The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

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

#276 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:31 pm

1931
Cimarron
Repulsive Edna Ferber adaptation that would probably be a lot easier to forgive if it weren't coming from a sanctimonious "progressive" vantage that is wholly unearned by the rampant racism that permeates the proceedings. From the black shoeshiner who stows away to "Oklyhomy" and goes ape for the stack of watermelons which greet him upon entering the territory, to the token Jewish merchant who is emasculated and cornered into a makeshift crucifix formed by a horse post (and all while supposedly naysaying such anti-Semitic bullying-- pshaw), there's something to disgust everyone. Richard Dix is truly horrible in the lead, like one of the worst performances I've ever seen bad, and while I'm not the biggest Dunne fan, even she's better than her work here. The only reason this won the Best Pic statue is because MGM wanted to feel better about having wasted so much money on the film. I wonder how much of the unfair toxic reaction to Mann's 1960 superior remake was just residual resentment for this flick?

East Lynne Unavailable, and just as well, given Lloyd's track record.

the Front Page Good direction by Lewis Milestone does its best to translate the energy of the source material into the film. However, the neutered cuts mandated by the Breen Office leave much of the bluster of the film just that, bluster (though the film at least goes for broke with the final line), though certainly the mean-spirited nature here is what sets it most apart from its more well-known and superior remake, His Girl Friday. Pat O'Brien is, as always, the (homelier) Joel McCrea of the period, but Edward Everett Horton is fun as ever in his small role as the neat freak reporter.

Skippy I've often wondered why the Academy gave a Best Director Oscar to Norman Taurog, one of the most invisible workhorses to ever pass through the studio system. Well, now that I've seen the pic he was rewarded for, it seems clear that the Academy was suitably impressed with Taurog's ability to get competent, at times actually childlike performances out of his mostly kindergarden-aged cast. The film itself works best when it stops trying to be a proto-sitcom (I see it was based on a comic strip, which figures) and actually hits some observant humor. I especially liked the early gags about kids getting ready. The film admittedly does such a good job capturing children that it often slips into shrill and loud kids play with little mercy for the adults who are presumably the target audience.

It's got my vote, but not before I make two final passing observations about the film: It presents the poor as heroes and the middle class as villains, yet makes the primary villain a member of the lower class. And for having two screenwriters who went on to directorial careers of their own, what were McLeod and Mankiewicz thinking with that 180 ending that literally could have been written by a first grader?

Trader Horn An entertaining film for the most part, but reading about how many people involved got sick and/or died as a result of filming, it's hard to justify that it was "worth it." The film wants to be a documentary and an acted narrative, and it surprisingly works best when the two bleed together rather than come apart (the wonderful circular tribal singing underscoring our heroes being tied to crosses and placed upside down in a pyre, for instance). Of course, the underlying narrative is a mindblower: whites must rescue other whites at all costs, even when they've fully assimilated into another culture. Gee, why hasn't this been released on DVD yet?!

My Vote: Skippy


1932
Arrowsmith
About as disappointing as the melding of two great early 20th century artists like John Ford and Sinclair Lewis can be. Dull medical hagiography was all the rage with the Oscars in the early years, and this sadly offers just more symptoms and no cure.

Bad Girl The best film I've seen exclusively for this project yet. I was absolutely enchanted by this slice of life played against two of the most agreeable characters I've seen in some time. I laughed, I cried, and ran the gamut of emotions in between. There's nothing better than a small film done well, and Borzage's masterpiece has done the impossible: It's gotten me to vote against Shanghai Express!

the Champ Entertaining-enough lovable loser pic that succeeds solely on the merits of its two likable leads. Beery's one-time prominence as Hollywood's biggest star never fails to fascinate me, and he certainly has a real screen presence to overcome his less than marketable looks. Cooper is good in the everyday kid scenes, as he was in Skippy, but is out of his element in the more emotional sequences. Nevertheless, if it weren't for these two, this predictable bit of hokum wouldn't register at all.

Five Star Final A decent social problem picture that's really only good when it's being bad. Robinson barks out orders with little attention to anything beyond speed of delivery, but Karloff is great fun in what is really a nasty and perverse role. His behavior, even when seen through the sheen of the film's pseudo-disapproval, is so despicable that the rest of the film comes off as toothless in comparison. Anyone not connected with the newspaper, including (unfortunately) the knock-out qt Marian Marsh, is total deadwood.

