You Can’t Take It With You
I’m going to spoil the ending off the top here. This is a case where I do not understand most of the nominations, especially with the other films on offer. Of the top, I’d likely launch three or four of the nominees, and five is possible. This is a year with notable films like Jezebel and The Adventures of Robin Hood. While I don’t love Bringing Up Baby, I would nominate it over several choices here. I like The Lady Vanishes more as a screenplay despite its simplicity. Leaving off Grand Illusion (nominated for Best Picture in this year) and La Bete Humaine is near criminal.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I’m bumping Four Daughters immediately. The only good thing about this drippy mess is that it was the screen debut of the great John Garfield. The rest of it is mush. It even wastes having Claude Rains and May Robson in prominent roles. I can kind of see why this would have been popular with girls of a certain age, but this dull pile managed to swing five Oscar nominations, and that’s at least four too many. No way this belongs on the list. I’m not sure it belongs if we go up to 10 nominees..
4. Best Picture winner You Can’t Take It With You doesn’t deserve to be here, either. This is a film that sports a pure communist philosophy on one hand and touts itself as pure Americana on the other. It also professes a philosophy that is (I think) legitimately dangerous. We are essentially told to pursue our own happiness no matter what, even if it is something beyond our talents. If I suddenly want to be an Olympic gymnast, this movie says I should go for it. That’s stupid. So is this movie.
3. Boys Town is a film I want to like more than I actually do like. I’m a bit surprised at how secular it is despite having a priest as the main character, but it still has some major issues. I think it has its heart in the right place, but it’s filled with a syrupy melodrama that makes it difficult for me to take. Much of the problem comes from an overzealous Mickey Rooney, but a lot of it comes from the script. I actually do like this film a little, but not enough to see it nominated here.
2. With The Citadel, we’re getting to where I understand the nomination. This is a movie not scared to take a full-armed swing at the medical profession, and I respect that. The problem is that it’s disjointed. It’s less a movie than it is three connected shorts about three different stages in a man’s life. Were I in charge of the nominations, this might make the final list, but given what was left off, it probably wouldn’t. Good it may be, but worthy of a nomination it solidly ain’t.
1. I run hot and cold on Wendy Hiller, but I love her version of Eliza Doolittle. This is also one of the only times that Leslie Howard didn’t bore me into submission. I credit the screenplay for both of these minor miracles. Making Leslie Howard watchable is astonishing, which means that of the five nominees, Pygmalion would probably make my final list. That said, it might well make my final five in last place. Of what we have, it’s clearly the best choice, so in that sense, Oscar got it right. But it’s not close to the best choice for the year.