A Man for All Seasons (1966) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –

The historical epic has always been a popular film genre. Famous examples include the record-setting Oscar winner Ben-Hur (1959), and the highly controversial 1963 version of Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor. The term “epic” implies grandeur and splendor, but not all period pieces have to necessarily be grandiose in order to be great. That is the case of the 1966 Best Picture winner A Man for All Seasons because it tackles a controversial period of European history without excessive Hollywood spectacle.

A Toast

This film is beautiful not because it looks pretty, but because it is a great example of masterful storytelling. Robert Bolt won the Academy Award for adapting his own play for the silver screen. The film also features a brilliant Oscar-winning performance from Paul Scofield as the iconic historical figure Thomas More. The cinematography and costumes are also very stylized without being too ostentatious. Perhaps the reason why this film won awards in those particular categories is because it essentially transports audiences to the historical era of Henry VIII without the unnecessary glamour that characterizes other major Hollywood productions. Nevertheless, this film is still a great example of cinematic art.

Verdict

1966 was a very interesting year at the Academy Awards because two adaptations of popular stage plays were released that particular year, and those two films essentially competed against one another for Oscar gold. That is because Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a major awards winner even though it lost the Best Picture award to A Man for All Seasons. A fun fact is that Richard Burton turned down the role of Thomas More in order to play “George” in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but that allowed Paul Scofield to win the Oscar for that coveted role. Such competition just proves that 1966 was a great year for film, and that the historical legacy of Sir Thomas More lives on long after the events that characterized his life in 16th century England.

A Man for All Seasons (1966) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: during every tense moment in which Thomas More remains silent

Take a Drink: every time there are discussions about laws (including God’s law and marriage laws)

Drink a Shot: every time there are witty lines of dialogue from Robert Bolt’s Oscar-winning screenplay

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