Finishing the Sixties
It is that time again, another decade in the bag.
With the review of “Kes” I am done with the sixties. This took me almost exactly three years.
When I grew up in the eighties, the sixties was generally considered the golden age of almost anything. Probably because this was our parents generation so everything from their youth we were told was so cool. In some parts of the world, particularly in Western Europe, this was a high conjecture period where everything was growing, everything got better, people got their own car and their own house in the suburbs. Optimism all round. Finally, this was not just recovery from the war, but real surplus.
Not so in all the world though. Decolonization and cold war derived conflicts seemed to get worse and worse and in our part of the world where we had plenty it could be difficult to see why we were so keen to keep other people under the boot. Counterculture, protest movements and a general rebellion against the old order was the result and out of the fire rose the world we live in today.
Certainly not a boring decade. New music, new fashion, new threats (will we get nuked tomorrow?) and new ways to live your life. And, of course, the greatest adventure of all, the space race.
It is no wonder that also cinema went through a revolution during this decade. I believe most people agree that the sixties was the end of the golden age of classic Hollywood with the demise of the studio system. Oh, big productions were still being grinded out, but it was elsewhere all the exciting stuff happened. New directors trying new things, independent producers pushing the envelope and European and Japanese directors redefining cinema. Admittedly, much of what came out of this was junk and I am particularly no fan of the French new wave, but it did pour vitality into general cinema and made it exciting.
As usual I shortlisted my 20 favorite movies from the decade (a hard pick) and selected the 10 best of them (an even harder pick, I keep changing my mind) and list them below chronologically. It is so very hard to pick the very best of them, but put a gun to my head, it would probably be “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.
1. Lawrence of Arabia
One of the biggest and most glorious productions ever and one that looks magnificent even today. If this came up in the local cinema again, I would be the first in line.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird
The proof that a good story can make a great movie. Technically this is an okay movie, but the story it tells, faithfully, is one of the best and makes it a great movie.
3. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
What do you get when you set the two greatest divas, in the autumn of their career, up against each other and let them fight it out? This is exactly as awesome as it sounds.
4. Woman in the Dunes
One of the most interesting stories I ever saw told in cinema. So unique and special and so fascinating to watch.
5. Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
What better way to tell about the threat of nuclear war than through black comedy. It is so horrifying a topic that this is almost the only way to make sense of it. Also, one of the best Kubrick movies ever. Certainly the funniest.
6. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The proof that phenomenal acting can carry a movie. Four stellar performances make any other element of the movie irrelevant.
7. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
A contender to my shortlist for the title as The Best Movie Ever. Certainly, Sergio Leone’s best movie and maybe the best western. Everything works. Everything.
8. In the Heat of the Night
If you want to see the changing world of the sixties reflected in a movie, this would be it. Zeitgeist and the new way of doing cinema combined with a great story and good acting. This is a winner.
9. Once Upon a Time in the West
Seems on unfair bringing in two Leone movies, but this one is only shortly behind “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and has the best opening ever.
10. Rosemary's Baby
Did modern horror start with “Rosemary’s Baby” or “Night of the Living Dead”? I don’t know, but since “Rosemary’s Baby” is the better movie it gets a spot here.
The rest of my top twenty is listed below, deserving an Honorable Mention. In chronological order:
2. A Autumn Afternoon
3. An Actors Revenge
5. Cool Hand Luke
6. The Fireman's Ball
7. 2001: A Space Odyssey
8. Night of the Living Dead
9. Midnight Cowboy
10. Easy Rider