The story of the year that changed Hollywood forever

With the writers’ strike ending, apparently we will have a regular, interminable, star-glutted, network-televised Oscar night after all. But as potentially “classic” as the crop of good movies is, consider the five films up for Best Picture at the Academy Awards exactly 40 years ago: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, Bonnie and Clyde, and Doctor Doolittle. In his incredibly well informed and entertaining book Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood (available 2/18), author Mark Harris argues convincingly that these five films represent the shift from Old Hollywood (big-budget studio song-and-dance extravaganzas) to New Hollywood (French New Wave–inspired auteurism).

Harris, an editor at Entertainment Weekly (and husband of Tony Kushner), tracks the progress of each movie from inception to the eventual Oscar night with juicy detail and fresh interviews with many of the actors, directors, screenwriters, and producers involved. Through these mini-portraits of key players (Hoffman, Beatty, Hepburn and Tracy) and pivotal films, Harris provides an engaging and rich narrative of an extraordinary moment in Hollywood and — it was the spring of 1968 — the world.

BUY Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood (Penguin Press HC; hardcover; 496 pages)

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