Grand Hotel An entertaining bit of Hollywood nothingness. Ensemble pieces like this don't really work when one star/storyline shines so much brighter than the others, but that's definitely what happens with Lionel Barrymore's lovable dying prole, and the film wisely pushes more and more of its focus onto him as the running time winds onward. A lot of the other scenery-chewers here are surprisingly left in his dust, including the much-ballyhooed Garbo. In no way did this deserve to win Best Pic over Bad Girl, but we all know the awards were more crooked than usual this early on, and it could have gone worse.

One Hour With You A little better than the other Lubitsch musical from this year, but not by enough. I usually flip over audience interaction fourth-wall breaking, but it got a little stale here. I've already forgotten pretty much everything about this one save my initial reaction.

Shanghai Express I am reminded of Chabrol's comment that it's impossible to adequately replicate why a film works in words, which is why films cost so much. Let's meet half-way:

Image

the Smiling Lieutenant Weak Lubitsch musical effort, with Hopkins stealing the show from the sleepwalking Chevalier and Colbert. The film's problem is above all a structural one: the film ends where it should have begun, in those last twenty minutes when the two women finally meet and cavort. By the time the film wakes up and starts delivering on its promise, it's over.

My Vote: Bad Girl

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

#277 Post by knives » Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:24 pm

Is Bad Girl available through legal channels or did you get it from a site which will not be named?

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

#278 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:25 pm

knives wrote:Is Bad Girl available through legal channels or did you get it from a site which will not be named?
It's in the Fox Murnau/Borzage box, and also via real live disc on Netflix!

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

#279 Post by Siddon » Mon May 09, 2011 7:25 am

Okay let me give this a shot.

1929/1930

All Quiet on the Western Front - The greatest WWI I have ever seen and visually still sticks with me 20 years after I watched it for the first and only time. Great films have something to say and the message of this film still resonates with me.

The Big House - The film were I fell in love with Wallace Beery's overacting butt. A thriller that is still solid today as it was 80 years ago.

Disraeli - A clumsy and heavy handed biopic that turned me off of George Arliss films, he made better films later on but I found this film to be a square of a story jammed into a circular hole.

The Divorcee - Quirky and sort of a film of it's time, it seems like this film sent a trend for quite a few after it. Norma Shearer was incredible and shockingly I was pulled into a love triangle from a film and that never happens.

The Love Parade - Doesn't really stand out to me as a great musical, I enjoyed the plot but the Lubitsch films tend to blend together over time

Best Picture -
1.) All Quiet On the Western Front
2.) The Big House
3.) The Divorcee
4.) The Love Parade
5.) Disreali

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

#280 Post by movielocke » Fri Jul 08, 2011 4:18 am

HBO Signature will be showing the hard to find Wilson on 7/14 at 3am and 7/27 at 3am.

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

#281 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:24 pm

1927-8
Unique and Artistic Production
Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness
A quasi-documentary filled with many exciting images, unquestionably, but not unlike Trader Horn, none of what was presented seemed worth all the danger untaken to capture it on film. And boy oh boy, the intertitles here are particularly condescending-- they often reminded me of those one reel compilations of silent films released after sound hit it big that added zany sound effects and insulting commentary to what were otherwise normal silent pictures, just to stoke the superiority of the modern audiences.

the Crowd Very electric late silent that puts the static drabness of talkies for the next several years to shame. Vidor's direction keeps things moving, though the film crests early in the first thirty minutes or so before it settles down into a more gentle domestic drama. The film takes a somewhat less-critical stance against its protagonist than is probably merited, honestly.

Sunrise A story told and retold a thousand times, but rarely better.

Production
the Racket
Borderline-incoherent prohibition gangster pic that finds Milestone oddly adrift-- the talkies he made immediately following this are all more cinematic and fluent in film language and function better as silent art than this actual silent film does. Why is this here, I ask for the nth time about the nth film.

7th Heaven Yeesh, I didn't care much for this schizophrenic tribute to theism as filtered through a series of tonal shifts and beguiling script choices. I'd love to see a sincere film about the epiphany of receiving "bon dieu," but this film is a mawkish cheat, relying on hokum and stardust instead of embracing the miracle. Borzage will do the small complicated romance so much better in Bad Girl and the war-- well, okay, his next war flick isn't much better than this one, so there goes the parallelism.

Wings Very good aviation sequences and a final thirty minutes that is pretty much wall-to-wall action work in the film's favor, but some of the creaky passages that precede the finale are painful-- one word: bubbles. If the film didn't think Clara Bow was the star, it might have tightened up and turned into the film its legacy claims it already is.

