Thursday, January 31, 2013

Best Picture Winners: 1948-1952

Winner: Hamlet
Director: Laurence Olivier
Distributed by: Rank Film Distributors

Laurence Olivier, the premiere Shakespeare actor of the 20th century wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the title role. OK, that's pretty impressive. Olivier would win Best Actor, along with Best Picture, but interestingly enough, not Best Director. Oh well, you can't win them all! Hamlet is probably Shakespeare's most popular play, next to Romeo and Juliet, so I don't really have to tell you the story. Just know that people love this movie, and this also probably won because Henry V was snubbed two years before. The academy has a funny way of fixing their mistakes, but they are usually not so prompt. Regardless, the movie deserved the win, though it won over the popular Treasure of Sierra Madre and Red Shoes, two movies that could have won in any other year. The movie, like I said, is still popular, but some like Olivier's other works, if only because they don't have Hamlet basically making out with his mother.

Winner: All the King's Men
Director: Robert Rossen
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

All the King's Men is about the rise and fall of Willie Stark, a politician who goes from crusader against corruption, to corrupt himself once he becomes Governor. It's basically a loose biography of Huey Long, a Louisiana Governor in the 1930's who was later assassinated. Long was murdered in 1935, meaning that Long's memory had yet to fade from the public's mind. This, along with acting Broderick Crawford, gave All the King's Men the momentum to win. That, and the rest of the nominees were pretty bad. Two were war movies, and Hollywood was just realizing the the public was getting tired of seeing war on screen. Funny story: John Wayne was offered the part of Willie Stark but turned it down calling it unpatriotic. Wayne would instead star in Sands of Iwo Jima. Both Wayne and Crawford were nominated for Best Actor. Crawford ended up winning. Sorry, Mr. Wayne, but I guess people like unpatriotic movies more.

Winner: All About Eve
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

This film deals with the pain of getting older in the entertainment industry. Specifically when you are an actress. Funny enough, another movie that was nominated, Sunset Boulevard, dealt with the same exact issue. What probably propelled this movie above Sunset Boulevard and other such movies like King Solomon's Mine, Father of the Bride, and Born Yesterday,  was the sheer amount of star power in the cast. The cast included Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, and Hugh Marlowe. Not too shabby, This was basically Bette Davis' comeback and is considered her best film. Too bad she didn't win an Oscar for it. I guess she'll just have to be happy with her two Oscars and being voted #2 on the list of greatest female stars of all time.

Winner: An American in Paris
Directors: Vincent Minnelli, Gene Kelly
Distributed by: MGM

This is actually one that I saw recently, and it wasn't bad. It had a lot of dancing. I mean what do you expect, it's Gene Kelly. The problem with the end is that it's about twenty minutes straight of dancing. I got up in the middle of it, went to the bathroom thinking it would be done by the time I came back, but no, it was still going strong. If you don't like long dancing numbers than stay away from this film. Gene Kelly plays a painter named Jerry in the film, who falls in love with a girl that is with someone else, but with whom she doesn't love. A wealthy lover of paintings takes Jerry under her wing but is more interested in him than his art. Hilarity ensues. Wait, did I say hilarity? I meant to say dancing. A lot of it. But that's OK because Kelly is a really good dancer and can sing to boot. The story is kind of weak, but I kind of feel like all Kelly wanted was to show audiences a movie filled with nothing but dancing numbers. I guess the academy liked Kelly and his dancing because this movie beat out A Streetcar Named Desire. This is one of those years where the winner didn't deserve to win in the slightest, and everyone knows that now. I'm convinced Kelly has the ability to hypnotize people with his twirling.

Winner: The Greatest Show on Earth
Director: Cecil DeMille
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

This is another film that basically didn't deserve the award. Not that it's a bad movie per-se, but most believe it's not as good as High Noon or John Wayne's The Quiet Man. Most equate this to a makeup for all times DeMille didn't get an Oscar win, since he did sort of help create Hollywood and all. This was considered his last shot, so to speak, and the Academy probably wanted to make sure he got something. Others claim that the political climate helped the movie win. Joseph McCarthy was making it hard for filmmakers and actors that didn't play his game, which meant that certain movies were getting bad reps because their director/lead actor/lead actress/ producer was under suspicion of being a communist. DeMille was a staunch supporter of McCarthy so it may have helped it along by not being bogged down by communist allegations. Most critics today consider it to be the worst Best Picture of all time, though others go with Crash. Again, this was probably more than anything a lifetime achievement award for DeMille. The movie does boast a ton of stunts, circus acts and more star cameos than you can shake a stick at. Here's the cast list: Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, Dorothy Lamour, Gloria Grahame, Henry Wilcoxon, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby. This cast was loaded with stars, though some, like Hope and Crosby, were just short cameos. Steven Spielberg said that the train wreck scene was part of the reason he became a filmmaker, so there's that! If it weren't for this circus movie, we wouldn't have a ton of really good movies!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Best Picture Winners: 1943-1947

