Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Best Picture

Best Picture 1917

Once again we come to the final award, the best picture for the year 1917. This year, since I got some of the Century Awards up early, I’m able to post before the actual Academy Awards have started, so there’s plenty of time for all of you to get to your Oscars Parties. Drink some champagne for me, and for the winners of a century ago!

The candidates this year have mostly been up for, and many cases won, other awards. Taken together, they make a good list of the best movies you can see from 1917 if you’re ever looking for one. In the course of all of the other awards, I’ve pretty much said everything I have to say about them, so let’s just get on with the award!

The nominees for best picture for 1917 are:

  1. The Dying Swan
  2. A Man There Was
  3. Poor Little Rich Girl
  4. Little Princess
  5. Easy Street
  6. The Immigrant
  7. Fear
  8. A Modern Musketeer

And the winner is…”A Man There Was!”

Once again, not an easy choice, but this was to my mind the most “modern” and successful of the movies I saw in the last year. Victor Sjöström had been on the scene for years now, and he would go on to a career that includes some of the most important movies of the twenties, and he really demonstrated with this movie that Sweden was on the map so far as the film industry was concerned. He took a poem by one of Sweden’s favorite sons, Henrik Ibsen, and turned it into a masterful example of the cinematic art. This movie was largely his effort, and with this, it now takes home three Century Awards, showing it to be a classic in the true sense of the word.

Best Picture 1916

And now we come to the big award, the one that describes what the most “important” movie was of the year. In my not-terribly-humble opinion, of course. Here we see what movie really stands out 100 years after its release as the one to see by future generations. As with all these awards, I’m not necessarily saying “this is what would have won if there had been an Academy Awards ceremony in 1916,” I’m saying what it looks like from the current context. In that sense, these awards are more for the future than the past. In my first year, I chose “Cabiria,” the epic spectacle of Giovanni Pastrone (who also won Best Director). Last year, it was “The Cheat,” a story of betrayal and sexual dominance contrasted with racial intolerance, directed by this year’s Best Director, Cecil B. DeMille.

This year, the nominations range from the well-known to the obscure. Probably the best known movie of 1916 (and a likely winner then, despite its lack of box office profitability), is D.W. Griffith’s immense spectacle “Intolerance.” This movie has a lot in common with “Cabiria,” particularly in the massive sets used to re-create ancient Babylon. Also well known in its day was “Hell’s Hinges,” the apocalyptic Western starring this year’s Best Actor, William S. Hart. Hart & co. burned down an entire Western town to make this grand story of revenge come to life. Far more obscure, and even unreleased in its own day, we also have “The Curse of Quon Gwon,” by Marion E. Wong, who took home an award for Best Supporting Actress. While it has some technical flaws, this independent movie gives a unique look at Asian American immigrant life from the perspective of the immigrants themselves. The first British production on the list is “East Is East,” a consideration of the class system and the importance of knowing yourself which garnered several nominations, but no actual awards in other categories. Perhaps the whole could be better than its parts, as the movie is entertaining and enjoyable. “A Life for a Life,” directed by past Best Director Evgeni Bauer, won its star, Vera Kholodnaia, the Best Actress award. It depicts a tragedy on a grand scale as a woman marries for convenience, despite being in love with another man. Cecil B. DeMille took home this year’s Best Director award for his work on “Joan the Woman” as well as having directed the Best Picture of 1915. Can he secure both slots with this depiction of the life of the French saint and nationalist? The one contribution from Germany is the serialHomunculus” which comes to us in incomplete form today, but is still viewable as a reasonably complete narrative. This was one of the first movies of the period that I ever saw, and its story of a man created by science who discovers he cannot love or be loved has stayed with more for more than a decade. Actor William Gillette brought “Sherlock Holmes” to the screen for the first time, with the authorization of Arthur Conan Doyle, after a successful stage run in the role. This movie was lost for many years, but its influence on later portrayals of the great detective cannot be denied. One of the runaway hits of the UK this year was the documentary “The Battle of the Somme,” which won an easy category as Best Documentary since that was the only one I saw this year. But, it is such a powerful and influential depiction of such an important historical event that I had to include it for consideration as Best Picture as well. One more William S. Hart movie made the list, even though “Return of Draw Egan” didn’t win in any other categories, and had few nominations. Still, it is another example of how this early film star pioneered the tropes that would become familiar in Westerns for a century, as the bad man turns good for the love of a woman and cleans up a town of desperados.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1916 are:

  1. “Intolerance”
  2. “Hell’s Hinges”
  3. “The Curse of Quon Gwon”
  4. “East Is East”
  5. “A Life for a Life”
  6. “Joan the Woman”
  7. “Homunculus”
  8. “Sherlock Holmes”
  9. “The Battle of the Somme”
  10. “The Return of Draw Egan”

And the winner is…”The Battle of the Somme!”

Carrying the wounded off the field.

Carrying the wounded off the field.

I’m breaking Academy rules by even considering a documentary in this category, but to me the best picture is the best picture, regardless of its genre or methods. Admitting that there are other movies on the list that could be argued for, in terms of scale, directing, box office success, or critical acclaim, I really felt that for a modern audience the chance to witness World War I as it happened is too significant to be ignored. All of the movies on the above list have stayed with me since I viewed them, but “Battle of the Somme” had the strongest impact. So, for this year at least, a British documentary trumps all of Hollywood’s finest product.

