The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#1 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:44 am

Suggested by several other posters on the forum, here is a stab at constructing an Alternate Best Picture List. I've split eighty years of the Oscars in half, with this list covering the ceremonies up through the end of the Hays Code in '68.

I'm setting the voting for this first half far into the future, and I feel it can run concurrently with the current decade lists projects without any detrimental interference. Every year gets one vote for one film, just like the real Oscars.

What I'd love to see in the meantime though is people posting about years where they've seen all the nominated films, and weighing in on their thoughts of all five (or ten!) of a year's nominees in relation to each other-- though obviously any discussion is welcome. I think unless you're steeped in Oscar lore, some of these choices are surprising and not all have stood the test of time. Besides the fun of making another list, I think there's a real wealth of untapped discussion here. I suspect this thread will be best served as a means of reassessing, reevaluating, and rediscovering films that were at one time inducted into an artificial canon.

Below are the complete nominees (1927-1968), along with DVD (and in some cases VHS) details--Special thanks to Reno Dakota for tracking down many of the VHS releases-- If there's a blank detail you can fill, please comment or PM me!



1927-8
Unique and Artistic Production
Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (Cooper/Schoedsack)
R1 Image
the Crowd (Vidor)
R0 Bo Ying (or NTSC VHS Warner)
Sunrise (Murnau)
R1 Fox

Production
the Racket (Milestone)
R1 PD
Seventh Heaven (Borzage)
R1 Fox
Wings (Wellman)
R1/A Paramount

1929
Alibi (West)
R1 Kino
the Broadway Melody (Beaumont)
R1 Warner
the Hollywood Revue of 1929 (Reisner)
R1 Warner Archives
In Old Arizona (Cummings)
R1 Fox
the Patriot (Lubitsch)
Lost

1930
The Big House (Hill)
R1 Warner Archives
All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone)
R1/A Universal
Disraeli (Green)
NTSC VHS MGM
the Divorcee (Leonard)
R1 Warner
the Love Parade (Lubitsch)
R1 Eclipse

1931
Cimarron (Ruggles)
R1 Warner
East Lynne (Lloyd)
the Front Page (Milestone)
PD- R1 Pick whichever copy is above the fold
Skippy (Taurog)
Trader Horn (Van Dyke)
NTSC VHS MGM

1932
Arrowsmith (Ford)
R1 MGM
Bad Girl (Borzage)
R1 Fox
the Champ (Vidor)
R1 Warner
Five Star Final (LeRoy)
R1 Warner Archives
Grand Hotel (Goulding)
R1 Warner
One Hour With You (Lubitsch)
R1 Eclipse
Shanghai Express (Sternberg)
R1 TCM / R2 Universal
the Smiling Lieutenant (Lubitsch)
R1 Eclipse

1933
42nd Street (Bacon)
R1 Warner
A Farewell to Arms (Borzage)
R1 Image
Cavalcade (Lloyd)
R1/A Fox
I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang! (LeRoy)
R1 Warner
Lady For a Day (Capra)
R1/A Image
Little Women (Cukor)
R1 Warner
the Private Life of Henry VIII (Korda)
R1 Eclipse
She Done Him Wrong (Sherman)
R1 Universal
Smilin' Through (Franklin)
(NTSC VHS MGM)
State Fair (King)

1934
the Barretts of Wimpole Street (Franklin)
NTSC VHS MGM
Cleopatra (DeMille)
R1 Universal
Flirtation Walk (Borzage)
(NTSC VHS MGM)
the Gay Divorcee (Sandrich)
R1 Warner
Here Comes the Navy (Bacon)
the House of Rothschild (Werker)
Imitation of Life (Stahl)
R1 Universal
It Happened One Night (Capra)
R1 Columbia
One Night of Love (Schertizinger)
NTSC VHS Columbia
the Thin Man (Van Dyke)
R1 Warner
Viva Villa! (Conway/Hawks/Wellman)

the White Parade (Cummings)

1935
Alice Adams (Stevens)
R1 Warner
Broadway Melody of 1936 (Del Ruth/Van Dyke)
R1 Warner
Captain Blood (Curtiz)
R1 Warner
the Informer (Ford)
R1 Warner
the Lives of a Bengal Lancer (Hathaway)
R1 Universal
A Midsummer Night's Dream (Dieterle/Reinhardt)
R1 Warner
Les Miserables (Boleslawski)
R1 Fox
Mutiny on the Bounty (Lloyd)
R1/A Warner
Naughty Marietta
NTSC VHS MGM
David Copperfield (Cukor)
R1 Warner
Ruggles of Red Gap (McCarey)
R1 Universal MOD / R2/B MoC
Top Hat (Sandrich)
R1 Warner

1936
Anthony Adverse (LeRoy/Curtiz)
NTSC VHS Warner
Dodsworth (Wyler)
R1 MGM
the Great Ziegfeld (Leonard)
R1 Warner
Libeled Lady (Conway)
R1 Warner
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Capra)
R1 Columbia
Romeo and Juliet (Cukor)
R1 Warner
San Francisco (Van Dyke)
R1 Warner
the Story of Louis Pasteur (Dieterle)
NTSC VHS MGM
A Tale of Two Cities (Conway/Leonard)
R1 Warner
Three Smart Girls (Koster)
R1 Universal

1937
the Awful Truth (McCarey)
R1 Columbia
Captains Courageous (Fleming)
R1 Warner
Dead End (Wyler)
R1 MGM
the Good Earth (Franklin)
R1 Warner
In Old Chicago (King)
R1 Fox
the Life of Emile Zola (Dieterle)
R1 Warner
Lost Horizon (Capra)
R1 Columbia
One Hundred Men and a Girl (Koster)
NTSC VHS Universal
Stage Door (La Cava)
R1 Warner
A Star is Born (Wellman)
PD

1938
the Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz/Keighley)
R1/A Warner
Alexander's Ragtime Band (King)
R1 Fox
Boys Town (Taurog)
R1 Warner
the Citadel (Vidor)
R1 Warner Archive
Four Daughters (Curtiz)
R1 Warner Archives
Grand Illusion (Renoir)
R1 Criterion / RA Studio Canal Lionsgate
Jezebel (Wyler)
R1 Warner
Pygmalion (Asquith/Howard)
R1 Criterion
Test Pilot (Fleming)
NTSC VHS MGM
You Can't Take It With You (Capra)
R1 Columbia

1939
Dark Victory (Goulding)
R1 Warner
Gone With the Wind (Fleming)
R1/A Warner
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (Wood)
R1 Warner
Love Affair (McCarey)
PD- R1 Love a fair deal, go with the cheapest
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Capra)
R1 Columbia
Ninotchka (Lubitsch)
R1 Warner
Of Mice and Men (Milestone)
R1 Image
Stagecoach (Ford)
R1 Warner / R1/A Criterion
the Wizard of Oz (Fleming)
R1/A Warner
Wuthering Heights (Wyler)
R1 Warner

1940
All This, and Heaven Too (Litvak)
R1 Warner
Foreign Correspondent (Hitchcock)
R1 Warner
the Grapes of Wrath (Ford)
R1 Fox
the Great Dictator (Chaplin)
R1/A Criterion
Kitty Foyle: the Natural History of a Woman (Wood)
R1 Warner
the Letter (Wyler)
R1 Warner
the Long Voyage Home (Ford)
R1 Warner
Our Town (Wood)
PD- R1 Eenie or Meenie, either
the Philadelphia Story (Cukor)
R1 Warner
Rebecca (Hitchcock)
R1 Criterion / R1/A MGM

1941
Blossoms in the Dust (LeRoy)
R1 Warner
Citizen Kane (Welles)
R1/A Warner
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (Hall)
R1 Sony
Hold Back the Dawn (Leisen)
How Green Was My Valley (Ford)
R1/A Fox
the Little Foxes (Wyler)
R1 MGM
the Maltese Falcon (Huston)
R1 Warner
One Foot in Heaven (Rapper)
Sgt. York (Hawks)
R1 Warner
Suspicion (Hitchcock)
R1 Warner

