Posts tagged “1930-1931

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1930-1931

My favorite thing about these early Academy years is that you can see Hollywood becoming — Hollywood, essentially. At least as we know it today. You can see them perfecting sound as the years go along. I think of these double years as a set of training wheels. And then when the Academy got the hang of doing things, they shed the wheels and just hit the ground running. These double years are Forrest Gump with the braces. These were their magic shoes. They would take them anywhere.

One other thing I haven’t mentioned yet about these early years that also has to be taken into account is — Hollywood still hadn’t perfected the screen story yet. That is — when things were silent, they had their own method of performance and storytelling. Now, with sound, they didn’t quite know how to do it yet. So what you saw at the beginning was a reliance on the stage. A lot of the big stars of this era came from vaudeville or from the stage (the “legit”), so a lot of the acting and stories were performed rather than acted. There’s a lot of stage acting on film in this era. You start to see less of it as we move forward. Here, the films are definitely more cinematic than those of previous years. So in judging these films, you have to realize that Hollywood had not yet figured out how to do cinematic and sound. (Be lenient, is the point.)

As for this year, Cimarron takes Best Picture (which I’ll talk about in a second), Lionel Barrymore takes Best Actor for A Free Soul (talked about here), which makes perfect sense, given that he was a very respected stage actor (part of the Barrymore acting dynasty) and gave what is essentially a 14-minute speech in the film in a single take. Marie Dressler won Best Actress for Min and Bill (talked about here), which also makes sense, given her status as one of the top stars in Hollywood. And Norman Taurog won Best Director for Skippy (talked about here), which, holy shit was that an amazing decision. I’ll gush over that film in a minute.

So that’s 1930-1931. Everything makes sense, and there’s really nothing to quibble about. Which is nice.

BEST PICTURE – 1930-1931

And the nominees were…

Cimarron (RKO Radio)

East Lynne (Fox)

The Front Page (Caddo, United Artists)

Skippy (Paramount)

Trader Horn (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) (more…)

The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1930-1931

1930-1931 is one of the early years. Different set of rules.

Cimarron wins Best Picture. The first Western to win, and, honestly, a decent choice. I’d have probably went another way, but it’s a matter of personal preference. Cimarron is an epic western, takes place over a number of years, is based on a best-selling book — it’s a good choice. Best Actor was Lionel Barrymore for A Free Soul (talked about here). He was a respected actor, and was a good choice for a year that was about legitimizing the awards. I wouldn’t have voted for it, but it makes sense. And Norman Taurog wins Best Director for Skippy (talked about here), which is a terrific, terrific decision, and one of my favorites of all time.

Okay, now we’re at this one. Tough call. Like I said — different set of rules. The rules dictate that the most respected/popular actors of the day win, in order to legitimize the award. You have Janet Gaynor, Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer winning — and here, Marie Dressler, the most popular star in Hollywood (at age 60, to boot), is nominated. Of course she’s going to win. But does that mean it was the right decision? I don’t know.

BEST ACTRESS – 1930-1931

And the nominees were…

Marlene Dietrich, Morocco

Marie Dressler, Min and Bill

Irene Dunne, Cimarron

Ann Harding, Holiday

Norma Shearer, A Free Soul (more…)

The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1930-1931

This is one of the exciting years. You see, I assume that most people aren’t familiar with the Oscars. Why would you? That’s what I’m here for. And even if someone does have some knowledge about the categories, like who won Best Supporting Actress in 1985 (Anjelica Huston), I can be pretty certain that there’s an even smaller percentage of those people who really know about the 1927-1933 years. Again, why would you?

1930-1931 is kind of the second real definitive Oscar year. That is, the first year was Wings, and that was an establishing year. Then the second year was a mess, because they were dealing with shifting over to sound, so The Broadway Melody won, since it was the biggest film that used sound the best. Then 1929-1930 was All Quiet on the Western Front. That was the real first year where they chose an “Academy” decision. That film is just wonderfully made. And this year, Cimarron won Best Picture, which is an epic western, based on a bestselling novel — a prestige picture. Of course it was going to win. It’s a pretty good film. I personally prefer the film that won Best Director this year, Skippy. Norman Taurog directed the hell out of it, and I’ll further discuss my love for the film shortly.

The other award this year that wasn’t this one (remember, no Supporting categories until 1936) was Marie Dressler winning Best Actress for Min and Bill. This decision makes a lot of sense, because Min Dressler, at age 62, was the biggest star in Hollywood at the time. Her winning Best Actress was a way of validating the category. The same thing happened in this category. Lionel Barrymore was, at this time, what Laurence Olivier was in the 50s. Which is why, no matter how I feel about who should have won, this decision ultimately was the right one.

BEST ACTOR – 1930-1931

And the nominees were…

Lionel Barrymore, A Free Soul

Jackie Cooper, Skippy

Richard Dix, Cimarron

Frederic March, The Royal Family of Broadway

Adolphe Menjou, The Front Page (more…)

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1930-1931

It’s Best Director month here at the B+ Movie Blog. The reason for that is, one — how do you really talk about Best Director? Do you go by innovation? Best film? Most stylistic? How do you judge? Best Director is perhaps the most nebulous of the awards. Logic dictates that — well, the best film, by default, had the Best Director. But sometimes it doesn’t. How does one mediate? Also — what exactly does a director do? Film is a collaborative medium. How much are we to say is the choice of the director and not, say, the writer, or the DP, or the set designer, or even producers or the actors. Sometimes the producer will say, “We need more action here,” or the actor will refuse to shoot a scene a certain way and the director will have to change it to suit the actor. Where do you draw the line at what a director does?

So, not really having an answer to that, along with the fact that — it needs to be done — I’m just gonna lump all the Best Directors as closely as possible. There are 83 of them. Eleven are already done. I’m doing thirty this month. That leaves — quick, math whizzes, crunch the numbers — 42 left from May. That’s not bad. Another Director month around, say — November — or maybe sooner if I really want to be rid of them — along with a few interspersed here and there — we’ll be done in no time. (more…)