1963 in Review

Other Notable Films from 1963

8 ½: Federico Fellini’s most celebrated film (which is saying something), it’s fairly autobiographical, about the creative process for a film director who everybody expects incredible things out of. I watched this years ago in less than optimal settings and didn’t really enjoy it, but my tastes have changed since then and I plan on re-watching it at some point. #10 on the Sight and Sound list.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: One of my favorite comedies ever, it’s a madcap movie about a cast of thousands trying to get to the Big W where a dying man says a treasure is buried. Just about every living comedian was in it-Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman and tons and tons of great cameos. Nominated for 6 Oscars (none of the big ones though) and #40 on the AFI 100 Laughs list.

The Birds: Hitchcock’s last universally acclaimed movie and the third of his adaptations of Daphne du Maurier stories (Rebecca, Jamaica Inn; she also wrote the story 70s classic Don’t Look Now is based on). Ub Iwerks got nominated for an Oscar for Special Effects here, one of the only times he got proper recognition for his work: this is the guy who helped design Mickey Mouse and animated Steamboat Willie and The Skeleton Dance, yet nobody knows he is. Iwerks is pretty much the real life Chester J. Lampwick.

The Great Escape: This classic was only nominated for one Oscar (Film Editing), but made Steve McQueen a superstar after his breakout role in The Magnificent Seven. It was based on a real escape by POWs in a Nazi camp during WWII, but this version greatly emphasizes the American contributions and downplays the Canadians’; surely, this would never happen again in a move.

Hud: Nominated for 7 Oscars including Director, Actor (Paul Newman), Actress (Patricia Neal, who won despite only getting 21 minutes of screentime), and Adapted Screenplay, it’s one of the more baffling Best Picture omissions I can think of. It’s still considered a great movie, and I wish I had a chance to watch it for the project.

The Haunting: What does Robert Wise do in between directing Best Picture-winning Musicals West Side Story and The Sound of Music? Make a psychological horror film of course. This movie gets tons of praise for it’s atmosphere, growing sense of dread and lack of jump scares, but I’ve watched it twice and it still doesn’t do anything for me. As I’ve said before, The Innocents is a much better film in the same vein from the same time period.

The Nutty Professor: The original version of the movie (well, as original as a parody of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be), starring Jerry Lewis. Lewis’ nerdy professor Dr. Kelp was the basis for Professor Frink from The Simpsons. In the National Film Registry.

The Pink Panther: The first film in the franchise, David Niven was technically the star, but Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau ran away with the movie and was the main character for the rest of the movies. In the National Film Registry.

Jason and the Argonauts: Probably the most famous of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation movies, it’s most famous for the battle with the skeleton warriors near the end which was mind-blowing for the time.

1963 Nominees in Review

Lilies of the Field: B

America America: B

How the West Was Won: B-

Cleopatra: C-

Tom Jones: D+ (Won Best Picture)

Very weak year with one of the worst Best Picture winners so far. Nothing stood out as a great film in the field, although only two were chores to watch, and there was an incredible contrast between two films, one that cost $340 million and still ended up being upstaged by another that cost under $2 million (both adjusted for inflation). For me, there are some similarities between this time period in movies and where we are now: in the 60s, everything out of Hollywood had to be a big budget epic so that audiences had something to see that they wouldn’t watch on TV; now, TV has caught up and arguably surpassed movies as a storytelling medium, so everything out of Hollywood is a big budget action CG fest because they have to give people can’t see on TV or the internet (that, and big action plays well in all markets). I am REALLY looking forward to the 70s (mainly 1971-1977), but right now things are somewhat grim.

Coming up for 1964: The first of two times Peter O’Toole played King Henry II in a Best Picture nominee this decade; A Best Picture nominee that originally was going to end with a pie fight; the movie Julie Andrews got snubbed for and the movie Julie Andrews did instead that won her an Oscar; and a movie whose composer was a long-time member of Greek Parliament

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