Other Notable Films from 1968
2001: A Space Odyssey: A massive omission-nominated for 4 Oscars (including Director for Stanley Kubrick and Original Screenplay) but not Best Picture despite it now being considered one of the greatest of all-time. Upon its release, it was extremely divisive due to its amazing visuals and intelligence, but many found it incomprehensive; there still are many in both camps, but it’s universally appreciated for being way ahead of the curve. #6 on the Sight and Sound List.
Once Upon a Time in the West: In my opinion, one of the greatest films ever made and the culmination of everything Sergio Leone had been doing with Westerns. There’s so many things to talk about with this movie-Henry Fonda doing an amazing job playing against type, Charles Bronson’s sheer presence, Ennio Morricone’s score, the stunning Claudia Cardinale, the pacing of scenes, its themes about the death of the wild west via the railroad, I love everything about it. If you haven’t seen it, you absolutely should even if you don’t like Westerns. Unfortunately, it was trimmed by 21 minutes for its initial U.S. release which ruined its shot at a BP nomination if there ever was the possibility. In the National Film Registry.
Rosemary’s Baby: One of the seminal horror movies of all-time, which is what happens when you have a fantastic director (Roman Polanski) making a horror movie which plays with extremely accessible underlying themes (the fear of something going wrong with your/your wife’s pregnancy) and 100% committed performances playing it completely straight. Nominated for Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress. In the National Film Registry.
Night of the Living Dead: Another seminal horror movie and the movie that made zombies mainstream and forever defined what a zombie should look and act like. A huge part of this movie’s success besides its obvious merits is due to it’s always being in the public domain (due to a failure to affix copyright correctly when that was a requirement), meaning that it got shown everywhere and by everyone. In the National Film Registry.
The Odd Couple: The most celebrated of the many collaborations between Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau and is considered one of the great comedies of all-time. Nominated for 2 Academy Awards for Adapted Screenplay and Editing. In the National Film Registry.
Bullitt: Everybody remembers it for its legendary car chase and Steve McQueen in one of his definitive roles, but this is one of the best movies ever at capturing the look and feel of a city with the whole movie filmed on location in San Francisco and San Mateo, which provide great snapshots for cities that have undergone massive changes since then. Nominated for Editing and Sound. In the National Film Registry.
Planet of the Apes: Charlton Heston is always fun and certainly is here, and the makeup was revolutionary for the time. Of course, what most people remember above everything else is its twist ending-what most people don’t know is that it wasn’t in the original novel, but was actually written by the master of the twist ending himself, Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. In the National Film Registry.
The Producers: The directorial debut of the great Mel Brooks who was one of the first directors whose movies I fell in love with and this is one of his most enduring works that later became a massively successful musical. Nominated for 2 Oscars (Original Screenplay which it won for and Gene Wilder for Supporting Actor in his breakout role). In the National Film Registry.
1968 in Review
The Lion in Winter: A-
Oliver!: B- (Won Best Picture)
Romeo and Juliet: B-
Funny Girl: C+
Rachel, Rachel: C
This is a year of wasted opportunities: just imagine a Best Picture nominee slate of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Once Upon a Time in the West, Rosemary’s Baby, The Producers and The Lion in Winter-that might have been the best year of nominees ever. What we got is a couple of decent but unexceptional musicals (which dominated the Oscars that year), along with an offbeat drama that doesn’t quite work, a good adaptation of a Shakespeare play I’m not a fan of, and just one great movie. Sigh.
November 1st, 1968 was the date the old Production Code was replaced with the current MPAA rating system; you didn’t see it have much of an effect on the nominees for this year, but I have a feeling next year will be a bit different. We have: A movie who’s 10 nominations in the face of mediocre reviews and box office was in no way due to the filet mignon and champagne dinners accompanied by the screenings for Academy members; The movie that holds the record for most BAFTA Awards ever (nine); The first movie to ever be released on VHS; The only X-rated movie to win Best Picture or be shown on network TV; and the first foreign language film to get a Best Picture nomination since 1938.