In previous years, I’ve used Oscar Sunday as a chance to write about what the Academy has gotten wrong over the years, the snubbed classics and the unworthy winners. This year, though, I want to do something a little different.
I want to take a look at the time that the Academy made the right decision, either by picking the best film for Best Picture or even just by giving a nomination to someone who actually deserved it. Consider this to be my attempt to add some positivity to what has otherwise been a pretty negative awards season! We all love to criticize the Academy and goodness knows that much of that criticism has been deserved over the years but occasionally, they do get it right!
Here are 4 times the Academy got it right during the 1920s!
(Before anyone thinks that I’m condemning the Academy with faint praise, the first Oscars were handed out in 1928 so, for this decades, there are really only a handful of winners and nominees to choose from.)
- All Quiet On The Western Front Wins Best Picture
All Quiet On The Western Front was the third film to win the Oscar for Best Picture and it was the first truly great film to win the award. If Wings and Broadway Melody were rewarded largely because of internal politics, All Quiet On The Western Front won because it truly deserved it.
2. Sunrise Wins The Academy Award For Unique And Artistic Picture
At the first Oscar ceremony, two awards for Best Picture were given out. Best Picture went to Wings, which is good but not great. The award for Unique and Artistic Picture, however, went to F.W. Munrau’s sublime Sunrise.
3. The Racket Is Nominated For Best Picture
The Racket was one of the three films to be nominated for the very first Best Picture Oscar in 1928. It’s nearly forgotten today but it still remains significant because it was the first gangster film to be nominated for Best Picture and it was also the first genre film. The Racket started a long tradition of American movies about organized crime, one that includes The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Irishman, and so many other films. As well, The Racket was long considered to be a lost film until someone stumbled across the last remaining copy in the 70s. Never stop searching for those lost films!
4. Warner Baxter Win Best Actor For In Old Arizona
The 2nd Academy Awards ceremony was a strange one, largely because only the winners were announced and no one is quite sure how the Academy settled on those winners. That said, Warner Baxter’s award for starring in In Old Arizona does feel historically significant. He was the first actor to win for appearing in a western and he won for playing not a lawman but an outlaw. In fact, his amoral character served as a template for many of the characters who would populate the Spaghetti westerns of the 60s and the 70s.
Up next: the 1930s!