Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases, such as this one with Frankenstein and City Lights, there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Cimarron (1931).
Cimarron takes a look at changes in America over the course of some 40 years, following the lives of a family caught up in the Oklahoma land rush and the events that follow, but it is perhaps best at providing insight into how America has changed in the nearly 90 years since its release. There are moments of excitement throughout the film that remain examples of great filmmaking and the scope of it is admirable, but it often loses sight of where it is trying to go. Large time jumps take place often and the gaps of time in between are filled with a few lines of forced dialogue and the scenes that are shown are similarly scattered. It often seems content simply to pat itself on the back for attempting something ambitious, but it fails to ever care for the characters enough to let an emotional attachment be formed. Even covering 40 years in barely two hours, the film still manages to drag on at an almost unbearable pace, made all the more unbearable by its frequent stops to indulge in a bit of racism that is entirely disconnected from the plot.
The Real Best Picture:
Just about anything else would be better but I’d have to go with The Front Page which remains a fun comedy that was interestingly produced by Howard Hughes