Winner: Casablanca
Director: Michael Curtiz
Distributed by: Warner Brothers

For all the praise this movie has gotten, it was complete hell for the cast and crew. The stars of the film, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, were quoted in saying, "this is the worst film we've ever come across"and" it's just a fright"(I'll get into all this fuss later). A story of yet another love triangle and of war. Set during WWII, club/bar owner Rick ( Bogart) must choose between his love for a woman he had a "fling" with in Paris and helping her Czech Resistance leader husband escape from the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis. Oh, what is Rick to do?!? Will Bergman's character leave her husband to hang out in Rick's Bar to hear Sam play "As Time Goes By" again ("Play it again Sam" was never said in the film)? Or will she be faithful to her husband and get on that fake plane? Of course, she gets on the plane. A wife leaving her husband was a big No-No in Hollywood. Now a husband leaving his wife that's a different story. Now, why all the hate on set? Well, for starters the script was not complete- there was constant rewrites and the actors never quite knew what was going to happen next. Next, Bogart was five centimeters shorter than Bergman, so he was forced to stand on blocks to look taller. Yep, that's not degrading at all. The harassing of Bogart didn't stop there; one of his cast-mates (Henreid) said his acting was mediocre. That's OK, because Bergman came back and called Henreid a "Prima Donna." That's right you tell him, Ingrid! Casablanca was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three. More drama came on Oscar night for the film. When Casablanca was named Best Picture, Watch on the Rhine (one of the other nominees) director Hal B. Wallis said in an interview years later, "I had no alternative but to sit down again, humiliated and furious... almost forty years later, I still haven't recovered from the shock." Drama, Drama, Drama! "Here's Looking At You Kid!"

Winner: Going My Way
Director: Leo McCarey
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Going My Way is a musical dramedy about priests. Yes, you heard me correctly. Bing Crosby plays the young priest, and Barry Fitzpatrick plays the old curmodgeon of a priest. Together they drive around the United States exorcising demons and singing classic Bing Crosby tunes the whole time! Oh wait...I've got this movie and some other one mixed up again. No, this one is just about the two butting heads after Crosby's character is supposed to take over the parish. Oh, and they are both incredibly Irish. The filmmakers apparently wanted the audience to know that without a doubt by giving both the main male leads the last names O'Malley and Fitzgibbon. The movie's main competition was Double Indemnity but America was in the middle of a war and the noir film was a little to dark for them at the time. Though Double Indemnity should certainly have taken home the prize, the Academy decided to go with the feel good musical about Irish priests.

Winner: The Lost Weekend
Director: Billy Wilder
Distributed by: Paramount

You may have seen a Billy Wilder film like The Apartment or Some Like It Hot. They're good movies and pretty funny. So seeing that this movie is directed by Wilder may lead you to think that this movie is funny. It isn't It's about a man struggling with alcoholism and the four day binge that he goes on. Ray Milland's Don Birnam is a writer with an alcoholic problem, and Wilder isn't playing it for laughs like drunks usually were. This is probably one of the first films to really look at alcoholism and its effect on the individual and those around them in a serious way. The shocking story beat out movies like Anchors Aweigh, The Bells of St. Mary's, Spellbound, and Mildred Pierce. The Lost Weekend is still considered a quality film and almost achieved the "High Five," had Jane Wyman been nominated for Best Actress.