My Votes: Sunrise and Wings


1929
Alibi
An anti-police crime film that attempts a deathbed conversion to law and order that is as unconvincing as the ruse employed to achieve it. The pacing is disastrous, but the leisurely deadness on screen works to the film's advantage in the intimidation scene where the cops trick a criminal into turning stool pigeon by convincing him they'll kill him if he declines to help. Mostly though we get moments like the drunkard's ten minute death scene where time stands still.

the Broadway Melody Holy cat, why does everyone hate this little film so fervently? No, it's not a particularly good musical, but it's harmless and historically important... but then again, I do have a bias in its favor due to having been taught this film two or three different times by a professor who placed a higher value on it than anyone else in this world, apparently.

the Hollywood Revue of 1929 UGH. Revue musicals are already the worst subgenre (there are no good ones, unless you count the second half of Thousands Cheer) and this one is the worst of the worst. Hideously unfunny material, much of it dependent on popular references that had the shelf life of bananas, bolstering unimaginative music numbers performed by a mix of actors who should know better and vaudeville stars who no one remembers for a good reason. The film has about two minutes that didn't make me want to blind myself in Marie Dressler's mildly amusing "I'm the Queen" routine, but even that limited praise is grasping at straws. The Romeo and Juliet "skit" with Norma Shearer and Barrymore might be the worst thing that's ever happened. Just, in general.

In Old Arizona Yes, it suffers from the same deficiencies that a lot of these early talkies face-- pacing and artifice issues, wildly modulating acting, &c. But the story's not half bad and is deliciously naughty in its finale, even if it hilariously drags out the necessary information over and over to make sure the audience gets it. This is a moderately successful early western, but one that looks like Stagecoach beside next year's Best Pic winner.

the Patriot Lost

My Vote: In Old Arizona


1933
42nd Street
I defy anyone to recall what happens in the first hour of this film. Yes, the picture eventually has some keen numbers of the awesome sort BB churned out with precision this decade. But there's nothing else here. It's like suffering through a hunger strike on the promise of dessert.

A Farewell to Arms I actually haven't read the source material, but I somehow doubt Hemingway was as hung-up on the melodramatics of the deadwood coupling of Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes' love affair. Here war is but a minor annoyance, like a fly at a picnic, and there's no real attempt made to be anything but an overly familiar doomed relationship weepie with a few more explosions than the genre normally allots.

Cavalcade I've hated other Best Pic winners more than this, but at least I can see what others saw in those dreadful films. This one is so terrible in such a bland, dull fashion that it defies any spirited defense. If more people alive today had actually seen this, it would be the default "Worst Best Picture Winner" response.

I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang! One of the first "old" films I ever saw to completely affect me on a modern level {"Hey, an old film can be good!")... most of us, if we're too young to have been reared on studio-era films, have their own a-ha moments too, I'm sure. Besides being the best social problem picture Warners ever released, it has a great Muni performance and calculatedly brilliant outrages. I loved it then, I love it now, I will love it forever. Plus, watched in close proximity to Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run, you realize how Allen beat the ZAZ crew to the whole film parody thing by a decade.

Lady For a Day Oh, how I adored this film! A great companion piece to Capra's earlier paean to loyalty, American Madness, this modern fairy tale is heart-warming without being treacly, a real rough-edged audience pleaser with a wonderful cast, particularly the omnipresent Guy Kibbee as the Judge and Ned Sparks as the wisecracking henchman, Happy. Will Rogers should have called up Frank Lloyd only to slap him for even thinking of taking this award over Capra. Another missed opportunity, History.

Little Women Handsome, well-made, and lively prestige picture from Cukor. Hepburn is fantastic in one of her best roles, one oddly overlooked for Best Actress and certainly more deserving of the honor than Morning Glory. I haven't read the source material for this one either (Bad English Major, I know), but there's something off-puttingly masochistic about the girls' early selflessness-- I wonder how much of this is ramped up to appeal to Depression-era audiences, or if it's as prominent in the novel?

the Private Life of Henry VIII Quick-moving and entertaining biopic of sorts that hinges on one's tolerance for Charles Laughton leering at and devouring both women and cooked meats. The film has a wry sense of humor and doesn't take itself too seriously, which helps matters.

She Done Him Wrong Decent, quick Mae West vehicle that lets her rattle off a few eyebrow-raisin' quips amid a load of underworld hooey. Shortest Best Picture nominee ever (I actually think a film is required to be over 70 minutes now to even qualify for Best Pic, so it'll hold that record), and at the very least it doesn't overstay its welcome, by default if nothing else.

