Judging Oscar: Best Picture 1928/29

-Year in Summary/What Did Win-

So, I mentioned in the closer for my first Judging Oscar segment that, against the quality of the films in the 1st ceremony, it could only go up from there. If you’ll excuse the vernacular, holy shit was I wrong. It seems even the meager level of craftsmanship displayed in the 1st ceremony couldn’t hold up to the advent of sound. Even though technically there were no actual nominations for Best Picture, the films listed being those that were “considered” for the award by a panel of judges, the nominations that year were apparently considered solely for being sound films over actual greatness, with the exception of Ernst Lubitsch’s The Patriot, which is now a lost film, and thus probably wasn’t as viable a nominee as the others turned out to be.

Sound shenanigans aside, The Broadway Melody won the big one, becoming what would be the first film to win Best Picture without winning any other award. Actually, every film that won this year won one category and no others, the only time in Academy history that this would happen; likely because the categories were trimmed this year to a scant seven. This would also be the last time the winners would be decided by a panel of judges, since claims of favoritism and rigging of certain awards would force the Academy to adopt a one-member-one-vote policy.

-Ranking the Nominees-

Alibi

-Good God, why does Alibi continue to exist? I was completely unprepared for how bad this film actually was, probably because most of the other reviews and material I’d read about it handled the film with kid gloves, as if this wasn’t an actual attempt to make a good movie but some pre-schooler’s first finger painting on celluloid. The restoration was awful, sure, but the film’s inherent problems are so numerous and blatant that I could not believe this had been nominated/considered at all; this feels like a My First Sound Picture by an unmodest and untalented film school wannabe/reject instead of a major studio production. Get this outta here.

The Hollywood Revue of 1929

-Get this one outta here as well. The Hollywood Revue of 1929 just doesn’t belong here; it’s not a film, it’s a vaudeville show on the silver screen. Nothing about this does the Best Picture of the year make, even if it was, at the time, well liked and brought in a good amount of money. Pass.

In Old Arizona

-At least with In Old Arizona we’re getting into somewhat familiar territory, even though in virtually any other year this wouldn’t have seen a nomination either. It forgoes the route of being an actual film in favor of showing off the fact that it can capture scenes of dialogue and sound effects outside instead of in a controlled studio, and unfortunately, what it ends up forgoing by doing this is basic things almost any film should have, like story and narrative and entertainment value. The Academy can do better… or can they?

The Broadway Melody

-The Patriot being lost, I’m forced to give this to essentially the last film standing. The Broadway Melody may very well be the worst film to ever win this award, but sadly (incredibly so), it was the best film this year; at least among the nominees, or films considered. That said, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would enjoy a film branded with the mark of Worst Ever to Win Best Picture; watch it in the timeframe it was released in, and it’s got some stuff going for it. But that’s about it.

-What Should Have Won/What I Would’ve Picked-

Well, considering that there were no official nominees, only judge-evaluated films, anything could’ve reasonably won. Buster Keaton would see the release of probably his two last great films, Steamboat Bill, Jr. and The Cameraman, which might’ve stood a shot had the Academy not been so sound-centric. Same with The Docks of New York. The foreign front didn’t seem to have much to offer, save one exception, and had I had a vote that year and seen the film (if it even had an American release), my vote for the best picture of the year would have absolutely gone to Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc.

-How Did Oscar Do?-

*rolls up newspaper*
*whaps Academy on the nose*

No. No.
Bad Oscar.

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2 thoughts on “Judging Oscar: Best Picture 1928/29

  1. I guess it is telling that none of these movies are on the 1001 list.
    The movie of this year with most Oscar potential would have been Docks of New York since it took some years for the Academy to look overseas to something as exotic as a Danish director doing a French silent movie.

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