1942
49th Parallel (Powell)
R1 Criterion
Kings Row (Wood)
R1 Warner
the Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)
R1 Warner
Mrs. Miniver (Wyler)
R1/A Warner
the Pied Piper (Pichel)

the Pride of the Yankees (Wood)
R1 MGM
Random Harvest (LeRoy)
R1 Warner
the Talk of the Town (Stevens)
R1 Columbia
Wake Island (Farrow)
R1 Universal
Yankee Doodle Dandy (Curtiz)
R1 Warner

1943
Casablanca (Curtiz)
R1/A Warner
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Wood)
R1 Universal
Heaven Can Wait (Lubitsch)
R1 Criterion
the Human Comedy (Brown)
R1 Warner Archives
In Which We Serve (Coward/Lean)
R1/A Criterion
Madame Curie (LeRoy)
R1 Warner
the More the Merrier (Stevens)
R1 Sony
the Ox-Bow Incident (Wellman)
R1 Fox
the Song of Bernadette (King)
R1 Fox / RA Twilight Time
Watch on the Rhine (Shumlin/Mohr)
R1 Warner

1944
Double Indemnity (Wilder)
R1 Universal / RB MoC
Gaslight (Cukor)
R1 Warner
Going My Way (McCarey)
R1 Universal
Since You Went Away (Cromwell)
R1 MGM
Wilson (King)
R1 Fox MOD

1945
Anchors Aweigh (Sidney)
R1 Warner
the Bells of St. Mary's (McCarey)
R1 Republic
the Lost Weekend (Wilder)
R1 Universal / RB MoC
Mildred Pierce (Curtiz)
R1 Warner
Spellbound (Hitchcock)
R1 Criterion / R1/A MGM

1946
the Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler)
R1/A Warners
Henry V (Olivier)
R1 Criterion
It's a Wonderful Life (Capra)
R1/A Paramount
the Razor's Edge (Goulding)
R1 Fox
the Yearling (Brown)
R1 Warner

1947
the Bishop's Wife (Koster)
R1/A Warners
Crossfire (Dmytryk)
R1 Warner
Gentleman's Agreement (Kazan)
R1/A Fox
Great Expectations (Lean)
R1 Criterion
Miracle on 34th Street (Seaton)
R1 Fox

1948
Hamlet (Olivier)
R1 Criterion
Johnny Belinda (Negulesco)
R1 Warner
the Red Shoes (Powell)
R1/A Criterion
the Snake Pit (Litvak)
R1 Fox
the Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Huston)
R1/A Warner

1949
All the King's Men (Rossen)
R1 Columbia
Battleground (Wellman)
R1 Warner
the Heiress (Wyler)
R1 Universal
A Letter to Three Wives (Mankiewicz)
R1/A Fox
Twelve O'Clock High (King)
R1/A Fox

1950
All About Eve (Mankiewicz)
R1/A Fox
Born Yesterday (Cukor)
R1 Columbia
Father of the Bride (Minnelli)
R1 Warner
King Solomon's Mines (Bennett/Marton)
R1 Warner
Sunset Blvd. (Wilder)
R1/A Paramount

1951
An American in Paris (Minnelli)
R1/A Warner
Decision Before Dawn (Litvak)
R1 Fox
A Place in the Sun (Stevens)
R1 Paramount
Quo Vadis (LeRoy/Mann)
R1/A Warner
A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan)
R1/A Warner

1952
the Greatest Show on Earth (DeMille)
R1 Paramount
High Noon (Zinnemann)
R1/A Olive
Ivanhoe (Thorpe)
R1 Warner
Moulin Rouge (Huston)
R1 MGM
the Quiet Man (Ford)
R1/A Olive

1953
From Here to Eternity (Zinnemann)
R1/A Sony
Julius Caesar (Mankiewicz)
R1 Warner
the Robe (Koster)
R1/A Fox
Roman Holiday (Wyler)
R1 Paramount
Shane (Stevens)
R1/A Paramount

1954
the Caine Mutiny (Dmytryk)
R1/A Sony
the Country Girl (Seaton)
R1 Paramount
On the Waterfront (Kazan)
R1/A Criterion
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (Donen)
R1 Warner
Three Coins in the Fountain (Negulesco)
R1 Fox

1955
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (King)
R1 Fox / RA Twilight Time
Marty (Mann)
R1 MGM
Mister Roberts (Ford/LeRoy)
R1 Warner
Picnic (Logan)
RA Twilight Time / R1 Sony Kim Novak Collection (WS) - BEWARE of the R1 Sony standalone release (Cropped P+S)
the Rose Tattoo (Mann)
R1 Paramount

1956
Around the World in Eighty Days (Anderson)
R1 Warner
Friendly Persuasion (Wyler)
R1 Universal
Giant (Stevens)
R1/A Warner
the King and I (Lang)
R1 Fox
the Ten Commandments (DeMille)
R1/A Paramount

1957
the Bridge on the River Kwai (Lean)
R1/A Sony
Peyton Place (Robson)
R1 Fox
Sayonara (Logan)
R1 MGM
12 Angry Men (Lumet)
R1/A Criterion
Witness For the Prosecution (Wilder)
R1 MGM

1958
Auntie Mame (DaCosta)
R1 Warner
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Brooks)
R1 Warner
the Defiant Ones (Kramer)
R1 MGM
Gigi (Minnelli)
R1/A Warner
Separate Tables (Mann)
R1 MGM

1959
Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger)
R1 Columbia (Open Matte) / R1/A Criterion (Widescreen)
Ben-Hur (Wyler)
R1/A Warner
the Diary of Anne Frank (Stevens)
R1/A Fox
the Nun's Story (Zinnemann)
R1 Warner
Room at the Top (Clayton)
R1 VCI

1960
the Alamo (Wayne)
R1 MGM
the Apartment (Wilder)
R1/A MGM
Elmer Gantry (Brooks)
R1 MGM
Sons and Lovers (Cardiff)
R4 Umbrella Entertainment
the Sundowners (Zinnemann)
R1 Warner

1961
Fanny (Logan)
R1 Image
Guns of Navarone (Thompson)
R1/A Sony
the Hustler (Rossen)
R1/A Fox
Judgment at Nuremberg (Kramer)
R1 MGM
West Side Story (Wise/Robbins)
R1/A MGM

1962
Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)
R1/A Columbia
the Longest Day (Annakin/Marton/Wicki)
R1/A Fox
the Music Man (DaCosta)
R1/A Warner
Mutiny on the Bounty (Milestone/Reed)
R1/A Warner
To Kill a Mockingbird (Mulligan)
R1/A Universal

1963
America, America (Kazan)
R1 Warners
Cleopatra (Mankiewicz)
R1/A Fox
How the West Was Won (Ford/Hathaway/Marshall/Thorpe)
R1/A Warner
Lilies of the Field (Nelson)
R1 MGM
Tom Jones (Richardson)
R1 MGM

1964
Becket (Glenville)
R1/A MPI
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick)
R1/A Sony
Mary Poppins (Stevenson)
R1/A Walt Disney
My Fair Lady (Cukor)
R1/A Warner/Paramount
Zorba the Greek (Cacoyannis)
R1/A Fox

1965
Darling (Schlesinger)
R1 MGM
Doctor Zhivago (Lean)
R1/A Warner
Ship of Fools (Kramer)
R1 Sony
the Sound of Music (Wise)
R1/A Fox
A Thousand Clowns (Coe)
R1 MGM MOD

1966
Alfie (Gilbert)
R1 Paramount
A Man For All Seasons (Zinnemann)
R1 Sony
the Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (Jewison)
R1 MGM
the Sand Pebbles (Wise)
R1/A Fox
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Nichols)
R1 Warner

1967
Bonnie and Clyde (Penn)
R1/A Warner
Doctor Dolittle (Fleischer)
R1 Fox
the Graduate (Nichols)
R1/A MGM
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Kramer)
R1 Sony
In the Heat of the Night (Jewison)
R1 MGM

1968
Funny Girl (Wyler)
R1/A Sony
the Lion in Winter (Harvey)
R1 MGM
Oliver! (Reed)
R1 Sony
Rachel, Rachel (Newman)
R1 Warner
Romeo and Juliet (Zeffirelli)
R1 Paramount
Last edited by domino harvey on Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:43 pm, edited 24 times in total.

