The Best Picture Nominees took viewers from the sunny streets of Texas to the seamy underside of Manhattan; from the political upheaval of modern Greece to the languid mountains of the American West; from the lively working class streets of the Bronx to the sumptuous court of Anne Boleyn.
Moviegoers at the Oscar films spent time with pathetic hustlers and jocular train-robbers; a romantic and dangerous Scottish schoolteacher post-WWI, and a gentle English schoolmaster and his wife circa WWII; a paunchy one-eyed lawman and the girl he reluctantly helps; a kooky free-spirit, her dentist and his Swedish assistant; a good-hearted but doomed Southern lawyer on his final road trip; a cynical emcee at a gruelling dance competition; two couples in moral experimentation in freewheeling modern-day Los Angeles; Depression-era hopefuls and losers dying for the American dream; a troubled college co-ed desperate for human connection; and a real-life hippie and his surrogate family in a deconsecrated church.
Starting tomorrow, I'll devote each of the next five days to the nominees in each of the major categories. Tonight, I want to try to explain why that year in movies captured my imagination right from the start.
Movies were distributed differently. Major films played in one theater in a large city, often for months at a time, before being widely released to outlying and suburban areas. After 2-3 years in theatrical release and re-release, they made it to television, often heavily cut and incomprehensible. There was no home video or on-demand cable. Movies were exciting in their lack of accessibility. Often, the first time that clips for a film were ever shown on television was on the Academy Awards broadcast.