Saturday, June 5, 2010

Best Picture of 1950

As I venture further and further into this project, I am consistently blown away by the enormous quality of film-making that I am experiencing. 1950 is certainly no exception. Another year filled with spectacular cinema, including a number of fine classics.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1950 are:
  • All About Eve
  • Born Yesterday
  • Father of the Bride
  • King Solomon's Mines
  • Sunset Boulevard
It's an entirely unfair consequence of comparing films of different genres, but if they are each of similar artistic and creative quality, the drama will more often than not emerge as superior to the comedy ... or the action or the science fiction or the western or the adventure ... and the list goes on. I suppose it is the drama's greater potential for emotional stimulation. Other genres thrill and amuse and generally entertain, but at the end of the day, powerful subject matter tends to more effectively stick in the audience's minds. Like I said, entirely unfair. (It even occurs within sub-genres of the drama category. Just look at how successful epic dramas have been with the Academy.)

Three of 1950's Best Picture nominees fall prey to this unfortunate disadvantage. They are immensely enjoyable films, accomplished examples of their respective genres, but they are overshadowed by the other two nominees for no other reason than they are not dramas. King Solomon's Mines is an exhilarating adventure. Born Yesterday is a whimsical comedy. Father of the Bride has its moments of poignancy, but is still at its heart a comedy, and a delightfully charming one at that.

All three are solidly entertaining films that find themselves up against two dramatic pictures that have both since become classics - All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard. I bounced back and forth between these two intensely personal and moving films. The former won the Academy's top honour, but I eventually came down on the side of the latter. So, I now officially name Sunset Boulevard my favourite of 1950's Best Picture nominees.

Best Picture of 1950
Academy's choice:

All About Eve

Matt's choice:

Sunset Boulevard

Your choice:

Vote for your own favourite with the poll above. Next up, we will be travelling to a more recent era to take a look at Oscar's picks from 2002.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 2002 are:
  • Chicago
  • Gangs of New York
  • The Hours
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • The Pianist
Another diverse bunch to sink our teeth into.


  1. 1950 was indeed an excellent year for film. Before I get to my choice of Best of the Nominees, here's a few thoughts on noteworthy non-nominees.

    First, two films that are not normally thought of as 1950 movies. The Third Man is generally considered a 1949 film. However due to its early 1950 release date in New York, it's Academy eligibility was 1950. It should have received nominations for Picture, Screenplay and Supporting Actor (Welles) in addition to those it did receive: Director, Editing and Cinematography (for which it deservedly won). It has been chosen by the British Film Institute as the Greatest British Film and it would have been my pick for Best Picture. Rashomon, Akira Kurosawa's groundbreaking film was also made in 1950, but didn't receive Academy eligibility until its U.S. release in 1952.

    Briefly a few film noirs of note. John Huston's classic caper film, The Asphalt Jungle; Jules Dassin's Night and the City, a rare noir set in London with Richard Widmark's best performance and Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place, with one of Humphrey Bogart's best performances. One guilty pleasure from 1950, not Academy caliber is D.O.A. The film that started me on my film noir binge.

    Now to the nominees:
    King Solomon's Mines: Mixes good on location adventure with fifties style romance. Probably would have benefited from Cinemascope filming, but that was three years away.

    Father of the Bride: Very enjoyable family film and a suburbia social snapshot of 1950, with Spencer Tracy perfect as the flustered dad.

    Born Yesterday: While is touches on politics and big business corruption, it is a great showcase for the unique talents of Judy Holliday, who slayed the giants winning her Best Actress Award.

    Like you Matt, I went back and forth with the big two nominees for 1950. Before the re-watch Sunset Boulevard would have easily triumphed. My previous viewings of All About Eve often left me distracted and a bit bored. Somehow, this time the superlative screenplay just crackled. I still think it is a bit too long, and Mankiewicz should have kept Birdie around in the second half, but that scene between George Sanders and Anne Baxter near the end was riveting. Sunset Boulevard also has a few slow spots, mostly when Gloria Swanson is off screen. She holds the viewer with her marvelous interpretation of the delusional silent screen star. Cinematically, Wilder probably was at his peak here.

    Maybe it just comes down to whether you are a theater person or a movie person. In my case, though I enjoy the theater, it hasn't been part of my life the way movies have. So, a close call but my pick is Sunset Boulevard.

    So Matt, after a spell of differences of opinion, we have once more agreed.

    Back to the 2000s. I doubt my feelings toward the nominees have changed much since 2002, but you never know. Two of the nominees along with a non-nominee battled it out for my top pick of the year.

  2. Yes, very disappointing about The Third Man. It most definitely would have been a contender for me... Hmm, now I feel like watching it again...

    And it's good to see we're back on the same page, Mike :-)

  3. "All About Eve"=one of my favorite films ever. I understand your choice for sure, but I'll have to respectfully disagree.

    I love this site! Your work is wonderful and I appreciate you keeping it up :)

  4. Thanks MattyD.

    It was genuinely a tough decision. Sunset Boulevard by a nose...

    Glad you're enjoying the site!

  5. All About Eve for me too. But i can understand the struggle of to choose. :)