User avatar
Highway 61
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:40 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#2 Post by Highway 61 » Sun Nov 02, 2008 8:58 pm

Love it! But just for clarification: are we strictly limited to films that were nominated, or can we bring others into the fold?

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#3 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:38 pm

Highway 61 wrote:Love it! But just for clarification: are we strictly limited to films that were nominated, or can we bring others into the fold?
You can only vote for those films nominated, otherwise this just turns into the decade thread. Plus the point is to see all the nominated films in a given year, that way you're exposed to titles you might otherwise skip and we're all on the same field. It's easy to assume one film is better than the others nominated in a year just because you already love it. I think this thread, if taken with the right open approach, could really surprise a lot of people with what they end up voting for once they see all the nominees.

But you can of course discuss the nominated films in a year and go, "The best of the nominated films may be Film X and that's what I'm voting for, and here's why. But of course, everyone knows Film Y was really the best film of Year Z"-- Though you'd be wrong, because Film Y is soooo overrated!

User avatar
zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#4 Post by zedz » Sun Nov 02, 2008 10:02 pm

domino harvey wrote:1933
the Private Lift of Henry VIII (Korda)
R1 Allied Artists (OOP)
I knew he was fat, but I didn't know about that! (couldn't resist)

Thanks for the list - I had no idea Arrowsmith was out on DVD. And it makes me itchier than ever for that Borzage box.

I was going to sit this out, but I'm sort of intrigued by those big lists of nominees in the 30s and early 40s (ooh, I really get to vote for The Awful Truth!). But when I look at the 1950s, I realise that I've probably only seen a half dozen of the nominees for the entire decade, and some of the ones I haven't have been personal blind spots for so long that I've become quite attached to them (e.g. High Noon and Shane).

Although I have no desire to see a lot of these films, I'd appreciate pointers to any overlooked masterpieces lurking on the sidelines.

Some random comments on possibly lesser-known films:

Chang is a rollicking hoot, located improbably between Nanook of the North and King Kong.

The Crowd is a wildly ambitious city melodrama, but I like it much less than Fejos' Lonesome (or indeed the presumptive winner of this particular round, Sunrise).

Alibi is visually interesting though a mixed success, but it is distinguished by what might possibly be the Worst Drunk Act ever captured on film (in a major role, so it goes on and on and on). The guy might as well be wearing a sandwich board reading "Bad Drunk Act".

A Farewell to Arms is weak as literary adaptation (and maybe as drama) but pretty spectacular as cinema, though the PD copy I have of it is beyond awful. Can anybody report favourably on the Image release?

She Done Him Wrong, like most of those early West vehicles, is little more than a West vehicle: she's like a fabulous, exotic special effect, and the rest of the film is mere backdrop for it.

The Gay Divorcee (and Top Hat, of course) is a masterpiece, much more than just a frame for those iconic performances.

Broadway Melody of 1936 is rather run of the mill, except when Eleanor Powell tap dances: some of the most stunning dance performances Hollywood ever generated (the non-tap 'Lucky Star' fantasy in the middle is much less astonishing, not least because it's staged like very cut-rate Busby Berkeley and Eleanor ditches tap for pseudo-ballet). Her music-less solo in Mlle Arlette drag is the kind of intimate, casual (but incredibly technically daunting) number nobody else could pull off, and it's hard to watch her climactic 'Broadway Rhythm' performance with jaw closed.

The Informer - stodgy neo-Expressionism. Ford's much better when he thinks nobody's looking.

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer is well-enough done, but rather dated stuff (check out Wee Willie Winkie instead).

Libeled Lady is a lot of fun, but there are a lot of fantastic screwball comedies from the time missing from these nominations. I wonder why this one made the cut?

The Awful Truth, on the other hand, is one of the great ones - a shoo-in for 1937 in my book.

Stage Door is also marvellous, with extraordinarily deft negotiation of shifting registers. A far more lively and convincing exploration of the 'world of women' than the glossy (but nastily fun) The Women a couple of years later.

Jezebel - Davis is reliably strong, but the film itself is familiar period stuff. Well-mounted but a bit hollow.

Dark Victory is a film I'm a real sucker for, though I haven't watched it in some time. I suspect that the non-Davis parts of it won't look so good when I do (Bogart miscast and Reagan cast). Still, it's a classic weepie.

The Letter is pretty good (much better than Jezebel). Bette brings the acid and Wyler and Gaudio bring a thrilling proto-noir atmosphere.

Here Comes Mr Jordan is fun but flimsy. Another head-scratcher of a nomination.

The Talk of the Town didn't impress me much - the incongruous dud in that Cary Grant box set.

Anchors Aweigh struck me as a very minor (and grossly overlong) Gene Kelly musical. How the academy could acknowledge this film while ignoring practically all the best musicals of the era is a mystery.

After that, the only ones I've seen are pretty canonical, and most of them I really don't like (not even Gigi - sorry Vincente!). Does anybody else see a drastic falling off in the quality of the nominations from the early 50s, or is it just me?

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#5 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Nov 03, 2008 12:28 pm

Here's an excellent episode of The Treatment interviewing Mark Harris about his book Pictures At A Revolution which looked at the Best Picture nominees for 1967 as a microcosm of major cultural upheavals, with the battle between the hegemonies of independent and studio films shown in the choice of nominees.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#6 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 03, 2008 12:38 pm

I know I already mentioned this elsewhere, but Peter Brown's the Real Oscars is an excellent, highly-negative look at the Academy Awards and it can be picked up real cheap on Half.com. It sort of reignited my interest in the Oscars actually, so blame it for this project. I don't agree with all of his conclusions, but it's a super fun read regardless

User avatar
HypnoHelioStaticStasis
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2008 12:21 pm
Location: New York

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#7 Post by HypnoHelioStaticStasis » Mon Nov 03, 2008 1:49 pm

I'll do the few where I've seen em all:

1935:
Alice Adams-I'm honestly not a George Stevens fan; I find a lot of his most well-regarded films(with the exception of Shane, his best) to be pompous, showy and a little confused in what they have to say. I really enjoyed this, however, due mainly to MacMurray, believe it or not, who was suitably banal. Hepburn's mannerisms haven't quite congealed into a personality yet, in my opinion; she seems way too eager to please the audience still, instead of reinforcing her character's strengths.

Broadway Melody of 1936- A blast! I love, love, love Jack Benny. It's not the best film out of this lot, but its definitely in my top 3.

Captain Blood- A lot of fun, even though Errol Flynn can be a little grating when asked to generate bravado with a capital B. Curtiz's sense of pacing is spot on, as usual.

The Informer- Zedz, I essentially agree with your sentiments about Ford tending to show off when he's asked to make prestigious social diatribes, but McLaglen is fantastic, and I'm a sucker for this type of early-studio chiaroscuro filmmaking. You have to admit, it certainly isn't dull.

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer- Hathaway, a very underrated noir/western director, is off his mark with this one. I couldn't help but hate the leads for their imperialistic stances. A no-go for me.

A Midsummer Night's Dream- I hate Mickey Rooney. Despite the nice photography, everyone is asked to pose like wax figures and recite (in my opinion) one of Shakespeare's least interesting plays. And watching Mickey Rooney is like getting acid tossed into my nethers.

Mutiny on the Bounty- It didn't deserve the oscar, but man is this fun. I forgot how good Gable and Tone could be as actors, and Laughton is doing what he does best at all times. It's very expensive looking, which adds enormously to the fun of it all. Certainly a great film, but there are better on this roster.

Naughty Marietta- Ugh, spare me. Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, as pretty and mellifluous as they were, have absolutely no screen presence whatsoever. That, and the show itself is pure camp.

