Sunday, December 11, 2011

Best Picture of 1929/30

One of the things I'm enjoying about this silly little project is the opportunity to watch some of cinema's early offerings, an activity that I previously did not engage in very frequently. While it is clear to me that my tastes lie with slightly more modern filmmaking, I am always pleasantly surprised by how fascinating I find some of these vintage pictures, and even more surprised when I come across a forgotten gem. I may not have uncovered one of those gems with the current crop of films under review, but they each contained elements worth appreciating and I'm genuinely glad to have experienced them.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1929/30 are:
  • All Quiet on the Western Front
  • The Big House
  • Disraeli
  • The Divorcee
  • The Love Parade
When sound was introduced to moving pictures in the late 1920s, it forced a change not only in the obvious technical aspects of filmmaking but also in the conventions that cinema used to tell a story. It took a few years for those conventions to be perfected - in fact, the style and form of cinema is constantly evolving - and the five films up for Best Picture here unfortunately show some signs of that lack of experience. Technique issues aside, however, they each manage to offer an engaging story.

The Love Parade includes many funny moments but its main flaw is that it is musically dull, rather a fatal issue for a musical. Disraeli is a fascinating study of a political figure but its wordiness can be a bit trying at times, especially in light of its mostly static staging. Prison genre pioneer The Big House possessed the potential to be far more gripping but it nonetheless includes an exciting climax.

The two nominees left to duke it out are the straightforward storytelling of The Divorcee, a personal exploration of a troubled relationship, and the epic storytelling of All Quiet on the Western Front, a personal exploration of troubled soldiers. The latter was the Academy's choice and, perhaps not coincidentally, is the only film of the five that has retained any decent recognition among modern audiences. As an epic, it is arguably the most theatrical of the nominees, but in spite of that - or perhaps because of it - it is also the most emotionally powerful. Thus, as so often is the case, the bigger film wins out. All Quiet on the Western Front shall be named my favourite Best Picture nominee from 1929/30.

Best Picture of 1929/30
Academy's choice:

All Quiet on the Western Front

Matt's choice:

All Quiet on the Western Front

Your choice:

I suspect many of you may not have had the chance to see all five of these films, but it seems incredibly unlikely that every Academy member sees all the nominees before they vote so I'm certainly not going to disqualify you from taking part in the irrelevant poll above. Next up, we move back to much more recent times with fine selection of modern cinema.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 2006 are:
  • Babel
  • The Departed
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • The Queen
Unlike the previous year of review, all of these films are very easily accessible so why not follow along with me. In fact, all five of the 2006 nominees are available to watch instantly on Amazon. Just click on the links below.


  1. There's not too much to say about the 1929/30 best picture contest. I didn't get to see The Divorcee, so All Quiet on the Western Front was the runaway choice for me. The other three films all had their moments of surprise and of primitive static scenes. All Quiet....was Universal Studios shining moment as far as Oscar contenders. Even though they would make their mark with their 30s horror films, it would be many years before they would seriously conpete for Best Picture, finally winning it again in 1973 with The Sting.

    I will forego my picks for the other 1929/39 categories due to not having seen many of the performance nominees.

    2006 has a nice mix of films in various genres and styles, which hopefully will lead to more comments.

  2. While we are waiting for you to resume your project Matt, here are my predictions for tomorrow's Academy Award Nominations. Listing the top six categories only:

    Best Picture: Not knowing how many films will qualify as nominees – there can be anywhere from 5 to 10, with the best guess closer to 5, I’ll list 10 potentials, in order of expectation

    1. The Artist
    2. The Descendants
    3. The Help
    4. Hugo
    5. Midnight in Paris
    6. Moneyball
    7. The Tree of Life
    8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    9. War Horse
    10. Drive
    11. Dark Horse: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

    Best Director

    1. Michel Hazanavicious, The Artist
    2. Martin Scorsese, Hugo
    3. Terence Malick, The Tree of Life
    4. Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
    5. Alexander Payne, The Descendants
    6. Dark Horse: David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    Best Actor

    1. George Clooney, The Descendants
    2. Brad Pitt, Moneyball
    3. Jean Dujardin, The Artist
    4. Michael Fassbender, Shame
    5. Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
    6. Dark Horse: Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

    Best Actress

    1. Viola Davis, The Help
    2. Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
    3. Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
    4. Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
    5. Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
    6. Dark Horse: Elizabeth Olson, Martha Marcy May Marlene

    Best Supporting Actor

    1. Christopher Plummer, Beginners
    2. Albert Brooks, Drive
    3. Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
    4. Nick Nolte, Warrior
    5. Jonah Hill, Moneyball
    6. Dark Horse: Max won Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

    Best Supporting Actress

    1. Octavia Spencer, The Help
    2. Jessica Chastain, The Help
    3. Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
    4. Bernice Bejo, The Artist
    5. Melissa McCarthy, Bridemaids
    6. Dark Horse: Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

  3. Hey Mike,

    Just linked to my picks as well in the next post. Looks like we match up closely again. In fact, I think the only difference is in the Best Picture category - you have Drive in the final spot, I've gone with Bridesmaids. I suspect neither will get a nomination, since it seems unlikely there will actually be 10 films cited. We'll find out very soon...

  4. Wow! Amazing that we correspond so closely on our predictions. I actually had Bridesmaids in my tenth spot and made a last minute decision to switch to Drive. I'm upset that Drive was the one film I could have seen, but passed on its theatrical run. When it did so well with the critics groups for Picture and Director, it was no where to be found in the theaters. It doesn't seem to be an Academy type film (which based on all your predictions you probably feel the same way). Like you said, it is unlikely we will see anywhere near ten nominees this year for Best Picture. Although we went with the safe choices, I can see alternates in most of the fifth slots and even some of the fourth slots in the major categories. As always 80% is my goal. We'll know in about an hour.

    Good to see you back. Glad you had steady work, and the timing was good for me as well. I got to catch up on lots of current movies.