The Great Oscar Re-Do (Part 2: 1951-1975)

Here’s Part 2 of Cinema Grandcanyonscope’s Great Oscar Re-Do:

1951 – Winner: “An American in Paris;” Should Have Won: “An American in Paris.”  1951 was a competition between An American in Paris and A Streetcar Named Desire, and it’s close enough that I wouldn’t be able to argue with either result.

1952 – Winner: “The Greatest Show on Earth;” Should Have Won: “Singin’ in the Rain”  This is often listed at the top of the list of greatest Oscar snubs, especially considering when most people imagine a Western, they are imagining High Noon.  Still, it is Singin’ in the Rain that has stood the test of time from 1952 rather than either of these films.

1953 – Winner: “From Here to Eternity;” Should Have Won: “Tokyo Story.”  From Here to Eternity was the best American film of 1953, and I had difficulty bumping it from its perch.  It is high entertainment, but Tokyo Story is high art.

1954 – Winner: “On the Waterfront;” Should Have Won: “Seven Samurai.”  This one stings a bit, and “Rear Window” came out in the same year as well.  “On the Waterfront” is one of the greatest American films by any estimation, but Seven Samurai is a far more important film.

1955 – Winner: “Marty;” Should Have Won: “Pather Panchali.”  Ernest Borgnine’s greatest performance deserves the recognition it received, but Pather Panchali is the milestone that marks the start of a truly world cinema.

1956 – Winner: “Around the World in Eighty Days;” Should Have Won: “The Searchers.”  What many consider John Ford’s greatest work is meditation on the destructive power of vengeance where the supposed hero and supposed villain are basically the same character.

1957 – Winner: “The Bridge on the River Kwai;” Should Have Won: “The Seventh Seal.” Some years had an embarrassment of riches.  The Bridge of the River Kwai is one of Lean’s finest films, but it is flawed in ways that The Seventh Seal isn’t.

1958 – Winner: “Gigi;” Should Have Won: “Vertigo.”  Vertigo is now considered by some polls to be the greatest film of all time, but it was actually a commercial flop when it come out.  That is probably the reason it did not win Best Picture in 1958.

1959 – Winner: “Ben-Hur;” Should Have Won: “Ben-Hur.”  While it’s true that Ben-Hur has been surpassed in the epic genre and in some respects it hasn’t aged well, it won everything in sight in 1959 for good reason.

1960 – Winner: “The Apartment;” Should Have Won: “Breathless.”  Oh 1960, what to do with you?  Billy Wilder’s greatest film (The Apartment), Kubrick’s first great epic (Spartacus), Hitchcock’s most popular film (Psycho), or the French Citizen Kane (Breathless)?  L’Avenntura, and La Dolce Vita also came out that year.  In final analysis, the French New Wave changed everything in cinema as an artform and Breathless is a worthy representative from that movement.

1961 – Winner: “West Side Story;” Should Have Won: “West Side Story.”  West Side Story has had so much praise lavished upon it that I won’t repeat that here, except to say that I recently watched it and I still can’t get Bernstein’s score out of my head.

1962 – Winner: “Lawrence of Arabia;” Should Have Won: “Lawrence of Arabia.”  Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence blows out a match and the scene transitions to the sun rising over the desert, and to cinema’s greatest adventure.

1963 – Winner: “Tom Jones;” Should Have Won: “8 1/2.”  8 1/2 is the greatest movie about the art of making movies.

1964 – Winner: “My Fair Lady;” Should Have Won: “A Hard Day’s Night.”  I pose the following – the Academy picked the wrong musical in 1964.

1965 – Winner: “The Sound of Music;” Should Have Won: “The Sound of Music.” I pose the following – the Academy picked the right musical in 1965.

1966 – Winner: “A Man for All Seasons;” Should Have Won: “Persona.”  Bergman once said of Persona, “Today I feel that in Persona, and later in Cries and Whispers, I had gone as far as I could go. And that in these two instances when working in total freedom, I touched wordless secrets that only the cinema can discover.”

1967 – Winner: “In the Heat of the Night;” Should Have Won: “In the Heat of the Night.”  It must have been tough awarding a primarily American award in the 1960’s when so many great and influential foreign films were coming out.  Still, In the Heat of the Night is an important American film and deserves its spot here.

1968 – Winner: “Oliver!;” Should Have Won: “2001: A Space Odyssey.”  This one is hard to imagine, but the Academy loved musicals in the 1960’s since so many of the older voters were nostalgic for the “Golden Age” of musicals earlier in the century.  If movies like Oliver! were the past, movies like 2001 were the future.

1969 – Winner: “Midnight Cowboy;” Should Have Won: “Midnight Cowboy.”  Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider were the harbingers of the New Hollywood, and either could be considered best picture of 1969, so I’ll defer to the Academy.

1970 – Winner: “Patton;” Should Have Won: “Patton.”  I almost put “MASH” here, but Patton is a good choice too.

1971 – Winner: “The French Connection;” Should Have Won: “The French Connection.”  The French Connection is the epitome of early 1970’s action cinema.

1972 – Winner: “The Godfather;” Should Have Won: “The Godfather.”  The greatest American film.

1973 – Winner: “The Sting;” Should Have Won: “Day for Night.”  Day for Night actually did win Best Foreign Film in 1973.  The Sting is a fun movie with great actors, but Day for Night is the last of the great French New Wave masterpieces and may be Truffaut’s greatest film.

1974 – Winner: “The Godfather, Part II.”  Should Have Won: “The Godfather, Part II.”  I’ve heard some arguments for Chinatown but none that have really convinced me.

1975 – Winner: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest;” Should Have Won: “Jaws.”  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest won everything there was to win in 1975, but Jaws changed everything about the film industry.  Also I find that Jaws has aged better.

Now we’re rolling.  Stay tuned for Part 3!

(c) D.G. McCabe