Anne of a Thousand Days (1969)

anne

Starring: Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, Anthony Quayle, Irene Papas, John Colicos

Director: Charles Jarrott

Summary: Anne Boleyn fights to keep Henry VIII’s love and her head in the midst of palace intrigue

Other Nominations: Actor (Burton), Actress (Bujold), Supporting Actor (Quayle), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Sound Mixing, Costume Design*, Art Direction, Cinematography

Positives

-Although it only won for one of its ten nominations, the one it did win was very much deserved-the costumes are excellent and are some of the best for a film of this kind.

-For someone who didn’t do all that much before or after this film (except for Dead Ringers I guess), Genevieve Bujold is quite good here as Anne Boleyn, even if her character has some problems in the middle. Burton is also pretty good and is more of an actual person than most versions of Henry VIII on film (vs. being a very broad slovenly oaf or giant hiam), although he has done much better work before.

Negatives

-It sorely lacks any of the fun over the top qualities or the strong characters and themes of the other “Royal” films of the decade, and is just kind of there most of the time. Nothing all that bad sticks out, but it’s consistently lukewarm for its runtime.

-Boleyn suddenly falling in love with Henry is handled very poorly. There’s no real transition between when she hates him and when she loves him; yes, he did a lot to show he wanted her as a wife and that he loved her, but that doesn’t necessarily equal her loving him back without anything else shown. Maybe it’s Stockholm syndrome even if not presented as such?

Other Stuff

-There are five characters (people) named Thomas: Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Boleyn, Thomas Howard the Duke of Norfolk and Sir Thomas More

-Elizabeth Taylor wanted to play Anne alongside her husband, but it was determined that at 37 she was too old to play an 18 year old. However, because she was concerned about the rumors Burton was having an affair with Bujold, she took an uncredited role (as the masked woman who interrupts Bujold’s prayer and shows up a couple more times briefly) to keep tabs on him.

Overall

Easily the weakest of the four English monarchy Best Picture nominees of the 60s (the others being Becket, A Man for All Seasons and The Lion in Winter), I can buy the long-held rumor that it bought its Oscar nominations. Even if not outright bad or anything, it’s not very memorable.

Rating: C

Advertisements

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

cassidy

Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross

Director: George Roy Hill

Summary: Two free-spirited bank robbers flee railroad detectives and head for Bolivia

Other Nominations: Director, Original Screenplay*, Original Score*, Original Song (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”)*, Sound Mixing, Cinematography*

Positives

-This is a very good script as a whole (from one of the best, William Goldman). The dialogue has a lot of good banter between the leads, the movie has a constant feeling of moving forward and even if it does have some tone schizophrenia, it still gets its main theme across well.

-The cinematography is excellent and this is feeling like a real period of advancement in the field, the first since Gregg Toland in the 30s-40s. There’s some very effective use of camera focus, and some innovative ideas about setting up a shot that I hadn’t seen before in this project (example: starting inside a building, waiting a beat, and then then a door gets kicked in vs. just showing the characters kicking it in from the outside)

-Neither Newman or Redford got Oscar nominations somehow despite these being some of the most iconic roles for both these actors. It has some stronger themes (mainly that these characters’ way of life is dead due to changing times but they’re too old and set in their ways to do anything else), but at its core, it’s still a buddy movie and their chemistry together is undeniable and make the movie far better than it would have been otherwise.

-The score is relatively sparse for a movie that won the Oscar, but what is there is memorable Not only do you have “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” which is great, but how many times in the 60s did you see acapela in a movie?

Negatives

-Tonally, the movie never really decides if it wants to be a relatively serious and romanticized look at the outlaw and their death via monied interests going west, or if it wants to be a fun buddy movie. It tends to change from scene to scene, and the movie probably would have worked better if it committed a little more in one direction or the other.

-The scene where they’re fleeing from the “Superposse” goes on too long and we get how screwed they are and why they need to flee the country about halfway through.

Overall

Despite its flaws, I enjoyed the movie a lot because it has great lead characters and performances, a good script and is consistently enjoyable to watch on a visual level.

