Sunday, April 25, 2010

Film Yap: And the Nominees Were - 1931/1932

So in our never ending quest to watch all of the Best Picture nominees, the Academy decided to throw us a curve ball. Finding five obscure films and watching them was too easy so the Academy decided to up its ante to eight films. Next year it’s going to be ten films and then—I kid you not—it’ll be 12 films. I think they somehow heard us mocking some of their picks. Never-the-less, here is the brief summary of our discussion on the films from the 5th Academy Awards.


John Ford is one of the most celebrated western directors of all time, but he is not perfect. This is a character study of Dr. Martin Arrowsmith who is determined to be a professional scientist. The film goes from different stories in his life without enough insight or transition to make the whole story relevant. There are a few cool technical achievements though.

Bad Girl

What in the world was this? We had a good time on the show talking about this one because it’s a complete dud in our minds. An unlikeable guy and a boring girl get married and nothing really happens. So many statements are beyond culturally bizarre. What little of a plot remains just ends up hurting the movies because of stupid actions by the characters.

The Champ

One of the fun things about this podcast has been to discover new actors. Two of the most interesting have been Wallace Beery (The Big House) and Jackie Cooper (Skippy). They ended up being a really great pairing and inspired better performances from each other. Beery plays a father who loves his son, but is constantly letting him down through his drinking. Definitely a solid movie.

Five Star Final

Edward G. Robinson (Little Caesar) plays a newspaper editor whose morality is put into question. In a desperate attempt for higher ratings, his paper digs up an old murder case and ends up wrecking the family involved. This one is a really flawed venture, but it has a certain charm to it. This also serves as a great parallel to the 24 hour news channels today.

Grand Hotel

Chris just wrote a great lengthy review for this a few weeks ago. Of this set this is the only one that is strongly remembered today and for a good reason. It’s an amazing ensemble picture that has depth with each and every story. A group of people naturally converge at the expensive Grand Hotel in Berlin and…”nothing ever happens.” This felt really ahead of its time.

One Hour With You

Another Lubitsch musical! Everyone on the podcast really adored The Love Parade from the 3rd Academy Awards and this reunites all of those people. Ernst Lubitsch directed Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald in this delightful silly show. The humor is top notch and the plot is so thin it’s almost non-existent. It’s really about spending time with these charming people. This also has a hilarious performance by Charles Ruggles.

Shanghai Express

Grand Hotel on a train this is not. Despite the winning combination of Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich this story really slugs across China. While a group of people rides the Shanghai Express, a romance is rekindled while political forces keep interrupting their journey. Very little of it works because there isn’t a real sense of urgency.

The Smiling Lieutenant

Another Lubitsch musical! Again! This time there isn’t the beautiful Jeanette MacDonald. Instead Maurie Chevalier is torn between the charming Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night) and the amusing Miriam Hopkins (Trouble in Paradise). Hopkins plays a princess who becomes very offended when Chevalier accidently smiles at her during a royal parade, which of course causes political problems between their two countries. Its stupid plot doesn’t stop it from being a really enjoyable movie.

This set ended up being a bit worrisome with its first four films, but then it really came around with some great choices. We discussed these movies in more detail in TWO episodes of the podcast. You can find these two episodes on iTunes as Episodes 5 & 6. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter just because we like to be hip.

The next year (1932/1933) we’ll talk about the following films: Cavalcade, A Farwell 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 Wrong, Smilin’ Through, and State Fair. We’d love you to follow along with us.

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