The Oscar Quest: My Oscar Nominations — Best Picture (1927/1928-1949)

To run down the intro quickly — this is a series of articles about what I would nominate in every single Oscar Quest category if I had a ballot. I always felt I should do them, but didn’t want to pull that shit everyone pulls of, “Here’s what I’d nominate,” even though it’s all the same five films they add on and they haven’t even seen half the stuff that was nominated. I know my stuff’s legit, because I’ve seen all the films, but I refused to start this discussion unless I was going to do it with the ability to tell people how to do it the right way, since unless you keep them honest, it’s fucking chaos.

So I decided to, along with picking what I’d vote for, create what I’m calling a Compromise List. The Compromise List is — aside from my personal nominations (which on the whole are pretty close to what would fit the typical notion of “Oscar,” since I’ve seen everything and know what is and what isn’t an “Oscar” movie and actually respect the precedents in place even though I don’t always agree with them enough to not be like, “I vote for Star Trek!”), a list of films that are basically a mix of my nominees and their nominees that I think everyone could live with. The idea is to make a list that works for everyone that’s great, and to cut out all the shit that so clearly shouldn’t be there.

The things to keep in mind: 1) if a category has five nominees, I’m only nominating five films. 2) The lists are only based on what I’ve seen. 3) Don’t bother me with your opinion unless you’re gonna go the full nine and do every single year. 4) If you’re going to attempt something like this — be honest. Don’t get too subjective, and DO NOT take off a film you haven’t seen just to put on a film you have seen. And most importantly, 5) YOU CANNOT take off a Best Picture winner. You can not vote for it on your list, but on your compromise list, the Best Picture winner MUST BE THERE. If it won, you have to include it. No exceptions.

Okay, let’s get to the next set of Best Picture years:

1949

Actual Nominees:

  • All the King’s Men
  • Battleground
  • The Heiress
  • A Letter to Three Wives
  • Twelve O’Clock High

This list is pretty good as it is. I’d make two changes personally, and maybe one on the Compromise. But we’ll get to that in a second.

My Vote: Battleground

My Nominees:

  • All the King’s Men
  • Battleground
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • The Fallen Idol
  • The Heiress

My Vote: Bicycle Thieves

Love me some Bicycle Thieves. (Apologies to The Hasty Heart, Thieves’ Highway and White Heat. You just didn’t fit.) My problem is — does it get nominated. It wins an honorary award and gets nominated for Best Screenplay. So my gut tells me they never nominate this. So that means I kind of have to leave it out. Then again, I’d put Snow White on the ’37 list, so fuck it, let’s put it on. I keep forgetting this doesn’t matter. (Also, I take off Twelve O’Clock High, since that didn’t get the Director nomination, and it’s my least favorite of the nominees.)

Compromise List:

  • All the King’s Men
  • Battleground
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • The Heiress
  • A Letter to Three Wives

My Vote: Bicycle Thieves

1948

Actual Nominees:

  • Hamlet
  • Johnny Belinda
  • The Red Shoes
  • The Snake Pit
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

My Vote: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

I’m gonna make a change on my list, but the category is perfect.

My Nominees:

  • I Remember Mama
  • Johnny Belinda
  • The Red Shoes
  • The Snake Pit
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

My Vote: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

I’m not touching the category. It’s perfect.

Compromise List:

  • Hamlet
  • Johnny Belinda
  • The Red Shoes
  • The Snake Pit
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

My Vote: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

1947

Actual Nominees:

  • The Bishop’s Wife
  • Crossfire
  • Gentleman’s Agreement
  • Great Expectations
  • Miracle on 34th Street

My Vote: Gentleman’s Agreement

My nominees will have shit that would never make it on, which really only gives us a problem for that Compromise List.

My Nominees:

  • Black Narcissus
  • Brute Force
  • Gentleman’s Agreement
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • Out of the Past

My Vote: Black Narcissus

Okay — the real problems with the actual list are that there aren’t any winners, and some of the films are too on the nose. Gentleman’s Agreement stays. And I like that Crossfire is the only B movie ever nominated for Best Picture. So that has to stay on principle. Great Expectations is the only film left that got a Picture and Director nomination, so that stays. (Plus it’s legitimately one of the top two or three films in the category.) The only real problems are Miracle and Bishop’s Wife. Both are sort of in that same “Christmas miracle” vein, and the pair dilute the category. Bishop’s Wife got the Director nomination, so technically that one has more of a right to stay in the empirical sense. But in the actual sense — isn’t Miracle the better film? I don’t know. Either way, if you’re taking one of those off, the problem is — what do you replace it with? Out of the Past makes sense, but they wouldn’t vote for a noir like that. I’m shocked they even nominated Double Indemnity in ’44. A Double Life got the Director nomination, but that doesn’t really hold up (at least the two Christmas films got remade and people know the stories). Everything else is a hardcore genre film in genres the Academy just doesn’t go for. The only real play we have is saying, “Well, Out of the Past has become a classic, so if it were on there, nobody would say anything.” Which is good — but what do we take off? I guess it has to be Miracle. Sorry, Santa.