Top Hat- Lovely, and of course iconographic, but I prefer Fly Me Down to Rio or Swing Time, the other George Stevens picture I like.

My pick for the best:
It's really a toss-up between David Copperfield and Ruggles of Red Gap. George Cukor was the epitome of an impersonal studio man-for-hire, but he was absolutely a professional, and he knew when to get out of the way of his actors. W.C. Fields is such a wonderful presence that I absolutely forgive the film's lack of plot clarity and unfaithfulness towards its source. Its just a surprisingly transcendent film that never gets its due. As for the latter... do i really need to elaborate on it? Its Leo McCarey at his peak and at his most stinging. Quite possibly the greatest American sound film yet on DVD.


1948:

Hamlet- A fine adaptation, and Olivier is very tactfully subdued in the title role. I think I prefer Richard III out of all of his Shakespeare films, but I think he captured some of the more ambiguous nuances of the text very well (such as the ghost and his true purpose, whether or not he is malevolent, etc.). I think the expressionism feels far too self-conscious, especially in the opening scenes.

Johnny Belinda- This honestly bored me. Ayres was very good actually, but the rest of the cast felt far too theatrical.

The Red Shoes- Lyrical and full of operatic emotion, and is only slight edged out for being the best this year. A stunning achievement regardless.

The Snake Pit- Rather ridiculous. Histrionic staging, while entertaining, manages to further the psychological discrepancies and falsities on display in this very Hollywood, shallow weepie. An incredibly maudlin ending.

My pick:
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre- Despite its awful music score, this is one of the most exhilarating and "modern" of all studio films. Frankly, I'm amazed Bogart agreed to do it, as titanic as the role is; its just so damning of his persona as a movie star. Walter Huston is just magnificent, and the ending is one of my favorites. I want to applaud everytime I finish this film.

1956:

Around the World in Eighty Days- An over-produced mess, but the sheer size of it all is impressive. Hardly deserving of its award.

Friendly Persuasion-Overlong but well-written. Gary Cooper and Anthony Perkins are bright points throughout the film.

Giant- Pompous, with an intrusive, manipulative score by Dimitri Tiomkin. Edna Ferber, while able to weave a good story, lacks an objective, realistic viewpoint to separate this from other cattle/oil operas. Dean makes an impression, but its unfortunate this was his final performance; his drunk scenes towards the end are laughable.

The Ten Commandments- This was the year of the epic! Heston is absolute dynamite, and the film holds modern audiences with its utter camp value. Still, an important film in the history of technological innovations in cinema, and De Mille can never be accused of boring his audiences (well, maybe The Greatest Show on Earth...).

My Pick:
The King and I- Brynner and Kerr are magic in a film that I actually saw first on the big screen. It is eye-opening in its use of widescreen musical staging, matched only, in my opinion, by Oklahoma and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. That, and the source material ain't bad either... Ecetera!

1967:

Bonnie and Clyde- It is pulp elevated to the highest echelons it could go at that times. Beatty, Dunaway, Pollard, Parsons and Dub Taylor are sights to behold. It is still somewhat held back by the sheer schematic kick one gets from it; one gets the sense that Penn and the crew knew they were pushing the limits and letting the audience in on it. Daring in the eyes of censors and the status quo, sadly, does not always equal great art. It is a fantastic film, but the self-consciousness feels more quaint than revelatory now.

Docor Dolittle- Its utter trash. Poor Rex Harrison, he looks so embarrassed throughout the whole ordeal. And its got that horribly flat visual scheme that Fox seemed to specialize in during this period.

The Graduate- A film that is incredibly dated, yet manages to land some punches. I never truly believed Benjamin, not unlike Holden Caufield, was anything other than a spoiled, indulgent sadist, and I never believed in his love for Katharine Ross (as ambiguous as that may be), but Bancroft is exceptional, and Buck Henry is always great fun.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner- Stanley Kramer's films are usually pretty unbearable, but this film is just harmless. Poitier does his best to give some real humanity to his role, while Tracy and Hepburn seem to be in a shouting contest throughout the entire second half. Cecil Kellaway has to be one of the most superfluous comic reliefs ever filmed.

My pick:
In the Heat of the Night- One of the few best picture picks I can get behind. I didn't expect much during my first viewing, but the frankness and clarity Jewison gives to this story makes the hype this film got completely justified. It is an absolutely breathless, intelligent procedural, and despite its liberal-leaning sentiments, hardly naive. I think the film is a surprising win, considering just how immediate it all feels. The academy tends to relinquish its sympathies to such hot-button films when it comes to actually giving them a win. Just excellent.

I'll have more when you get to the latter half.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#8 Post by domino harvey » Thu Nov 06, 2008 2:25 am

I completed my first year today!

1948
Hamlet
Offers very little in the way of insight into the play, and isn't good enough as just a film to justify its existence cinematically. A few fair moments sprinkled throughout make the 155 minutes bearable, but this is the worst kind of Shakespeare adaptation. I know it has its ardent defenders, but in a very strong year of nominees, this Best Picture winner is the least of the five.

Johnny Belinda A beautifully shot and somewhat predictable sentimental venture that far exceeds low expectations. That a film about a deaf mute getting raped and carrying the child to term without marrying could be made in 1948 is really something, and Negulesco never lingers on her injustices for any longer than necessary. Wyman and the rest of the cast, save the male lead (sorry HHSS), are quite good. Bickford gives the most Bickford Bickford Performance of his career.

the Red Shoes One of the most vital and alive films about dance ever made, this dreamboat of a picture needs no defense on this board.

the Snake Pit Essentially a horror film about mental illness, this effective and often terrifying film disorients the viewer by placing de Havilland at the center of a system neither she nor the viewer quite understand. The film doesn't aim to humanize any victims save the star. While that may sound offensively inhuman, it works to the film's advantage. A sort of "This could happen to you if you have a nervous breakdown" warning, the film provides many memorable and disturbing moments throughout-- de Havilland attempting to talk about legal rights before being muffled by a bit shoved into her mouth and the electric shock applied certainly comes to mind! Everyone in the film who isn't de Haviland is wasted in bland nothing roles and the flashbacks are problematic, but her journey is oddly compelling in a way that a modern film would never dare portray.

the Treasure of the Sierra Madre Despite some Criterion favorites in the running, I predict this will win the year. And really, any nominated movie save the one that won winning would be okay in my books. But this will edge out the competition for the ugly brutality of Bogart, the unflappability of Walter Huston, the utter bleakness of the plot, and the beauty of its construction. While the third lead is dead weight, the film makes up for it elsewhere, and John Huston has a wonderful eye for tangents in the film that add up to a sobering whole. At the Oscars, the Treasure of the Sierra Madre won everything it was nominated for (Sup. Actor, Director, Screenplay) except Best Picture. It's 1948's Traffic.

My Vote: the Treasure of the Sierra Madre

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#9 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 09, 2008 12:46 am

This was a nightmare year

1958
Auntie Mame
Rosalind Russell plays to the rows behind the back rows in this gentle parody of liberal excesses. The overlong screenplay is predictable and not particularly funny, but this silly little movie coasts along smoothly on its enthusiasm. Features some of the best art direction ever seen outside of a musical.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof This Tennessee Williams adaptation is stuck somewhere in Hell between being opened-up and preserving the stagey-ness, with the end result being nothing at all. Brooks would atone for his sins here a few years later with his superior treatment of Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth.

the Defiant Ones Exactly as subtle as you'd think a Stanley Kramer movie about a white racist being chained to a proud black man would be. The film causes more groans than a handjob.

Gigi It seems greedy to complain about Minnelli's twin Oscar wins when he's one of the few deserving directors from the era to not walk away empty-handed from the Academy. But he won for two of his worst films, and I'm sure Brigadoon was one vote shy of making a hat-trick. Leslie Caron plays her role in childface with maximum annoyance. It's not every musical that can review itself, but: "It's A Bore!"

