1. In the Heat of the Night (A+)
The first film viewing of the new year, 1967's Best Picture winner, and the career highlight of most of the major people involved (though I'm perhaps more partial to Jewison's followup, Fiddler on the Roof
). In a hick town in Mississippi, visiting black detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), after demonstrating that he didn't murder a man, is enlisted to help find out who did. This is at the insistence of the dead man's widow, which might seem a bit contrived, but the police force of Sparta are all severely retarded (apart from Chief Gillespie, who's only mildly retarded, and so can sporadically notice that he's completely out of his depth actually, you know, doing his job), so I can see her point.
It's one-part murder mystery, one-part examination of then-contemporary racial politics in the Deep South; the latter part, obviously, is the part that won all the awards and acclaim, and it is indeed the more interesting of the two. The mystery element isn't bad either, but in a movie that's less than two hours long and has a lot of time on race stuff, there's only so much time that can be spent developing the mystery. The fireworks are in the interactions between the two lead characters, and between Tibbs and the other yokels. All of said yokels seem to be barey restraining themeselves from trying to lynch him, which is at times almost comic, but undoubtedly completely accurate for the times. Tibbs occasionally comes across like he has a death wish, though, given how little care he seems to take for his own safety (you would he would be a little more conscious of the dangers than he seems to be a lot of the time).