Compromise List:

  • The Bishop’s Wife
  • Crossfire
  • Genteman’s Agreement
  • Great Expectations
  • Out of the Past

My Vote: Gentleman’s Agreement

1946

Actual Nominees:

  • The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Henry V
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • The Razor’s Edge
  • The Yearling

My Vote: It’s a Wonderful Life

I like this category a lot. I’d make some changes, though.

My Nominees:

  • The Best Years of Our Lives
  • A Brief Encounter
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • A Matter of Life and Death
  • The Yearling

My Vote: The Best Years of Our Lives

I think my list is perfect. Only I know they’d never have voted for Matter of Life and Death. But I like the Brief Encounter inclusion, since Lean did get the Director nomination (and it’s fucking Brief Encounter). So that should go on, and The Razor’s Edge is the big classy A picture, but nobody remembers it. That should totally not be there. It didn’t even get the Director nomination, so it reeks of ‘supposed to be there’. The other one I don’t know what to do with is Henry V, which probably should be there, since it was a big deal back then (they fucking nominated it two years after it came out). And a lot of people would say Notorious here instead, but the Academy really started to lose the Hitchcock interest after Spellbound. I don’t think it would have happened, and I think it would have been overkill to nominate him for everything. So I leave it off. I think the one change makes this a perfect category for everyone.

Compromise List:

  • The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Brief Encounter
  • Henry V
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • The Yearling

My Vote: It’s a Wonderful Life

Just so we’re clear, the only reason I vote Best Years of Our Lives the first time is because in context, it’s the best choice. It was the perfect film to win for 1946 and for me, the Academy blew their Capra load in the 30s, and I’m not letting them give him another Best Picture. It’s too much. In context, that is.

1945

Actual Nominees:

  • Anchors Aweigh
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s
  • The Lost Weekend
  • Mildred Pierce
  • Spellbound

I actually kind of like that list. I’m not a fan of Spellbound, so I won’t put that on my list. Maybe I’ll take off Anchors Aweigh too. Oh, wait — I’m definitely taking it off.

My Nominees:

  • The Bells of St. Mary’s
  • The Lost Weekend
  • Mildred Pierce
  • National Velvet
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

My Vote: National Velvet (I have to. I love it too much.)

For the Compromise List — the fact that National Velvet didn’t make it on but Anchors Aweigh did is a joke. Otherwise — I like Bells of St. Mary’s and Spellbound can stay. And I like Mildred Pierce. So we’ll fuck over Tree Grows in Brooklyn (since I know you people won’t let me take off Hitch). Elia had his Oscar moments.

Compromise List:

  • The Bells of St. Mary’s
  • The Lost Weekend
  • Mildred Pierce
  • National Velvet
  • Spellbound

My Vote: National Velvet

1944

Actual Nominees:

  • Double Indemnity
  • Gaslight
  • Going My Way
  • Since You Went Away
  • Wilson

My Vote: Double Indemnity

My Nominees:

  • Double Indemnity
  • Going My Way
  • Lifeboat
  • Meet Me in St. Louis
  • Since You Went Away

My Vote: Meet Me in St. Louis

We kind of have to leave it. We could put on Lifeboat, but I don’t think that would really work. We could also put on Laura, but — honestly, I think we need to leave it. If we’re taking anything off, we have to take off Gaslight. So I say leave it. We’re basically splitting hairs.

Compromise List:

  • Double Indemnity
  • Gaslight
  • Going My Way
  • Since You Went Away
  • Wilson

My Vote: Double Indemnity

1943

  • Casablanca
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Heaven Can Wait
  • The Human Comedy
  • In Which We Serve
  • Madame Curie
  • The More the Merrier
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
  • The Song of Bernadette
  • Watch on the Rhine

My Vote: Casablanca

Oh, these years are going to be difficult. Ten nominees. And the 40s. Well — we’ll do our best.

