Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In the Heat of the Night

Norman Jewison, 1967 (8.4*)
Best Picture (AA)

Though a little dated looking now, when this was released in the 60's the country was involved in race riots, student anti-war demonstrations, and there were many in the country fighting hard against racial prejudice in the courts and in the streets. So this film that deals with racial prejudice in a small Mississippi town was a timely political statement that was rewarded with the Oscar® for best picture, best director for Jewison, and Rod Steiger for best actor as a beer-bellied gum-smacking redneck sheriff.

The story is actually a homicide mystery. Sidney Poitier is a police detective from Philadelphia ("they call me Mister Tibbs!") who happens to be waiting at the train station when a body is found murdered in a small Mississippi town, so he is picked up as a usual racially-motivated suspect. When it turns out that he's a police detective with far more homicide experience than the law enforcement in this sleepy burg, he decides to lend his expertise so no other innocent people get swept up by this over-zealous and extremely reactive sheriff, who has little knowledge of forensic science.

At the time there was buzz about Poitier's character slapping a white man back who slaps him first; nowdays it just seems like a natural response. Also, Steiger's performance now seems more like a caricature than subtle acting warranting an Oscar, while Poitier's performance was actually the more artful one in the film. Still, the story works as a police procedural and mystery if you can get around all the more than obvious political statements and stereotyping about racism in the south.

The film won 17 awards overall, including five Oscars


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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