Separate Tables A frustrating peek at a better film. The Lancaster/Hayworth storyline is an unsalvageable waste of filmstock, but the Niven/Kerr line at least flirts with some compelling ideas and has its moments. The overeager cast often looked in need of being given more to do. Kerr is okay as the world's most beautiful spinster, but Niven's Best Actor Oscar for his ten minutes of screen-time was undeserved.

My Vote: Auntie Mame

User avatar
luridedith
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2008 7:34 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#10 Post by luridedith » Sun Nov 09, 2008 2:09 am

Can we do an Alternate Oscars (1968-2000) at the same time?

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#11 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 09, 2008 2:50 am

It will be hard enough for members to seek out 267 films between now and next summer without adding another 200 films to the mix. The second half will be covered when the first half ends, next summer

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#12 Post by domino harvey » Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:30 am

1961, the Year of Really, Really Long Movies
Fanny
Remaking Pagnol's Fanny Trilogy (even filming in the same cafe) was probably never going to turn out well for lovers of the original. But even distilled and expurgated down to a third of its original length, the strength of the source material is so great that for all of the remake's flaws (and there are many many many), it has a certain begrudging charm. Joshua Logan appears to have had an on-set love affair with soft focus close-ups of Leslie Caron. Either I'm getting immune to Caron or she was better than usual in the film, because I found her almost charming.

Guns of Navarone An above-average action film. The first half hour or so is wooden and stiff, but once the surprisingly brutal violence begins, the movie transforms into a watchable ride. Some sloppy editing mars the film at times, but the thrust of the plot and the film's unusually cavalier attitude towards killing enemy combatants keeps the show moving forward at an agreeable clip.

the Hustler Rossen is a criminally undervalued director and this film showcases his masterful use of pacing and blocking. The first forty minutes or so unfold with the careful ease of a true artist who's hit his stride and knows it, both in front of and behind the camera. Newman's arguably never been better than here, and he's surrounded by greatness.

Judgment at Nuremberg Exactly as subtle as you'd expect a Stanley Kramer Nazi War Crime Film to be. The film pretends to contain ambiguities and debate, but once Kramer trots out the concentration camp footage, the film devolves into the cast taking turns preaching to the choir. Schell's Oscar-winning histrionics move the three-plus hour behemoth along, and Clift is game in his nom'd cameo. Spencer Tracy appears to have been woken from a nap before every take.

West Side Story West Side Story is as good as a big budget, non-Freed musical can be. The "America" number is so stunning that both participants basically got their acting Oscars as a reward for it. Artificial to the point of brilliance and wonderfully staged, this is the rare beast: a Best Picture-winning musical that deserved to win.

My Vote: West Side Story

Tolmides
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:42 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#13 Post by Tolmides » Fri Nov 21, 2008 11:00 am

Alice Adams-I'm honestly not a George Stevens fan; I find a lot of his most well-regarded films(with the exception of Shane, his best) to be pompous, showy and a little confused in what they have to say. I really enjoyed this, however, due mainly to MacMurray, believe it or not, who was suitably banal. Hepburn's mannerisms haven't quite congealed into a personality yet, in my opinion; she seems way too eager to please the audience still, instead of reinforcing her character's strengths.
I haven't seen Alice Adams, but I generally divide his film into pre- and post-Talk of the Town. Those films prior are typically light comedies/adventures (Gunga Din, Swing Time, Vivacious Lady). His films only start to be crammed with social commentary from Talk of the Town onwards. I still like most of them, but it's clear he's determined to be a "serious" filmmaker.

You're also the first person who's admitted to preferring Flying Down to Rio to Top Hat. :shock:

Ugh, I can't join in yet. Plenty of years where I'm missing 1 or 2 films (time to dig out Zorba the Greek!)

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#14 Post by domino harvey » Mon Dec 08, 2008 10:31 pm

1944
Double Indemnity
Well, should I even bother counting votes for this year? I've never quite grasped this film's hold on everyone, as I find it quite good but also quite midrange among both noirs and Wilder films. As much as I find it pleasant enough, nothing about the film ever compelled me to rank it as anything above average on all counts. This and Gaslight do however make an interesting and stark contrast to the feel-goodery of the other nominations though.

Gaslight Forget Bergman's Oscar-winning overacting and focus on the brilliant and frightening performance by Boyer in the first half of the film. His split-second glance from above his reading material across the room at Bergman contains more menace and calculated coldness in just his eyes than most any other portrayal of an abusive husband has ever managed to project. That he lost the Oscar to Bing Crosby's "Bing Crosby-- Now with new hat!" performance is just another in a long line of Academy Award outrages.

Going My Way Oh God. Not a good:
A. Religious Film. It doesn't even bother to be overtly or even mildly religious, despite taking place in entirely inside, you know, a Catholic church.
B. Feel Good Film. The pap peddled here is so obtuse and removed from anything worth caring about that it fails to even be maudlin correctly. I mean, Crosby's biggest challenge is an adult runaway who marries the son of her landlord? Whatta crisis!
C. Musical Film. Well, okay, it's not a musical. But the two songs Bing Crosby sings are not bad. They're not awful. They're horrendous. The title song is so poorly done that I thought it was a joke at first and that the film's climax would be him rewriting it and then getting the money. No such luck.
D. Film.

Since You Went Away Well, as far as three-hour, three-hankie weepies go, this one is actually pretty good. I had a surprising amount of goodwill towards the feature for the first two and half hours, but the film pushes it as it rounds the corner towards its third hour. By the time the picture ended, I was ready for every character to enlist and die in battle. There's some surprisingly great cinematography and blocking in the film, and the entire dance hall sequence is quite beautiful in its grandeur. Contains enough derogatory remarks about "the Japs" to replicate a visit to the elk lodge.

Wilson An utterly artless Presidential biopic that was nominated solely on the strength of Selznick's pressure. Contains about ten minutes of worthwhile footage in its nearly three hour running time thanks to a lively nomination fight complete with thousands of competing political placards. That Knox's catatonic Wilson isn't even present for these events says it all. I was greatly impressed with King's the Song of Bernadette, but he shows no abilities or talents here-- this was obviously a for-hire job and he unfortunately never rises above it. The film also wastes Charles Coburn, which is of course a cardinal sin for any picture lucky enough to have had him.

My Vote: Gaslight

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#15 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jan 28, 2009 1:22 pm

1947, the Year of Christmas and Jews
the Bishop's Wife
In a just world, the Bishop's Wife would be the Christmas film shown ad nauseum every holiday season. Cary Grant was never better-- Christ, this was the Academy's chance to give him an Oscar for a film they all liked and they didn't even bother to nominate him?!-- and the film is sentimental without becoming maudlin, endearing without being cloying. The greatest Capra film Capra never made, this new holiday favorite is (so far) the best picture I've seen specifically for this project.

Crossfire I could moan and gripe about this being a b-level message picture which inexplicably found a wide and eager audience (It was actually a strong favorite with children upon its release!), but any picture that allowed Robert Ryan to get a much deserved Oscar nom can't be all bad.

Gentleman's Agreement Now this one, this one I could moan and gripe about. But there's no need to harp on how horrible this film is, it's a known quantity of the picture itself. A film with literally nothing to praise, however faintly. If you hate yids though, feel free to get your life changed here.

Great Expectations I'm not particularly enamored with Lean, but he does as fair a job as anyone could do when saddled with a Charles Dickens adaptation. As DVDBeaver might say, it's a very competent film, but not much more.

Miracle on 34th Street I'd actually never seen this before I started working through these nominees, though obviously I was aware of many of its landmark moments. Honestly, it was a cute little film done fairly well, but when put in close proximity to the Bishop's Wife, Miracle on 34th Street comes off as vulgar trash.

My Vote: the Bishop's Wife


1951
An American in Paris
The Oscars nominated the wrong Gene Kelly movie from this year. How it went on to then win is beyond me. The sole saving grace outside of the much-lauded finale is that Leslie Caron is slightly more bearable here than she will be in Gigi-- at least she's closer to the right age for once!

