My Overall Thoughts:
Being in the midst of a new World War, the bulk of the films nominated this year dealt with war propaganda but still gave us some great films.
Orson Welles, once again gave us a spectacular film that proves his genius, but the fact that he was unloved by so many makes it easy to see why his film was once again overlooked by the Academy.
- 10. – Wake Island – Really enjoyed the way this was done because it showed so much patriotism. The characters are all typical soldier caricatures but they still manage to effectively get our sympathy. The brutality of the Japanese enemy is shown here quite blatantly and I can understand how this film could get nominated for Best Picture namely due to its depiction of the horrors of war.
- 9. – Mrs. Miniver – Slightly slow moving depiction of WWII from the homefront which was surprisingly filmed in the middle of the war. It’s about perseverance in troubling times and I think it would definitely have been even better had it been made after the war ended than during it.
- 8. – 49th Parallel aka The Invaders – Very interesting idea that works quite well. The idea of leaving the crew members to trek across Canada in order to reach Neutral America is a great one. All-star cast helps make this feel even grander than it would normally be and that goes quite far in order to hammer in the message of the film. Really liked the way that they give is a nice sample of Canadian society at the time in order for us to learn more about German notions of love, war and of course freedom. Works really well as a propaganda film despite the fact that it premiered in the US a few months after Pearl Harbor.
- 7. – The Magnificent Ambersons – Welles’ followup to Citizen Kane (1941) isn’t as good story wise but it still gives us so much to think about. Great cast helps us understand the societal changes enacted and the effects on their lives. Story has so much insight into how technology can effect society. This story that was written a century ago still has many relevances in modern society. The massive controversies between Welles and the studio make this film a hot topic. I’d love to have been able to see the full uncut version that the studio destroyed.
- 6. – Random Harvest – Such a great premise that works so well. It’s so easy to care for the characters here and the fact that we know what is happening while they are in the dark makes us want to shout at them in order for them to see the truth. Very interesting that a story like this was produced while the war raged on in Europe because of how close to home many of the scenes would hit family members of those fighting abroad. I understand why Mrs. Miniver (1942) was selected over this one as Best Picture in such turbulent times, but I still think this is a much better story of the two films.
- 5. – Pride of the Yankees – Considered one of the best biographical films ever made. Cooper gives an amazing performance as the late Yankee great. The fact that this film had the cooperation and help of family and friends of Gehrig helps made this feel even more realistic. Nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Picture and Actor, but only managed to win 1; Film Editing. The speech at the end is one of the most heartfelt in film history and it’s hard to keep the tears from flowing.
- 4. – Kings Row -Such an amazing film because of the way that it is able to tell such a complex and dark story yet due to the censors have to do it in more subtle ways. The characters are all great and we get to see how their lives progress over the years. Each of them finds a way to live their lives despite their own personal problems that try to stop them along the way. Great cast led by Sheridan, Cummings, Reagan and Fields. One of the best films of that year which is surprising that it only managed to garner three nominations (Picture, Director and cinematography).
- 3. – The Pied Piper – Totally not what I expected. Amazing idea that works so well. Woolley is superb in the title role and is able to hold him own against all of the odds thrown against him. Preminger plays his character perfectly because we see his ruthlessness and human aspects of compassion when needed. Quite interesting how enlightening the plot is despite not many people knowing the lengths that the Nazi’s went to at the time to eradicate their enemies no matter the cost.
- 2. – Talk of the Town – Such a great premise that works so well. The 3 leads are all perfect for these roles and we learn so much about the character of these characters based solely on their actions. The dialogue is superbly written and they give us some great debates on philosophy, law and of course love.
- 1. – Yankee Doodle Dandy – Amazing film that I can’t believe I never saw or even heard much about it beforehand besides it being a musical. It does a wonderful job touching upon so many important and life changing events of the life of this pioneer. The musical numbers are wonderful and not having been exposed to Cagney’s dancing and singing abilities beforehand, I was quite impressed with the final product. Two hours is not really long enough to fully encompass all of the events of his life properly, but they still leave us with enough about this wonderful life. Can’t wait to see it again!
Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Yes and No. Mrs. Miniver does a great job showing us what life was like under war conditions, but TMA once again showed how great a storyteller Welles was. The fact that Welles was always a controversial director makes it understandable that his film, despite being made so well was overlooked once again by the Academy. PotY is also great, but YDD was truly the best film of the years despite this being a very competitive year of great films.
Let me know what you think about these films and my rankings!