Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Best Picture of 1940

I'm now back in New York City after an exciting summer in Pennsylvania. My busy schedule during that time meant that reviewing this current selection of Best Picture nominees took well over two months, but after a much-needed recap of my musings, I'm now ready to make my decision on which of these entertaining films is most worthy of the top award.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1940 are:
  • All This, and Heaven Too
  • Foreign Correspondent
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Great Dictator
  • Kitty Foyle
  • The Letter
  • The Long Voyage Home
  • Our Town
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Rebecca
There's something to admire in each of these ten pictures. They all capture their respective moods very nicely, some more than others. A few have a slightly inconsistent atmosphere, though. In Foreign Correspondent, Hitchcock occasionally shines with some thrilling scenes, but not consistently enough for my taste. The Long Voyage Home contains some gripping sequences but feels disjointed as a whole. Likewise, Our Town has its moments, particularly towards the end, but its other flaws leave it a little wanting. Next out of the running is Kitty Foyle. While I would place it above the previous three films, it also suffers from a slight case of the not-quite-spectacular-enoughs.

Providing a stronger sense of direction are four classics that have stood the test of time - seven decades of time - and two rarely discussed and therefore surprisingly enjoyable pictures. All This, and Heaven Too is an intensely subtle romance tale, well worth a look for lovers of forbidden love stories. The Philadelphia Story is a classic screwball comedy, full of fun and humour, topped off with a charming cast. The Grapes of Wrath is a heartfelt story of one family's struggle that is both exciting and touching.

Then, there are two brilliantly moody mysteries. The classic, and eventual Oscar winner, Rebecca, is a filmmaking masterclass in how to create tension. The lesser known of the two, The Letter, deserves a greater place in film history than it received. Both are incredibly entertaining. But, for me, the winner is Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator with its ingenious blend of heart-wrenching emotion and slapstick comedy.

Best Picture of 1940
Academy's choice:


Matt's choice:

The Great Dictator

Your choice:

As always, you may voice your opinion on this slate of films by using the poll above. Next up is a selection of five films, most of which are extremely popular, so I foresee another difficult decision ahead of me.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1994 are:
  • Forrest Gump
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Quiz Show
  • The Shawshank Redemption
Hopefully, we can resume a normal tempo of movie-watching again. Then again, I probably shouldn't promise anything...


  1. As always, I'll start off with my list of omissions for 1940. First off, one of Disney's greatest efforts Pinocchio. Next up the great screwball comedy His Girl Friday. Then there's the sublime Shop Around the Corner, which has an even better performance from James Stewart than The Philadelphia Story, in my opinion and, I believe one of the most perfectly constructed screenplays. A few other notables were The Thief of Bagdad, The Bank Dick, Pride and Prejudice and Waterloo Bridge. I would replace my #s 8,9,10 picks with Pinocchio, His Girl Friday and The Shop Around the Corner. Where they would finish overall I couldn't pinpoint, but Shop Around the Corner is my favorite film of 1940 and sits at around #20 on my all time list.

    The Bottom 5
    10. Kitty Foyle
    09. Our Town
    08. All That Heaven Allows
    07. Foreign Correspondent
    06. The Long Voyage Home

    The Top 5
    05. The Letter
    04. The Great Dictator
    03. Rebecca
    02. The Philadelphia Story
    01. The Grapes of Wrath

    I've certainly watched The Philadelphia Story the most of any of the nominated films, but I can't deny that The Grapes of Wrath is just the better film: better shot and with a timeless story of the strength and the indomitable spirit of family.

    On to 1994. A very good line up of nominees. It looks to me like a three horse race with The Critical Favorite: Pulp Fiction vs. The Popular Favorite: Forrest Gump vs. The Cult Favorite: The Shawshank Redemption.

  2. 1994...



    Not only the best film of the year (which got beat out by the AWFUL Forrest Gump), but the best film of the decade.

  3. I agree with Mike's Top 5 - these are the classics. I would rank them

    1. Rebecca
    2. The Grapes of Wrath
    3. The Philadelphia Story
    4. The Great Dictator
    5. The Letter