For my 2017/18 writing project, I am watching, ranking, and reviewing every film to win The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscar for Best Picture. Below, is my review for the 1930 winner, "The Broadway Melody."
The roaring 20's are drawing to a close. The world is beginning to feel the pain of the Great Depression. In your local movie theater, a new trend is beginning to explode; "talkies." Soon, silent movies will be a thing of the past and this new cinematic experience will sweep the nation. You, as a young, adult movie-goer find yourself swept up in this new technology. As the credits roll and the house lights slowly come back on, you begin to think to yourself, "It will never get any better than this." You don't know it at the time, but this only the beginning.
This is what I imagine it must have felt like to see "The Broadway Melody" for the first time. The movie was a revolution in cinema. Gone were the days of endless soundtracks buried underneath the action. Now, words, acting, and the music would mix together to tell a story. The dialogue could be more profound. As a filmmaker, you were no longer limited to what could be printed on the screen. You could reach deeper into the human experience and tell a more well-rounded story. You could tell a story with which the world could relate.
You could tell of your love of Broadway and musicals. Now, the New York theater scene could become accessible to people all over the country. People who would never see the lights of the Big Apple would now have a glimpse into a whole new world. Cinema would begin to unleash its power.
Flash forward 87 years, you could be like me; a 33-year-old man on a quest to see the movies that matter. You could spend a quiet Friday evening at home watching old black and white movies. You could find yourself consumed with a simple thought; time isn't always kind to art. Before you is a movie thick with misogyny. Remind yourself, that we have indeed come a long way, yet we still have a way to go.
Casting aside those thoughts, I found myself enamored with the sound. Judging it through the lens of time, it pops, hisses, and drops in the wrong spots. I tried to remind myself of the journey, not the destination. A group of films had to be first. Pioneers rarely get it perfectly right, but they do set the course.
As the film draws to a close, I found myself consumed with another thought. Where's the conflict? Ultimately, maybe it doesn't matter to the story or even the audience who watched it for the first time. Perhaps, they were just grateful to be alive at such a moment and to witness such a technical marvel. So, I followed their lead and forgave the weak storytelling. Instead, I surrended myself to the moment and gave thanks to the journey traveled.
Best Picture Ranking (So Far)
- The Broadway Melody
Be good to each other,