I think it is a good idea to go over what I have seen already in order to get up to speed. I'll put up a post for each decade talking about what I have seen, what I though about the film and then if the best picture was really the best picture of that year. I am going to combine the 1920's with the 1930's since there were only two years where a film received a best picture Oscar. While there are many great silent films from the tens and twenties, I may talk about that another time.
The 1930's, along with the 1970's, I consider to be the finest decade for movies, especially for best pictures. The film industry seems to have finally figured it out during the 1920's, better acting, scripts, scenery, editing and when sound was made a standard part of movies, they became great. By the mid 30's the use of sound was understood and quality was much better and by the end of the decade Hollywood was making the best pictures in the world.
So here it goes!
Films I have seen - Wings (Best Picture)
Films I have not seen - The Racket, Seventh Heaven
Analysis - Wings is the first film to win best picture. Although there was an Oscar given to Sunrise, which was a good movie about a man trying to kill his wife to run off with another woman and then goes back to her, real cheerful. But according to all lists Wings is named as the first. It's a simple story about young men going off to fight in WWI as pilots and Clara Bow as the girl next door who joins the medical corps to follow her true love. It's most notable for Gary Cooper having a small part as a pilot who crashes during a test run.
Verdict - Since I have only seen Wings I have to go with it being the best picture of 1928.
Films I have seen - Broadway Melody (Best Picture)
Film I have not seen - Alibi, The Hollywood Review of 1929, In Old Arizona, The Patriot
Analysis - Broadway Melody is the first film with sound to win best picture. It's a musical about two sisters trying to make it big in New York. I should warn you that I am not a big fan of musicals, but there is something neat about watching a movie that old.
Verdict - Again since I have only seen Broadway Melody I guess it's the best picture, although In Old Arizona will be on TCM in February and I'll then have an opportunity to compare it to the best picture winner.
Films I have seen - All Quiet On The Western Front (Best Picture), The Love Parade
Films I have not seen - The Big House, Disraeli, The Divorcee
Analysis - All Quiet On The Western Front is one of the finest novels I have ever read and the movie is no different. It follows it rather closely and even today one of the finest WWI movies and overall war movies ever made. It has a young Lew Ayres in the film, the same who played Dr. Kildare years later. The Love Parade is a mindless musical but is interesting to see Maurice Chevalier looking good, unlike the creepiness he portrayed in Gigi about thirty years later.
Verdict - From the two films I have seen it is no contest, All Quiet On The Western Front was the best picture of 1930.
Films I have seen - Cimarron (Best Picture), Skippy
Films I have not seen - East Lynee, The Front Page, Trader Horn
Analysis - Cimarron is notable for being the first western to win best picture. The western is clearly an American genre that has made thousands of movies. Yet to date only three have ever won and the next one was about sixty years later when Dances With Wolves won in 1990. The movie is not so much a western than a drama that takes place in Oklahoma during the late 19th century and works it's way up to modern times. It's well done, but it's not like a John Wayne type of western if that is what you are expecting. Skippy seemed like an extended Little Rascals episode, but fine acting by Jackie Cooper makes it enjoyable.
Verdict - Compared to each other Cimarron is a better film and deserved the Oscar.
Films I have seen - Grand Hotel (Best Picture), Arrowsmith, The Champ, Five Star Final, Shanghai Express
Films I have not seen - Bad Girl, One Hour With You, The Smiling Lieutenant
Analysis - Grand Hotel is the only film not be nominated for any other award and win best picture. It's about a bunch of people who are staying at the Grand Hotel in Berlin. Think of ER or any other TV drama, but set in a fancy hotel. What makes this movie so good is the acting. It has Lionel Barrymore who is one of my favorite actors of all time. I would watch him read the phone book, he's that good. Add to that his brother John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Berry and Gretta Garbo with her famous quote "I vant to be left alone". Arrowsmith is a good drama about a doctor trying to cure the plague in the Caribbean. The Champ, one of the most depressing movies of all time, has fine acting by Wallace Berry and Jackie Cooper. Five Star Final is one of the most intense and intriguing movies I have seen in a long time. Edward G. Robinson is amazing in this movie, even has Boris Karloff in it. Shanghai Express is a boring movie about a train going through China that has a muddled story line dealing with the different characters.
Verdict - Grand Hotel rises to the top with Five Star Final in the second spot.