Smilin' Through At-times effective fantasy about multigenerational tragic love affairs. Leslie Howard runs circles around Shearer and March (though their coupling is certainly more stomachable here than in Barretts next year). Though the film is relatively short, it still feels long in all the wrong places. Some nice code-straddling moments perk up the proceedings a bit early on.

State Fair Like Little Women, this is an old fashioned ode to small town values and experiences, and like Cukor's film, King's offers pleasantries and wholesomeness of a sort (this one's a bit dirtier than the Alcott adaptation) without resorting to the blandness of safety. A very enjoyable, cute film with good performances, particularly Will Rogers, never better than as the hog-loving patriarch.

My Vote: I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang!


1934
the Barretts of Wimpole Street
The Abusive Parent is one of my least-tolerable tropes, and not even Charles Laughton in the role can salvage this nightmare. Frederic March occasionally brings a bright spot of non-theatrical acting to the proceedings, but against Norma Shearer's mathematical emoting, no one escapes unscathed. Absolute torture.

Cleopatra Never-ending bore-a-thon from DeMille that doesn't even offer up spectacle until nearly an hour in with a too-little-too-late interior boat sequence complete with dancing tiger women and oars. Then the spectacle too takes a backseat to... people in chestplates talking to other people in chestplates. Whatever. A+++ historical inaccuracy to rival DeMille's later Plainsman, too.

Flirtation Walk Mediocre military musical that only really wakes up in the last twenty minutes or so with the performance of the ludicrous play. Pretty funny dig at the Left though when Ruby Keeler blames the New Deal for forcing women to become generals. I know there were some songs but damned if I can remember how any of them went. Pat O'Brien cries.

the Gay Divorcee The freshest and most thoroughly entertaining Astaire/Rogers musical. From Edward Everett Horton kn-knocking kn-knees to the endless finale, it's a heavenly treat that puts the often mediocre match-ups that followed it to shame.

Here Comes the Navy The basic idea behind the film is really quite idiotic: a rash hothead joins the navy and goes through the complete basic training on the off-chance that he might eventually be assigned to a battleship operated under command of an officer whom he wants to beat up, so that he can just beat him up. Uh, good plan. Highlights in this disposable military-bolsterer include James Cagney in blackface and Pat O'Brien gingerly holding a rope at its sides whilst "dangling" perilously.

the House of Rothschild A pleasant surprise. This is an intelligent and often witty retelling of a fascinating historical story. How much of the film is accurate I can only guess, but I sure want it to be true-- isn't that the point, anyway? Nice to see worries about historical anti-semitism pop up this early in the game. Arliss and Karloff have fun, and I liked how the number sequences didn't dumb down what was going on. Shame the technicolor sequence is lost (?). This isn't an amazing movie or anything, but it is still roughly fifty billion times better a film than Gentlemen's Agreement.

Imitation of Life Oh dearie me, there's quite a pile-up on the ideological movie pastiche highway. In the liberal lane, the Black Christ has jacknifed with My Dear Mammy coming from the conservative lane. This literal Crash Moment has congested the right wing lane, which was already busy dealing with its own Bratty Daughter/Martyred Mom collision. From my vantage up here in the Oscarcopter, this self-satisfied cinematic disaster will take at least a couple hours to resolve and will leave no one stuck watching the chaos with anything but impatient annoyance. Back to you.

It Happened One Night A good but by no means great romantic comedy that benefits enormously from its road movie structure. Gable and Colbert's twin wins are inexplicable (even the stars thought the movie a dog and Colbert left before her award was even handed out). It's hard to hold any grudges against the film, but everyone involved was doing better things around this time.

One Night of Love There's a reason Grace Moore has left no cinematic legacy despite being a popular opera and film star in her time: she has zero screen presence and lacks both the identifiable personas and good fortune in vehicles that other Hollywood opera-coquettes such as Kathryn Grayson or Jeanette MacDonald achieved. A Best Actress nod, much less Best Picture, here is inexplicable in all ways save historical context. As such, this dreadfully uneventful svengali tale is a forgettable footnote in cinematic history at best, a star vehicle for a star more recognizable from Grayson's subsequent biopic of her than any of her actual performances.

the Thin Man At the risk of blasphemy, I must admit I find the first film only moderately entertaining and a bit draggy. Though it's hard to gauge 100% from memory since all of the Thin Man films run together, I actually found the sequel with the mismatched babies and the last one with the hepcat jazz musicians far more worthwhile than this franchise-launcher.

