Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Film Yap: And the Nominees Were - 1935

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.

Remember last time when I complained about 12 nominees? That didn’t feel like such a big deal especially because two of the movies are impossible to find. This time we had all of the nominees in our possession for 1936 and…it didn’t feel too bad. Sure there were the usual batch of duds, but there were plenty of winners that made this a pretty good year with the Academy.

Alice Adams

I take it all back. This was easily one of the worst of the twelve this year. It’s a starring vehicle for Katherine Hepburn. She plays a poor girl who wants to have new dresses and be able to go to the ball. Unfortunately for us, Alice Adams is extremely unlikeable. This may have been a hit when it came out, but too many elements didn’t work for us.

Broadway Melody of 1936

On our second episode we were a bit harsh to The Broadway Melody, the Best Picture winner that year. In comparison, we want to apologize a little bit. This “sequel” has nothing to do with the previous incarnation aside from it’s another story told on Broadway. Jack Benny is a newspaper columnist who is (sorta) forced to write slanderous stories about a new show that is opening up. Forgettable songs and even more confusing plotting really hurts this one.

Captain Blood

Personally, I love pirate movies. No matter if they’re heroes or villains they are usually a blast to watch. Captain Blood is a movie that further proves that. This is one of the early ventures by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) and the very first movie to star an unknown actor named Errol Flynn. Flynn is a doctor who was wronged into slavery and then rebels by being a pirate. It’s a lot of fun and filled with great cinematic action scenes.

David Copperfield

Pardon our ignorance, but we felt out of the loop on this movie. None of us have read the classic Charles Dickens novel and it seems like it would have been better if we had. It’s a great cast (Elsa Lanchester, Lionel Barrymore, W.C. Fields, Basil Rathbone, etc.) but the film was a bit empty for us.

The Informer

This is the next John Ford film up for Best Picture after Arrowsmith. It’s the story of a man who rats on a friend for money and then faces guilt for the rest of the picture. There’s a bit of clunky dialog, but we spent the most of this segment really bringing up interesting things Ford did with the camera and how he’s progressed as a filmmaker.

Les Miserables

This is one of the films we differed a bit on. I loved it and thought it did everything that David Copperfield didn’t. However, the other guys criticized some of the transitions and the later part of the film. This is, of course, an adaptation of the classic Victor Hugo novel about a man who suffers unjust repercussions after getting out of jail for stealing some bread.

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer

Now our trio swapped a little bit. Keith was the one in high praise for this Gary Cooper movie, but Kenny and I were a bit cautious. It is one of the adventure war films from this era that showed the romantic qualities of it. The Lancers are stationed in northwest India and face external and internal troubles. Watch the movie and listen to our discussion to decide who to side with.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I love the play, but I had never seen a filmed version of the classic Shakespeare comedy. This film was very revolutionary with the way it was filmed, but occasionally lost focus due to some terrible performances. In fact there is one performance we declare to be the worst we’ve seen so far on our show! (How’s that for a tease?) Aside from that, I thought it was great.

Mutiny on the Bounty—WINNER!

Again the team is split. This is the famous story of the USS Bounty starring two guys who were the top of Hollywood: Clark Gable and Charles Laughton. (Laughton actually appears three times in this set.) The film knows how to capture the epic look, but I would argue that it didn’t know how to capture the emotional arc towards mutiny. We can all say that it’s a step up from director Frank Lloyd’s Cavalcade.

Naughty Marietta

Even just causal listeners of our show know we adore Jeanette MacDonald. She was wonderful in the Ernst Lubitsch films and here is another movie to show off how awesome she is. So she is a Princess who switches identities and runs away to America to avoid marrying someone she doesn’t like. Unfortunately her new love interest is the worst part of the movie.

Ruggles of Red Gap

This one caught many of us by surprise. Charles Laughton plays a butler who was accidently lost in a poker game. He travels to the middle of America and now lives a very different lifestyle. This whole thing is hilarious and is one of the great underseen American comedies. It’s smart and even emotional at times and I attribute that to the director Leo McCarey and Laughton to pull it all off.

Top Hat

Is there anything more likable than an Astaire/Rogers musical? They’re funny, well shot, and have plenty of beautiful dance sequences. We have a good time on the show breaking down our favorite numbers and compare it to their film from last year, The Gay Divorcee. It’s too bad their next film, Swing Time, isn’t up for Best Picture so we don’t have the excuse to talk about that one as well.

We discuss these movies with a lot more detail on our show And the Nominees Are. This set was covered over three episodes both of which can be found for free on iTunes. Our show is also on Facebook and Twitter.

The next year returns to 10 nominees. If you would like to play along we will be reviewing Anthony Adverse, Dodsworth, The Great Ziegfeld, Libeled Lady, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Romeo and Juliet, San Francisco, The Story of Louis Pasteur, A Tale of Two Cities, and Three Smart Girls.

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