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The BFI London Film Festival has just ended, the hype ahead of next year’s Oscars has begun and the nights are drawing in…what better time to curl up on the sofa for a journey through the evolution of the Academy Award for Best Picture!
I recently found myself doing a quiz online entitled ‘Can you name every Oscar Best Picture winner?’ (I could name around half). I looked at the complete list, noting each classic film that I’d seen and loved (or not, as the case may be), each that I’d never seen but always meant to (ahem, Cough-ablanca) and a whole load I’d never heard of, but that conjured irresistibly a bygone era – The Broadway Melody, The Great Ziegfeld, You Can’t Take It With You. I decided then and there I’d like to see every Best Picture winner. I thought, if I am going to watch every Best Picture winner, I would watch them in chronological order, and blog them. It might even be possible to see what patterns emerge and what conclusions (if any) might be drawn.
I would hope Best Picture winners are picked on grounds of story-telling both artistic and technical, but I’m not naive, and the lobbying by producers of their films and stars is well-documented. Recently, this has reached the point where many question whether the Oscars have any relevance at all any more. And the Academy is presumably no more immune to fashion and social trends than anyone else. A friend said to me, on hearing about this idea, ‘Wouldn’t it be more interesting to watch the other nominees that didn’t win Best Picture?’ Well, I grant you this might make for a more high-brow critique, and if time were no object (and if all those films still exist, which I’m not sure they do), I would happily while away my days watching the likes of Captain Blood, Naughty Marietta and Ruggles of Red Gap (to name three nominees from 1935 alone – if there was an Oscar for best name, I would have been hard-pressed to choose between these three).
But I have a full-time job, and I don’t give a fig for being high-brow, so this blog remains unapologetically mainstream. Any lessons learned from the evolution of the Oscar Best Picture will be based on the winning pictures alone, rather than the Academy’s decision to award it to Film X over Film Y.
I am an enthusiastic amateur – I am simply keen to share my thoughts and feelings on these films. I have no technical background in film or training in film history, but I would love to hear the views of anyone who does. I would love to hear the views on these films of anyone, in fact! I am indebted to Wikipedia. Any factual inaccuracies in this blog are mine alone and no-one else’s.