We often hear about an actor’s range and praise them for working in a variety of genres, etc. Rarely, however, do we hear the same praise for directors. Sam Mendes is one of those directors who never does the same thing twice. His debut film, 1999’s American Beauty was a slice of life family drama. It went on to win five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. His second film, 2002’s Road To Perdition was a period crime drama. In 2005 he made the dark comedy/war drama Jarhead. Three years later was the 2008 literary adaptation/period drama Revolutionary Road, which he followed up less than six months later with the indie dramedy Away We Go. Each of these films is so different from the other, but what they all have in common is Mendes’ strong direction, resulting in a plethora of amazing, complicated, compelling performances.
I know there is at least one book on this subject and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but thanks to TCM showing several movies from that year, I have to agree completely. What I mean by Cinema, is Hollywood and American Cinema, because a lot of how it changed was based on things French New Wave directors had already been doing for almost ten years.
One way to see this change is by looking at the five films that were nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars that year. Four of the films are harbingers of the new Hollywood. One is old guard and because of that in addition I want to talk about another film that, although nominated for four Oscars, was not up for Best Picture.
The five films up for Best Picture were Bonnie & Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and In The Heat of the Night. The film sixth film I’m going to discuss is In Cold Blood.