Films I have seen - Cavalcade (Best Picture), 42nd Street, A Farewell To Arms, I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, Little Women, The Private Life Of Henry VIII, She Done Him Wrong
Films I have not seen - Lady For A Day, Smilin' Through, State Fair
Analysis - Cavalcade is based on the Noel Coward play about a family and their trials and tribulations for the first thirty years of the 20th Century. 42nd Street is the well known musical, but rather well done and entertaining. A Farewell To Arms does have Gary Cooper, but it is from Ernest Hemingway's book, which was horrible and made it a horrible movie. I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang is a really good movie that stands the test of time, even if the story couldn't happen today. Paul Muni, another great actor who is slowly moving up to Lionel Barrymore status in my book, is terrific. It's based on a true story and should be seen, just for Muni's acting. Little Women is from the Louise Alcott novel, which I haven't read but the film has great acting and is very well done. The Private Life of Henry VIII is just what you would expect, although rather boring, great acting by Charles Laughton who earned the best actor Oscar that year. She Done Him Wrong is a cute musical comedy with Mae West, but not much more than that. Does have the famous "Come up and see me sometime" line.
Verdict - This was the first year of serious competition. While I really enjoyed I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang and how well Little Woman was done, Cavalcade was an overall well done movie and earned the Oscar for best picture.
Films I have seen - It Happened One Night (Best Picture), The Barretts Of Wimpole Street, Flirtation Walk, Here Comes The Navy
Films I have not seen - Cleopatra, The Gay Divorcee, The House Of Rothschild, Imitation Of Life, One Night Of Love, The Thin Man, Viva Villa!, The White Parade
Analysis - This is the first year the nominees were at twelve movies and I have only seen four of them so far. It Happened One Night was the first movie to sweep the major categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay) and it was not until forty years later when another movie would do it (1975 One Flew Over The Cockoo's Nest) and one of three overall (1991 Silence Of The Lambs). And it is a very funny movie. The Barretts Of Wimpole Street reminds you how boring and silly Victorian era life was. Flirtation Walk is an annoying musical based in Hawaii. Here Comes The Navy is one of the funniest movies I have seen in awhile. James Cagney gets into a fight with Pat O'Brien who is a Navy officer. To get back at him he joins the Navy, gets put on his ship, finds out he can't fight him then goes and starts dating his sister to get back at him. Very notable because part of the movie was filmed on the USS Arizona, yes the same one from Pearl Harbor.
Verdict - I've only seen a third of the films, but I really doubt anything will beat out It Happened One Night.
Films I have seen - Mutiny On The Bounty (Best Picture), Alice Adams, David Copperfield, The Informer, Naughty Marletta
Films I have not seen - Broadway Melody Of 1936, Captain Blood, The Lives Of A Bengali Lancer, A Midsummer's Night Dream, Les Miserables, Ruggles Of Red Gap, Top Hat
Analysis - This is the second and last year of twelve nominees, I've seen almost half of them. Mutiny On The Bounty is a great film with great acting and fascinating story. While it is not historically accurate, it's just a really good movie. Alice Adams is an annoying obnoxious film about a young woman trying to become popular. Heavy use of altruism makes this one very hard to watch. David Copperfield is as well as you can do a Dickens novel as a movie but does have Lionel Barrymore in it. The Informer I found to be slow and muddled, but it did win best director for John Ford. Naughty Marletta is an annoying musical that seems to have no plot but lots of happy musical numbers and dancing.
Verdict - Of what I have seen, Mutiny On The Bounty is the best film of 1935 and I don't think the others I haven't seen yet will change my decision.
Films I have seen - The Great Ziegfield (Best Picture), Anthony Adverse, Dodsworth, Romeo And Juliet, San Francisco, The Story Of Louis Pasteur, A Tale Of Two Cities
Films I have not seen - Libeled Lady, Mr. Deed Goes To Town, Three Smart Girls
Analysis - This is a year where there were so many good films. The Great Ziegfield covers the life of Florenz Ziegfield, a massive fluff piece, but that is what was expected back then. William Powell does a great job in this one. Anthony Adverse staring Fredrick March and the beautiful Olivia de Havilland, an orphan in the late 1700's makes a name for himself selling slaves in Africa, has a change of heart and goes back to Italy to try and find his true love. Dodsworth is a very powerful drama about divorce, very entertaining movie to watch. Romeo And Juliet was done well and probably the best adaption of Shakespeare's play. San Francisco shows the famous 1906 earthquake and the well known song telling it to "open up your golden gate". The Story Of Louis Pasteur staring Paul Muni is enjoyable from start to finish, you just don't want the movie to end. A Tale Of Two Cities was done well because it didn't drag on like most adaptions of Dickens novels.
