It is incredibly difficult to pick the best films of a given year-especially while still in that year. Each winter, when the Academy Award nominees are announced, I sit back and contemplate all of the nominees, as well as those who I feel were snubbed in some way. Of course years later when we look back, many of our opinions have changed because time has altered things.
I know it sounds crazy, but imagine if you could go back years later and recast your votes for the best films of a given year. Hindsight would have affected things on many levels. Perhaps a movie that played well with audiences upon it’s release became tired after just a couple of viewings; or maybe there was a film that struck a chord inside us, but it wasn’t until later that we finally realized how brilliantly that movie was crafted. Many films are nominated, not because they are great, but rather due to studios that promoted them well, in order to secure themselves a nomination. Then you must also factor in the foreign films that weren’t seen until later, because let’s be honest, the foreign market is often overlooked, come awards season. And then there are the smaller, underground films that stayed in our hearts and minds over the passing years, until they finally achieved their deserved recognition.
Well, here at Lasso the Movies, that is exactly what has happened. It is time to go back and examine which films have survived the torment of time, and still captivate audiences today. We don’t have to vote for a film just because everyone is calling it a “masterpiece”. We know which films are great and which ones are mediocre, due to the power of hindsight.
In order to be as fair and honest as possible, I have decided to use the same type of format that is in place for the Academy Awards today. There must be five nominees, but there cannot be more than ten. I will examine as many films from that year as possible, and pick which ones I feel are worthy of my nomination. Please feel free to share your thoughts on these films, and mention any that you feel I may have overlooked.
I will also point out that I am a firm believer in the saying, “It’s an honor just to be nominated”. I am not picking a winner for the group; just a group of films that after all these years, are worthy of being called the best.
So without further ado, here is the year of 1963:
The five Best Picture nominees at the Academy Awards were:
“America America”, “Cleopatra”, “How the West was Won”, “Lilies of the Field” and “Tom Jones”
Despite their grandiose exterior and all star casts, both “Cleopatra” and “How the West was Won” are no longer considered “great” films. They had potential, but unfortunately, never reached the high goals the filmmakers were striving towards. They could have made the list, but there just isn’t enough room, so they’re out. Perhaps “Cleopatra” still has what it takes to be one of the films on the final list, but it certainly didn’t end up being as great as was expected. The remaining three films are all still brilliant movies that certainly deserve a nomination (and another viewing).
In the foreign film market, there is no question that Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2” has become one of the most respected and influential films of all time, putting it on the list. Also, Akira Kurosawa’s crime saga, “High and Low” reached American audiences in November of that year, and Luchino Visconti’s “Il Gattopardo” or “The Leopard” opened in mid July.
The Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama was awarded to Otto Preminger’s “The Cardinal”. This film about a Catholic priest who becomes a cardinal on the eve of WWII, was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director, but failed to receive a Best Picture nomination. (No film since has won the top prize at the Golden Globes without at least being nominated at the Oscars.)
Other possible contenders are John Sturges’ classic WWII adventure film, “The Great Escape”, the perfectly acted character piece, “Hud”, and Samuel Fuller’s gritty and highly controversial look at the world through the eyes of an insane asylum, “Shock Corridor”. Some of the more popular films from this year also include “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, “Lord of the Flies”, “El Dorado” and “The V.I.P.’s” , but I don’t feel that any of those particular films have the same lasting ability or overwhelming feeling of greatness. Of course no look at 1963 could be complete without factoring in the importance of Alfred Hitchcock’s immortal thriller, “The Birds”.
Now there is a great collection of films! So which ones have made the final cut? Here are the Lasso the Movies’ nominees for Best Picture, 1963.
“Lilies of the Field”
Then again, that’s just my thoughts. What do you think?