Five Films that Redefined Hollywood

Author Mark Harris discusses his book about the five movies nominated for Best Picture at the 1967 Academy Awards

Dustin Hoffman, in the famous scene from The Graduate, during his first liaison with Mrs. Robinson. The movie was rejected by every major Hollywood studio. (© Sunset Boulevard / Corbis)

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This is always a tough one, and I usually say my favorite is The Graduate, and I think its because of, ironically, one of the things that made people complain about it when it first came out, which is it has this coolness, this distance, not just from the generation of Benjamin’s parents, but between Benjamin and his generation The Graduate still plays beautifully and its also just so astonishingly crafted scene by scene in terms of everything from the acting to the direction to the cinematography to the art direction to the soundtrack being on the same page. The first hour of that movie is a shot-by-shot master class.

I’ve done a bunch of screenings over the years since the book has come out, and generally, In the Heat of the Night is the movie that people are most pleasantly surprised by. In my head, when I started the book, I positioned it as sort of an old Colombo episode. The more I watched it, the more I really became impressed by the craft in every area. The way it’s edited, the way its shot, the way its directed…and how lean it is. There are very few wasted scenes or wasted shots in that movie. When I’ve shown it to people, they have been really surprised…they’ve expected this sort of antique parable about race, and instead you get a good movie.

I sort of wish I had done this interview last year, because this year’s movies are so subpar. Are any of the movies nominated for this year’s Oscars close to being as groundbreaking as those from that year?

This year? No. I have to honestly say no. I do think they could have contrived a more exciting set of nominees than the ones they picked. The parallel I would say between ‘67 and now, I think in ‘67, a lot of people in Hollywood were beginning to get the impression that they were at the end of something, but not aware yet of the thing that replaced what was dying out was going to be. I do feel that right now, the dominant thing that’s going on right now in Hollywood, without question, is economic panic. It’s how are we going to survive internet piracy, streaming video, and TV, and people wanting their DVDs sooner that ever, is the theatrical exhibition even going to last, and I think that kind of churning panic eventually breeds something very interesting on screen. But, we’ll know what that is probably going to be about a year or two from now.


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