Well, it's kind of hard to believe but with the exception of this year's batch of nominees, the last time I wrote one of these reviews was back in November. And then came the extensive interviews and the nightmarish reality of having to retake the COMLEX PE examination. But now the re-exmination is a thing of the past. While the nightmares won't be over for at least another 6-10 weeks until the scores are reported, I suppose it won't do any good to dwell on those accursed seven hours back on February 15. It's now out of my control. So all I can do now is try not to think about it (since if I do it will fill me with worry and dread even though I think I did better...but was it enough?) and go back to these reviews. At the very least I should finish this particular review, one whose introduction I wrote before taking the PE exam the first time!
We have now arrived at the year 1964. This was right in the middle of the resurgent period for the musical genre. This was evident in the box office, where two of the three top grossing films in My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins were musicals. The former was the film adaptation of the famous Lerner & Loewe Broadway play while the latter was the film adaptation by Disney of the book series by P.L. Travers. And when the Oscar nominations were announced, the same two films were among the three most nominated films. Mary Poppins may have lost the box office race, but picked up 13 nominations to My Fair Lady's 12. The historic epic Becket also received 12 nominations. The final two Best Picture nominations went to Zorba the Greek and Stanley Kubrick's apocalyptic black comedy Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Goldfinger was the third of the highest grossing films, but only picked up one nomination, that for Best Sound Effects.
When Oscar night came around, both of the films did well in the aural categories. Mary Poppins won for Best Original Score and Best Original Song (for "Chim Chim Cher-ee") while My Fair Lady won Best Score (Adaptation or Treatment) and Best Sound. Goldfinger beat out the auto racing film The Lively Set for Best Sound Effects, winning one of only two Oscars for the James Bond franchise (the other being Thunderball, which won Best Visual Effects the next year.) However, it is in the visual categories that My Fair Lady began to separate from the pack. Mary Poppins won Best Visual Effects for its matte work and the juxtaposition of live actors with animation, but My Fair Lady won the three Color categories (Cinematography, Costume Design, and Art Direction). However, Mary Poppins won Best Editing to stay in the race. Zorba the Greek won Best Black and White Cinematography and Art Direction. It was not nominated for Costume Design, which went to The Night of the Iguana instead.
The Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar was very compelling, because it was one of the few times where all of the nominees matched the Best Picture nominees. Of course that meant Best Original Screenplay was full of more...interesting...nominees, including the Beatles rock film A Hard Day's Night, the French spy spoof That Man from Rio, the Italian The Organizer, and a race relations movie titled One Potato, Two Potato. In the end, the Oscar went to the Cary Grant film Father Goose. And on the Adapted side, Becket turned out with its first victory of the night. It may have lost in the visual and aural categories, but with a strong showing in acting categories it had the chance to come back.
Alas, it was not to be. Sir John Gielgud lost Best Supporting Actor to Peter Ustinov, who won his second Oscar for his role in the caper film Topkapi. And both Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole lost Best Leading Actor to Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady to squash Becket's hopes even further. Burton would pass away 20 years later after going 0 for 7 at the Oscars, but O'Toole broke his record by going 0 for 8. Lila Kedrova quietly won the third Oscar for Zorba the Greek when she won in Best Supporting Actress.
Of course, the Best Actress race was the subject of some intrigue. Julie Andrews had originated the role of Eliza Doolittle in the stage version of My Fair Lady. Yet she had no film experience, so when it came time to cast the film, Warner Bros. head Jack Warner felt that Andrews did not have the star power to star in the film. Mega-star Audrey Hepburn was cast instead. This allowed Andrews to accept the offer to star in Mary Poppins, a role that Walt Disney had wanted her to play for years. In the end, My Fair Lady grossed more at the box office, possibly due to Hepburn's involvement. Yet when the Oscar nominations were announced, Andrews was nominated for Best Actress but not Hepburn. It was a bit of a surprise, although many speculated that it was due to the fact that replacing Andrews was not a popular decision, and that Eliza Doolittle's singing in the film was dubbed by super-dubber Marni Nixon. And Andrews had the last laugh when she won Oscar.
Yet that did not lead to any derailment in the Best Picture race. The Best Director category also matched with the Best Picture lineup, and when George Cukor won the race was just about over. And not surprisingly, My Fair Lady was announced as Best Picture. It became the first film since On the Waterfront in 1954 to win exactly eight awards, although films won nine, ten, and eleven in the ten-year interim. Even though Walt's pet project had failed to win Best Picture, Mary Poppins marked the best performance by any one film from the Disney Studios. While Disney mopped up in the short categories, none of the studios' live action features made much of a mark at the Oscars. And Mary Poppins's 5 wins and 13 nominations were never matched by another film from Disney's studios, although many films distributed by Disney went on to have great success.
