At the bottom of all my Oscar Quest articles, after talking about the films and performances and how I ranked them in that specific category, I ranked all the nominees. This article is a collection of those rankings. (Any changes from what I originally wrote we’ll mediate as they pop up.)
There’s no real set criteria to explain how I ranked everything. I’m sure there’s some overly complicated formula I have in my head, but let’s not try to explain what goes on in my head. The general rules for the rankings are: almost always do my favorite films and performances take precedent. They’ll usually go first. Sometimes the order will be solely how I like the films, and sometimes they’ll be solely how I rate the performances. Most times, it’s a bit of both. Usually there’s a clear #1 (or lack thereof) that dictates how the rest of the list proceeds. There’s really no definitive explanation, so I’ll leave it at: I’ve Santa Claus’d this list multiple times, and I stand by every one of these rankings.
The goal of all of this was always to recommend films for you to see (being able to put forth my opinion on it was a bonus). Use this alongside The Oscar Quest: A Viewer’s Guide article as a way of finding films to see. With these, you can very quickly find out which films I love and think you should see, no reading required. And any reading you care to do is just a click away. Plus, by reading the articles and seeing the films (even if it’s just simply the small handful of ones I say you need to see), you’ll have more knowledge of the Oscars and their history than the av-er-age person, making you that much more qualified to say, “What? That? Fuck no, that shouldn’t have won!” Who doesn’t want that? (more…)
This is it, folks. This is what it’s all been building towards. One article encompassing everything. Here is a list of every film ever nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director. A cheat sheet, of sorts. If you’re looking for Oscar films to watch, and don’t want to read all the articles (or say you’ve read the articles, but now want a list of films to see, and don’t want to reread them all), you can just go to this article and everything is right at your fingertips. Let me explain how it works:
The list descends by category (Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director) and by year, starting with the most recent. Each film on the list will be color-coded based on how much I like it/how essential it is. I’ll explain the color code in a second. Using the colors, you can instantly know whether or not I think you should see a film as well as (generally) how I feel about it. You can also use The Oscar Quest: Rankings article to see how I ranked the films/performances in their specific categories. Between the two, you’ll have as much information as you can possibly get about my opinion of a film on its own and in the context of a category without reading anything.
And if that’s not enough, next to each category, when I list what year it is, I’ll link to the article I wrote about it, which contains in depth (or not) thoughts about the films, synopses, and just more specific information on how I rank it, how I figured out my vote, things like that. So, with this one article, you have as much or as little information you could want about every movie from this Oscar Quest. Aren’t I great? (more…)
1938 is a year I will always consider weak, just because the Academy had an opportunity to grow past what they’d established already, and instead chose the safe route and give Best Picture to a film that too easy a choice. You Can’t Take It With You wins, which is an enjoyable film, but really not a step forward for the Academy. It’s not 1934 anymore. Frank Capra also won Best Director for it (talked about here).
The Best Pictures until this point were: two war epics, two musicals, a western, an ensemble prestige picture, a romantic comedy and three dramas (family, high seas/historical, and historical/biographical). They took a step in the right direction with It Happened One Night in 1934. Mutiny on the Bounty in ’35 wasn’t a bad choice. (I’d have gone for The Informer, but that’s me.) The Great Ziegfeld in ’36 is an easy winner. It’s big, cinematic, and everything that a Best Picture should be. After that, it seemed like they didn’t know what to do. The Life of Emile Zola was a weak choice, and seemed like them trying to continue the trend of historical dramas. And here, again it seems they didn’t know what to do, so they went back and tried to repeat what worked earlier. A lot of the decisions before the war ended seem that way. Apart from the easy choice films like Gone With the Wind, The Best Years of Our Lives — even Mrs. Miniver, they really don’t seem to know what to do, so they go back to earlier choices. So that’s why I don’t really like this year as a whole. Because a year starts with its Best Picture.