Thanks to everyone for reading and liking!

Best Picture 1915

And so the time comes to announce the best of the best. The movie of 1915 which will live for one hundred years and be so honored as the highest achievement of the motion picture art for that year. This year was an undeniable turning-point in the American film industry. Where last year, they contributed a mere four candidates to the list of nominees for best picture (losing in the end to the Italian “Cabiria”), this year we have no less than seven choices from the USA.

And among those American features, we find three contributed by the same director: Cecil B. DeMille. Whichever film takes away the award, there’s no denying that Mr. DeMille, with only two years experience in the industry, has made his mark. His film “The Cheat” has already taken away an award for Sessue Hayakawa in a supporting role and earned many other nominations. “The Golden Chance” was largely overlooked by the Century Academy, although its story of a woman tempted to dishonor herself for money has much in common with the previous one, plus some impressive editing and acting. And his version of “Carmen” with Geraldine Farrar shows his ability to adapt classic material to the new medium. Another American, Raoul Walsh, got off to a promising start this year with the groundbreaking gangster picture “Regeneration,” another name that we’ve heard quite a few times this evening, although it did not win in any of the categories it was up for so far. Russian filmmaker Evgeni Bauer took home the statue for best director this year after losing out to Giovanni Pastrone of Italy last year. Will one of his movies be selected as the best? This year his offerings included “Children of the Age,” this year’s winner for production design, and more significantly the haunting Turgenev adaptation “After Death,” which won him best director as well as getting best leading actor for star Vitold Polonsky. Charlie Chaplin, who this year as last has taken home only the minor award of best makeup, sees one of his famous slapstick comedies, “The Bank” on the list as well. Can the “Little Tramp” earn the artistic recognition of the century? Frenchman Maurice Tourneur came to Fort Lee, New Jersey, still a major film producing center, just last year and gave us the outstanding “Wishing Ring.” This year his “Alias Jimmy Valentine,” once again a multiple nominee but non-winner, is among our considerations. Fellow countryman Louis Feuillade may have stayed at home, but that didn’t stop him from turning out another bizarre and clever crime serial, one episode of which, “The Deadly Ring,” has taken the prize for best costumes and now stands for best picture. Finally, the winner of best screenplay and best editing, “The Italian,” rounds out our selection of excellent movies from the previous 100 years. Which will be the winner?

The Nominees for Century Award for Best Picture are…

  1. Regeneration
  2. Children of the Age
  3. After Death
  4. The Cheat
  5. Golden Chance
  6. Carmen
  7. The Bank
  8. The Deadly Ring
  9. Alias Jimmy Valentine
  10. The Italian

And the winner is…”The Cheat!”

Cheat_FilmPosterAs with last year, I didn’t have to work too hard to come up with this one. All I had to do was look back and see which movie really stood out as the one I’m going to come back to and want to see again. It may have been “second best” in a number of the single categories – writing, directing, cinematography, etc – but when you put it all together it beats the winners in each single category and comes out as a solid, memorable whole.

And with that, I’m done once again for another year! Thank you all for reading! I look forward to seeing as many good films from 1916!

Best Picture 1914

At long last, it’s the big one. The one film that represents the pinnacle of motion picture artistry for the year 1914. The end of the night and the end of the Century Awards is nigh. I wasn’t sure, going in, that there would be a lot of good candidates for best picture of 1914. It seemed like movies were still developing, and so many were short, underdeveloped movies, I was expecting a somewhat disappointing array of choices.

Happily, that did not turn out to be the case. There were a surprising number of features released in that year, and considerable quality among them as well. Possibly the best known among modern audiences is the comedy “Tillie’s Punctured Romance,” which still holds up against the best work Chaplin would do in later years. International fans all know about “Cabiria” of course, and I’ve raved about it and its influence enough tonight. D.W. Griffith’s first feature “Judith of Bethulia” admittedly hasn’t gotten a lot of love at this year’s Century Awards (I can just imagine Griffith’s exit interview), but it still deserves to be recognized as a major step forward in American filmmaking. Similarly, Cecil B. DeMille’s debut feature “The Squaw Man” represents great storytelling from a very new talent. Evgeni Bauer demonstrated that Russia had great film talent as well with “Silent Witnesses,” and finally the unusual female-focus of “Salomy Jane” gave it a place in the nominations for the year.

With no further ado, the nominations for best picture of 1914 are:

  1. Tillie’s Punctured Romance (Mack Sennett)
  2. Cabiria (Giovanni Pastrone)
  3. Judith of Bethulia (Biograph Pictures)
  4. The Squaw Man (Cecil B. DeMille & Jesse L. Lasky)
  5. Silent Witnesses (Evgeni Bauer)
  6. Salomy Jane (Alexander E. Beyfuss)

And, the envelope please…The winner is… “Cabiria!”

 Cabiria1

It’s been a night dominated by this name, and no wonder. As interesting and rewarding as it’s been to see all of the movies of 1914, “Cabiria” really is the one that stands the test of time. Its influence 100 years later is undeniable, and it remains an accessible, enjoyable view.

OK, that’s all folks! Have a good night and thanks for reading! Seriously, with the number of hits I got on this blog tonight, I feel like I won the award! Thank you all so much!