Tuesday, April 6, 2010

1930's (and '20's) in Review: Ranking the first dozen Best Pictures

With every decade in the bag, I'm going to post a ranking of the Best Pictures, from best to worst. Since there was only two Best Picture winners in the 1920's, they get lumped in with the ten from the '30's.

Here goes:

1. It Happened One Night (1934)--Cinematic perfection from Frank Capra. The perfect romantic comedy. Deserving of its Oscar sweep.

2. Gone With the Wind (1939)--America's most popular film also happens to be a very solidly made epic with a lead performance from Vivien Leigh that will endure for all time. Stereotypes aside, the film is necessary viewing.

3. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)--Powerful adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's novel. The anti-war message is just as strong as the entertainment value the film provides. The war sequences hold up after 80 years.

4. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)--Well made biopic with an excellent performance from Paul Muni. The film effectively frames the debate between using art for commercial reasons or social change.

5. Wings (1927)--Surprisingly entertaining WWI set-drama. Though a silent film, Wings set many templates that other Oscar winners would follow.

6. You Can't Take it With You (1938)--Frank Capra adapts a Pulitzer-Prize winning play with a message valuing community and individuality over commercialism.

7. Grand Hotel (1932)--Ensemble drama featuring six main characters whose lives intersect at a posh Berlin hotel.

8. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)--Musical biopic about impresario Florenz Ziegfeld. The recreations of his acts distract from the story but are the most interesting parts of the film.

9. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)--Huge historical inaccuracies undermine an otherwise solid adventure film. Fantastic production values though.

10. Cimarron (1931)--Unforgivable racism mars a very interesting story about the Oklahoma land rush. Hammy acting from the male lead doesn't help. The opening sequence is spectacular though.

11. Cavalcade (1933)--Boring adaptation of a Noel Coward play that is more concerned with being a checklist through historical events than creating interesting characters.

12. The Broadway Melody (1929)--Amateurish early talkie that gained the Best Picture Oscar more for its technical innovations than any quality performances, direction, or story.

I'm also going make a judgment on who was the best actor, actress, and director base on their work in the Best Picture winners:

Actor of the Decade: Clark Gable. Made three Oscar winners better and was enormously popular.

Actress of the Decade: Vivien Leigh. She's probably the biggest reason Scarlett O'Hara and Gone With the Wind have such enduring popularity. Apologies to Luise Rainer, who won two Best Actress awards in the decade.

Director of the Decade: Frank Capra. Almost singlehandedly made Columbia Pictures a major studio and was the tastemaker for the decade. Won Best Director three times and Best Picture twice.

Studio of the Decade: MGM. You can't argue with five of its films winning Best Picture Oscars.

No comments:

Post a Comment