Saturday, December 5, 2009

Best Picture of 1944

Although the nominees from this project's current focus are an enjoyable bunch, the decision to choose my favourite from amongst them has possibly been the easiest to date. Not because the other four are particularly weak, but simply because one film clearly hijacked my brain for a couple of hours ... in a good way.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1944 are:
  • Double Indemnity
  • Gaslight
  • Going My Way
  • Since You Went Away
  • Wilson
Quite a diverse group. One feel-good musical, one epic melodrama, one political biopic, one classic noir and one noir-ish. As I stated above, there is one clear winner for me, so I will dispense with my usual back and forth. In no particular order, the four non-winners are as follows:

The Academy's pick, Going My Way, is a lovely film that put a smile on my face but nothing more. Wilson is wryly fascinating but occasionally dry. Since You Went Away is striking at times but mostly sappy and overly sentimental. Gaslight has a few elements that are similarly possessed by my favourite, namely the mystery and the noir cinematography. However, the suspense is undermined by the film's predictability making it slightly inferior in my eyes.

Those with decent deductive skills have already figured out which film has taken my first place. Its intrigue and tension combined with its evocative visual style helped it to stand out above the rest in my humble opinion. Therefore, it may now be officially declared that Double Indemnity is my favourite of the Best Picture nominees from 1944.

Best Picture of 1944
Academy's choice:

Going My Way

Matt's choice:

Double Indemnity

Your choice:

As always, you can vote for your own favourite using the poll above. For the next year of focus, I had considered studying 1971 for the sole reason that the IFC Center here in New York was presenting A Clockwork Orange with midnight screenings this weekend and I figured it might be nice to take this project to the big screen. But, alas, the snowy weather kept me away. That and the fact that my lovely wife loathes the film and the thought of a midnight screening on my own was not so appealing. So, I'll save 1971 for later, and instead go back to where it all began by reviewing the very first Academy Award nominees for Best Picture (or Outstanding Picture as it was known then).

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1927/28 are:
  • The Racket
  • 7th Heaven
  • Wings
A short shortlist, to be sure, but it contains the only silent films to be nominated for the big award, so it will be an interesting week ahead. Stay tuned...


  1. Going my Way is one of my least favorite winners. The movie is okay, but nothing more.

    Double Indemnity is surely a great choice, but my favorite is Gaslight.

  2. Yes, Matt, a very clear cut year for me as well. "Double Indemnity" has stood the test of time, and it can be found on many top films lists.

    Two other noir titles from 1944 should be mentioned: "Murder My Sweet" - The first to feature Private Detective Philip Marlowe and the turning point in the career of its star Dick Powell. He left all those crooning pictures behind him forever with this one.

    Secondly, "Laura" - a movie that rivals "Double Indemnity" for my viewing pleasure. Not as classically noir as DI, but so chic, so well acted and one of the best movies that dealt with obsession.

    I think you may be on your own with 1927. How are you tracking down the nominees? I've seen Wings on TCM about 6 months ago. The Racket will be airing also on TCM, but not until February 16, 2010. I've watched its remake numerous times. I don't know where "The Last Command" is available. It's a shame that four other 1927 films weren't nominated: "Sunrise" (winner of its own Artistic Production Oscar), Fritz Lang's great "Metropolis," Chaplin's "The Circus" and the landmark "The Jazz Singer." At least these can be found.

  3. Just realized I left out "7th Heaven" from the 1927 list. That one is out on DVD, but not available through Blockbuster or my library. I believe the two nominees you didn't list: "The Last Command" and "The Way of All Flesh" are lost forever

  4. Finding the nominees took only a little effort:

    7th Heaven was the easiest to find. It's available on Netflix (but be careful you don't mistakenly add the 90s TV show of the same name to your queue).

    The less said about how I acquired The Racket, the better. Let me just say that the internet is a powerful tool.

    Wings is available on VHS at the New York library, but since we still haven't purchased a VCR for our NYC apartment, other means were necessary - see above comments on The Racket.

    According to the official Academy database, they are the only three nominees for Outstanding Picture of 1927-28. The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh were the films cited for Emil Jannings' Best Actor award.

    I had also considered checking out the three Unique & Artistic Production nominees (Sunrise, The Crowd and Chang), which are easier to find, but all references seem to indicate that the Academy considers the Outstanding Picture award the equivalent to its current Best Picture category, so I'll just stick with that.

  5. Gaslight was my favourite. But I don't have a problem with your choice. I've always found DI to be excellent, but I couldn't muster up a connection to it, or any of the remakes. Still, I do think the winner was weak one.