In this project, I’ll be watching each Best Picture winner, regardless of if I’ve already seen it, at random years, and then watching the two nominees with the most Oscar nominations for that year to find out, in my pompous assessment, if the Academy made the right choice. If I’ve already seen the subsequent nominee, I’ll move on to the next most nominated for that year.
The 25th Academy Award Best Picture nominees I watched: The Greatest Show on Earth, The Quiet Man (7), Moulin Rouge (7)
[ bold = winner / italics = losers (nominations) ]
When I watched these: March 4th – March 6th, 2018
The snacks: Not much — shrimp, In-N-Out, and pizza. Listed in this manner, this does not sound tasty.
The year: 1952.
Did I skip any of the movies?: Sort of. High Noon also received seven nominations, but I viewed it during the Top 250 project and opted for the others.
So why did the other movies lose?
Though I viewed films in the supposed Golden Age of cinema, I watched a few duds this week, and I was relieved to finish all three without nodding off despite the temptation to do so.
Moulin Rouge proved to be interesting at moments, but was more disorganized than my kids’ room on a Saturday afternoon. It follows a less than pleasant dude named Toulouse Something-Or-Other who regularly comes to the Moulin Rouge to check out the can-can dancers and get totally plastered. He’s an artist, and a really good one, but he has stubby legs from a freak accident in his childhood that make him self-conscious around others. The first half depicts his somewhat romantic involvement with Mary, a bipolar bimbo who seems to appreciate Toulouse’s sincerity and keeps coming back to him, but can’t get over her own whims and her addiction to men who abuse her. The film doesn’t spend ample time on this interesting story and then abandons it, so we’re stuck with the less human tale of the protagonist’s remarkable artwork that transforms the sketchy Moulin Rouge into a magnet for snobs, which of course Toulouse regrets, and his response is to drown himself in endless bottles of cognac. Like all Oscar winning bios, Toulouse dies young but somewhat happy, and the ending sequence is actually effective but falls short of saving this mess. The latter Moulin Rouge! borrows a lot of the characters, and employs them with much greater effect.
Then we get to the rigid steel-fisted square-jawed John Wayne in The Quiet Man, who sortakinda puts down the dukes for most of the movie and falls for the red-headed spinster Mary (O’Hara), and it appears she falls for him simultaneously with a single glance, the same day he returns to his childhood locale in pastoral Ireland. Whew. The movie builds up an effective romance and they even get married, which doesn’t lack its pushing and pulling mostly surrounding Mary’s obsession with her dowry, but there’s this interesting side story involving Sean’s (Wayne) intent to escape the U.S. because of a boxing accident. Of course, they abandon this story and conclude with The Duke returning to his hard-headed ways: grunting, throwing cigarette butts, drinking and punching people in the face. He burns some money too, and I guess that’s what ultimately wins Mary’s heart.
Oh, and there’s this moment that was later redone in E.T.. You’re welcome.
So why did The Greatest Show on Earth win?
The sun is setting on Cecil B. DeMille’s directorial career, so in one more valiant attempt to wow his critics and make his definitive mark in movie history, he decides to make the equivalent of a documentary about circuses, a third of it featuring footage of actual circuses with a narration resembling a wartime news reel, and the rest depicting fake circus peformers competing for center stage. The ringmaster is played by the even more rigid Charlton Heston who is romantically involved with the trapezist Holly (Hutton), but I really don’t care and didn’t even notice until the end. And then you notice that James Stewart is playing a clown, who DeMille completely wastes because he has the most interesting story of them all. But nope, we’re stuck with Holly and the French showboat Sebastian and the colorless Brad (Heston). Angel (Grahame) is wasted too — I’m not even sure why she’s in the circus, but she’s kind of a babe, and she ends up with some other dude. Oh, the question: nope, I have no idea why this won.
The movie that should have won: Singin’ In The Rain
It’s hard to believe that Gene Kelly’s best film wasn’t even on the Best Picture nominee list. Perhaps it was a mercy thing since he had just won for the inferior An American In Paris the year before. But here we are, now recognizing the film as one of the greatest ever made, with Gene Kelly at the top of his game and Princess Leia’s mom being super cute, rife with fantastic song and dance numbers and clever commentary on the movie industry. The Quiet Man is the frontrunner among the three I viewed, which is like saying McDonalds is the best burger when In-N-Out is down the street. What a sham.