Austin Lugar, Keith Jackson and Kenny Jones started a podcast called And the Nominees Are. On this show they are attempting to review every single Best Picture nominee starting from the very beginning. Here Austin recaps the plot summaries of each set while teasing the longer discussions.
Looking back the 6th batch of Oscar nominees I’m starting to see familiar trends of what is to come. There are a bunch of war and “important” films, but also a couple directors that will end up being very famous. This set we have some of the early films from Frank Capra and George Cukor. The Academy continued to have ten nominees, but sadly it could have kept this batch to five.
Cavalcade – WINNER
This film followed one upper class British family through iconic moments in its nation history including the Boer War and the sinking of the Titanic. Its advertising claimed this to be the most important film of the generation. Unfortunately it mixed up “important” with “insanely pretentious” and “empty.” We had a good time on the show mocking this movie, which ended up being one of the worst nominees so far.
A Farewell to Arms
Based off the classic Ernest Hemingway novel, this movie is about an American soldier during World War I (Gary Cooper) who falls in love with a British nurse (Helen Hayes). The war constantly keeps them apart but it’s difficult to really feel that effect with such little run time. This one is currently available on Netflix Instant if you’re curious.
All right everybody, let’s put on a show. This is a musical about putting on a musical, which is a popular subgenre. This film really is the definitive version of that with its several romantic subplots and impressive production numbers. Not everything works, but there is a distinct charm and a bunch of the songs are still familiar today. This movie also has a young Ginger Rogers who is always great.
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
This is one of the gritter films during the Pre-Code period. Paul Muni stars as a man who is sent to a chain gang under false pretenses. It is one of the more cynical looks of any society as bad things keep happening to undeserving people. A few performances don’t match the tone, but the film as a whole is still very effective.
Lady for a Day
This Capra movie is very much like a sitcom plot. A nice poor woman named Apple Annie keeps telling her daughter that she is living a rich lifestyle. When her daughter is coming to the city to visit her, Annie has to get her friends together to fake wealth. A lot of liberties are taken in terms of logic, but Capra knows how to keep things light hearted and fun.
This is another famous adaptation. This time is the Louise May Alcott classic with Katherine Hepburn as the oldest sister Jo. Cukor does a good job creating the proper atmosphere but on the show we disagreed on whether certain elements worked. Especially key performances and whether necessary scenes paid off.
The Private Life of Henry VIII
Now unlike my co-hosts I liked this episode. It shows Henry VIII as he goes through wives 2-6. The way the film casually moves through history really makes Henry VIII seem like a buffoon and I found it to be entertaining. I thought this was an interesting take on the biopic formula.
She Done Him Wrong
Mae West was not just an actress but a brand during this time. Her shows and movies were all familiar and this one was the most popular. There’s a complicated plot involving a shady brothel, but it’s really just a vehicle for her to spout her double entendres. When people think of Pre-Code, they think of her. This film is also one of Cary Grant’s first movies and is available on Netflix Instant.
Norma Sheer and Fredric Marsh are the duo in this troubled relationship. Thanks to an incident that left Sheer’s uncle powerfully heartbroken she may not be able to be with Marsh. Its optimistic title tricks you into this drabby movie. A few things work well, but once again too much has to be a suspension of disbelief.
This is one of those atmosphere movies where you like the place and you want to be there or you don’t. Despite the charming Janet Gaynor, I did not want to attend this state fair. Stakes of whether or not a pig is going to win the ribbon did not work for me. It’s odd that this was nominated for Best Picture because it’s just a small movie, not even a spectacle.
We discuss these movies with a lot more detail on our show And the Nominees Are. This set was covered over two episodes both of which can be found for free on iTunes. Our show is also on Facebook and Twitter.
The next year has 12 nominees: The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Cleopatra, Flirtation Walk, The Gay Divorcee, Here Comes the Navy, The House of Rothschild, Imitation of Life, It Happened One Night, One Night of Love, The Thin Man, Viva Villa!, and The White Parade. Most of those are really hard to find, but some are well distributed. We’d love it if you play along.