Decision Before Dawn This looks less like a Hollywood film than anything else I've seen nominated. Apparently Hollywood decided to borrow some techniques from across the ocean, and this was a theft that paid off handsomely for all. A war film shot in smoldering ruins throughout wrecked locales, not studio backlots, it's easy to see why this got the nomination: it just didn't look like anything else Fox was pumping out.

A Place in the Sun An average treatment of Dreiser's novel by Stevens. Clift is good as per usual and Winters does as much with her role as she probably could. While I'm not wild about the film, it's infinitely preferable to slogging through the source text.

Quo Vadis This one does so much right that the Robe and other historical / Biblical dramas will later do so wrong. Kerr is stunning, Leo Genn is, well, Leo Genn, and Ustinov should have filed a police claim after Malden stole his Oscar. Perhaps most stunning of all, Robert Taylor didn't suck the life out of the movie every moment he was on-screen. That miracle alone makes this a great film.

A Streetcar Named Desire One of my least-favorite Williams plays beget one of my least-favorite Williams adaptations. The raw and legendary power of Brando saves this film, but unfortunately he cannot be on-screen at all times. Would rather watch the Simpsons episode over this any day.

My Vote: Quo Vadis


1954, the Year of the Lesser of Five Evils
the Caine Mutiny
Mutinies and courtroom dramas can be exciting, interesting, even competent. This film doesn't even strive for the last one. MacMurray plays the only half-way interesting character and he gets ridden on the rails by the film's end. I'm not sure how good an idea it was to rally the film against the only one keeping the audience awake.

the Country Girl The worst film I've seen yet for this project. Words fail to capture just how inept and insulting this picture is, and that's even before the mind-blowing, forehead-slap-inducing third act romantic twist. I rarely talk to the TV, but I believe the exact words I yelled were "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?" A must-see for those who hate themselves and demand punishment. Grace Kelly won an Oscar for trying really hard to act.

On the Waterfront Pedestrian Kazan affair with a lot of good actors phoning it in and getting Oscar noms/wins in the process. The political message doesn't really factor in one way or the other-- To be honest, I'd be okay with Brando kissing Joseph McCarthy on the lips if it'd made the film better. Eva Marie Saint won an Oscar for looking confused.

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers Why is it so hard to get the Oscars to nominate good musicals? This is a lesser Donen affair, with some fun to be had in the middle passages at the dance and barn-raising (and even the rhythmic axe chopping later), but those moments are bookended with exceedingly dull sexist passages.

Three Coins in the Fountain This should be shown in screenwriting classes as an example of how not to write dialog. Dreadful dead words abound (Shot of a character on the balcony is punctuated with "Hello, I am out here on the balcony," &c) in this limp Roman romance. Maggie McNamara is shamelessly made-up like that other actress from that other Roman romance, and Clifton Webb gets drunk under the table by Dorothy McGuire of all people. Suffers from the worst tourist picture tendencies.

My Vote: On the Waterfront

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#16 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Feb 01, 2009 12:29 am

Just caught All The King's Men and thought I would add a few comments while it is still fresh in my mind.

I was quite nervous for the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the film as it seemed to be going in quite an insipid direction as a reporter, Jack Burden (and boy will he be burdened!), is assigned to cover a story on a plucky underdog, Willie Stark, taking on corrupt officials in his town, while at the same time crossing the river by ferry to the nearby higher class neighbourhood his parents live in and to court a long term sweetheart, Anne Stanton.

There's a sketching in of Jack's parents as privileged but falling apart (his stepfather snipes and distrusts any sense of idealism in politics when Jack tells him of Stark's campaign to rally the people against corruption; his mother is constantly drinking); of Anne's family as being a paradigm of virtue (her successful, likable brother and upstanding elderly uncle who is also a judge); and of Willie Stark and his family as being poor but noble and hard working (Willie does not drink and is teased about it by the corrupt officials in the scene where he and Jack first meet; his wife Lucy is extremely supportive, helping Willie in learning the law after his initial campaign fails; their son Tom is introduced having been beaten for handing out flyers in support of his father; their elderly father lives with them, showing that their family has strong ties).

So far, so bland, and at this point it looks dangerously like the film is going to become a simplistic portrait of the triumph of the underdog (such as in the scene where Willie says in despair "Two years of studying law!", which then immediately cuts to him hanging the diploma up on his wall! If only we could cut to the chase like that in our real lives!) who is only entering politics because of anger at the way things are being run (he decides to run when the local poorly funded school's fire escape collapses during a fire drill, killing a number of children(!)), combined with some gentle class comments. Nothing too major, just a suggestion that some upper class people are snobs with bad marriages and drink problems, though this statement would be tempered against Anne's model family and the harsher criticism of the corrupt government officials - the ones who make compromises to keep their positions and their jobs which safeguard their positions in society (i.e. the middle classes!). This is particularly shown in the scene where the editor of Jack's paper who has sent him out again to cover Stark's second campaign says that they are going to support a different candidate because of certain pressures placed on them. Jack quits in disgust at the paper's moral shifting and when the editor says it will be difficult for him to find another job, he says haughtily "I don't need a job! I'm rich!" and walks out (similarly to the earlier diploma scene we then have a brief montage as Jack talks about spending four years working poorly paid jobs and taking handouts before Stark takes him on as an assistant for his third campaign. It gives the suggestion of Jack's hardship without really conveying what hardship really means, if that makes sense).

I was also deeply unimpressed by the character of Anne at this point. When she is introduced she is the epitome of the demure, quiet, compliant woman, good at kissing and dancing and taking a man's mind off of more important matters. She is barely allowed to speak in the first couple of scenes she appears in! She is even cut short the first time she does speak!

Then there is Sadie Burke, who appears while Jack is covering Stark's second campaign. Again the set up seems bland at this point. Stark is giving a speech to the people and giving them facts and figures, but is not stirring their passions. The film seems overly desperate to convey this fact to us through a number of scenes of Stark speaking shown from behind the crowd, letting us see people rolling their eyes and smiling while they walk off unmoved. Sadie appears during one of these meetings and gives Jack a frank run down of what is wrong with Willie's public speaking skills.

This is where the film starts to turn into something more substantial (though in retrospect everything is all present in these early set up scenes - what follows is an unpacking of all the plot lines set in place above that reveals new facets of each part. Looking back I'm very impressed by the way this early section was handled).

Sadie and Jack work Willie over in his hotel room that night, shattering his illusions and igniting a fire within him (creating a monster?) when they tell him of the way he is being used as the third party candidate to attract the attention, but not the votes, of the public while the other two candidates fight it out for real (I guess sort of in the same way that the Liberal Democrat candidates are used here in Britain, as much as it pains me to make that analogy! Stark is positioned as the 'people's politician', inspiring love among the hicks, but not seriously considered as capable. Having him there in the race allows the two 'real' candidates to both disparage and dismiss the third parties point of view as being too wild and crazy to work, thereby assuring that power is retained within a small clique and there is not a particularly radical shift in policy whoever wins).

Anyway in the next rally he goes up on stage and throws his speech full of facts and figures and sensible, dry rhetoric away and goes on a tirade against the corruption in government and the way that he is a man of the people, for the people, and so on. (This is where two important moments occur that set alarm bells ringing and signify trouble ahead for the viewer - first Jack gets the teetotaler drunk enough to be able to make his rallying cry, with Sadie's blessing; and second in Willie's speech he cites God and the Bible. So we have the introduction of the wide eyed innocent being corrupted by drink, and the first use of religion as a political weapon during a speech. Uh-oh!)

As I alluded to a little while earlier, Willie Stark's second campaign fails and Jack leaves his reporting job. However Willie is even more of a man of the people after this second attempt than he was when he was just campaigning for better school funding, and though the four year jump to Willie's next campaign is mostly illustrated through Jack's trek through poorly paid jobs, when we next see Willie he is far more confident and has obviously taken a few interpersonal communication distance learning courses to add to his diploma wall!

