Did They Get it Right? – Best Director – Oscars 1961

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita)
Stanley Kramer (Judgment at Nuremberg)
Robert Rossen (The Hustler)
J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone)
Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins (West Side Story)

Biggest Snub:

Anthony Mann – El Cid

My Overall Thoughts:

This is another year with great nominees, but it came down to two films WSS and JaN in the end.

My Rankings:


5. Robert Rossen
4. Federico Fellini
3. J. Lee Thompson
2. Stanley Kramer 
1. Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins


5. The HustlerSome interesting themes are explored here, but the movie drags on too much to be effective enough. Newman, Scott and Gleason are great as usual, but I just wasn’t very impressed with the final product. Just seemed very mediocre since it moves a bit too slow IMHO despite the fact that the characters are constantly trying to outmaneuver one another at the pool table.
4. La Dolce VitaAnother existential Fellini film that I’ll never quite understand. The way that the story is told is a bit strange to me and while there are a few great scenes, overall the story itself leaves to much unanswered while trying to tell seven days in the life of a photojournalist. Too much of the film is allegorical and can’t be taken straight forward. The scene in the fountain is by far the most enjoyable and memorable.  I can understand how and why Fellini would be nominated for Best Director for the way he handles this film, yet overall, it just didn’t do it for me.
3. The Guns of NavaroneGreat WWII covert operations film that shows how thrilling a spy movie can really be. Interesting and gripping plot. Great (if old) cast and nicely done WWII war pic.
2. West Side StorySuch an amazing film because it does an amazing job modernizing one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. The songs and music are spectacular choreographed and written and it’s so easily to get caught up in the story yet at the same time hum or sing along with the music. I’m not at all surprised that this film had so much momentum come Oscar time that they were able to garner 10 Golden Statuettes that year. It lost only for best adapted Screenplay and set a record held until today for the most awards of a Musical at the Oscars. Still find it quite funny and silly that these “tough” gang members can dance so well all around the city.
1. Judgment at NurembergSuch a fabulously written movie that truly captures all of the emotions one would think of in a trial like this. Amazing cast led by the always dependable Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster. Despite being over 3 hours long, it moves by swiftly because of the subject matter and the way it was filmed in the courtroom. Hard to say whether this should have beaten West Side Story (1961) because both are very different movies and styles.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Yep!  WSS is a great musical and was deserving of this win, but JaN is much more of a poignant film.

Let me know what you think about these films and my rankings!

One thought on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Director – Oscars 1961

  1. Agree on Mann for El Cid – one of my favorites. Sophia NEVER looked so good (“…Until then, my color will be deepest black”), but TOTALLY disagree on your assessment of THE HUSTLER. You seem to have a blind spot for these types of movies. Again – try to see them in the context of WHEN they were made. It is slow – compared to the rapid fire of today’s films – but it is essentially a character study – of a bunch of damaged characters – and Newman, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott are all excellent in it. Some of their best work of their careers, As for West Side Story – a stunning achievement and one of the rare (only) times when 2 directors shared the prize. Nuremburg is powerful as well – and could have won.

    Liked by 1 person

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