Best Picture #36: Tom Jones

Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Tom Jones (1963).

Any film following Lawrence of Arabia was destined to suffer by comparison, but Tom Jones still may be one of the best winners of the ‘60s, if only because I can’t stand the musicals. A period comedy following the life of the womanizing Tom Jones, it seems an odd choice for a Best Picture winner, especially considering the other films that won around the same time. It opens with a silent sequence with title cards showing dialogue before showing credits over a baby’s face then moving into a film filled with slapstick humor, sex jokes, sword fights that make no attempt to appear realistic, a small dash of 18th century English societal attitudes, and a few fourth wall breaks, all narrated by someone who makes fun of the film itself and attitudes that require censorship. Tom Jones has little in the way of deeper meaning and isn’t a groundbreaking or innovative cinematic work, but it is plenty of fun to watch and the rare Oscar history footnote that does warrant watching. 

The Real Best Picture:

It was a weak year but America America was the best. Kazan knew how to make a movie.

Best Picture Winners

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