“Why is life worth living?” Isaac Davis (Woody Allen) asks into a tape recorder in Allen's 1979 film Manhattan. His answers—random yet specific—include the crabs at Sam Wo’s, the second movement of the Jupiter symphony, Sentimental Education by Flaubert, Louis Armstrong’s recording of “Potato Head Blues” and “those incredible apples and pears by Cezanne.” Here’s our version of that, certain elements of cinema that make our lives worth living, or at least make movies worth watching. They seem to come to us from out of nowhere, little pockets of breathtaking beauty, expert craftmanship and happy accidents. Here are ten such moments—random yet specific—that make us stick around for one more day.
Entries in guess who's coming to dinner (3)
Sidney Poitier is born in Miami, 1927. He made history on April 13, 1964, by becoming the first black person to win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Lilies of the Field (1963). He wasn’t nominated at all in 1967, though not for lack of cinematic effort. In that year, no less than three Sidney Poitier films were released, all to solid critical and popular acclaim.
To Sir, with Love led the way, finally released on June 14, 1967, after sitting on the shelf for more than a year. Set in London’s East End, the film is noteworthy for Poitier’s cool-headed teacher of unruly teens as well as the title tune sung by Lulu, which raced up the pop charts to number one. As New York Times critic Bosley Crowther noted at the time, “there is little intrusion of or discussion about the issue of race: It is as discreetly played down as are many other probable tensions in this school.”
In the Heat of the Night hit movie theaters shortly afterwards, premiering in New York on August 2 and in Los Angeles on August 23, 1967. The racially charged murder mystery costarred Rod Steiger as a bigoted Chief of Police in a small Mississippi town, a role that won him an Oscar for Best Actor. In his review, Crowther wrote of ‘the magnificent manner in which Mr. Steiger and Mr. Poitier act their roles, each giving physical authority and personal depth to the fallible human beings they are.” The film also won Oscars for Best Picture, screenplay, sound and editing and ranks as Poitier’s favorite among his films.
Capping the year was a groundbreaking mainstream movie about interracial romance called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which rolled out on December 12, 1967, nationwide. Poitier later said how intimated he was to share the screen with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, citing a preference to performing to empty high-backed chairs instead of the legendary pair. About his acting, Crowther proclaimed him “splendid within the strictures of a rather stuffy type.”
If you've seen enough Katharine Hepburn movies, you know the moment—that big scene when Hepburn's character just has to speak her mind. Whether she can no longer suffer fools (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Pat and Mike), has suppressed her affections long enough (Without Love, Holiday), is compelled to utter a simple and strong declaration of independence (Morning Glory) or merely has a powerful speech to deliver (Adam's Rib), it's a moment where Hepburn owns the screen and audiences take notice. Here are ten examples of Kate laying it on the line.