However when we see him now he is quite obviously corrupt. All of the previously corrupt officials who were having bricks thrown through Willie's windows and having his son beaten up years before are now working for him as little more than hired goons. Willie straight away says to Jack that he wants to keep them to remind him of the past, but it soon becomes apparent that it is just more expedient to keep people already trained in corrupt practices on the payroll than hiring new guys and having to train them up from scratch! :wink:

Sadie has now become his campaign manager, managing Stark's affairs with an iron fist of practicality. She is the power behind the throne in this middle section (ironically so considering the film is All The King's Men!) while Willie is more of a figurehead - obviously in charge but not getting his hands dirty with practicalities (as is the case with all politicians, I suppose!)

Jack's role in the campaign is rather vague at first (when Willie and Sadie say they want him they say that they are sure that they'll find something for him to do), but it soon becomes apparent that he will be useful for his journalistic muckraking skills (Willie is ruthless about uncovering an opponent's weakness and then blackmailing them with it) and for his connections to the upper class set - more specifically Anne's family and Judge Stanton.

I'll briefly sketch in the details of the rest of the film - Willie falls for and has an affair with Anne after Jack introduces him to the Stantons, which of course shows his lack of concern for both Jack and his own long suffering family that he is cheating on (Anne proves herself quite a feisty character at this point, considering her earlier demure introduction). Mercedes McCambridge as Sadie (winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and a couple of Golden Globes in this, her first film. Johnny Guitar still remains her best performance for me but she is almost as good here in a much smaller part) has a brilliant scene with Jack where she is fully aware of the affair between Willie and Anne while Jack is still in the dark about his girl having liaisons with another. Sadie looks at a picture of Anne and describes how beautiful Anne is and how ugly she is, the one moment of weakness she shows and the only suggestion of her feelings for Jack that will go unrequited throughout the film.

Stark meanwhile has fingers in many different pies - there are comments that he has bought up the local news media and he has also bought the local football stadium and installed his son as their star player (talk about nepotism!) I like the suggestion that he has been building his power base outside of politics to prepare the ground for his campaign, and the acknowledgement of the importance of news and sport as methods of showing a sympathetic face of benevolence to his community - with the implied suggestion that you might want to repay the favour at the polling booth!

However when his son gets into a car crash (on Willie Stark Highway - nice touch!) that puts a girl into the hospital, where she later dies, Stark is forced to defend himself from the media that has dragged up juicy stories of blackmail, intimidation and other shady practices in his own campaign team. And the girl's father, who was going to sue, has suspiciously gone missing...

There then follows the wonderful moment when Stark defends his son, who was not injured in the crash, by saying that "there will be 70,000 people cheering for him at his game, of which I will be one."

Cut to the stadium full of people booing loudly!

(I should point out here that this is just one of many moments I found very funny! I should also confess to finding the fire escape collapse sending many children to their deaths, with the immediate cut to the funeral, darkly funny too. Has there been a more horrific, absurd and hilarious moment in an Oscar winning film?)

Stark's son is badly injured during the game (it is a contrivance, but it works as a kind of poetic justice for the fatal accident Tom caused earlier. Clint Eastwood take note - this is how you introduce and handle a sports related paralysis subplot in a film!).

I forgot to mention earlier that Anne's brother Adam is a doctor whose hospital Stark created and who is now labouring under the burden of being part of his empire, especially after the way Stark caused Judge Stanton to retire in disgust rather than collude with him. So those two have a show down over Tom's treatment.

Anyway to cut this a little shorter, let's just say that things do not end happily for anyone, and the final third (once Sadie is fired) transforms the political world into one of a gangster film, which is not as big a leap as I would have imagined (I particularly liked the way all of the main corrupt characters are wearing trenchcoats and fedoras by the final scene with the Judge!)

The most damning aspect of the entire film is the way the crowd of people in the final scene outside the courthouse have been manipulated into cheering for the person who has never had their best interests in mind but who has constantly portrayed himself as being 'just one of the hicks'. It is one of the bitterest endings I've ever seen - the public as a whole are idiots, governed by corrupt scum with diplomas in media manipulation who have their own private armies of bodyguards and loudspeaker proclamations telling their supporters what to do (in that sense it could be seen as making a veiled comment about the ways unions manipulate their members into doing their bidding as it is about right wing corruption). It is also quite shocking that the happy ending involves an assassination, though at the same time it remains a sad event because we are devastated by the death - not of the assassinated person, but of the promptly gunned down assassin (I suppose it illustrates that you can only push someone so far until they snap. Something Stark does not seem to take heed of).

The more I think about the film, the more it grows on me. I also got the impression while watching that this is a film heavily influenced by Citizen Kane - it even includes a scene of reporters watching a newsreel of Stark's lifestory in a screening room and discussing how true to the man it is! Also the scene where Willie and Lucy fight in their large mansion - Willie knocking things to the floor and collapsing on the staircase in exhaustion as Lucy (finally!) leaves him feels similar in tone to the Welles breakdown, if not as grandiose.

However if it is influenced by Kane, it has jumbled its chronology up - instead of starting with a death and exploring a life through the testimonies of others, it takes a more linear approach. The character of the reporter is the audience's surrogate in both films, though whereas in Kane he was literally meant to be the questioning voice of the audience with no major personality of his own, in All The King's Men Jack is heavily personified. He constantly tells us his take on events, and everything is coloured by his perceptions - he is also a naive and rather unlikeable character, is always being manipulated in some fashion and never escapes from his role as Stark's 'henchman'. So we as the audience are associated with a low level bad guy in an corrupt organisation through whose eyes we see the world, not a reporter with privileged access to the vaults to rummage through a life that he was not previously a part of, as in Kane. We are as implicated by association in Rossen's film as everyone else is.

The other big change is that, of course, in Kane the main character is dead and in All The King's Men the main character only dies at the end, so he is always around to manipulate and comment on the manipulation! This is perhaps most apparent in comparing the newsreel scenes - in Kane we get it at the beginning as an introduction to the man, and while there are some moments that will be expanded on later in the film, most of the footage shows events that do not get mentioned again in the narrative (most famously the shot of Kane and Hitler having a chat together!). In All The King's Men the footage is placed just before the final act and is mostly culled from earlier events we have been shown in the film, though they are given a much more positive spin in the news commentary.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two films is that in Kane there is a pining for the past, of wishing that he had not had the inheritance that sent him down the path to wealth and loneliness. For Willie Stark in All The King's Men there is no such regret and wish to return to a time 'before corruption'. Stark's last words (to the reporters huddled around him with microphones - they aren't going to miss this chance to catch a dying man's significant final speech!) are addressed to his assassin and show that he really did not have much of a sense that what he was doing was in some way wrong or damaging. And perhaps in the world that Rossen's film shows, where everyone is venal or naive or stupid (or all three!) to some extent, he may truly consider himself as not having committed any greater sin than anyone else.

His last word is not "Rosebud", it is simply "Why?"

EDIT: I should add that I caught Rossen's first film Johnny O'Clock a few months back and was not too impressed by it. That film was full of over egged symbolism and meta-metaphors intoned with straight faces by actors with such portentous seriousness that it tipped what should have been a dark noir film into unintentional hilarity! This was one of the reasons why I was wary of approaching All The King's Men (so I should thank domino for giving me the push to see it for this project), but I found this to be a great leap forward. It is still dark and ironic but the metaphors are sketched in more delicately rather than overpowering the narrative and there is (as mentioned above) a brilliant strand of wry, dark humour running throughout the film that prevents it from seeming overly pretentious in its ambitions of tackling the world of politics.

I'm honestly shocked that this film won Best Picture of the year (it is the There Will Be Blood of the 40s!), and while I have not seen the other films nominated against it recently enough to properly make a decision of whether it deserved its win over them, this looks like it will become one of my favourite films that ever won the Best Film Oscar.

I'm just glad that politics has moved on so much from situations that are depicted in this film! (... :-k ... #-o )

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#17 Post by domino harvey » Mon Feb 09, 2009 6:17 pm

Great write-up Colin! Rossen's an underrated auteur of particular interest to me, so it's always nice to see him get some notice. You should definitely make his Best Pic nom'd the Hustler required viewing if you haven't seen it already. I mean, if you think ATKM is acidic, just wait...