Rating: A-

Hello, Dolly! (1969)

dolly

Starring: Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford, Marianne McAndrew (her film debut), Danny Locklin (in his first and only credited film role), E.J. Peaker (her film debut), Joyce Ames (her film debut), Tommy Tune (his film debut)

Director: Gene Kelly

Summary: A widowed matchmaker sets her sights on a wealthy man looking for a rich, young wife

Other Nominations: Musical Score*, Sound Mixing*, Costume Design, Cinematography, Film Editing

Positives

-The sets, costumes and production in general is impressive, as it should be-it cost $169 million (adjusted) making it the most expensive musical ever to that point. To compare, Chicago, the musical that won Best Picture in 2002, cost $60 million (adjusted).

-Although she sometime annoys me, Streisand is still the best thing about this movie as she brings some energy and is occasionally charming. As for the others, Crawford (aka the original Phantom of the Opera) is terrible, and Matthau phones it in-who thinks Walter Matthau for a musical anyway?.

Negatives

-This movie has everything I don’t like in musicals: flat characters, meh songs that usually go on way too long and almost never advance the characters or story in any way, and super-glossy and empty romance plots. The movie has a feeling of overall hollowness in spite of its visual excellent presentation elements.

Other Stuff

-This movie almost killed 20th Century Fox (again, after Cleopatra almost did it earlier in the decade) along with their other musical bombs-Doctor Dolittle (which I reviewed), Star! and Hello, Dolly! (which actually was #5 at the box office but cost way too much) all lost at least $65 million each (adjusted) in a period of 3 years.

Overall

This is a really substandard musical, and one that was kind of the final nail in the big-budget glossy musical coffin (although Fiddler on the Roof in 1971 made big money, it was a major outlier and nobody else made money with these kind of musicals again), and successful movie musicals afterwards either had to be more realistic (the Bob Fosse musicals) or were from Disney. I do not mourn the loss, especially if it means I don’t have to watch anymore musicals this bad again.

Rating: D+

*Midnight Cowboy (1969)*

cowboy

Starring: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Brenda Vaccaro, Sylvia Miles

Director: John Schlesinger

Summary: A would-be-gigolo and a con artist form an unlikely friendship

Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Hoffman), Actor (Voight), Supporting Actress (Miles), Adapted Screenplay*, Film Editing

Positives

-What people still remember about this movie is the two leads performances, and you can clearly see why. This was Voight’s breakout role as the naive Texan Joe Buck, and his performance is the heart of the movie-you wouldn’t care that much about his failures and what he is reduced to if he wasn’t as genuinely likeable as he is. Hoffman’s role was equally as significant in his career, as it is something completely different than The Graduate, and you almost can’t believe they are the same person. He plays both the streetwise and sensitive aspects of his role, in addition to the physical parts extremely well.

-I love how it’s a great time capsule of New York as it was in the late 60s, before it was cleaned up in the 80s. Few movies have done a better job of making its location a character, and there’s nowhere you could have picked that would have typified the central theme of “It’s a cruel world and we all need somebody who understands and cares about us” better.

-I thought it was an interesting look at a subject that the production code simply banned outright from films-homosexuality, which was the real reason it got an X rating initially (it has since been re-rated as an R), as its nudity and explicitness about sexuality otherwise wasn’t  that daring. Schlesinger himself was gay, and I think he does a good job tapping into the loneliness of being a “sexual deviant” in an era where homosexuality was not accepted by society at large, where lasting relationships were difficult because of the prospect of being found out and one-night stands were the “safest” way of fulfilling the basic human need for affection.

Negatives

-The movie uses flashbacks and “in the head of the character” fantasy sequences with frequency, and I generally didn’t like them; after the first couple of times with the flashbacks, you get the picture. I also thought that, while the party scene serves a purpose, it didn’t work with the rest of the film, as it feels like a completely different movie and gets too cute trying to replicate the Andy Warhol aesthetic..

Overall

This is very much a film of its time in many ways, some for the better and some for the worse, but it’s primary themes, characters and performances have held up fairly well and it’s still a very good movie.