Winner: The Best Years of Our Lives
Director: William Wyler
Distributed by: MGM

Another film to almost get the "High Five" sans Best Actress, The Best Years of Our Lives details the story of three soldiers as they attempt to piece their lives back together after WWII. Notice the year this was released and when WWII ended. MGM didn't want to waste anytime apparently. The film ends up being extremely popular, becoming the highest grossing film since Gone with the Wind, probably because it was so relateable for all the returning troops. Picture this movie as a big pat on the back for the troops, and you'll see why it ended up winning. I wouldn't go so far as to call this movie Oscar bait, but they certainly knew how to relate to the masses at that point in time. The Best Years of Our Lives beat out It's a Wonderful Life, Henry V, The Razor's Edge, and The Yearling. Yes, it beat out the classic Christmas tale. Seems hard to believe now, but apparently audiences wanted to watch soldiers coming back home and not Jimmy Stewart stammer for three hours.

Winner: Gentleman's Agreement
Director: Elia Kazan
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Oh man, it's getting hard to make any jokes with any of these films because they all deal with such serious subject matter. Gentleman's Agreement is about a man that pretends to be Jewish so he can gather research for an expose about antisemitism in New York City and the town of Darien, Connecticut. So yeah, pretty serious. Something that is a bit funny is that there was another film about antisemitism nominated for Best Picture, Crossfire. With the late war realization of the concentration camps, it all of a sudden became very unpopular to be an antisemitic in America. Gentleman's Agreement and Crossfire were part of the proof that America was shifting into a more tolerant mode, at least to the Jewish population. On top of the subject matter, the movie was helped by Gregory Peck taking on the main role. You can't go wrong with Gregory Peck. Audiences loved the film, but the House Un-American Activities Committee felt a little different about it. The political nature of the film led to the HUAC asking several people from the main cast except Gregory Peck to testify before the committee. The HUAC's purpose was to weed out communists, though they did not have any connection with Joseph McCarthy and his "witch hunt." Anne Revere refused to testify and John Garfield refused to "name names" so they were both placed on the Hollywood Blacklist. Yikes.

*Written by Little Orphan Annie.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Best Picture Winners: 1938-1942

Winner: You Can't Take It With You
Director: Frank Capra
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

Frank Capra was a pretty good director, and by pretty good I mean that he was probably one of the best at that time. He won three out of the last five Best Director awards, the other two for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and It Happened One Night. He was a busy man to say the least. I haven't personally seen this version of the story, but I have seen the stage version. The story deals with a girl named Alice and her crazy family. She falls in love with Jimmy Stewart's character and Alice then decides to invite Stewart's family over. Too bad his family is a bunch of uptight jerks! Hilarity and awkwardness ensue! Capra likes to keep the same actors it seems, as this film has not only Jimmy Stewart, but Jean Arthur and Lionel Barrymore. Stewart and Capra are like Johnny Depp and Tim Burton today, except not overdone and unnecessary. Don't get me wrong, I like them both, but they both need to branch out. You Can't Take It With You went up against a few weak contenders, so it's easy to see why it won.

Winner: Gone with the Wind
Director: Victor Fleming
Distributed by: Loews Inc.

I really don't have to say much about this story because everybody knows about Gone with the Wind. It's a timeless tale and one that people still love today. Heck, my aunt and uncle named their cat Ashley after one of the characters! Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh star as the two leads and sparring lovers. I think this is my favorite Gable character, if only because he doesn't put up with Leigh's Scarlett O' Hara anymore. 1939 is an infamous Oscar year because of the huge amount of competition. Gone with the Wind had to go up against The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Ninotchka, and Dark Victory. Not an easy choice, right? Well, because Gone with the Wind was already an incredibly popular book by Margaret Mitchell, and it made a ton of money right out of the gate, it probably helped it take home the prize that year. It's still holds the title of highest grossing film when adjusted for inflation. Not bad for a civil war movie. If you asked modern audiences what should have won, there are probably a lot that would side with either this film or The Wizard of Oz. I think more would lean on The Wizard of Oz, but that's just me. I know that Gone with the Wind has a huge following, so who knows. Gone with the Wind even almost won the "High Five" had it not been for Robert Donat winning Best Actor for Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Donaaaaaaat! *Shakes fists.*

Winner: Rebecca
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Distributed by: United Artists

Rebecca was Hitchcock's first American movie and the only one that he won an Oscar for, but not bad for a first try, right? The story, starring the hugely popular Laurence Olivier and future Best Actress winner Joan Fontaine (incidentally for another Hitchcock film), involves the usual Hitchcock fare of suspense, thrills, and murder. For me, it's a bit odd that a Hitchcock film is a best picture. I don't know, it just seems that Hitchcock wouldn't exactly be a hit with the Academy voters. This is not to say that I don't enjoy his films, as the ones I have seen have been very good. I can think of a bunch of other Hitchcock movies that probably deserved the honors over this one, but I honestly haven't seen this movie, so I can't really judge. Critics still enjoy this movie, though it's not one of the better known Hitchcock films. Rebecca won in another big year that had other films such as The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, and The Philadelphia Story. It seems hard to believe that this beat out all those classics, but it did. Since the inclusion of the categories for supporting actors and actresses, this is the only movie to win only for Best Picture, but not Director, Actor, Actress, or Screenplay.