My Nominees:

  • Casablanca
  • Edge of Darkness
  • Five Graves to Cairo
  • Heaven Can Wait
  • The Human Comedy
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  • The More the Merrier
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
  • Shadow of a Doubt
  • The Song of Bernadette

My Vote: Casablanca

Okay — my list is actually pretty good for swapping shit out. But — we have to take this a few films at a time. First — the films that have to stay from their list: Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait, The Human Comedy, The More the Merrier, andThe Song of Bernadette. The Ox-Bow Incident should stay simply because it’s such a classic. I’m amazed they even nominated it. And then, In Which We Serve and Watch on the Rhine are wartime movies. So those generally always should stay in the war years. And that really only leaves Madame Curie. Which — not necessary, but honestly, it does work. Personally, the only films we can really swap out for it are Five Graves to Cairo, which is Billy Wilder, but is also a wartime thriller, so it’s not really necessary, Edge of Darkness, which is basically like Red Dawn but with Nazis, and then Shadow of a Doubt, which we’d all love, and since it apparently got amazing reviews when it came out, I can’t understand why it didn’t get nominated, since all his stuff from 1940-1945 was well-received by the Academy. So fuck it, let’s make that swap.

My Vote: Casablanca

Compromise List:

  • Casablanca
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Heaven Can Wait
  • The Human Comedy
  • In Which We Serve
  • The More the Merrier
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
  • Shadow of a Doubt
  • The Song of Bernadette
  • Watch on the Rhine

My Vote: Casablanca

1942

Actual Nominees:

  • 49th Parallel
  • Kings Row
  • The Magnificent Ambersons
  • Mrs. Miniver
  • The Pied Piper
  • Pride of the Yankees
  • Random Harvest
  • The Talk of the Town
  • Wake Island
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy

My Vote: Pride of the Yankees

The only film I liked a lot but didn’t work into my nominees was To Be or Not to Be, which is too much of a comedy for me to put on. Oh, and Across the Pacific, which is amazing, but shouldn’t be anywhere near the Oscars. But I fucking love that movie.

My Nominees:

  • Bambi
  • 49th Parallel
  • The Magnificent Ambersons
  • Mrs. Miniver
  • Now, Voyager
  • The Pied Piper
  • Pride of the Yankees
  • Random Harvest
  • Wake Island
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy

My Vote: Pride of the Yankees

Compromise List should be pretty easy. Since I only made two changes. Bambi — I don’t need on. Now, Voyager, however, I think should be there. And the obvious castoff should be Kings Row, but that got a Director nomination, so that means The Talk of the Town has to go away. It’s a good film, but it was clearly a product of ten nominees.

Compromise List:

  • 49th Parallel
  • Kings Row
  • The Magnificent Ambersons
  • Mrs. Miniver
  • Now, Voyager
  • The Pied Piper
  • Pride of the Yankees
  • Random Harvest
  • Wake Island
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy

My Vote: Pride of the Yankees

1941

Actual Nominees:

  • Blossoms in the Dust
  • Citizen Kane
  • Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  • Hold Back the Dawn
  • How Green Was My Valley
  • The Little Foxes
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • One Foot in Heaven
  • Sergeant York
  • Suspicion

My Vote: Citizen Kane

Oh, this won’t be fun. My list won’t look anything like their list, probably, and the stuff I’ll want to take off, I can’t.

My Nominees:

  • Blossoms in the Dust
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster
  • Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  • How Green Was My Valley
  • The Lady Eve
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Penny Serenade
  • Sergeant York
  • Sullivan’s Travels

My Vote: Citizen Kane

Lot of great films this year, but I think I kept on ones that would make a good transition to a Compromise List. (I also left off Meet John Doe since I really feel they overkilled it with Capra in the 30s.)

But — Compromise. First, here’s what has to stay: How Green Was My Valley, Citizen Kane, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, The Little Foxes, Sergeant York. Picture/Director, they stay. Then, Maltese Falcon stays. Obviously. That leaves us four films: Blossoms in the Dust, Hold Back the Dawn, One Foot in Heavenand Suspicion.

One Foot in Heaven is a joke and that comes off immediately. That’s one of the top ten worst Best Picture nominees of all time. Blossoms in the Dust and Suspicion work, so I say we leave them. Hold Back the Dawn, I think, is a terrible nominee. So we have two spots to work with.

