The night of the Oscars ceremony – which was first held 90 years ago this May – is the one essential date in the movie world calendar, the giddy, glamorous apex of industry celebration. It’s fascinating and infuriating. But the Academy Awards don’t always get it right. In fact, on many now infamous occasions, they got it totally wrong.
Giving How Green Was My Valley best picture over Citizen Kane, for example. But while there is always going to be debate over whether the best picture actually won best picture – merit is a difficult thing to quantify, after all – each year’s top prize winner and, perhaps more importantly, the reaction to it, tells us something about the cultural zeitgeist.
Academy - Awards - Represent - Snapshot - Section
The Academy Awards represent, indeed, a snapshot of a section of America’s prevailing concerns, the issues and themes that are deemed important by the Academy voters and by the audiences who voted with their feet and put the film on the awards circuit in the first place.
Unlike many of the earlier best picture winners that have aged rather inelegantly, Casablanca, if anything, has matured, its textures deepened. A peerless cast – Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are matched by an impressive array of supporting character actors – work with a precisely crafted masterpiece of a screenplay. Directed by Michael Curtiz, this story of rootless refugees from the second world war, washed up in a city, which stamps its personality on every frame, feels both timely and timeless.
Year - Portraits - Profession - Head - Head
1951 was notable as the year in which two far from flattering portraits of the acting profession went head to head. Joseph L Mankiewicz’s All About Eve, a crisply malicious portrait of the rivalry and ruthlessness of actresses, won the prize for best picture. But perhaps equally deserving was Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, a film...
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