Viva Villa! A very entertaining biopic that takes a surprisingly cavalier attitude towards its subject's crimes-- rarely do you see a Hollywood film so thoroughly celebrate such a scoundrel! But heroics and name value trump over morals, thank God. Beery is great here, don't understand the bellyaching from other members-- in a world of Fu Manchus and Charlie Chans, it's hard to get worked up over Beery's slurred Mexican.

the White Parade Unavailable

My Vote: the Gay Divorcee
Last edited by domino harvey on Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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

#282 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:37 pm

Whoa - a tie?!

EDIT: ugh NVM this is why Reading Comprehension ruined my English SAT score
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#283 Post by knives » Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:39 pm

domino harvey wrote: Lady For a Day Oh, how I adored this film! A great companion piece to Capra's earlier paeon to loyalty, American Madness, this modern fairy tale is heart-warming without being treacly, a real rough-edged audience pleaser with a wonderful cast, particularly the omnipresent Guy Kibbee as the Judge and Ned Sparks as the wisecracking henchman, Happy. Will Rogers should have called up Frank Lloyd only to slap him for even thinking of taking this award over Capra. Another missed opportunity, History.
Have you seen the remake with Bette Davis? I admittedly haven't had the chance for this one yet (is it even on DVD?) but I found the remake to be far better than it's reputation holds.

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

#284 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:43 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Whoa - a tie?!
Nope, there are actually two different categories for the first year instead of "Best Picture"-- Unique and Artistic Production and Best Production

And knives, I have not seen the remake. The original was released by Image but is out of print-- I picked up a new copy for ~$30 after watching it via NetFlix, I believe it runs a lot more than that now, but it comes on TCM a lot and might still be available via NetFlix

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

#285 Post by reno dakota » Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:08 am

domino harvey wrote: the House of Rothschild A pleasant surprise. This is an intelligent and often witty retelling of a fascinating historical story. How much of the film is accurate I can only guess, but I sure want it to be true-- isn't that the point, anyway? Nice to see worries about historical anti-semitism pop up this early in the game. Arliss and Karloff have fun, and I liked how the number sequences didn't dumb down what was going on. Shame the technicolor sequence is lost (?). This isn't an amazing movie or anything, but it is still roughly fifty billion times better a film than Gentlemen's Agreement.
As far as I'm aware, the technicolor sequence is intact. Was the final scene missing from the version you saw?
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#286 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:09 am

reno dakota wrote:
domino harvey wrote: the House of Rothschild A pleasant surprise. This is an intelligent and often witty retelling of a fascinating historical story. How much of the film is accurate I can only guess, but I sure want it to be true-- isn't that the point, anyway? Nice to see worries about historical anti-semitism pop up this early in the game. Arliss and Karloff have fun, and I liked how the number sequences didn't dumb down what was going on. Shame the technicolor sequence is lost (?). This isn't an amazing movie or anything, but it is still roughly fifty billion times better a film than Gentlemen's Agreement.
As far as I'm aware, the technicolor sequence is intact. Was the final scene missing from the version you saw?
The version that aired on TCM had that scene, but it was in B&W. Thanks for the link!

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

#287 Post by movielocke » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:09 pm

domino harvey wrote:1927-8
the Broadway Melody Holy cat, why does everyone hate this little film so fervently? No, it's not a particularly good musical, but it's harmless and historically important... but then again, I do have a bias in its favor due to having been taught this film two or three different times by a professor who placed a higher value on it than anyone else in this world, apparently.

the Hollywood Revue of 1929 UGH. Revue musicals are already the worst subgenre (there are no good ones, unless you count the second half of Thousands Cheer) and this one is the worst of the worst. Hideously unfunny material, much of it dependent on popular references that had the shelf life of bananas, bolstering unimaginative music numbers performed by a mix of actors who should know better and vaudeville stars who no one remembers for a good reason. The film has about two minutes that didn't make me want to blind myself in Marie Dressler's mildly amusing "I'm the Queen" routine, but even that limited praise is grasping at straws. The Romeo and Juliet "skit" with Norma Shearer and Barrymore might be the worst thing that's ever happened. Just, in general.

In Old Arizona Yes, it suffers from the same deficiencies that a lot of these early talkies face-- pacing and artifice issues, wildly modulating acting, &c. But the story's not half bad and is deliciously naughty in its finale, even if it hilariously drags out the necessary information over and over to make sure the audience gets it. This is a moderately successful early western, but one that looks like Stagecoach beside next year's Best Pic winner.

the Patriot Lost

My Vote: In Old Arizona
Do you mean in Old Arizona compared to Cimarron? because the next year's winner was All Quiet on the Western Front.

