Best Picture: “Mrs. Miniver” of 1942

Because I watched this film back in late January/early February, the story has all but slipped my mind in detail. However, I will carry on in attaining my goal of watching all the Best Picture winners.

MRS. MINIVER

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Rating: 5/10

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“Mrs. Miniver” was a sweet film about societal standards and expectations in a time of war.

The fact that the film addresses familial and generational expectations really impressed me. I thought the reality of the characters was strong, and yet the deaths (acting) were very forced. The romance was incredibly obvious. And the looming spirit of oppression from tradition was littered throughout the film, making it a great antagonist. (I got slightly emotional, because of it, at one point.)

Overall, give this movie a chance, if you like surprise endings and stories along the lines of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

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Best Picture: “How Green Was My Valley” of 1941

HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY

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Rating: 4/10

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“How Green Was My Valley” was touching and really family-oriented. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t necessarily life-changing.

The story follows a boy named Huw who becomes a young man throughout the film, and for the most part the chronology of the movie made logical sense. However, I found myself losing interest pretty quickly. And because I was losing interest every now and then, I may have missed a little bit of information here and there but not enough to effect my overall interpretation.

All the actors existed on the same plane. The accents were convincing enough, sometimes slipping into Scottish on the one side and then slipping into an Indian accent on the other side. But there was one actor who had a straight American accent most of the time, and that bothered me a little bit. He could have at least tried. . .

Once again, this was a film that was slightly too loud for its own good. But they got one thing right: the narration made me feel like it was story time.

I loved the heart behind the story arc, and I really felt for the kid and his family. If you like sweet, family dramas or if you like building a relationship with characters, then you should try this movie out at least once.

Best Picture: “Rebecca” of 1940

REBECCA

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Rating: 8/10

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“Rebecca” was unsettling. For the most part I was uneasy, and most of the time I was unsure why I should feel uneasy. In the back of my mind, I kept hearing the whisper, This is a Hitchcock film; be on the lookout for a twist. And at one point, I exclaimed, “Oh! What the hell?!”

As far as the story goes, it was well structured with twist after twist. A young girl marries a widower, and then she moves into his estate where there are several remnants of his former wife Rebecca. It seems understandable for the most part, but there’s an element of her ghost lingering in the house. And that’s the real trick. She’s dead, but she’s very much alive.

Joan Fontaine did well in selling the suspense of “Rebecca,” but her acting was sometimes distracting. Yes, she sold the emotion, but I was always conscious of her playing an emotion. The others acted well, but it made little difference to the overall story, in my opinion.

I was impressed with how well Alfred Hitchcock created a surreal and ominous atmosphere, and I really enjoyed the voiceovers. I can’t remember the previous films utilizing voiceovers, so I’m glad this film used them. It was refreshing.

If you enjoy CW’s “Riverdale,” give this film a shot. It’s reminiscent of that atmosphere and mood. Also, if you’ve seen other Hitchcock films, give this one a go.

Best Picture: “Gone with the Wind” of 1939

GONE WITH THE WIND

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Rating: 10/10

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For most of my life, I had heard of “Gone with the Wind,” and it always seemed boring to me. I’d either hear of people being in love with the story or I’d hear of people who dread it, because it’s so lengthy. And, honestly, after my first viewing, I’m glad I ended up watching it because I actually enjoyed it, but I doubt I’ll watch it again anytime soon. Parts of it were romantic, and a majority of it was tragic.

The story was phenomenal. I hated Scarlett every second of the film because she’s manipulative and selfish, but then again a part of me really loved her. (If she were categorized into a house from Hogwarts, she would definitely be Slytherin. And I would marry her. . . And then die. . . Oops, too soon.) I despised how much she used people to attain status; I despised her love for Ashley and that she clung to him in spite of everything. I guess that makes me Rhett Butler in a way. I have hardcore sympathy for Rhett. All that to say, the story was great.

Once again, Clark Gable has a fanatic in me. I’m a Clark Gable fanboy now. And the rest of the cast did a wonderful job, especially Vivien Leigh.

I shout a warm, “Hello!” to the first technicolor film on this list. The music was pleasant. The natural scenery of this film sparked a tenderness in my heart; I may have fallen in love with Tara because of it. The costumes were gorgeous, but one downside about the makeup and a bit of casting: I could not tell how fast the storyline progressed or how old some of the characters were from beginning to end.