Winner: How Green Was My Valley
Director: John Ford
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

This is an incredible heart-breaking, poetic tale of a Welsh coal mining family, the Morgans. Told through the eyes of the youngest Morgan, the trials and tribulations of this family seem endless. The members deal with the woes of a loveless marriage, with death, with a ever disintegrating family unit, and with the loss of innocence at an early age.  If you don't feel some sort of grief for this film's family than you must be a robot, and I don't mean the cool kind. Directed by the brilliant John Ford,( who took the helm over when original director William Wyler bowed out to direct The Little Foxes) magic was done under his control. Due to the bombing of Britain by Nazis and 20th Century Fox executives being nervous about the film's pro-union storyline, the idea of filming in Wales was scrapped and a masterful replica of a mining town was created on 80 acres of the Fox Ranch in Malibu Canyon ( which won the film an Art Direction- Interior Decoration Award at the Oscars). Surprisingly the film only took two months to shoot. This was probably partly due to the talented cast involved, which included: Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp ( won Best Supporting Actor), Walter Pidgeon, and Roddy McDowall. How Green Was My Valley was nominated for ten Academy Awards and walked away with half. It beat out the likes of Citizen Kane, which is now known for being one of the best films of all time. At the time though, it was a box office bust- maybe it was the whole last word of "Rosebud" that confused audiences or it could of been Orson Welles' war against studio executives who he called a bunch of "overpaid office boys" ( they retaliated by booing his Best Original Screenplay win). Welles wasn't bitter though when John Ford took home the win for Best Director. When asked which director he most admired, Orson Welles said, " I like the old masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford, John Ford."

Winner: Mrs. Miniver
Director: William Wyler
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

It's rumored that Winston Churchill said that this film had done more for the war effort than a flotilla of destroyers. FDR even ordered the film's final speech (Wilcoxon Speech) to be broadcasted on Voices of America and printed copies be dropped over Europe as propaganda. The director, William Wyler, did in fact admit that he made the film for propaganda reasons. Wyler was born in Germany and believed the United States should join the war against Nazism and not stick to isolationism as they had done in the past. So he made a film that showed Americans exactly what the British were doing in the war (remember that the U.S. didn't enter the war until December 1941).  Later, after joining the US Army, Wyler would say that his war experiences made him realize that the film actually portrayed war in too soft a light. Wyler won Best Director for his efforts, but incidentally was overseas serving, so his wife had to accept it for him. Too bad it was made out of plaster instead of the usual copper and tin. Rip off! Lousy academy getting into the war effort. Mrs. Miniver held a few firsts for the Academy Awards, namely that it was the first film to be nominated in all four acting categories. It took two home with Best Supporting Actress- Teresa Wright and Best Actress - Greer Garson. Garson was actually not the studios first choice for the lead role. Originally the role was offered to Norma Shearer but she refused to play a mother. Greer Garson didn't want the role either but was contractually bond to take it. I bet Shearer was kicking herself after that. Garson made history with her acceptance speech of the night, she began by saying,  "I am practically unprepared" and then went on for a record of just short of 6 minutes. Cue the interrupting orchestra! Thereafter the Academy imposed a 45 sec time limit on acceptance speeches. Mrs. Miniver went on to gross $5,358,000 in the US alone making it the highest grossing film for MGM at the time. If you haven't seen this film I highly suggest it - not just because it won Best Picture but for one scene in particular showing the courage of Mrs. Miniver dealing with an escaped Nazi hanging out in her kitchen.

