The 25th Academy Awards were delightfully controversial. I like it when the Academy gets things wrong, because it gives me more to write about. And who doesn’t like a good gripe session? That’s one of the best things about award season: complaining that the judges got it wrong.
So what went wrong this time? Well, the movie from 1952 that has emerged (or perhaps endured) as a classic of American filmmaking wasn’t even nominated for best picture. It was only nominated for two Oscars at all: best supporting actress and best musical scoring. What is this icon that the Academy almost completely overlooked? Singin’ in the Rain. Yep, Gene Kelly’s classic musical about Hollywood got no recognition in its time. And yet Ivanhoe was nominated for best picture. I will never understand how the Academy works.
The winner for best picture is equally puzzling. The Greatest Show on Earth isn’t a bad movie, but it’s definitely not best picture-worthy. Every other nominee that from that year (with the exception of Ivanhoe) is a better movie than The Greatest Show on Earth. I would have voted for High Noon myself. Even if Singin’ in the Rain had been nominated, I still would have voted for High Noon. Why? Because it’s got so much depth to it. It’s about standing up for what’s right, even if you have to stand alone. Apparently, this was not a message that went over well in Hollywood during the McCarthy hearings, and the writer of the film was blacklisted (and eventually moved to England). That explains why it didn’t win best picture, but it’s doesn’t excuse the Academy for being so very, very wrong.
A third odd thing about these awards is that the movie that won the most Academy Awards wasn’t even nominated for best picture. The Bad and the Beautiful won awards for best supporting actress (Gloria Grahame, who was also in The Greatest Show on Earth that year), screenplay, costumes, and cinematography, and Kirk Douglas, the star, was nominated for best actor. It’s another movie about Hollywood. The Academy currently loves movies about Hollywood. (Birdman and The Artist are two recent films about show business that won best picture.) They must not have been as interested in movies about themselves as they are now, but it really surprises me.
Some awards make complete sense to me. Gary Cooper completely deserved his Oscar for his work in High Noon, and the editing of High Noon was excellent, also. The Quiet Man had beautiful cinematography, and the costumes and art direction of Moulin Rouge bring Paris to life. John Ford did some good directing in The Quiet Man. On the other hand, I cannot for the life of me understand how The Greatest Show on Earth won for best screen story; it’s a very typical story, and kind of blah. But I haven’t seen any of the other movies that were nominated for that particular award, so it may actually have been the best that year. I also am strongly against the song “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’)”. There are parts that are not horrible, but rhyming “his’n” and “prison” should automatically disqualify you from receiving an Oscar.
I’ve always felt that the Academy Awards should be free from politics. Even if the Academy doesn’t like the message of the movie, greatness should be recognized. The Academy failed in 1952 for the worst of reasons. I hope they have learned from that and voters in the future will refuse to be swayed from voting for the best because of how they think they “should” vote.
So how do I rank the nominees?
4. The Greatest Show on Earth
3. Moulin Rouge
2. The Quiet Man
1. High Noon
Join me next week for Paul Newman, politics, crossdressers, and aliens!