One of Mary Poppins's five wins had been in the Best Original Score category. One of the films that lost was The Pink Panther, whose score by Henry Mancini has become part of pop culture. While that was the film's only nomination, this isn't the only representation of the Pink Panther at the Oscars this year.
Where Can I Watch It?
How to Avoid Friendship
*Rembrandt Films is largely forgotten today, which is interesting because they are still quite active in producing animation (mostly in Europe which may explain the lack of recognition stateside) and distributing films, including much of the works of Zagreb Films. Of course, they were a pretty dominant force back in the 1960s, making films for America and Europe from Czechoslovakia. They had a run of Oscar nominations in the early 1960s, so this isn't the last time we'll be seeing from Rembrandt Films, not even in this particular review.
**I only knew of Treacher due to the restaurant and wasn't until I saw this film that I realized he was an actor. And then I found out that I had seen him before, as Constable Jones in none other than Mary Poppins.
Where Can I Watch It?
Well dang. It doesn't seem like this film is online anywhere. I suppose that's what had happened to me when I tried looking for it back in 2007, but it is on the "Rembrandt Films Greatest Hits" DVD along with two of the other Oscar nominated shorts from the studio. Of course, the other two are available online.
The Nudnik Show. For the longest time IMDb had the original name, but one day it changed the title to Here's Nudnik, which was different from Nudnik #2 but easier to find. Whether or not it's the same film that was nominated is not 100% certain, but for lack of a better choice this is the film I'll review. Anyways, as I mentioned earlier, Nudnik was a character that can't seem to do anything right. Everybody has a day where nothing seems to go right. For Nudnik, that day is every day. Half of that is due to his impetuous nature where he doesn't think through his actions. Half of it is just plain bad luck. In a way Nudnik is a bit of a misnomer, because while nudnik means a boring person, Nudnik's life is anything but a bore. Here's Nudnik is built around gags that make his morning miserable, and it's quite amusing to find just what's going to happen to our hero next. Sure, it's probably bad to laugh at somebody else's misfortune, but it shows that the film is effective. Especially if you happen to find Nudnik annoying, which would mean he really does live up to his name.
Where Can I Watch It?
Here it is on DailyMotion, courtesy of Charles Brubaker, possibly Brony and somebody evidently responsible for my first (and to date only) shout-out on Cartoon Brew.
The Pink Phink
The Pink Blueprint from 1966, but I think it's worth getting into the history of the character, since it has been over three months since that review appeared. When the comedy film The Pink Panther was in production in 1963, the Mirisch Company contracted Termite Terrace alum Friz Freleng and his production company to create an animated sequence for the opening credits starring a real pink panther. The film was a big hit, and Freleng's studios eventually went on to make a series of theatrical cartoons starring the pink panther character, getting the first film out by the end of the year. And The Pink Phink is that film. The majority of the film is made up of gags involving the Pink Panther's comic foil the Little Man (a caricature of Friz Freleng) trying to paint a house in a blue color with the Pink Panther frustrating his efforts at every turn. Most of the gags are visual and are well planned, although they don't have quite the same amount of variety as The Pink Blueprint. Then again, how many visual gags can you do with only paint? The animation has the mark of the more limited animation that has come to define the 1960s, but it was quite fluid, and has a unique sense of shot design that came from Freleng's long history in filmmaking. The film is wordless and is carried by the soundtrack, which is largely a remix of Henry Mancini's legendary Pink Panther theme. The Pink Phink doesn't quite match up to the films that Freleng did with Warner Bros., but it was still an impressive spinoff, one that launched a character that remains popular after almost 50 years, 120 theatrical shorts and numerous television specials.
Where Can I Watch It?
I found this year's batch of nominees to be quite underwhelming, which may explain why I ended up on that two-month hiatus. I had some free time during this accursed three month period but I wound up embracing my inner brony instead of writing reviews for these four films. Not to mention that the process now takes hours. Hopefully now that this painful debacle is out of the way the other reviews will come much easier, even if it is going back to the old five-nominee format.
Anyways, out of these four films it's pretty clear the best is The Pink Phink. I was underwhelmed when I saw it for the first time back in 2005 or 2006, but it stands out as the best after considering all of the other nominees. And the Academy agreed, finally giving Friz Freleng his long-deserved Oscar.
My rankings (by quality)
The Pink Phink > Christmas Cracker > Nudnik #2 > How to Avoid Friendship
My rankings (by preference)
The Pink Phink > Nudnik #2 > Christmas Cracker > How to Avoid Friendship