 *Written by Little Orphan Annie

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Best Picture Winners: 1932-1937

Winner: Cavalcade
Director: Frank Lloyd
Distributed by: Fox

The movie poster boasts that this is the "Picture of a Generation" and it's not kidding. The whole movie is about a well-to-do English family from 1899 to 1933. Through the movie you get to see English history through the families eyes, going through such events as the Second Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the Titanic, and WWI. It's like Forrest Gump, except it's British and there's no mention of shrimp. Loved in its day, the proof being that it was the second most popular movie released that year, it has now been considered a weak entry. Modern critics consider it to be "stilted and overacted." I can only take that as meaning that the cast was entirely on stilts. I'd watch that. I'd watch that a couple times. King Kong also came out that year but received no nominations whatsoever. Would that have made a better winner? Probably, but if you ever want to see for yourself how good this movie is, good luck finding a copy.

Winner: It Happened One Night
Director: Frank Capra
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

It Happened One Night is a comedy starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The movie is one of the few comedies to win Best Picture, and one of three to win the "High Five," meaning it won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. The movie details the story of a young woman that basically wants to drive her rich father crazy by marrying this fortune-seeking guy named King. She runs away when he won't let her get married and along her travels she meets Gable's character, an out-of-work reporter. In return for her story, he'll help her reach her love. Of course, they end up falling in love instead. The movie is probably most famous for the scene below where Colbert uses her exposed leg to stop a car. They were sounds funny if I don't elaborate. Anyway, this is one of those films that truly deserved the Best Picture award, though it did have some competition from The Thin Man and Cleopatra.

Winner: Mutiny on the Bounty
Director: Frank Lloyd
Distributed by: MGM

Based on the book by the same name, it remains the best film about the infamous mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty, though historians have questioned some of the film's accuracy. The film is about exactly what the title says it's about. Charles Laughton plays the brute of a captain, Clark Gable the compassionate leader of the mutineers, and Franchot Tone the man stuck in the middle of the whole thing. The film had some pretty stiff competition, including Top Hat, Captain Blood, The Informer, and David Copperfield. What probably propelled it above the others was the star power of the three men. All would be nominated for Best Actor, but would lose to Victor McLagen for The Informer. *Sad Trombone.*

Winner: The Great Ziegfeld
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Distributed by: MGM

A loose interpretation of Forenz Ziegfeld's life, the movie details the showman's need to have as many hits on Broadway as possible. In the end, we find out that the public really doesn't care as much about stage shows anymore, and would rather go to the movies. The movie stars William Powell as Ziegfeld, better known as Nick Charles in the Thin Man movies. What helped the movie win was the appeal of the story, since Ziegfeld was someone everyone knew about, the long running time which gave the story an epic feel, and a bunch of dance numbers with girls. What more could you want? This movie marks the first of many biopics to win the big prize. The Great Ziegfeld is today considered a weak entry and should have probably lost to Dodsworth, A Tale of Two Cities, or Mr. Deeds goes to Town.

Winner: The Life of Emile Zola
Director: William Dieterle
Distributed by: Warner Bros.

I guess Hollywood was in the mood for biopics because here's another one! This one is about the writer Emile Zola. Sound familiar? I didn't think so. Emile Zola is most noted for his book J'accuse which was an open letter published in a Paris newspaper about the framing of Alfred Dreyfus during the Dreyfus Affair in France in the late 19th/early 20th century. The film was pretty popular at the time, but not as popular as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a film that wasn't even nominated. So what led this biopic to nab Best Picture? It didn't hurt that it received 10 nominations. Also, the Dreyfus Affair was something that people still knew about so the name recognition was there. It won over other quality films like A Star is Born, and Lost Horizon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Best Picture Winners: 1927-1932

So I'm going to do something completely stupid and try and cover all of the winners of the coveted Oscar for Best Picture. That's right, all of them. I'm also going to try and get them all done by the Oscars, which is in a little more than a month. The catch is that I will cover a few each post and only say a little bit about the movie, why it won, who it won against, and its legacy. Here we go!

Winner: Wings
Director: William A. Wellman
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Wings is a silent film about two WWI flying aces that are in love with the same girl. So basically you add a tale as old as time with some planes and you've apparently got an Academy Award worthy film. The film starred Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, and Gary Cooper. Gary Cooper is the guy from the song Puttin' on the Ritz, remember? Ummm...they sang it in Young Frankenstein? Directed by Mel Brooks? Anything? Ah, whatever. The film was extremely popular at the time, if only because Charles Lindbergh just made his transatlantic flight. So you could say people were just "plane" crazy about this film!....I'm sorry. The first Academy Awards ceremony actually took place in 1929 and was for films from both 1927 and 1928. Wings was up against The Racket and Seventh Heaven, but took home the prize of Outstanding Picture(later renamed Best Picture). What's ironic about the whole thing is that the movie was considered lost for quite some time until someone dug it up in a Paris film archive. Wouldn't that have been embarrassing if our first Best Picture winner wasn't even one that people could still watch? It is now available on DVD and Blu-ray, just as it was meant to be seen!

