I'd like to spank the Academy

luise rainer

Luise Rainer with her statuette for Best Actress.

There are pluses and minuses to watching the all best picture nominees for a given year when there are ten nominees that year. It gives you a chance to see more of the Oscar-nominated elements, especially (usually) great performances. You get a better idea of what movies were like at the time, and you also get a bigger historical view of the year as a whole. But ten movies take a lot of time to watch, and sometimes you get tired of watching movies from that year, so that when you  are done watching all those movies, you are glad to be able to move away from that year. So yes, while I enjoyed most of the movies from 1937, I’m ready to move on, especially since, while there were one or two egregious wrongs in the awards presented that year, I agreed with most of them.

What were the worst wrongs? The very worst in my eyes was Spencer Tracy’s win for best actor. Even though I didn’t see all five of the nominated performances (which I can’t quite figure out, because again, ten movies), both Frederic March and Paul Muni gave better performances in their nominated roles (as Norman Maine and Emile Zola, respectively) that Tracy did. Even Muni’s un-nominated role in The Good Earth was better than Tracy’s in Captain Courageous. I don’t quite understand what happened there.

A smaller gripe is that Andrea Leeds’ performance in Stage Door deserved the supporting actress award much more than Alice Brady’s in In Old Chicago. It was a harder, more nuanced role, and her performance brought me to tears. While many actresses could have played Brady’s role well, I can’t think of another actress that could have taken Leeds’ place.

1937 was the year that Walt Disney’s groundbreaking first animated feature film was released: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It was nominated for one award (best original score), but it was otherwise not recognized in any way until the 11th Academy Awards. I can’t figure that one out. My best guess is that no one realized how much it would change film forever. It was given its due recognition eventually, but later than it should have.

I also don’t agree with the Academy’s decision for best picture of 1937. The Life of Emile Zola is a great movie; I’m not arguing with that. But both A Star is Born and The Good Earth are better than Emile Zola, even with The Good Earth’s not quite so ideal ending and uncomfortably racist casting. I will admit that I am not a movie professional, but Emile Zola had some minor flaws, and The Good Earth was just fantastic. So while most of the nominated movies were good, I don’t ultimately agree with the final choice.

So how do I rank the nominees?

10. In Old Chicago
9. Lost Horizon
8. One Hundred Men and a Girl
7. The Awful Truth
6. Captains Courageous
5. Stage Door
4. The Life of Emile Zola
3. Dead End
2. A Star is Born
1. The Good Earth

Join me next week for the most family-friendly Oscar nominees since the 1950s. Bonus: It’s also the first Academy Awards I remember watching!

Bonus trivia: With her win for best actress in The Good Earth, Luise Rainer became the first person to win both two acting Oscars and two back-to-back acting Oscars.

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