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Commentary

And the Nominees Were – 1934

Austin Lugar, Keith Jackson and Kenny Jones started a podcast called And the Nominees Are. On this show they are attempting to review every single Best Picture nominee starting from the very beginning. Here Austin recaps the plot summaries of each set while teasing the longer discussions.

12 nominees! The Academy jumped its Best Picture nominees to 12 in 1934. We’re still not sure whey they insist on having that many nominees, but we are praising this selection for having a lot of really great movies that we can recommend. This was the first year with the Production Code rules, but a few were able to slip by with some gray area earlier in the year.

The Barretts of Wimpole Street

Norma Shearer (The Divorcee) plays a bed-ridden poet who is basically held captive by her demanding father played by Charles Laughton (The Private Life of Henry VIII). The introduction of the dashing Fredric March (Smilin’ Through) breaks up their situation. This movie is based off a play and the way it’s filmed strongly shows that. This was a more interesting story than former Shearer vehicles but it was still underwhelming. Laughton really excels though.

Cleopatra

Cecil B. DeMille is known as an epic filmmaker and this is the first one of his films to be nominated for Best Picture. Claudette Colbert (The Smiling Lieutenant) plays the Queen of the Nile and she is fantastic. The whole film is a lot of fun and breathes more than the typical biopic. Also there are plenty of great cinematic action scenes that still hold up well today.

Flirtation Walk

This is such a confusing movie. Dick Powell plays a soldier meets a girl while stationed in Hawaii and then decides that he’s not enough of a gentleman so he goes to West Point. At West Point he spends most of his time working on a big musical to perform in front of the officers. It’s not good when Abbott and Costello seem to have a better feel for what it means to be a soldier than this film. Also most of the musical segments are forgettable except the odd ones when they complain about how they can’t have a horse.

The Gay Divorcee

Now this is a musical. I think I loved this one more than my co-hosts, but I would rank this as one of the great American musicals. This is the first “real” Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers pair-up and it’s a blast. Astaire is interested in Rogers, but she is trying to  The musical numbers are actually used to progress the story and enhance upon the relationship between the characters. Also it’s filled with creativity ranging from the dialog to the amazing dance sequences.

Here Comes the Navy

We couldn’t find this one. It’s not on VHS or DVD. We’ll continue to see if it’ll pop up on Turner Classic Movies. We know it stars James Cagney and that’s about it.

The House of Rothschild

This led to one of our oddest discussions on the show. This movie is all about basic economics and since I don’t understand that, I didn’t like the movie. It’s a boring story about George Arliss (Disraeli) trying to get a bank loan to help his family. His family is prejudiced against for being Jews. The script is not emotionally engaging and not much works for this film, especially the last five minutes, which is randomly in color.

Imitation of Life

This was a nice surprise. Claudette Colbert returns again as a single mom who befriends Louise Beavers and her daughter. Together they start a pancake business while dealing with family and race issues. The movie is constantly engaging thanks to an interesting script and strong performances by its two leads.

It Happened One Night – WINNER

This movie still rocks. It’s one of the few comedies to ever win Best Picture and it’s only one of three movies to win the Oscar Sweep. (That is when a film wins Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay). Claudette Colbert is back again as a rich woman who is going across country to get married. She’s not used to traveling without her father’s money so Clark Gable helps her out in order to get the big story. This Frank Capra (Lady For a Day) movie is constantly hilarious and set the standard for many road trip movies down the line.

One Night of Love

Do you like opera? No? Well I would watch out for this one. This is the first musical I’ve seen where all of the music is operatic. Grace Moore plays a talented singer who studies under Tullio Carminati, a grumpy Henry Higgins-ish character. Its predictable story and unlikable characters left us pretty dry with this one.

The Thin Man

This is another movie I love from this list. Adapted from the great Dashiell Hammett novel, William Powell and Myrna Loy play a husband and wife duo who manage to solve a murder mystery in between drinks of martinis. The mystery is well done, but the real fun comes from the witty banter and delightful atmosphere the film has. Its popularity spurred five sequels all of which are enjoyable.

Viva Villa!

We last left Wallace Beery in Grand Hotel where he played a German businessman. Now he’s south of the border as the famous Pancho Villa. The movie plays with history to tell the story of Pancho. Beery is always entertaining but the screenplay leaves him high and dry most of the time. It has some potential for some decent prospects, but is too interested in hitting major points without much expansion.

The White Parade

Another film we couldn’t find after a long search. I have no idea what this one is even about. Maybe it’s a good one?

We discuss these movies with a lot more detail on our show And the Nominees Are. This set was covered over two episodes both of which can be found for free on iTunes. Our show is also on Facebook and Twitter.

The next year has another 12 nominees and we actually have access to all 12. If you would like to play along we will be reviewing: Alice Adams, Broadway Melody of 1936, Captain Blood, David Copperfield, The Informer, Les Miserables, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mutiny on the Bounty, Naughty Mariettta, Ruggles of Red Gap, and Top Hat.

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3 Responses to “And the Nominees Were – 1934”

  1. Austin Lugar says:

    That’s one of my favorite pieces of trivia as well. Senior year in high school as a field trip, we went to one of those Heartland seminars. This one was about screenwriting and it was terrible. He was just like Jeff Daniels from The Squid and the Whale. He seriously said his favorite film of all time was Greed. I’ve seen Greed; half of it still hasn’t been found and they use stills as the only way to keep the narrative going. I digress. Basically his entire lecture was he showed a clip from a famous movie and then said it was a good clip and then repeated. People were enjoying the clips from movies like The Palm Beach Story and Safety Last, but he was not doing a very good job talking about the films.

    To segue into a clip from It Happened One Night he asked the crowd "What were the two movies that won Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay?" I was the only one who raised my hand so he had to call on me. Without spoiling the trivia I said, "Movie A, Movie B AND Movie C." The screenwriter paused for five seconds and then said "Yep those are the two films. Now the first one….." My class and teacher had a really good laugh at that guy’s expense.

  2. Nick Rogers says:

    I feel like I should give one of our readers a chance, so I will maintain my silence.

  3. The Oscar sweep of the five major categories is one my of my favorite movie trivia questions. Can anyone name the other two films to accomplish this (without looking it up?)