Winner: The Broadway Melody
Director: Harry Beaumont
Distributed by: MGM

The Broadway Melody is the first, but definitely not last, musical to win Best Picture. It was the first musical to include a Technicolor sequence, which gave way to many other musicals doing the same in the late 20's and early 30's. Unfortunately, that footage is lost forever, just like my innocence. Now all we got is lousy black and white. How did people live back then? Starring Anita Page and Charles King, the film was about the backstage escapades of  a Broadway revue. What a surprise, too! There's a love triangle! Man, Hollywood was really stuck on that tune. Though it was fairly popular at the time, contemporary critics have found the movie to be cliche, as the whole backstage Broadway story line was already old when this movie came out. So why did this movie win? Well, many film scholars think that it was basically the best of the worst. All the films that were up for Best Picture were pretty bad, and this just happened to be the best. Film scholars blame the messy transition from silent films to "talkies" for the lackluster award year.

Winner: All Quiet on the Western Front
Director: Lewis Milestone
Distributed by: Universal Studios

The epic anti-war film based on the Erich Maria Remarque novel is also the first movie to also have its director win an Oscar. This also happens to be the earliest Best Picture winner that I have seen. I honestly don't remember much of it, seeing as I was a freshman in high school at the time, but I think I liked it. What's unique about the movie is that it is not from the allied side of things, but instead the Germans. The Nazi's during Hitler's reign viewed the film as anti-German, so they banned the film and flooded movie theaters with rats that were showing it. So either they didn't like the film, or they wanted to give movie-goers the feel that they really were stuck in rat-infested trenches. Reviews like, "So real, it was scary," and "Oh my God, they're biting me!" make me believe it may have been the latter. Besides being banned in a few countries that were offended by trench warfare and helmets with spikes on them, the movie enjoyed tremendous praise. So real were the war scenes that Milestone's movie would go on to influence directors like Steven Spielberg, who tried to recreate the horror of war in Saving Private Ryan. The movie is still popular today and is often listed as being in the top ten of critic's favorite war movies.

Winner: Cimarron
Director: Wesley Ruggles
Distributed by: RKO

Cimarron is about a man who moves his family from Kansas to the Oklahoma Territory (look it up) and flourish until he decides to run off and settle the Cherokee Strip (look it up). The film would have done well for RKO, had they not released it during the depression. RKO spent a lot of money on the movie, and in the end they lost around $565,000 dollars. That's big money back then. They would later make up for it when they re-released it in 1935. This is not to say that this film wasn't popular, it was. People liked Westerns back then and half shirtless guys with guns. It's just when you spend an exorbitant amount of money, like $1.5 million (remember, it's a lot back then), you better have a Gone with the Wind and not a Cleopatra. It remained RKO's most expensive film until 1939's Gunga Din. Sorry about the footage below. It was literally the only one I could find.

Winner: Grand Hotel
Director: Edmund Goulding
Distributed by: MGM

Grand Hotel is a star-studded drama that was so good, it only got one nomination, and we already know what that is. Yes, this is the only film that won Best Picture, but was not nominated for anything else. The film starred Greta Garbo, John Barrymore (Drew Barrymore's grandfather), Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, and  Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life). You may not think it's an all-star cast now, but at the time this was huge. The film is considered the first Portmanteau films, which just means that it has a bunch of little stories going on and sometimes they overlap. Another term associated with the film is the "Grand Hotel theme," in which there are many characters in a busy place and they're lives all intersect in odd ways, and sometimes other main characters never knowing that other ones exist. Some compare it with Gosford Park, so there you go. Go watch that movie instead. It has Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith, and they're hip...right? Grand Hotel is still widely loved today for its unique story telling and all-star cast. Garbo's line, "I want to be alone" has even been considered one of the best movie quotes of all time, even though Garbo has said herself that she said "I want to be let alone" instead. Ummm...excuse me Ms. Garbo, but we're pretty sure it's what we all think it is.  Millions of observant movie-goers can't be wrong. Geez, some people.