As for the rest of the year, Spencer Tracy wins his second consecutive Best Actor for Boys Town (which I talked about here), a performance I consider to be the single worst in the history of the Best Actor category, as well as the second or third worst decision all time in the category. It’s pretty horrendous. Then Best Supporting Actor was — you guessed it — Walter Brennan, for Kentucky, winning his second of three in five years. And Best Supporting Actress was Fay Bainter, for Jezebel, which is by default a good decision because she was nominated for Best Actress this year, and was really good there as well. So, in all, I probably only like two of the six decisions. And this category, I just disagree with completely. The only thing that I like about it is that this basically means that Scarlett O’Hara won two Oscars. That’s pretty cool.
BEST ACTRESS – 1938
And the nominees were…
Fay Bainter, White Banners
Bette Davis, Jezebel
Wendy Hiller, Pygmalion
Norma Shearer, Marie Antoinette
Margaret Sullavan, Three Comrades (more…)
1938 is such a weak year. It’s like the Academy, having the chance to make bold choices, got nervous and went with the sure thing. How can it be falling into its own stereotype when it’s only 11 years old? You Can’t Take It With You wins Best Picture. It’s a fine film, a really great one, but is definitely not a Best Picture winner. Frank Capra wins his third Best Director trophy in five years. 1934, 1936, and this one. Did he need it? Absolutely not. I talked about it here. It’s really strange the Academy went with the film, especially when The Adventures of Robin Hood, Pygmalion and especially Grand Illusion were also up for Best Picture.
Best Actress this year was Bette Davis for Jezebel, winning her second Best Actress trophy in four years. I’m a big opponent of this decision. I’ll talk about it eventually. Definitely not a fan. Fay Bainter wins Best Supporting Actress for the film, which is a very good decision, for both legitimizing the category and also because she was nominated for Best Actress this year, so that was a good choice. And Best Supporting Actor was — guess who — Walter Brennan for Kentucky. This was his second of three, winning every other year out of five, just like Frank Capra.
So, I consider 1938 a failed year. They had a chance to really do something interesting, then took the safe choice. We really shouldn’t be surprised. The Academy will often take the safe choice. Oh, and did I mention? I consider this specific category to be the SECOND WORST BEST ACTOR DECISION OF ALL TIME. How’s that for a lead in?
BEST ACTOR – 1938
And the nominees were…
Charles Boyer, Algiers
James Cagney, Angels with Dirty Faces
Robert Donat, The Citadel
Leslie Howard, Pygmalion
Spencer Tracy, Boys Town (more…)
1938 feels like a “motions” year. One of those ones where you just feel the Academy going through the motions. The Oscars feels a lot like Hollywood itself a lot of the time. That is, they find a formula that works, or one they like, and they ride that formula for a while until they transition to something else. You notice it with the type of films they make, and in their Best Picture choices as well. You really can notice a pattern in what they nominate and what they vote for.
I’ve already said that 1928-1933 were the Academy figuring itself out. I’d also say that 1934-1938 were the Academy counteracting the Depression. Of course, as is always the case with AMPAS, you’ll see the standard “Oscar” picture thrown in as well, as well as a choice that defies all logic. But, there are choice years that really point out what the “trend” was at that point in film history. This is a huge reason why I love the Oscars. You can really get a snapshot of what the prevailing trend in — well, not Hollywood overall, but, this portion of it.
So, 1938. You Can’t Take It With You wins Best Picture. Now it’s perhaps thought of as a weak choice. And unlike most of the years they consider poor choices, this one isn’t directed so much at the quality of the film but rather at how “safe” a choice it was, and how generic a Best Picture it is. And that’s the reason I see it as part of the “Depression” trend, because, after this year, Hollywood transitioned to the “war” picture era, 1940-1946. It feels like when someone pulls back to reference a joke that was funny the first three times it was referenced, but now it feels as though people are going through the motions. Sure, it’s funny, but lets not beat it into the ground. (more…)