Rating: B+

Z (1969)

Z

Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacques Perrin, Pierre Dux, Yves Montand, Irene Papas, Charles Denner, Francois Perier, Georges Geret, Bernard Fresson, Marcel Bozzuffi, Julien Guiomar, Renato Salvatori

Director: Costa-Gavras

Summary: A political assassination uncovers a hotbed of corruption

Other Nominations: Director, Adapted Screenplay, Foreign Language Film*, Film Editing*

Positives

-This is an excellent political thriller that was based on real events in Greece that happened in 1967 and its effects that were very much ongoing at the time of its release (I want to be as vague as possible for people who don’t have knowledge of the events or know anything about the film). It feels like a blueprint for some of the great investigative movies about cover-ups that would become popular in the 70s (with All the President’s Men being the most famous), but in many ways is superior, especially because the movie is consistently exciting, but also evokes a realism and authenticity that Hollywood has always had a hard time achieving. It’s not overly-stylized or inaccessible like some of the stuff coming out of Europe from this time, yet still feels vivid and fresh because of its cinematography, editing, sound design and score all combine to make this feel fresh and vivid even to an American who wasn’t even alive when these events took place.

-The performances are good all-around, but my favorite has to be Bozzuffi as the hitman-he just looks and acts like a scumbag, and if he was an American, he would have used in tons of exploitations films in the 70s.

Negatives

-Your mileage may vary on it being unquestionably left-leaning (as in, full-blooded European leftist and borderline communist, not American leftist). For me, I was able to enjoy it as a political thriller and an well-done depiction of real events even if I don’t fully agree with its politics.

Overall

This is a great movie and completely deserving of the honor of the first film to get nominated for Best Picture and Best Foreign Language film, even if others before it might have been as well.

Rating: A-

1969 in Review

Other Notable Films from 1969

The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah was a great director, but this movie about the end of the old west outlaws is probably his crowning achievement. It was revolutionary for its graphic violence (going much farther than Bonnie and Clyde), and its use of multiple quick-cut angles and slow motion. In the National Film Registry, and named #79 on the last AFI list.

Easy Rider: One of the definitive counterculture films that bridged the 60’s to the 70’s, it helped make the careers of Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper (who also directed) and Peter Fonda. It features one of the great soundtracks ever, featuring rock classics “The Weight” by The Band and “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf, along with songs from Jimi Hendrix and The Byrds. In the National Film Registry.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?: This movie about a marathon dance contest during the great depression still holds the record for most Oscar nominations without getting a Best Picture nomination (nine, including Director, Actress and Screenplay). I wish I did get a chance to review it for this project, because it’s outstanding and one of the best movies about the depression ever made-although it does wallow in its cynicism too much, I’ve never seen a film get across the feelings of desperation and exhaustion so effectively.

Women in Love: The breakout film for the always…interesting…British director Ken Russell, and possibly his best work. In 1970 (when it was released in the U.S.), it was nominated for four Oscars, winning Glenda Jackson Best Actress.

The Learning Tree: The first Hollywood film to be directed by an African-American (Gordon Parks, who would later make Shaft). In the National Film Registry.

1969 Nominees in Review

Z: A-

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: A-

Midnight Cowboy: B+ (Won Best Picture)

Anne of the Thousand Days: C

Hello, Dolly!: D+

Replace the bottom two with The Wild Bunch and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? And this is an outstanding slate of films; as is, there is an obvious contrast between the great films representing where mainstream movies were heading and the films that were the dying sputtering coughs of Old Hollywood. Midnight Cowboy was a solid choice that I can’t argue with that vehemently, especially since it was trying to “do more” than its main competition from Hollywood (as a foreign film had no real chance sadly enough).

Next year begins a new decade, but it would take a couple more years to really feel like the 70’s. For 1970: The first in a series of disaster films that spawned 3 sequels and a legendary parody; A movie whose title is a reference to works by Mozart, Bach and Chopin; A movie that was filmed at Harvard and a future Oscar-winning alumni of the University made his film debut in it; and two war movies (one about WWII, the other Korea) that were heavily influenced by the ongoing war in Vietnam