Gods, that Romeo and Juliet skit was incredibly horrible. But so was everything else nominated this year. I think I voted for Revue mainly because of the Lon Chaney will get you bit, and because I didn't like anything in any of the other films. I'd have to rewatch Broadway Melody to really get into specifics, but I remember it being really bad, horribly scripted, acted, dull musical numbers and a story that was irritating and tired.
1933
42nd Street
I defy anyone to recall what happens in the first hour of this film. Yes, the picture eventually has some keen numbers of the awesome sort BB churned out with precision this decade. But there's nothing else here. It's like suffering through a hunger strike on the promise of dessert.

A Farewell to Arms I actually haven't read the source material, but I somehow doubt Hemingway was as hung-up on the melodramatics of the deadwood coupling of Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes' love affair. Here war is but a minor annoyance, like a fly at a picnic, and there's no real attempt made to be anything but an overly familiar doomed relationship weepie with a few more explosions than the genre normally allots.

Cavalcade I've hated other Best Pic winners more than this, but at least I can see what others saw in those dreadful films. This one is so terrible in such a bland, dull fashion that it defies any spirited defense. If more people alive today had actually seen this, it would be the default "Worst Best Picture Winner" response.


I can't remember anything about 42nd STreet's first hour, I've never been able to. Yes, the songs are good, particularly Shuffle off to Buffalo, but the rest of the movie is forgettable shite, other Berkeley directed films are much better overall, so its irritating to see this film as often and highly lauded as it is. Sheer lazyness.

I agree completely on Farewell to Arms, that film just irritated me, I was wondering why Hemingway was writing a female melodrama, it didn't seem to fit.

Cavalcade is like the Forrest Gump of its era, it packs in every significant historical moment in the lives of the british equivalent of the 1930s boomers and it is even more irritating. unlike everyone else on the internet, I don't dislike Forrest Gump, for me that'd be like disliking Disney, and it's too much of a 'family film' for my family to really work up the hatred for it that is so trendy online.


I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang! One of the first "old" films I ever saw to completely affect me on a modern level {"Hey, an old film can be good!")... most of us, if we're too young to have been reared on studio-era films, have their own a-ha moments too, I'm sure. Besides being the best social problem picture Warners ever released, it has a great Muni performance and calculatedly brilliant outrages. I loved it then, I love it now, I will love it forever. Plus, watched in close proximity to Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run, you realize how Allen beat the ZAZ crew to the whole film parody thing by a decade.

Lady For a Day Oh, how I adored this film! A great companion piece to Capra's earlier paean to loyalty, American Madness, this modern fairy tale is heart-warming without being treacly, a real rough-edged audience pleaser with a wonderful cast, particularly the omnipresent Guy Kibbee as the Judge and Ned Sparks as the wisecracking henchman, Happy. Will Rogers should have called up Frank Lloyd only to slap him for even thinking of taking this award over Capra. Another missed opportunity, History.

Little Women Handsome, well-made, and lively prestige picture from Cukor. Hepburn is fantastic in one of her best roles, one oddly overlooked for Best Actress and certainly more deserving of the honor than Morning Glory. I haven't read the source material for this one either (Bad English Major, I know), but there's something off-puttingly masochistic about the girls' early selflessness-- I wonder how much of this is ramped up to appeal to Depression-era audiences, or if it's as prominent in the novel?

the Private Life of Henry VIII Quick-moving and entertaining biopic of sorts that hinges on one's tolerance for Charles Laughton leering at and devouring both women and cooked meats. The film has a wry sense of humor and doesn't take itself too seriously, which helps matters.

She Done Him Wrong Decent, quick Mae West vehicle that lets her rattle off a few eyebrow-raisin' quips amid a load of underworld hooey. Shortest Best Picture nominee ever (I actually think a film is required to be over 70 minutes now to even qualify for Best Pic, so it'll hold that record), and at the very least it doesn't overstay its welcome, by default if nothing else.

Smilin' Through At-times effective fantasy about multigenerational tragic love affairs. Leslie Howard runs circles around Shearer and March (though their coupling is certainly more stomachable here than in Barretts next year). Though the film is relatively short, it still feels long in all the wrong places. Some nice code-straddling moments perk up the proceedings a bit early on.

State Fair Like Little Women, this is an old fashioned ode to small town values and experiences, and like Cukor's film, King's offers pleasantries and wholesomeness of a sort (this one's a bit dirtier than the Alcott adaptation) without resorting to the blandness of safety. A very enjoyable, cute film with good performances, particularly Will Rogers, never better than as the hog-loving patriarch.

My Vote: I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang!
Agreed on all counts with these evaluations. State Fair really is cute and harmless. And Chain Gang was a similar movie for me, for films from the thirties it was a 'holy shit!' wake up moment, and it is easily the best of this year.
1934
...
Excepting The Thin Man I agree completely with all of these as well. I'd be more harsh on Flirtation Walk and less harsh on Barretts but neither are a good film nor are they deserving of any sort of Best Picture notice (even by academy standards).

With the The Thin Man franchise, the writing was never quite as on point and funny in the sequels as it is here in the first film. The story is stronger in general than the sequels and the execution is just so sly and perfect throughout. The film never makes a single misstep and has aged far better than other comedies or even crime/gangster films of this era.

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

#288 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:20 pm

Whoops, I did mean Cimarron, got my years mixed up

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

#289 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:47 pm

It's definitely the worst, with Cavalcade and Emile Zola not far behind

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

#290 Post by movielocke » Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:56 pm

Cimarron is one of those films if I'd been in a bad mood when I watched it I'd probably hate, but I was in a pretty good mood and considered it a fairly middling par for the course film. Bottom ten of BP winners certainly, but I never thought it merited the level of derision enjoyed by Cavalcade and Broadway Melody.

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

#291 Post by domino harvey » Wed Dec 28, 2011 6:41 pm

1942
49th Parallel
Lovely episodic wartime P+P pic that has the audacity to put its stranded German villains in the lead and follow them across Canada as their numbers dwindle for various reasons. Gets better as it goes along, and dares to make at least one of the Nazis sympathetic, which is admirable in terms of admitting the humanity of the enemy.

Kings Row It's tempting to overestimate the worth of Wood's return bite to the small town underbelly story by virtue of how weird it is. That a film of murder-suicide, incest, and malicious amputation ever received the sheen of a prestige picture is so wonderful that it's easy to overlook the drab pacing and script issues while blinded by the bizarre. This is a good movie made gooder by its brazen narrative choices, but not greater.

the Magnificent Ambersons This won't win me any friends here, but while of course the film being taken out of Welles' hands is a huge injustice, I'm more skeptical that what could have been would have been the masterpiece others claim/hope/dream. The idea of having an obnoxious brat as the protagonist is brave in one sense, but foolish in a much more practical one: We have to suffer him too, y'know. As he'd still be there, and probably moreso, in the original cut, I can't say I mourn the loss as heartily as others. That said, I'd definitely still be in line with the rest of you to see the lost cut.

Mrs. Miniver A magnificent film, second only to the Apartment in terms of best Best Picture winners ever. When one talks about what Hollywood can do, this is Exhibit A. Emotional, intelligent, intense, manipulative, and moving-- it's a microcosm of the studio era, of that rare harmony that occurs when prestige meets artistry. I have a hard time entertaining arguments against films of this era that bemoan their propaganda-- what exactly would you have had America release during wartime? I wonder if the film's ability to still stir modern audiences prods uneasy viewers toward cautious praise or a feigned ambivalence, lest they appear too easily swayed by such masterful manipulation... That the film still works, that even removed from its politics it is an exquisite showcase of acting, mise en scene, and screenplay construction, is enough of a defense against such narrow-mindedness.

the Pied Piper Handsomely-made adventure tale of Monty Woolley escorting orphaned and abandoned children across war-torn France. Irving Pichel does an admirable job of untangling the oft-verbose Nunnally Johnson-style. While this really functions primarily as a star vehicle for an actor long since forgotten by most, it's easy to recognize the propagandic ploys to the audience, which, as with the best of films from this era, still prove effective.

the Pride of the Yankees An impossibly entertaining film that excels despite the stigma of being a biopic. Praise really deserves to be meted all around: Gary Cooper's aww-shucksism and Teresa Wright's youthful vibrancy are a perfect match for Wood's buoyant direction, and the episodic screenplay wears its structure as a series of greatest hits rather than rote, mandated moments. What I remember most about this movie is how wide and appreciative my smile was while watching it.

Random Harvest A well-crafted and handsome film that will drive the plot-obsessed mad but treat the rest of us more kindly, this is yet another strong nominee from one of the Academy's best years. Released in any other year, Garson would've been a Best Actress shoo-in for playing The Greer Garson role (too bad she was already nominated and would win this year for her best variation on the part). This is really Ronald Coleman's movie though, and he walks away with it, particularly in the first act when his shell-shocked amnesiac can barely spit out a sentence. The look of sadness on his face, like a neglected puppy, sells it all.

the Talk of the Town What. The. Fuck.

Wake Island A very involving wartime film, with convincing special effects and some great action sequences. William Bendix, the eternal scene-stealer, finally gets some Academy recognition and it's well-earned-- his comic interludes save the film from becoming over-serious, and he steals the film as much as any one supporting actor can steal any picture. Coming just months after the events depicted, this is a pretty ballsy film-- how many other Hollywood films literally kill off every single character?

Yankee Doodle Dandy Arguably the greatest of the musical biopics which came and went with the heyday of the musical, Cagney tears up the screen in this whiplash-quick vaudeville-to-Broadway crowd-pleaser. Famous now (and then, really) as one of the most transparently patriotic wartime propaganda pieces, it's also highly effective and giddily entertaining. Grab a flag and get waving, folks.

My Vote: Mrs. Miniver

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

#292 Post by knives » Wed Dec 28, 2011 6:48 pm

domino harvey wrote: the Talk of the Town What. The. Fuck.
Now I'm curious, is this a weird WTF or an awful one.

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

#293 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:11 pm

Domino Harvey wrote:I have a hard time entertaining arguments against films of this era that bemoan their propaganda-- what exactly would you have had America release during wartime?
This seems to imply that the aesthetic quality of this or that choice rests on whether or not the motives behind it are understandable or forgivable. I don't see how. Someone may have had every good reason in the world to make propaganda, that doesn't mean the propaganda does the movie any good.

Just to be clear, I don't really have a problem, personally, with the propaganda in war-time studio films.

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

#294 Post by tarpilot » Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:13 pm

knives wrote:
domino harvey wrote: the Talk of the Town What. The. Fuck.
Now I'm curious, is this a weird WTF or an awful one.
Lemme assure you it's terrible, and not in any interesting way. How anything with Grant and Arthur can be that dismal is baffling, especially considering Stevens' comparatively excellent The More the Merrier with Arthur the next year
Last edited by tarpilot on Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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

#295 Post by zedz » Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:38 pm

domino harvey wrote:My Vote: Mrs. Miniver
I picked this up on the strength of one of your past raves. I guess now I'll actually have to watch it!

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

#296 Post by domino harvey » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:05 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Domino Harvey wrote:I have a hard time entertaining arguments against films of this era that bemoan their propaganda-- what exactly would you have had America release during wartime?
This seems to imply that the aesthetic quality of this or that choice rests on whether or not the motives behind it are understandable or forgivable. I don't see how. Someone may have had every good reason in the world to make propaganda, that doesn't mean the propaganda does the movie any good.

Just to be clear, I don't really have a problem, personally, with the propaganda in war-time studio films.
I'm not saying this film or any film is definitively good or bad because it is propaganda. I was just preemptively addressing those who decry a lot of films of this era (I remember the board having a real stink about Sgt York for instance) for rather outrageous reasons by saying that even if its primary function was to inform or misinform, it is still a superior example of cinema and one perhaps made all the more narratively/stylistically/etc effective by its double purpose.

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

#297 Post by knives » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:10 pm

Where has anyone made a stink of Sgt York here? I remember you bringing this up before, but I've never seen an instance of it.

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

#298 Post by domino harvey » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:13 pm

Here, though now that I'm rereading it for the first time in years, I see one of the participants is lubitsch, so...

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

#299 Post by knives » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:18 pm

Yeah it looks like Lub is the only one to dislike it for 'political' reasons and he's a bit of a nutter on the subject. It's possibly my favorite serious Hawks if that means anything (it doesn't).

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

#300 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:23 pm

domino harvey wrote:I'm not saying this film or any film is definitively good or bad because it is propaganda. I was just preemptively addressing those who decry a lot of films of this era (I remember the board having a real stink about Sgt York for instance) for rather outrageous reasons by saying that even if its primary function was to inform or misinform, it is still a superior example of cinema and one perhaps made all the more narratively/stylistically/etc effective by its double purpose.
Yes, but you also seem to be saying that someone cannot make any legitimate argument that the propaganda in this or that film weakens the material if there was a very good historical reason for it to have been propaganda in the first place. I agree that propaganda doesn't necessarily make a film bad (Went the Day Well for instance is a brilliant movie on top of being propaganda) and that blanket condemnations of the practise are unlikely to be convincing; but propagandist elements certainly can weaken a film, regardless of whether or not the makers had good reasons to include them.

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