It seems The Chase (Arthur Penn, 1966) doesn’t have a great reputation and was lambasted by critics upon release, but I found it to be a very powerful movie, successful in it embittered, angry tone. Yes, it’s a pot-boiler and, like all pot-boilers, it can be accused of throwing in too much (the sexual revolution, the civil rights for Afro-Americans, the greed of the oil industry, class conflict, race conflict, sex conflict, power conflict…) but I found everything to be very-well put together, in a way that all the excess makes sense.
It helps that Penn’s direction is so solid and stingy, making everything feel real (it certainly foregrounds the impending revolution in the way Hollywood would start filming violence and sex just two or three years later) but also keeping a high level of stylization that makes the pot-boiling aspect make sense.
The cast also helps, without a single weak link (well, maybe Redford and his usual blandness, but he’s in it for so little time that you won’t notice, and it’s not as if he’s bad, he’s just nothing special). Miriham Hopkins was best in show, somehow! Such (called-for) pathos and intensity!
But, AMPAS that year decided to nominate The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (Jewison, 1966), which is a bland, overlong comedy filled of good intentions towards cold war and stuff. It’s like an Elling comedy without the teeth and with considerably less charm. It’s not bad, some gags work and some moments even move a bit, but for the most part it’s so predictable (not only in terms of plot, but in terms of which gags you’re gonna see) that you never understand why it takes so much time to get where everyone knows we’ll get.
Is 1966’s the worst lineup ever in AMPAS history? This and “A Man for All Seasons” are as bland as it gets, and that Virginia Woolf mess is pretty dumb. I still have to watch “Alfie” and “The Sand Peebles”, but they don’t look very promising…