And the Rewritten Oscar goes to….In the Heat of the Night
The Academy got it right in 1968.
In one of the most important fields it is Norman Jewison’s part racial drama, part crime thriller that stands above the rest. It might not have signaled the artistic paradigm shift that Bonnie and Clyde and the The Graduate did, but as a commentary on race relations, particularly not far removed from the passing of the Civil Rights Act, it still remains a ground breaking film in its own right, and it is undoubtedly the tautest and and most refined nominee in the bunch.
This is an up and down year as far as the quality of the films. Doctor Dolittle ultimately falls way too short of the mark, the weakest Best Picture nominee we’ve come across in this trek to date, never offering any cause for investment. Bonnie and Clyde is an erratic picture, in tone and narrative, and whilst it is certainly powerful at times and its importance cannot be overstated, it doesn’t necessarily make for the most coherent storytelling.
The Graduate and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner are fantastic movies. Both progressive in their own way, it is The Graduate which is perhaps most fondly remembered of all the nominees on this list, but its turbulent and unlikable characters make it just a little difficult for the emotions to get out of first gear, whilst Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is conversely poignant and charming, but as seems to be the case with Stanley Kramer, doesn’t quite have the deft touch to give it a truly humanist edge.
In the Heat of the Night is poignant and subtle, and thrilling and unpredictable and funny to boot. It is the complete movie going experience and has endured handsomely in its own right amongst some of the most crucial films in redesigning Hollywood. A truly deserving Best Picture winner, and for the first time so far, the Academy got it spot on.
In the Heat of the Night- ****
Bonnie and Clyde- **3/4
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner- ***3/4
Doctor Dolittle- *1/4
The Graduate- ***3/4
(Ratings are out of 4)