I need to qualify the title of this post: one nominee (1928’s The Patriot) is presumed to be lost and another nominee (1934’s The White Parade) exists only as a single copy in the UCLA film archive. Reportedly, if you arrange an appointment and physically travel there they will allow you to watch it – not a very practical way to see a movie. I have seen the other 518 (as of this writing) nominees that can be watched.
I started this effort a few years ago after completing the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list. Actually, that’s sort of misleading. I partially started long before that.
Back in 1988 I had just gotten HBO and Cinemax and I was barely into watching movies. I noticed at some point that I had seen three or four of the Best Picture nominees from 1987 and that the remaining one or two (there were only five per year then) were coming to HBO/Cinemax. I then made the effort to watch the remaining ones so that I had seen all the Best Picture nominees and could then decide for myself which one I felt should have won Best Picture.
I liked being able to do that and in the subsequent years I kept it up. I didn’t always see all nominees, but I probably had five or fewer I had missed from 1987 through 2010 when I started this blog where I have specifically watched and written about every Best Picture nominee from that point forward.
So when I started to look at the Best Picture nominees I had not seen (fyi - I had already seen all Best Picture winners), I had unofficially been checking them off for more than 20 years without thinking about it. I started with the most recent ones I had missed and then worked my way back through the 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, and into the mid 1940s when the Academy had changed from ten nominees down to only five.
At that point I put a hold on my watching of this and pretty much all other lists as I simultaneously ended my professional sabbatical and worked on publishing a new genealogy book in my spare time. When I completed the book that freed up some time, but I ended up picking the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list instead to work on. That took me another year or so, and when I got done that I finished off a few lists where I had only a few entries remaining (including Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list).
Finally, it was this fall and I decided I needed to get back to these Oscar nominees and watch the remaining 50 - 60, all from 1927 through 1945. I came into December with 19 left and since I wanted to get this done by the end of the year I bit the bullet on them. From Noon last Friday through Sunday night I saw all but two of them. I watched those last two Monday night, ending with Five Star Final (1931) more because of the name than anything else.
While I questioned if I would recommend doing my last big list (TSPDT) to others, I would recommend this one. To be sure, there are certainly films that I watched and my reaction was “THIS was nominated for Best Picture?” (especially from the early years when they had ten and even twelve nominees in a single year). However, I would say that easily more than half of the films would be ones I would recommend, and many of them were truly great. I had seen most of the biggest names already from doing other lists, but here are some of my best surprises from this endeavor among the non-winners (including ones from the late 80s up to the start of this blog that I first watched only because they were nominated):
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
Madame Curie (1943)
The More the Merrier (1943)
Johnny Belinda (1948)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Elmer Gantry (1960)
The Dresser (1983)
A Soldier’s Story (1984)
Hope and Glory (1987)
My Left Foot (1989) – “Hey, who’s this Daniel Day-Lewis guy? He’s pretty good.”
The Pianist (2002)
The Aviator (2004)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Up in the Air (2009)
So what’s next? I think for now I won’t really concentrate on any specific lists. In fact, I need to do some catching up on 2015’s movies (I’ve only seen 25 so far). The next lists I will probably do at some point will be the 101 Genre lists from the same people who produce the 1,001 Movies books.
As for any other Oscar related endeavors I’m not going to dive as deep as my fellow blogger Steve Honeywell at 1001plus. He’s reviewing every film nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Animated Film, and then each Friday he does a post on one year of one of these categories with his thoughts on how well the Academy did picking the nominees and the winners. If you have any interest in the Oscars at all then you should definitely be reading his site.
I *have* put together a checklist of every film with a Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, or Supporting Actress winner in it. There are 50 or so of these I have not yet seen. I have already watched all the winners for Best Animated Film, but I have not seen all the nominees, so I might finish those off. I might also take a look at the Oscar winners for Best Documentary and Best Foreign Film at some point, although I know many of those are difficult to find.
I haven’t decided on any of these right now and I’ve got time before I will be searching around for something new to work on anyway. Even after the 101 Genre lists I’ve then got lists of top British films, the New York Times’ list of the top 1,000 movies, and a list of all the films preserved by the U.S. National Film Registry.
We will never run out of movies to watch, and that’s a good thing.