Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Best Picture of 1956

Not one of the five previous verdicts over which I have pondered has been an easy task. The decision for the Best Picture of 1956 is certainly no exception. Due to my involvement in StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown of the same year, three more films from 1956 crept into my viewing schedule and, as I already indicated, some of these additional films had me wishing they were in the Best Picture race. Nonetheless, I am to choose from the five films the Academy selected and so it shall be done.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1956 are:
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Friendly Persuasion
  • Giant
  • The King and I
  • The Ten Commandments
1956 was certainly a year for epic films. Three of the contenders clock in at over three hours, but interestingly, these three epics are of completely different genres - one is Biblical, another comic adventure, the third an intimate family saga. So, as always, it becomes difficult to compare them with each other. As for the two shorter films - which are both still over two hours - we have a Broadway musical adaptation and a film which I'm not quite sure how to categorise since it contains elements from several genres - western, drama, war, comedy, family. For that reason, and the fact that it simply emits a less important vibe than the other four, I will remove Friendly Persuasion from my shortlist first.

Of the remaining four, any could be labelled my favourite. They each succeeded in their own particular way. The King and I is charming and beautiful, yet it remains overly sentimental. Around the World in 80 Days is certainly a fun adventure, offering some stunning cinematography, but its tendency to draw out certain sequences makes for an erratic pace. The Ten Commandments is a spectacle of design and visual effects with a weighty sensibility, but it is perhaps this self-important weight that left a funny taste in my mouth.

That leaves us with Giant, although, honestly, it's a very close call. Giant is not without flaws, but it emerged with more engaging emotional content than the others, largely owing to its performances. Hence, Giant shall be named my favourite of 1956.

Best Picture of 1956
Academy's choice:

Around the World in 80 Days

Matt's choice:


Your choice:

Don't forget to make your own voice heard by voting for your favourite 1956 Best Picture nominee above. Some of the previous votes have become very interesting, so check out those results, too. You can access them on their respective verdict pages by clicking on the years on the sidebar to the right. Next up we move to the 1980s...

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1984 are:
  • Amadeus
  • The Killing Fields
  • A Passage to India
  • Places in the Heart
  • A Soldier's Story
Join me as we continue the ride through Academy Awards history with a year full of movies dealing with some fairly serious subject matter.


  1. hi Matt!!! I like your profile, good to hear you're in NYC. You are such a talented actor! And interesting blog you have, I will check-in for the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decades. =)

    I subscribed to yours and Amanda Haskin's blog on my Google Reader. Take care!!

  2. To start off, here's a couple of trivia items for 1956:

    This was the first year that all of the five Best Picture nominees were in color.

    This was only the second time in Oscar's long history that the top six prizes (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress) went to six different films. It also occurred in 1952 and wouldn't occur again until another 49 years later - in 2005!

    That second piece of trivia is telling, in that there wasn't a dominant film that year, at least as far as the major Oscar categories.

    I guess it one were to pick a year that represents what Hollywood was doing to offset the phenomenal growing popularity of Television, it would be 1956 - Spectacle at the expense of concise superior storytelling.

    Ranking the films from five to one:
    5. Friendly Persuasion - An Award winning Director and excellent cast takes this one just so far. A nice family film with a simple message and a simplistic resolution.

    4. Around the World in 80 Days. Mike Todd laid the blueprint for how to win your film the top prize. I'll bet the Weinstein Brothers learned much from him, although many of their Miramax productions were of superior quality. ATWIED truly gave the audience what they couldn't find on the boob tube.

    3. The King and I: Just gorgeous to look at, it is naturally a very theatrical experience. A lovely musical score and luscious sets and costumes helps to accept the performances that are more caricature than character.

    2. Giant: Another director's movie with a masterful handle on his performers, who deliver. I think it would have served itself better with a more streamlined story - more emphasis on the love triangle, and fewer plot lines. Still, this could very well be my winner, it's that close

    1. The Ten Commandments: I know I'm letting my youthful memories affect my decision here. The film has many flaws: DeMille is enamored with himself as much as his story. Heston is iconic in the role, but after the burning bush sequence, he becomes a bit of a bore. Some of the dialogue is laughable. Yet despite all this, it just engrosses me every time I see it. If the Academy needed to have a representative best picture to show the difference between television viewing and the cinema, this is a fine choice. Of course, three years later, it would choose the spectacle for real.

    Now it's on to 1984 - a year with a clear cut favorite for me, but it will be good to re-visit all the contenders.

  3. Wow Giant as your number one? Okay I'm popping it in tonight. Have to see Liz and James together...oh and Rock too.

  4. Giant was a good pic, but not as good as 'My Giant' with Oscar host Billy Crystal and Andre the Giant!

    In other news, I think you'll like this cool map of the best movies!


  5. Matt, when do you find the time to see again all these movies and post so often??? :)

  6. :-) Good question.

    Still, I've slowed down quite considerably since I started when I was posting a new review almost every day. But I don't want to slow down too much or the whole thing will take me a decade...