Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lesser-seen Best Picture nominees

One of the things about having ten nominees for Best Picture is that it's easy to forget about some of them having been nominated for Best Picture. It's not that they're not good movies; it's that, because there are so many other good movies, some of them at the bottom of the list fade into obscurity through the years. Three Smart Girls, which aired a couple of weeks back on TCM when they were showing all of the nominees for Best Picture of 1936, is a good example of this. If it weren't for the presence of Deanna Durbin in one of her first roles, the movie would be even less remembered than it is today.

I mention this because TCM's prime time theme for tonight is the Best Picture nominees from 1938. The winner that year was You Can't Take It With You (on at 10:00 PM tongiht), a wonderful little comedy that deserves more attention even though it actually won the Oscar. I'm not certain which of the ten movies I would have selected, although You Can't Take it With You is certainly a worthy choice. The Adventures of Robin Hood, which kicks off the evening at 8:00 PM, looks like the sort of movie that the Academy would love, a grand spectacle, and in Technicolor to boot. As for the sort of "message" movie the Academy would like, there's also the fine Grand Illusion (10:00 AM Monday), which also makes the Academy look erudite as they nominated a foreign-language film.

A couple of the lesser-remembered movies are ones I've blogged about before. Coming up overnight at 2:00 AM is Alexander's Ragtime Band. The story is a fairly standard love triangle involving the lives of three members of a band as they go their own ways over two decades, splitting and eventually reuniting. What makes it special is all that Irving Berlin music, especially the title song and "Blue Skies".

Another fine movie that probably wasn't quite worthy of being named Best Picture and would likely have been overlooked if there were only five nominees is The Citadel, at 8:00 AM Monday. Robert Donat's portrayal of a doctor with a conscience was made over at MGM's British unit, so there's another chance for the Academy to show how broad-minded it is.

As for the not in print on DVD update, TCM's schedule page lists Alexander's Ragtime Band and The Citadel as both being available from the TCM Shop, the latter having been put out by the Warner Archive. You Can't Take it With You seems to be out of print, although there are copies available at Amazon. The one that the TCM schedule page is getting wrong is Boys Town (overnight at 4:00 AM), as a search of the TCM shop lists three different ways to get it on DVD. All three of them are listed at the TCM Shop as being in stock, too.

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