Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Best Picture of 1951

For the first time since this project began, I am writing from Los Angeles, California, home to the Academy of this blog's title. This morning, I giggled like a schoolgirl as I drove past their idyllic-looking Fairbanks Center, a building that houses the Margaret Herrick Library. As the awards season heats up, my presence in this town for the next few days will hopefully bring more fodder for the upcoming blog posts. In the meantime, it is verdict time again.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1951 are:
  • An American in Paris
  • Decision Before Dawn
  • A Place in the Sun
  • Quo Vadis
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
Similar to most Best Picture races, these films are all highly engaging, if for different reasons. The eventual winner, An American in Paris, perhaps stands apart since it is the only one to engage its audience with the use of singing and dancing. But, as always, my predilection for drama leads me to the contenders with more personal stories.

Both Quo Vadis and Decision Before Dawn use epic backdrops for their personal tales. Though still an absorbing film, the Roman epic does not shy away from extravagance and its religious themes can potentially turn some audiences off. The World War II drama is perhaps slightly more successful at keeping the focus on its characters' emotions, but it also has its flaws.

Far more personal still are A Streetcar Named Desire and A Place in the Sun, both filled with emotional tension and enhanced with superb performances that are right up my alley. The former is clearly the more traditionally renowned of the two - which does make me doubt my decision somewhat - but its unfortunate censorship lessens its impact a little. Perhaps I'll change my mind in the future, but for now, I will officially name my favourite nominee from 1951 to be A Place in the Sun.

Best Picture of 1951
Academy's choice:

An American in Paris

Matt's choice:

A Place in the Sun

Your choice:

As always, your vote is important, too, so let me know which of the nominees is your favourite in the poll above. Now that I'm in L.A. and have access to the UCLA Film Archive, we begin our look at films from the 4th Annual Academy Awards.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1930/31 are:
  • Cimarron
  • East Lynne
  • The Front Page
  • Skippy
  • Trader Horn
Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. I look back on 1951 as a transitory year for film. Film Noir was starting to wane after a strong seven years. Science Fiction movies, pretty well absent during the 40s, started its big 50s presence with a couple of classics: The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing from Another World. Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift ushered in a new form of acting, called "The Method" The Studio System started to fade, although Louie B. Mayer and Darryl Zanuck still had enough clout to grab Best Picture nominations for Quo Vadis and Decision Before Dawn. These inclusions meant that several outstanding films got shut out. Foremost among them I believe were Strangers on a Train and The African Queen. So, my countdown for 1951 would be:

    5. Decision Before Dawn: Nicely engrossing and shot World War II film.
    4. Quo Vadis: Epic story of early Christianity and the fall of the Roman Empire
    3. An American in Paris: Buoyant musical that saves its best moments for the superbly designed and choreographed ballet scored to the title composition.
    2. A Place in the Sun: George Stevens impeccably directed tragic romance of class distinctions and unbridled ambition
    1. A Streetcar Named Desire: Theatrical piece that manages to be both poignant and earthy with some of the finest acting ever caught on film.

    In the overall scheme of things, 1951 would probably fall in the lower half the all the years and even Streetcar wouldn't crack my top 30 Best Pictures. I can't say I didn't enjoy visiting all of these movies, but truth be told my favorites of '51 are Strangers on a Train, The Day the Earth Stood Still and A Christmas Carol.. 1931 doesn't look too promising, but still, it is important for a film buff to see these early talking films from a historic perspective.