Verdict - One factor that is involved with the Oscars is the opinions and moods of the voters. Not always are votes made on the quality of the film but on emotion. I did not live during this period so I can only imagine that Ziegfield being so popular during the early 20th century and recently dying, this film winning the Oscar. My opinion is that The Story Of Louis Pasteur was the best film, but at least Paul Muni did win the best actor Oscar.
Films I have seen - The Life Of Emile Zola (Best Picture), The Awful Truth, Captain Courageous, The Good Earth, In Old Chicago, Stage Door
Films I have not seen - Dead End, Lost Horizon, One Hundred Men And A Girl, A Star Is Born
Analysis - As the decade moved on the films kept getting better and better. The Life Of Emile Zola feels like France in the 1800's and Paul Muni makes this film great. The Awful Truth is a funny romantic comedy with Cary Grant. Captain Courageous has the great Lionel Barrymore and an all star cast dealing with an spoiled brat they save after he falls off a ship and turn him into a nice kid. The Good Earth once again with Paul Muni makes this worth watching. In Old Chicago talks about the 1871 Chicago fire from Mrs. O'Leary's cow, but is not factually correct except that there was a fire. Stage Door is a funny comedy about women vying to become Broadway stars.
Verdict - The Oscars got it right this year, The Life Of Emile Zola was just better than the rest.
Films I have seen - You Can't Take It With You (Best Picture), The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Boys Town, Four Daughters, Grand Illusion, Jezebel, Pygmalion
Films I have not seen - Alexander's Ragtime Band, The Citadel, Test Pilot
Analysis - You Can't Take It With You is one of the finest movies ever made. Lionel Barrymore is so great in this movie. Watch it and he will become your favorite actor too. The Adventures Of Robin Hood in it's old 1930's color is fun to watch and was done in a time when it was cool to be campy. Boys Town is that sappy movie that is so well done you can't hate it no matter how hard you try. Four Daughters is a film I thought I won't enjoy, a story about four sisters who's father is a band teacher. But it is really good. Grand Illusion was the first foreign film to be nominated for a best picture. This lost gem is so good, so amazing, you won't believe how great it is. Shawshank Redemption great. Make sure you see it sometime in your life. Its a real simple story of French POW's during WWI trying to escape from a prison camp. When it ends you will say I can't believe how good this movie was and why haven't I ever seen this before. Jezebel has the great Bette Davis as the infamous southern belle. Pygmalion is My Fair Lady without all the songs, so it's about seven hours shorter.
Verdict - You Can't Take It With You is the best movie of the year, probably the decade with Grand Illusion as a very close second.
Films I have seen - Gone With The Wind (Best Picture), Dark Victory, Goodby Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice And Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard Of Oz, Wuthering Heights
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - This is the first year where I have seen all the films nominated for best picture. This is known as the finest year for movies and it is so true. All ten of these movies could have won, well maybe seven of them, but put them up in a different year and any of them could win. Gone With The Wind is the epic Civil War film of all time. Dark Victory is Bette Davis fighting going blind, great acting. Goodby Mr. Chips a fantastic film that earned Robert Donat the best actor Oscar. Love Affair is a sappy love story, kind of a Sleepless In Seattle type, but just well done. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is the American classic that still today holds true, Washington DC sucks. Ninotchka is a funny film about Soviets trying to sell diamonds to save the Russian economy. Very funny in how it shows the hypocrisy of communism, which sucks more than Washington DC, much more. Of Mice And Men is the simple drama that is acted well and done perfectly. Stagecoach with John Wayne is the first classic western to be nominated and deservedly so. The Wizard Of Oz is a favorite even today of everyone. Wuthering Heights is carried by Laurence Olivier who was one of the finest actors of all time.
Verdict - Like I said, this is one of the finest years where any of these films could have won. I will have to agree with the voters and go with Gone With The Wind. To do otherwise would just be a never ending debate of what could have won.