Friday, September 11, 2009

Best Director of 1966

The nominees for Best Director of 1966 were…

Michelangelo Antonioni for “Blow-Up”.

Richard Brooks for “The Professionals”.

Claude Lelouch for “A Man and a Woman”.

Mike Nichols for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”.

The winner was Fred Zinnemann for “A Man for All Seasons”.

If I chose the Oscars, these would be the results…

The nominees are…

Philippe de Broca for “King of Hearts”. It’s a shame that de Broca went unrecognized by the Academy after crafting one of the finest anti-war films ever made. His vision of the madness of the First World War, told as a comedy, highlighted the absurdity of the main character’s situation. The originality of this great French filmmaker nets him a nomination for one of my Oscars.

Mike Nichols for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. Nichols was the only one of the nominated directors to make it into my top five. Amazingly, this was his first time directing a film. The masterful craftsmanship displayed throughout the production certainly gives the impression of a far more experienced director. He would win the Oscar the next year for directing “The Graduate”. He certainly deserves this nomination.

Gillo Pontecorvo for “The Battle of Algiers”. He was not nominated for the award this year, but he did get nominated for Best Director for this same film two years later even though the film was actually released in 1966. The Academy was a little late rewarding foreign films back in those days. “The Battle of Algiers” was a magnificent war movie shot on the streets of Algiers using many of the actual locations and cast with many local non-actors. The difficulty for the director must have been intense, but he carries it off beautifully. Special mention must be made of his skill in directing large crowd scenes. He did a hell of a job and deserved his nomination, although the Academy should have gotten the year right.

Robert Wise for “The Sand Pebbles”. Despite a grueling and problematic seven month shoot in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Wise created a masterpiece with “The Sand Pebbles” He was a greatly experienced director who was already responsible for several classics like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “West Side Story”. He had already had three nominations and two wins in this category. It makes little sense that the Academy did not recognize him for this film, but I will rectify that by placing him amongst my nominees.

And the Oscar goes to…

Sergio Leone for “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly”. He may not have invented the “spaghetti western”, but he certainly defined the genre to the point where his name has become synonymous with it. This film was that genre’s crowning achievement and is arguably the greatest Western ever made. Leone’s use of extreme close-ups paired with wide-screen panoramic long shots was a trademark of this idiosyncratic master. I cannot praise this movie highly enough. Although the Academy never gave Leone the acclaim he deserved, I say he should get the Oscar for Best Director of 1966.

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