There are four choices from my list that make it look a lot better: The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Lady Eve, Penny Serenade and Sullivan’s Travels. Now — obviously there are two there that everyone jumps all over. Problem with that is — it would never happen. At best, we’re gonna get one of the comedies, one of the other ones. I think Penny Serenade works as an Oscar film — Cary Grant gets a Best Actor nomination, it’s directed by George Stevens — it works. The Devil and Daniel Webster also got a Best Actor nomination, and got a nomination for its score. The Lady Eve got a Screenplay nomination. Sullivan’s Travels is the only film that wasn’t nominated for Oscars, but, like The Lady Eve, got an NBR shout out. (They’re so good. They caught so many good movies over so many years. Whenever the Oscars fuck up, they don’t. It’s great.) So the question is — which do we put on? Personally, I say the two that make the most sense are Penny Serenade and The Lady Eve. (Though, really, Devil and Daniel Webster and Penny Serenade make the most sense, but I wanted to work in one of the comedies.) But honestly, I say we pick any two, but not both comedies. Unless you want to take off Hitchcock. In which case, go nuts.

Compromise List:

  • Blossoms in the Dust
  • Citizen Kane
  • Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  • How Green Was My Valley
  • The Lady Eve
  • The Little Foxes
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Penny Serenade
  • Sergeant York
  • Suspicion

My Vote: Citizen Kane

1940

Actual Nominees:

  • All This, and Heaven Too
  • Foreign Correspondent
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Great Dictator
  • Kitty Foyle
  • The Letter
  • The Long Voyage Home
  • Our Town
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Rebecca

My Vote: The Grapes of Wrath

Well this is easy.

My Nominees:

  • All This, and Heaven Too
  • Fantasia
  • Foreign Correspondent
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Great Dictator
  • His Girl Friday
  • Our Town
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Pinocchio
  • Rebecca

My Vote: The Grapes of Wrath

Obviously my list isn’t going to work. They weren’t too keen on animated films at this time. So I won’t presume to put those on. But I’ll totally put His Girl Friday on. And that’s really all I need. (I also liked The Thief of Bagdad, The Shop Around the Corner and Waterloo Bridge a lot, but they didn’t get much notice, so we’ll leave them off.)

Grapes of Wrath, Rebecca, Kitty Foyle, The Letter and The Philadelphia Story have to stay. The Great Dicatator stays. I really like All This and Heaven Too, Our Town and Foreign Correspondent. To me, The Long Voyage Home is the real weak link here. To me, at least. Though it did get six nominations. So actually — the film with the least nominations that we can take off is All This and Heaven Too. So that’s what we’re swapping out. Not that they’d have ever nominated His Girl Friday. But fuck it, we can do it.

Compromise List:

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Great Dictator
  • His Girl Friday
  • Kitty Foyle
  • The Letter
  • The Long Voyage Home
  • Our Town
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Rebecca

My Vote: The Grapes of Wrath

– – – – –

I’m currently in the process of watching 30s movies for my Top Tens list. As I watch stuff, I’ll update this, but for the next few months, I’m mostly gonna leave stuff alone.

– – – – –

1939

Actual Nominees:

  • Dark Victory
  • Gone With the Wind
  • Goodbye Mr. Chips
  • Love Affair
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • Ninotchka
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Stagecoach
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Wuthering Heights

My Vote: Gone With the Wind

This is the best Best Picture category of all time, so chances are, I’m going to leave it alone. Maybe I nominate one or two different films, once I see more, but I’ll probably leave it. The obvious film people would say to nominate is The Rules of the Game (which I’ve yet to see), which I kind of want to not nominate on principle, since I like that this entire category is all Hollywood stuff, and it just wouldn’t feel right to have a foreign film on the list called the ‘Hollywood Golden Year’ list. But we’ll see once I watch the 30s films.

1938

Acutal Nominees:

  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • Alexander’s Ragtime Band
  • Boys Town
  • The Citadel
  • Four Daughters
  • Grand Illusion
  • Jezebel
  • Pygmalion
  • Test Pilot
  • You Can’t Take It With You

My Vote: Grand Illusion

I’ll tell you right off the top I’d make three changes. Alexander’s Ragtime Band and Four Daughters are totally out. I’d vote on Bringing Up Baby and Marie Antoinette there. And then I’d see about nominating Angels with Dirty Faces as well. I haven’t looked too closely, since I have a lot of 30s movies left to see. (Theoretically I should be doing these articles later, but honestly, I know 90% of the people reading this blog haven’t seen most of the shit nominated anyway, so they’ll probably be skipping this section.)

1937

Actual Nominees:

  • The Awful Truth
  • Captains Courageous
  • Dead End
  • The Good Earth
  • In Old Chicago
  • The Life of Emile Zola
  • Lost Horizon
  • One Hundred Men and a Girl
  • Stage Door
  • A Star Is Born

My Vote: A Star Is Born

Well, on my list, I’ll tell you right now, One Hundred Men and a Girl and In Old Chicago are off and Snow White and Make Way for Tomorrow are on. Oh, and we’ll also swap Dead End for Shall We Dance. That’s all before I see the rest of the stuff I haven’t seen. (And also — my list is gonna make this year pretty fucking good, too. I used to think of this year as a weak one, but my list will make it look amazing.)

