Those “other awards” always have all kinds of hype and discussion surrounding them, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone expecting that for the Century Awards. Here’s a bit of analysis of the nominees, done in the vapid yet breathless tone of a modern media outlet.
1914 brings a number of surprises, and it’s easy to see where the major players are. All four of the nominees for Best Picture have at least five other nominations, as they are all outstanding motion picture events, likely to have an impact on the movies for years to come. The front-runner, “Cabiria,” has eight nominations, and a sweep would represent a major coup for director and producer Giovanni Pastrone. There’s no doubt that “Cabiria” has been a game-changer in the industry already, and major players such as D.W. Griffith have acknowledged its influence on their filmmaking.
Speaking of Griffith, he’s no newcomer to the biz, but he’s brought some important innovations this year to his work. One is his new emphasis on features as opportunities for the artist to express himself more deeply. Audiences have responded well to the new, longer format, and we suspect that he’ll be showing us some amazing things in the coming year. Another factor is his relocation to California, where he’d already made a few pictures, and his departure from Biograph Studios to set off on his own. Biograph wouldn’t even be in the running at all this year, except for two belated Griffith releases: “Judith of Bethulia” and his thoughtful short, “The Massacre.”
One newcomer did make a major splash, though, and that’s Cecil B. DeMille, whose “Squaw Man” is up for seven awards, including “Best Director” and “Best Picture.” His followup, “The Virginian,” hasn’t been as big a hit with the Century Academy, but box office returns have been good enough to keep DeMille on the scene for some time to come. We hope he won’t be remembered solely for Westerns, but that he gives himself a chance to expand a bit. He’s helped start up a new production company in Southern California, suggesting that the region may be important in movie making for years to come.
The other important newcomer for 1914 was a comedian named Chaplin. He’d never made a movie before February, and now he’s a household name. No small accomplishment for a young man in his twenties, as new to America as he is to film. His movie “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” is the big hit of comedies for the year with six nominations, including Best Picture and Chaplin himself for Best Actor. Chaplin was also nominated for his role in the Fatty Arbuckle vehicle “The Knockout” and for inventing the character of the “Little Tramp” for “Kid Auto Races in Venice.” Still, he may be resentful at not being nominated for any of the movies he directed this year – rumor has it he’s a bit of a diva.
It’s no rumor that Chaplin left Keystone for Essanay studios at the beginning of the year, something which bodes not well for producer Mack Sennett, whose inclusion in the awards hangs upon popular stars like Arbuckle, Chaplin, and Mabel Normand. Sennett has been called the “King of Comedy” for bringing us the Keystone Kops and his talent pool hasn’t run dry, but it takes a lot to stay at the top of an industry with so much competition.
And speaking of the stars! The Red Carpet promises to glitter this year with the likes of Mabel Normand, Pearl White, Mae Marsh, Mary Pickford, Blanche Sweet, and…Marie Dressler? Dressler’s the unlikely leading lady of the memorable Keystone feature “Tillie’s Punctured Romance,” and her plain looks and undisputed comic timing have taken the industry by storm. At forty six years old, she’s no glamour girl, but we have a feeling that she, and her “Tillie” character, will be with us in the years to come.
But back to our other leading ladies. If Chaplin is browned off at being passed over as a director, starlet Mabel Normand has even more to complain about: she’s been directing shorts at Keystone all year, and got no nod from the Academy for that or her leading roles in “Mabel Takes the Wheel” and other popular “Mabel” movies. Her supporting role in “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” was the only nomination she received. Could this be a symptom of the sexism in our industry?
The politically correct crowd are sure to grumble as well that “In the Land of the Head Hunters” isn’t up for Best Picture. With three nominations, including “Best Actor,” we’re sure that director and anthropologist Edwin S. Curtis has no complaints about the critical reception to his box office bomb (or could it be a sleeper hit?). The actor in question, one “Stanley Hunt” of the unpronounceable Kwakwaka’wakw peoples, has no other acting experience, and should cut an unusual figure on the Red Carpet whether he arrives in a rented tux or his traditional First Nations attire.
On the other side of the aisle, the family values crowd will be sorry to see that the new Oz Film Manufacturing Company hasn’t got a film up for any awards more prestigious than “Best Supporting Actress.” Still, between “Patchwork Girl” and the still unreleased “Magic Cloak,” there’s a total of six nominations for this spunky little studio, headed by no less a talent than L. Frank Baum himself. Word has it that his company is in trouble, though, so it’s an open question whether we’ll be seeing any other “Oz” movies in the future.
Probably the biggest snubs of the year were the “Millions” movies: neither “Brewster’s Millions” nor “The Million Dollar Mystery” got any nominations at all. The latter lived up to its name by grossing $1.5 million at the box office, and has to be considered the popular hit of the year. But, these are the Century Awards and, sadly, neither of these movies can be seen by our reviewers living in 2014: a reminder to us all of the importance of film preservation.
The Raw Numbers:
Cabiria – 8 (incl Best Pic)
Tillie’s Punctured Romance – 6 (incl Best Pic)
Judith of Bethulia – 7 (incl Best Pic)
The Squaw Man – 7 (incl Best Pic)
Cinderella – 3
In the Land of the Head Hunters – 3
Patchwork Girl of Oz – 3
Magic Cloak of Oz – 3
The Knockout – 2
Kid Auto Races at Venice – 2