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, "All Quiet on the Western Front."
There is one undeniable truth of modern warfare; young men die in wars. They are sent off to foreign lands or defend the homefront while those in power watch from a safe distance. More often than not, these young men are also from poor and middle-class families. As I watched "All Quiet on the Western Front," this realization was further cemented in my mind. The film did a fantastic job of capturing the transition that also occurs.
These young men return home as men. Somewhere in the middle of basic training, reality sets in for those defending their country. With each day's lesson, their boyish ways are retired. Slowly, they succumb to the idea that they could die. While they are being equipped to avoid this possibility, they leave training with the understanding that nothing can truly prepare you for war. As the first bullets begin to fly in this movie and mortar shells fall from the heavens, training goes out the window. Survival and defense become second nature.
As the film progresses, I couldn't help but notice some subtle differences between the earlier films in my journey. Slowly, the quality of the audio is improving. Voices are clearer, words pop, and sound effects seem more real. Also, the cast and number of scenes are becoming more ambitious. This being a war movie, there is also a need felt by the director to show the true violence of war. For a movie that won the best picture in 1931, I was actually surprised by the violence and blood. Surely, this had to be shocking for the time and place. When all three films that I have watched thus far are taken together, it is easy to see how rapid technical achievements are coming at the audience.
When the credits began to roll, I was stunned by a new realization for me. There is a false glory in a war that permeates through our society. Now, I don't mean WWI wasn't justified. I think both World Wars were fought for righteous reasons. Neither were wars we asked for or desired. We as a society have become quick to pull the trigger though. I don't know who to attribute this quote to, but I once heard it said, "That war begins when compromise ends." To me, this means we should find ultimate glory in the slow march of diplomacy. Pen, paper, and conversation should be our weapons of choice. We should be slow to battle. We should remember those who will ultimately pay the price of men's failures. I think we respect, honor, and salute soldiers without falling in love with war and constant turmoil.
Best Picture Ranking (So Far)
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- The Broadway Melody
Be good to each other,