The second Academy Awards were a step forward and a step back. They got rid of the odd Best Artistic Achievement award and just focused on the Best Picture prize. However, this may be one of the worst batches of films in its history. The Jazz Singer came out the previous year and the allure of sound ruined quality for a lot of films. Well let’s just look at them…
This was considered to be edgy for its time, but today this is just a mess. Chester Morris plays Chick Williams, a gangster who was just released from prison. He is already plotting more schemes and relying on an alibi that doesn’t entirely work. There is a love triangle that doesn’t make sense and not one character worth rooting for. Also the story is constantly interrupted by musical numbers that are poorly filmed and don’t connect to the story.
In Old Arizona
The first western to be nominated for Best Picture is an entertaining one thanks mostly to Warner Baxter’s performance of The Cisco Kid. Like a more rugged Danny Ocean, The Cisco Kid is a criminal that has more charisma than anyone in justice. He robs people, but never shoots anyone to do so. He also gives his riches to his sweetheart back home. However she is not as loyal as he is. Her betrayal doesn’t seem natural or believable, but it doesn’t damper the rest of the movie.
The Broadway Melody – WINNER
This is a movie I watched as a kid and enjoyed, but doesn’t hold up well today. It’s a simple story of two sisters who are caught in a love triangle while trying to make it big on Broadway. It’s not a complicated plot and a bunch of the numbers are enjoyable. The major problem is that the male center of the love triangle is an abusive jerk. Also the final act is incredibly unsatisfying.
The Hollywood Revue of 1929
I hate this movie. Well, that’s not fair. It’s barely a movie. During this time, since cinema was brand-new, a lot of elements of theater came to the screen. This sometimes caused for awkward acting styles and boring camera staging. Also it caused things like this. This is literally just a revue of a lot of Hollywood players singing terrible songs or telling terrible jokes. This is before the age of talk shows where it’s less of a rarity to see celebrities, but if you’re going to parade them please make them be entertaining. The only salvageable moments in this is an amusing Lauriel & Hardy sketch and simply just watching Buster Keaton do anything.
I haven’t seen this film. Unfortunately this is the only Best Picture winner that is completely lost to the world and that appears to be a tragedy. Only a trailer survives. This was the last silent film to be nominated for Best Picture and paired up the great actor Emil Jannings and one of the greatest directors of all time Ernst Lubitsch. To make matters worse, the trailer makes this film look amazingly epic and special. Curses.
If you want to hear more discussion about these films you can hear my podcast where I talk about them with my friends Keith Jackson and Kenny Jones. Like these articles, we’ll eventually cover each and every year of the Academy Awards. It’s called And the Nominees Are. We are on iTunes and at www.atnapodcast.com.
The next films will be All Quiet on the Western Front, The Big Parade, Disraeli, The Divorcee, and The Love Parade.