Leo Herlihy

Starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman

Midnight Cowboy seems an unusual choice to win the Oscar – after all, until it’s win in 1969, no movie with any real, honest-to-goodness grit to it, save for maybe Marty, managed to snag the top prize.  And those that did have a tinge of grit to it – or darkness, if you prefer another word – were about big, important things, e.g. The Best Years of Our Lives.  In other words, if a dark movie, rooted in real life, wanted to win Best Picture, it had to go big and make epic statements about important topics (anti-Semitism, WWII), because, aside from that sweet little film about the lonely butcher – Marty – you couldn’t win.

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The Best Picture Project – In The Heat of the Night (1967)

Directed by Norman Jewison

Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, Based on the novel by John Ball

Starring Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier and Warren Oates

At this point in The Best Picture Project, I’ve seen 38 Best Picture Winners – 39 if you count this film – which amounts to roughly half of the Academy’s big winners.    After seeing all those films I’d like to think I have a pretty good grasp on what the Academy prefers.  Generally they like their movies light and airy and uplifting, but occasionally they get a yen for something epic or even a little bit edgy, as long as both are ultimately sunny.  In short, they like ‘safe’ films, the kind that are likely to offend the fewest number of people. Continue reading

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