Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Katie-Bar-The-Door Awards (1962)

"Oh, Mr. Buñuel! I had a nice idea for a movie for you."


"Yeah. A group of people attend a very formal dinner party and at the end of dinner when they try to leave the room, they can't."

"Why not?"

"They just can't seem to exit the door."

"But why?"

"Well, momento. When they're forced to stay together, the veneer of civilization quickly fades away and what they're left with is who they really are—animals."

"But I don't get it. Why don't they just walk out of the room?"

"All I'm saying is just think about it. Who knows—maybe when you're shaving one day, it'll tickle your fancy."

—Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) to Luis Buñuel (Adrien de Van) in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.

Maybe there was something in the water that year, but 1962 was a great one for movies. And not just any movies, but a group of movies that taken separately or together represent the most jaundiced view of humanity ever to sell a sackful of tickets. Lawrence of Arabia, The Manchurian Candidate, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lolita, Ride the High Country and even The Music Man with its con-man hero, consistently showed human beings at their greedy, violent, lying worst with very little hope that as a species, we'll ever evolve into anything better.

The bleakest—and funniest—of the year's films was Luis Buñuel's black comedy The Exterminating Angel, about a group of aristocrats who attend a dinner party then for reasons straight out of the Twilight Zone find themselves unable to leave. Buñuel isn't just saying that civilization is a thin veneer easily cracked apart in stressful times, he's saying that civilization is an illusion we have faith in only because we're habituated to the inhuman behavior of ourselves and our fellow inmates in the asylum of life, a fact we only occasionally notice when circumstances are so out of the ordinary that they throw our actions into stark relief.

Or to put it another way, we're just big animals with clothes on.

Too harsh? Well, maybe, but then maybe you didn't read the day's headlines. Which day's? Any day's.

winner: Lawrence Of Arabia (prod. Sam Spiegel)
nominees: To Kill A Mockingbird (prod. Alan J. Pakula); The Longest Day (prod. Darryl F. Zanuck); The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (prod. Willis Goldbeck and John Ford); The Manchurian Candidate (prod. George Axelrod and John Frankenheimer); Ride The High Country (prod. Richard E. Lyons); What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (prod. Robert Aldrich)

PICTURE (Comedy/Musical)
winner: The Music Man (prod. Morton DaCosta)
nominees: Gypsy (prod. Mervyn LeRoy); Lolita (prod. James B. Harris)

PICTURE (Foreign Language)
winner: El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel) (prod. Gustavo Alatriste)
nominees: L'eclisse (prod. Raymond Hakim and Robert Hakim); Jules et Jim (prod. François Truffaut); Sanma no aji (An Autumn Afternoon) (prod. Shizuo Yamanouchi); Seppuku (Harakiri) (prod. Tatsuo Hosoya); Il sorpasso (The Easy Life) (prod. Mario Cecchi Gori); Tsubaki Sanjûrô (Sanjuro) (prod. Ryûzô Kikushima and Tomoyuki Tanaka); Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux (Vivre Sa Vie) (prod. Pierre Braunberger)

ACTOR (Drama)
winner: Peter O'Toole (Lawrence Of Arabia)
nominees: Kirk Douglas (Lonely Are the Brave); Burt Lancaster (Birdman of Alcatraz); Jack Lemmon (Days of Wine and Roses); Joel McCrea (Ride the High Country); Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear); Tatsuya Nakadai (Seppuku a.k.a Harakiri); Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird); Randolph Scott (Ride the High Country); Frank Sinatra (The Manchurian Candidate)

ACTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Robert Preston (The Music Man)
nominees: Dirk Bogarde (The Password Is Courage); James Mason (Lolita); Toshirô Mifune (Tsubaki Sanjûrô a.k.a. Sanjuro)

winner: Jeanne Moreau (Jules et Jim)
nominees: Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker); Bette Davis (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?); Katharine Hepburn (Long Day's Journey Into Night); Geraldine Page (Sweet Bird of Youth)

ACTRESS (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Shelley Winters (Lolita)
nominees: Shirley Jones (The Music Man); Corinne Marchand (Cléo de 5 à 7 a.k.a. Cleo From 5 To 7); Rosalind Russell (Gypsy); Natalie Wood (Gypsy)

winner: David Lean (Lawrence Of Arabia)
nominees: Robert Aldrich (What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?); John Ford (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance); John Frankenheimer (Birdman of Alcatraz and The Manchurian Candidate); Masaki Kobayashi (Seppuku a.k.a Harakiri); Robert Mulligan (To Kill A Mockingbird); Yasujirô Ozu (Sanma no aji a.k.a. An Autumn Afternoon); Sam Peckinpah (Ride The High Country); François Truffaut (Jules et Jim)

DIRECTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Luis Buñuel (El ángel exterminador a.k.a. The Exterminating Angel)
nominees: Morton DaCosta (The Music Man); Mervyn LeRoy (Gypsy); Stanley Kubrick (Lolita); Akira Kurosawa (Tsubaki Sanjûrô a.k.a. Sanjuro); Dino Risi (Il sorpasso a.k.a. The Easy Life)

winner: Omar Sharif (Lawrence Of Arabia)
nominees: Ed Begley (Sweet Bird of Youth); Victor Buono (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?); Khigh Dhiegh (The Manchurian Candidate); Paul Ford (The Music Man); Laurence Harvey (The Manchurian Candidate); Lee Marvin (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance); Robert Ryan (Billy Budd); Peter Sellers (Lolita); Telly Savalas (Birdman of Alcatraz); John Wayne (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance)

winner: Angela Lansbury (The Manchurian Candidate)
nominees: Mary Badham (To Kill A Mockingbird); Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker); Hermione Gingold (The Music Man); Mariette Hartley (Ride The High Country); Janet Leigh (The Manchurian Candidate)

winner: George Axelrod, from the novel by Richard Condon (The Manchurian Candidate)
nominees: Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, from the writings of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence Of Arabia); James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck, from the story by Dorothy M. Johnson (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance); Horton Foote, from the novel by Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird)

Anne V. Coates (Lawrence Of Arabia) (Film Editing); Freddie Young (Lawrence Of Arabia) (Cinematography); Maurice Jarre (Lawrence Of Arabia) (Score); La Jetée (Short)


Erik Beck said...

And let's not forget the book end of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, when they keep sitting down to dinner and never get to eat.

I love all the love for The Music Man, an absolute childhood favorite of mine that I still love.

But Shelley Winters as Best Actress? I'm thinking the weakness of the category caused you to push her up, because I can't conceive how she is anything but a supporting performance. A great one - deserving of the award, but definitely supporting. As I'm about to write in a review of Lolita, I wish I could combine the two supporting performances from the original with the lead performances from the 96 remake.

Maggie said...

Some pretty dark films.

Indeed, there is that underlying tone to The Music Man. I would assume most people see the movie as a fun musical, yet, fail to see the message.

Mythical Monkey said...

I love all the love for The Music Man, an absolute childhood favorite of mine that I still love.

I also have a soft-spot in my heart for The Music Man -- when I was in law school, one of my pals dated the college librarian whose name was, no kidding, Marian, and a group of us learned all the words to "Marian the Librarian" and went down there and serenaded her one afternoon. She was both amused and horrified.

For a long time there, it seemed to be on every Fourth of July, and I think I watched it every Fourth of July. Great stuff.

Remember that, by the way, when a movie would show up on network television once a year and it was a big event -- The Great Escape, The Sound of Music, and especially The Wizard of Oz. But you can't capture an audience like that anymore -- too many alternatives.

But Shelley Winters as Best Actress?

I'll cop to category creep there. Interestingly, the Golden Globes nominated Shelley Winter as best actress in a Drama for Lolita -- but then when did the Golden Globes ever get anything right, except by accident?

I almost went with Shirley Jones -- she's incredibly cute in The Music Man -- but I think Elmer Gantry is her best work, so that's what I wanted to hang my hat on. Underrated actress. I think The Partridge Family probably destroyed her street cred.

As I'm about to write in a review of Lolita, I wish I could combine the two supporting performances from the original with the lead performances from the 96 remake.

Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain are terrific in the remake -- so much so, everybody wanted to burn director Adrian Lyne at the stake, as I recall (I was living in England when it finally got its limited release in the U.S.). The audience was too uncomfortably complicit in Humbert Humbert's crime. Maybe that's the advantage of a novel -- aside from the fact that it's one of the most beautifully-written books of all time, you never actually have to see what Humbert is up to. Seeing something is so much more shocking than reading about it.

Mythical Monkey said...

Some pretty dark films.

Studios would never churn out that much pessimism now, not unless it involved a guy chained in a room with a saw and a cellphone.

And yet, shows like The Sopranos, Dexter, Mad Men and Breaking Bad find an audience on cable. Maybe studios are under-estimating our capacity for quality.

Or maybe they just don't make movies like Lawrence of Arabia anymore.

Laura said...

Man, I am so down with Winters winning for Lolita. She took the role of hysterical, gaudy housewife to a whole new level of heart wrenching, obnoxious insanity. Great, fun performance.

Mythical Monkey said...

Man, I am so down with Winters winning for Lolita. She took the role of hysterical, gaudy housewife to a whole new level of heart wrenching, obnoxious insanity.

That was my thought re: Shelley Winters, that it is the quintessential Shelley Winters performance, one that I'd want to hang my hat on when making a case for what she brought to the screen.

But it was lead actress or nothing because Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate might just be the greatest performance by a supporting actress ever. I should look that up before I say something like that, but she is one of the all-time great villains of movie history. How did she not win the Oscar that year?