1936

Actual Nominees:

  • Anthony Adverse
  • Dodsworth
  • The Great Ziegfeld
  • Libeled Lady
  • Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • San Francisco
  • The Story of Louise Pasteur
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Three Smart Girls

My Vote: The Great Ziegfeld

This will be easy. My list is going to include My Man Godfrey and Swing Time (Three Smart Girls and Tale of Two Cities are off). And I’m sure once I see Modern Timesthat’ll go on too.

1935

Actual Nominees:

  • Alice Adams
  • Broadway Melody of 1936
  • Captain Blood
  • David Copperfield
  • The Informer
  • Les Misérables
  • The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Mutiny on the Bounty
  • Naughty Marietta
  • Ruggles of Red Gap
  • Top Hat

My Vote: Top Hat

Have to see some movies, but — there are 12 nominees here. So I’m sure there will be lots of stuff to swap out.

1934

  • The Barretts of Wimpole Street
  • Cleopatra
  • It Happened One Night
  • Flirtation Walk
  • The Gay Divorcee
  • Here Comes the Navy
  • The House of Rothschild
  • Imitation of Life
  • One Night of Love
  • The Thin Man
  • Viva Villa!
  • The White Parade

My Vote: The Thin Man

Another 12-er, and another one where I’ll need to see more stuff to make up my mind. I’m sure there will be some swapping to do. (Not that it matters. My favorite movie of all time is on the list already. It’s already acceptable by me.)

1932-1933

  • Cavalcade
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • 42nd Street
  • I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
  • Lady for a Day
  • Little Women
  • The Private Life of Henry VIII
  • She Done Him Wtong
  • Smilin’ Through
  • State Fair

My Vote: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

I’m sure I’d vote on King Kong and Gold Diggers of 1933. We’ll see about the rest once I see more stuff.

1931-1932

Actual Nominees:

  • Arrowsmith
  • Bad Girl
  • The Champ
  • Five Star Final
  • Grand Hotel
  • One Hour with You
  • Shanghai Express
  • The Smiling Lieutenant

My Vote: Bad Girl

Scarface seems like a good choice on my list, but I don’t know if it’ll make a Compromise List. I don’t think that’s a film that makes it anywhere near this list until it got its reputation built up decades later. But we’ll see.

1930-1931

Actual Nominees:

  • Cimarron
  • East Lynne
  • The Front Page
  • Skippy
  • Trader Horn

My Vote: Skippy

Now we’re already treading dangerous water. It’s too early to really make changes. Little Caesar and The Public Enemy so clearly don’t fit on this list, though I’m sure I can get away with City Lights. So if I change anything, that’ll probably be what it is.

1929-1930

Actual Nominees:

  • All Quiet on the Western Front
  • The Big House
  • Disraeli
  • The Divorcee
  • The Love Parade

My Vote: All Quiet on the Western Front

This is really the borderline category. I don’t know if I’m gonna change anything pre-1930. I might make that year earlier or later, depending on what I find on this 30s list. It’s hard to really say what should be changed in the first five years of the Academy next to year 85. You know what I mean? So we’ll see what happens here as I watch more 30s films.

1928-1929

Actual Nominees:

  • Alibi
  • The Broadway Melody
  • The Hollywood Revue of 1929
  • In Old Arizona
  • The Patriot

My Vote: The Broadway Melody

Look — I say we just keep these, because nobody really knows enough about the era to truly make a call here past, “Well, this movie’s good, let’s put it on!” I say leave everything before the 30s alone.

1927-1928

This one is tough… there are two categories. What the fuck do you do?

You know what I’m gonna do? I’m just gonna nominate six movies, and the categories can be split however the fuck we want.

Actual Nominees:

Outstanding Picture, Production:

  • The Racket
  • Seventh Heaven
  • Wings

My Vote: Seventh Heaven

Unique or Artistic Production:

  • Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness
  • The Crowd
  • Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

My Vote: Sunrise

Honestly — I wouldn’t change anything here except that on my list, having the benefit of hindsight, I’d vote for The Passion of Joan of Arc. But otherwise, let’s just leave it, since there are six movies here, and four of them are incredible. (The other two — whatever.) Plus, it’s the first Oscars. Who’s seen enough shit to actually say they should change it?

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3 responses

  1. samuelwilliscroft

    Where the heck is M for 1931?

    May 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm

  2. samuelwilliscroft

    sorry to be rude but also FRANKENSTEIN!?

    May 23, 2015 at 12:03 pm

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