Sunday, June 5, 2011

Best Picture of 1948

Yet another genuinely difficult decision has befallen me. Although these pictures explore different themes, they are surprisingly similar in genre. Along with their evenly matched quality, the task of separating them is by no means an easy one.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1948 are:
  • Hamlet
  • Johnny Belinda
  • The Red Shoes
  • The Snake Pit
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Five excellent films, each full of passion and intensity, covering a range of thought-provoking material. From greed and ambition to depression and mental illness, 1948's shortlist is one of the more contemplative the Academy has seen. Without exception, each nominee could easily be described as a psychological study.

Due to this abundance of stimulating cinema, I simply cannot bring myself to name one - let alone two or three - as specifically inferior. Yet, my task is to single out one film as my favourite. Thus, for purely finicky reasons, I will eliminate The Snake Pit first, though there is no meaningful order to this culling. Despite its well-researched depiction of the then current state of mental institutions, its happy ending betrays some medical inconsistencies. Continuing with the hairsplitting, I will also release The Red Shoes from the competition. With an incredibly engaging story and an incredibly engaging ballet sequence, these two components didn't quite mesh perfectly. Also out of the running is Johnny Belinda for ... well, I can't even think of a legitimate reason. It's a well-crafted and entertaining picture that perhaps only suffers from being too pleasant.

Two classics remain. Hamlet and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Since my system for this verdict has been to quibble about relatively minor details, I'll rule against the latter for the too swift transition from sane to paranoid that Bogie's character experiences. Consequently, I am siding with the Academy once more in declaring Laurence Olivier's inventive and accessible adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet as my favourite Best Picture nominee from 1948.

Best Picture of 1948
Academy's choice:


Matt's choice:


Your choice:

As usual, your vote can be registered by using the poll above. Next up, we move to the 1980s for a particularly eclectic bunch of movies.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1982 are:
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Gandhi
  • Missing
  • Tootsie
  • The Verdict
Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. For me, Matt, 1948 was a solid, if not quite definitive year for movies in this post war era. I’m sorry to see that Red River missed out on a Best Picture nomination. The western genre has always been a tough sell for the Academy. Film noir was still in full force although again, ’48 didn’t give us one of the quintessential noirs. Still a tip of the hat to The Big Clock, Force of Evil, He Walked by Night, Raw Deal, A Street with no name and especially two great real location noirs: New York City’s “The Naked City,” and Chicago’s “Call Northside 777.”

    On to the nominees – I have to say I also had difficulty reaching a decision. I’d place Johnny Belinda fifth and The Snakepit, fourth. Then it gets tougher.
    3rd Place goes to Hamlet. It became the first non-American production to win Best Picture, and it is compelling if stagey.
    2nd The Red Shoes – I guess my feminine side would pick this first, and it is easily the most cinematic of the nominees.
    1st The Treasure of the Sierra Madre- A manly film to be sure. Did any female speak in the movie? It is one of the great American adventure stories that delved into character even more than action. I can’t say I can watch it too often, but for this year, I feel comfortable, if not overly enthusiastic, picking it for top honors.

    A good genre mix will keep 1982 interesting, although it could have been even more challenging with one or two substitutions.