- Au Hasard Balthazar
- The Nun
- Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf
- Closely Watched Trains
- Tokyo Drifter
- Born Free
I’d love to hand it over to Burton again, I cannot get enough of that man’s talent, but I think I’ll rest with the wise Oscar choice and let Paul Scofield keep the trophy for A Man For All Seasons (in my crazy mind, anyway). It’s a wise and profound performance in a film that is so much deeper and intelligent than you’d expect from a lavish period piece made in the mid-60s. On the other hand, it can’t be too surprising; Deborah Kerr often credited director Fred Zinnemann with getting something more human out of her than any other director she’d ever worked with, which is likely why so many actors who worked for him (Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Gary Cooper) took home statuettes.
Again, I stick to the script, because I honestly cannot imagine anything more juicily captivating than watching Elizabeth Taylor hag herself up and get raggedly angry in her performance as the unabashedly destructive Martha in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Mike Nichols would also go on to direct many Oscar-nominated performances, employing an uncanny ability to really get at the heart of what performers are capable of (Meryl is particularly fluid when she works for him). Taylor is superb in the role, magically never overplaying a role that is so hilariously overwritten.
I crown Robert Shaw the winner for his performance as Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons. Ignoring the Charles Laughton model and avoiding the caricature of the giant fatty with a chicken drumstick dangling from his mouth, Shaw intelligently portrays both the physical prowess of the man as well as the conflict between his need to uphold tradition and his genuine inability to understand a world where he can’t just have whatever he wants.
Sandy Dennis doesn’t stand a chance the minute she shows up in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?; her soft demeanor and meek personality are pretty much devoured by Liz Taylor’s garishness from the outset, and it is to the actress’s credit that she holds her own as well as she does. Sadly, Dennis did not go on to a career as good as the one that an Oscar should have promised, and she died young, but she did have a few gems in between (including a wonderful appearance in Woody Allen’s Another Woman, in which she is a standout).
Experience with arthouse cinema means that it is not too incredibly surprising to find out that a Frenchman made a film in which a donkey undergoes a Christlike transformation. The fact that Robert Bresson made the film in a way that is moving, revelatory and heartbreaking is the reason why Au Hasard Balthazar is such an incredible masterpiece.