Friday, December 6, 2013

Best Picture of 1961

This year of review has certainly taken its time to complete, but despite that, the verdict was a relatively quick decision to make. Most likely, that's due to one of the films lining up almost perfectly with my taste in genre. Still, here's my explanation.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1961 are:
  • Fanny
  • The Guns of Navarone
  • The Hustler
  • Judgment at Nuremberg
  • West Side Story
Selecting my least favourite of the 1961 Best Picture contenders was even easier than choosing my winner. Fanny is artificial and, though it has its charms, it is clearly overshadowed by its four competitors.

Each of the remaining films would be a worthy victor. The iconic musical West Side Story is thoroughly entertaining, enough to win over the Academy and be chosen as their Best Picture. The Guns of Navarone excites with its masterful action and adventure. And Judgment at Nuremberg engages its audience by laying bare some heavy philosophical issues.

But it's the gritty and absorbing drama The Hustler that wins my vote for the best of the year. With its electrifying performances and a story full of both tension and humour, this classic hits all the right notes. Thus, I now officially proclaim The Hustler as my favourite 1961 Best Picture nominee.

Best Picture of 1961
Academy's choice:

West Side Story

Matt's choice:

The Hustler

Your choice:

Don't agree with me? Then let me know by voting in the poll above for your favourite of 1961. We now move back to 1934 for reasons that will be explained in the next post. The most notable thing about this awards year is the record 12 films that were nominated for Best Picture. So, it looks like we're in for the long haul.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1934 are:
  • The Barretts of Wimpole Street
  • Cleopatra
  • Flirtation Walk
  • The Gay Divorcee
  • Here Comes the Navy
  • The House of Rothschild
  • Imitation of Life
  • It Happened One Night
  • One Night of Love
  • The Thin Man
  • The White Parade
  • Viva Villa!
Stay tuned...


  1. 1961 was closer in style to the 50s than to what was to come in a few more years, yet a few of the nominated films gave us a glimpse of the future, and they finished one and two on my list. My foreign film favorites came from each side of the globe: Japan’s Yojimbo and Italy’s Divorce, Italian Style with its great performance from Marcello Mastroianni. Some other also-rans: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, favorite of many, that I never could fully embrace. I preferred the lighter toned Lover Come Back from 1961, the best of the Day/Hudson romantic comedies in my view. Film noir was in transition, but a little known noir from ‘61 was Blast of Silence. Now to my countdown, which is very close to yours, Matt.

    5th place: Fanny – I enjoyed it, but really not top five material.
    4th place: The Guns of Navarone: A very well done action/adventure.
    3rd place: Judgment at Nuremberg: Challenging courtroom drama that covers all issues.
    2nd place: The Hustler: Newman breaks out in a compelling story of one man’s pursuit of character.
    1st place: West Side Story: A great score, inventive choreography, editing and cinematography and a story for the ages. One of only two musicals that I would give Best Picture to, and wouldn’t you know it; both directed by the same person.

    Now for 1934 – I’ve only seen four of the twelve. I don’t think I’ll watch them until you post Matt. This may take a while, unless you’ve seen some of them and have saved your reviews.

  2. My above comments contained an error that I hate to leave standing. Divorce, Italian Style competed for the 1962 Academy Awards (and indeed I mentioned it in my comments for that year). So, scratch it and replace with Two Women or Breathless, two European films that did compete in 1961.