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 there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Cavalcade (1933).
Cavalcade follows the lives of members of a wealthy English family from 1899 to 1933 as they become involved in various historical events such as the sinking of the Titanic and WWI. If its win shows one thing, it’s that the Academy has always loved a multi-generation spanning epic with huge ambitions but an unwillingness to really get into any of the events that it portrays occurring. Unlike Cimarron, which won a few years earlier (our piece) and had a similar premise though set in America, Cavalcade does manage to have a few impactful moments, mostly brought on by the dramatic irony the audience experiences from knowing the fate of the Titanic or the Great War while the characters continue their lives with blissful ignorance. Still, despite great set designs and often good performances, in its attempt to get its characters involved in the biggest events of the 34 years it covers, Cavalcade sacrifices actually building the characters and the plot is rarely cohesive.
The Real Best Picture:
Cavalcade is an interesting look at a period of history but A Farewell to Arms covers many of the same concepts to much greater effect and remains my pick