I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Saturday, June 16, 2012

In the Heat of the Night, 1967

Not Rated

The 1968 Academy Awards show was postponed two days due to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. just several days earlier. This also was the year that the cinematography categories were merged back together (after 28 years) meaning there would no longer be separate awards for black and white films versus color. Now, aren’t those two very interesting tidbits of information considering this year’s Best Picture winner is about an African American man encountering racism in a Southern white town?  I sure thought so.

This story opens, as you’d guess, in the heat of the (middle of the) night, in Sparta, Mississippi. A well-known businessman has been killed and found lying in the streets. The officer on duty is told to search for subjects and stumbles across a black man- the only man sitting in a deserted train station: Virgil Tibbs (if this famous line popped into your head: “They. Call. Me. Mister. Tibbs!”, then you’re right, it’s from this movie: ). He’s immediately silenced, searched, and taken into custody. The chief ends up putting his foot in his mouth when he discovers his officer just arrested Philadelphia’s leading homicide detective. Well, isn’t that a nice coincidence though? After realizing just how knowledgeable and valuable this guy is, the chief recruits him to help figure out the case. But being in the South, the locals aren’t too keen on a colored man, much less a colored law enforcer, in their community, so tension arises thus adding to the heat.

I had never seen a film starring the great Sidney Poitier and I was satisfyingly impressed; I loved him in this film. He has a certain presence in this film that demands respect. Sure, it could have just been the character he was portraying, but he gave off the air of a respectable actor. (It amazes and saddens me to learn that having an African-American man in a leading role was so controversial during that time that many scenes had to be filmed in Illinois- far, far away from the Deep South!) This was not the only film Sidney Poitier starred in this year… he was in the other racially-charged fellow nominee “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” which was the first mainstream movie made about inter-racial marriage, in addition to “To Sir, With Love”. I was very surprised to see that Rod Steiger won the Best Actor award from this movie for his portrayal of the bigoted cop instead of Sidney Poitier… Sidney wasn’t even nominated! It looks like it was stiff competition though which included Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman, and Spencer Tracy.

This film is a classic murder mystery/”who-dun-it?” which is very rare to find in the long list of Best Picture winners, making this film’s win a bit of a surprise, especially considering on specific film it was up against. Nonetheless, it brought home five awards from its seven nominations. This film’s competition included “Bonnie and Clyde”, “Dr. Doolittle”, “The Graduate”, and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of “Dr. Doolittle” when I was growing up- (it’s with Rex Harrison from “My Fair Lady”)- and don’t think it needed to be nominated. “The Graduate”, however, is a very popular movie (that I haven’t yet seen). Because of this film’s success, two sequels were made and Sidney reprised his role for both: “They Call Me Mister Tibbs!” in 1970 and “The Organization” in 1971.


I loved it when Mr. Tibbs reveals the depth of his knowledge of homicides to the officers at the station. Although it’s still infuriating that they doubted him so, it’s a little bit of ‘ha HA! In your face!’ satisfaction. (I couldn’t find a picture of this scene online, so instead I found this for you….)

and Disney’s nod…


Pray for ignorance to be extinguished and for racism to end.

Treat people with respect, especially if you want it in return.

Don’t let pride or embarrassment keep you from apologizing, especially if you’re wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment