The film focuses on the self-destructive relationship of history professor George and his hard-drinking wife Martha, as they invite a younger couple over for drinks. [wiki]
Nominated for 13 Oscars:
Best Director: Mike Nichols
Best Actor: Richard Burton
Best Actress: Elizabeth Taylor (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: George Segal
Best Supporting Actress: Sandy Dennis (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (WINNER)
There are many things I like about this film and there are also things I think could've been done better or adapted better for the screen. But regardless of how memorable or not you find it to be, this is a very well acted, special film. Can you believe it was the directorial debut of Mike Nichols, who was in his early 30s at that time? Looking at the film, you'd think it has years and years of experience behind it. Because, while it's mostly about the performances, it all seems well glued together and this was not an easy play to deal with.
Elizabeth, of course, delivers her all time best and maybe the performance that really brought her the acclaim from critics; strangely enough, it would also be her last important role. Sandy Dennis did deserve the win, George Segal was quite great, but I need to say something about Burton. To me, this is his best performance I've seen him do, and that means a lot. Even after watching Man for All Seasons, I don't see how Scofield won the Oscar over Burton and over Michael Caine's delicously fabulous performance in Alfie. Burton might just have the most challenging and subtle role of the film and nobody could've done it better or been able to face just as well Liz's Martha!
The cinematography win seems worthy, even though some complain about excessive close-ups; I enjoyed it, it made the film look special. But while there's nothing wrong with the Art Direction and the Costumes, these wins are ridiculous: absolutely nothing to justify them. Moreso, the following year, the Academy stopped giving separate awards for B&A and Color, probably due to these 2 unfortunate wins.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. It has parts that might be too slow, but it's overall an achievement. Also, I have to admit I might've changed the twist in the ending, as I think something ever more powerful would've helped the film's believability more.