So much about this production surprised me and impacted me cinematically. It was moving. I’d say to anyone, give it a chance, at least once, but be prepared to make an event of it.

Best Picture: “You Can’t Take It With You” of 1938

YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU

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Rating: 8/10

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Having been Ed in the play version of “You Can’t Take It With You,” I have a special place in my heart for the characters; however, the film adaptation takes a completely different turn with the storyline – more fleshed out. And I enjoyed it just the same. Overall, it was heartwarming.

I really enjoyed the contrast between the two mediums. In the play, the audience spends the whole story entering into the world of Grandpa. In the film, Grandpa’s viewpoint consumes the world. Altogether, the film brought more of an entrepreneurial element to the down-to-earth and playful storyline, and, thus, it became more well-rounded. Thematically, the film kept true to the play: love and enjoyment of life are more important than money and status.

The actors did well. Once again I was inspired by Lionel Barrymore! (He’s becoming one of my favorite actors.)

Technically, the only problem I had with this film was the sheer volume of it all. It was a loud movie throughout.

All in all, I will watch this movie again. And I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Best Picture: “The Life of Emile Zola” of 1937

THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA

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Rating: 4/10

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“The Life of Emile Zola” is interesting as a representation of French history. However, the title is misleading, as someone else has said. It would be more accurate to have a title related to this particularly depicted time in French history, and then from that point, Emile Zola might just pop in to save the day.

With that in mind, the story follows a lesser character on a B-plot, which, in turn, makes it the A-plot and forces the very life of Emile Zola to become the B-plot. The two storylines very weakly become intertwined, and then (Bam!) Emile Zola feels a strong connection to this minor character, who he never meets. It involves a lot of French politics and abuse of power. A lot of the scandal is weak, but I enjoyed the attempt at courtroom atmosphere.

Paul Muni as Emile Zola was compelling, but every other bit of acting left no impression. Some of the writing and directing choices were weak, so I dismissed them from my mind, so-to-say.

Some shots were ridiculous, I’m assuming an attempt at being edgy and revolutionary. And, at this point, the black-and-white game is being limited by their forerunners. (Honorable mention: way-to-go, costuming!)

If you enjoy courtroom dramas and stories that involve corrupt governmental systems, watch this film. If you’re looking for an accurate representation of Emile Zola’s life, I urge you to read a biography.

Best Picture: “The Great Ziegfeld” of 1936

THE GREAT ZIEGFELD

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Rating: 10/10

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“The Great Ziegfeld” was magical and dedicated. Like the title implies, the film follows the life of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., the very man who started the famous Ziegfeld Follies.

The film provides what it promises. In the beginning, we are shown a young Ziegfeld who exploits the strong man Sandow. We are told about his weaknesses with money and women; his tendency to lose money quicker than he can find it. And he openly admits he loves women; they’re gorgeous and treasured by him. (Not portrayed like dolls, as they were in “The Broadway Melody.”) Of course, history takes it course with this man, and he finds the appropriate personality to exploit, and his Follies are born. It’s fantastic and honest.

William Powell is so playful with his fellow actors; his performance is sincere. And while you follow him through his personal history, you never bore of Ziegfeld’s scheming and dreaming. Anna Held was marvelous as his first wife, and you truly feel for her when the women of the Follies come into her life. As a bonus, I was introduced to Fanny Brice in this film; I enjoyed the stark contrast she brought to the film when compared to the frilly beauties of the Follies.

Whoever took the time to cast, to organize, to direct, and to film this movie was a genius. Not only was the plot practical and enjoyable and true to the title, but the film was like stepping into a time machine and traveling back to classical theatre. Every performance had purpose and beauty; it was obviously choreographed and directed by dedicated artists. That deserves respect and admiration. (The only downside to this film: the three hours it takes to watch.)

Honestly, if you enjoy Lady Gaga, watch “The Great Ziegfeld.” If you love the idea of Vaudeville, watch this. If you love pretty artists, watch this. If you enjoy “The Greatest Showman,” this film is surely a precursor to its wonder. If you’re a true artist, I challenge you to take the time to watch this film; it will not disappoint.