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#18 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:04 pm

Thanks domino -The Hustler is another one of my knowledge gaps but I think I've got a widescreen video somewhere around so I'll give it a watch before the voting.

Oh, and All The King's Men probably isn't the There Will Be Blood of the 40s - that's probably The Treasure of the Sierra Madre! :wink: But it's certainly a dark film and I still wonder at the run of Treasure, All The King's Men and All About Eve!

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#19 Post by movielocke » Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:55 pm

oh nice, I'd have never found this thread if it weren't for the post in the Korda eclipse thread

A couple notes on some of the early nominees: The Patriot is the only film nominated for Best Picture that is completely lost. no one has seen it in seventy years or so.

East Lynne is available for viewing on a telecined video at UCLA of their vault print but I haven't gotten over there to watch it. I've not heard of any other video release of the film.

The White Parade is available only on a film print at UCLA, so far as I know, and I don't know that it's available to watch at all. I don't think it is. I don't believe there's ever been a video release of the film, and so far as I know it hasn't aired on television in ages, if at all.

other than those two films I've only got Broadway Melody of 1935, Naughty Marietta and 100 men and a Girl from the thirties and The Crowd and Chang from the 20s left to see, which I hope to see in the next couple weeks as all are easy to find on video in LA. I'll post my thoughts and votes on the years I've seen them all as I go. :)

other than the thirties years the only years I've seen all the nominees are 1958, 1961, 1967 and 1968 out of the first forty years, or fifty-five films left to see from those forty years. :-p

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#20 Post by movielocke » Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:40 am

1927/1928

Seventh Heaven - a silent masterpiece often overlooked in the light of Sunrise, Borzage's film is brilliant and elegant with glorious filmmaking and performances.

Wings - A terrifically fun film on the big screen (the only way I've seen it) that is only slightly hampered but some overindulgent melodramatics (particularly in the last act).

The Racket - an exceptional crime film from Frank Lloyd that is terrifically structured with an excellent scenario and wonderful performances. The photography and filmmaking are not as breathtaking as Wings, Seventh Heaven or Sunrise, but are still very good.

my vote: Seventh Heaven

2. Wings
3. The Racket
Last edited by movielocke on Sat May 16, 2009 2:06 am, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#21 Post by movielocke » Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:45 am

since Patriot is lost, I consider this year complete. :-p

1928/1929

Alibi - a mostly forgettable film, with an awful leading performance. Dull and predictable.

Broadway Melody - a terrible film that is bad in most every respect. Blah all around.

Hollywood Revue - an 'anthology' film that is interesting primarily only for the variety of material within, both banal and fascinating. "Lon Chaney will get you" is the film's highlight, while the color Romeo and Juliet sequence is hilarious for its god-awfullness.

In Old Arizona - a very boring western, that is often offensive and not at all remarkable in any respect.

my vote: the worst year of nominations in oscar history, Hollywood Revue, which is not to say it's a good film.

2. Alibi
3. In Old Arizona
4. Broadway Melody
Last edited by movielocke on Sat May 16, 2009 2:06 am, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#22 Post by movielocke » Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:54 am

1929/30

All Quiet on the Western Front - A still gripping and fascinating film that is superbly made. One I need to revisit.

The Big House - despite a script from Frances Marion and a potentially very interesting setup and Wallace Beery in the cast the film roundly disappointed me. It had no punch or rooting interest, I didn't expect to be bored by this.

Disraeli - George Arliss gives an okay performance, but I find the film mostly unmemorable except that he was good.

Divorcee - Not at all interesting, perhaps it was once, but it certainly has not aged well. Quite boring.

The Love Parade - an early Lubitsch Musical, somewhat good, somewhat bad, a big step up from the Broadway Melody.

My Vote - All Quiet on the Western Front, easily.

2. The Big House
3. The Love Parade
4. Disraeli
5. The Divorcee
Last edited by movielocke on Sat May 16, 2009 2:06 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#23 Post by movielocke » Mon Feb 16, 2009 2:01 am

1930/1931

considering East Lynne pretty much unviewable, I'll treat this year as complete unless something changes. :)

Cimarron - a western I expected to hate but found quite entertaining with a sharp performance by Irene Dunne and a thunderously scenery-chewing one by Richard Dix

The Front Page - Sharply scripted, speedily paced, well acted witty film. an early standout film, though topped by His Girl Friday a decade later.

Skippy - a slight, but entertaining adaptation of the comic strip with a strong central performance but not a remarkable one. relatively average.

Trader Horn - pretty much nonstop offensive to modern sensibilities but I recall it as having strong production values.

My vote - The Front Page

2. Cimarron
3. Skippy
4. Trader Horn
Last edited by movielocke on Sat May 16, 2009 2:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#24 Post by movielocke » Mon Feb 16, 2009 2:15 am

1931/1932

Arrowsmith - John Ford's film about a missionary Doctor is not as good as one might hope. I was mostly disappointed, even technically.

Bad Girl - An exceptional film, that is more silent than talkie in its melodramatic disposition. Very similar to Seventh Heaven in the broad strokes of it's characters. Despite the fact that it should not work the film is stunningly charming and an utterly superb proto-romantic comedy.

The Champ - A very entertaining film with a wonderful script and two astonishing central performances, particularly Jackie Cooper. Frances Marion's career best achievement as a writer, imo, it's a shame she never directed more than three films or any of her sound scripts.

Five Star Final - An utterly stunning film with Edward G Robinson's best performance, a towering script and a shockingly dark, damning and incisive look at the newspaper racket.

Grand Hotel - a relatively dull film I should probably rewatch. I remember it had a very good script and a few scenes that I quite liked.

One Hour with You - A Lubitsch film that was relatively disappointing and fairly unmemorable.

Shanghai Express - A wonderful von Sternberg film with great work from Dietrich and stunning technical qualities.

The Smiling Lieutenant - a very fun strong Lubitsch film that was consistently charming and entertaining.

My Vote: Five Star Final

2. The Champ
3. Shanghai Express
4. Bad Girl
5. The Smiling Lieutenant
6. Grand Hotel
7. Arrowsmith
8. One Hour with You
Last edited by movielocke on Sat May 16, 2009 2:05 am, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#25 Post by movielocke » Mon Feb 16, 2009 2:26 am

1932/1933

42nd Street - a highly lauded story which never impressed me much, either as a play or as a film. that said, the lyrics to Shuffle off to Buffalo are still some of the best in a musical, ever.

Cavalcade - kill me now. Awful film. interminable, self-important, dull and completely insufferable.

A Farewell to Arms - a Farewell to sanity getting through the overwrought, overplayed melodramatics of this nonsense.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang - A still exciting, brilliantly realized film in every aspect. Exceptional all around.

Lady for a Day - Very slight Capra comedy that's moderately entertaining, with a decent central performance. it's not forgettable but neither is it remarkable

Little Women - I very much enjoyed this adaptation which I attribute to Hepburn and Cukor's sure-handed direction. I wouldn't mind rewatching it. I was quite impressed when I last saw it six years or so ago.

Private Life of Henry VIII - I quite loved Laughton's performance and some of the production design. one I really need to revisit, as I don't remember it very clearly other than that.

She Done Him Wrong - I was satisfied, but somewhat disappointed the film with the legendary line wasn't as great as that line. I'm no Angel is a better film, methinks.

Smilin' Through - an interesting and intriguing ghost story romance through the ages. melodramatic but well controlled and consistently interesting.

State Fair - I quite adored the ensemble of this picture and overall rustic charm of the film. that said it is very predictable and by the numbers.

My Vote: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

2. Little Women
3. Smilin' Through
4. Lady for a Day
5. Private Life of Henry the VIII
6. State Fair
7. 42nd Street
8. She Done Him Wrong
9. A Farewell to Arms
10. Cavalcade
Last edited by movielocke on Sat May 16, 2009 2:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

Post Reply