Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Battle of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1967

Sometimes it doesn't seem worth it to force myself to watch old movies that I have little interest in, but then I get to 1967 and The Academy Awards completely redeem themselves!

The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke, and Barefoot In The Park are merely touching the surface to the incredible amount of striking and classic films being honored all in one year. How did they even choose the best out of all those?

Well, there has to be a winner, and fittingly the movie which took the top prize radically represents the terrifying, and yet, progressive nature of the world at the end of the 1960's. Racial tension in the south, meets intense murder mystery, makes In The Heat Of The Night greatly recommended.

On a hot summer night, Gillespie, a small town sheriff (Rod Steiger, in his Best Actor winning role) must tackle the biggest crime of his career, as the most prominent man in town is found murdered in an alleyway. Good thing outstanding Philadelphia detective, Virgil Tibbs (played by, "They call me Mr. Tibbs!" Sidney Poitier) happened to be waiting at their local train station.

Although, it wouldn't be the deep south, if Tibbs wasn't first arrested for the crime, to then be coincidentally revealed as a bad-ass detective. Quite the meet-cute between Tibbs and Gillespie, I'd say. 

In order to solve the murder Tibbs and Gillespie have to work past their physical appearances, that in this world instantly pulls them apart. When Tibbs' own life begins to be threatened by the racist population of the rural town, a thrilling race for justice leaves you wondering if the murder can be solved before he too ends up face down in a gravel paved alley.

As an audience we are right in the mix with every new idea Tibbs has, with every new discovery of evidence that seems to implicate a new person in town; the whole town is suspect, and we are in the dark until the end.

Unless you happen to be a crafty film watcher from the very beginning, carefully picking apart opening scenes, and stick to your guns about a particular fishy character, the movie will twist and turn you in every direction to make it appear that each person who is questioned is guilty, but that is what makes In The Heat Of The Night an truly excellent film watching experience.

Cocktail Party Trivia Time (where we all go home at the end of the night a film buff): In a rare, and fitting observance for this film, the 1967 Academy Awards were delayed for two days after the assignation of Martin Luther King Jr.

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