Welcome to Year Five of the Best Picture discussion, concerning movies released between August 1, 1931 and July 31st 1932.
The Academy opened up the number of candidates for Best Picture this year, expanding beyond their previous limit of five (we’re back to that again in 2013 — see how nothing new is old again? OR something like that…).
Here’s what I had to say about the original slate in V. 1 of my book series, WHO Won?!? An Irreverent Look at the Oscars: “Grand Hotel won, over Arrowsmith, Bad Girl, The Champ, Five Star Final, One Hour with You, Shanghai Express, and The Smiling Lieutenant. Ok, people, let’s try these movies on for size: Frankenstein and Scarface. Well, hell, even add Tarzan the Ape Man and Freaks for two major cult films, and Platinum Blonde as the one Capra film everybody ought to know better. What do we get in their place? In no particular order, nothing, next-to-nothing, creaky star-studded pictures, weepies, second-rate John Ford, Dietrich-obsessed von Sternberg, and Chevalier-obsessed Lubitsch (with not one, but two best picture nominees).”
Once again, the Academy was driven more by studio block voting and genteel commercial success than anything else.
So they ignored Boris Karloff and James Whale’s Frankenstein, Howard Hawks and Paul Muni’s Scarface, Johnny Weismuller’s Tarzan the Ape Man, Tod Browning’s disturbing Freaks, Frank Capra and Jean Harlow’s Platinum Blonde, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s atmospheric Vampyr, Laurel and Hardy’s hysterical The Music Box, Disney’s groundbreaking Flowers and Trees, Frank Capra and Barbara Stanwyck in The Miracle Woman, the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business, and René Clair’s À Nous la Liberté.
As always, I have much more to say in my book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OPEELH0
Let’s see if you can do better than the Academy, from the following choices: