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 The Lost Weekend (1945).
Billy Wilder’s first two Academy Awards would come from The Lost Weekend, a brutal look at alcoholism that the director decided to take on after difficulty working with Raymond Chandler on Double Indemnity. Chandler was a recovering alcoholic who relapsed due to the stress of working on the film and Wilder wanted to attempt to understand Chandler with a film that would make him examine his life from a new perspective. The film is about Don Birnam, a writer who skips a weekend trip with his brother that was meant to be part of his recovery in order to go on a four day long binge. The film sees him spiraling and visiting the darkest parts of his mind while everyone around Don tries to save him from himself. Some of the performances are too big which lessens the impact a bit and some writing sounds a bit goofy today but the film remains potent.
The Real Best Picture:
The best of the three films to win the top prize at Cannes and the Academy, even if Mildred Pierce puts up a good fight and Anchors Aweigh has always been one I’ve enjoyed, The Lost Weekend is a solid winner and I’m glad it won.