Well, we continue on with the Boringest Year of Movies Ever, so I continue with my focus on past Best Picture winners. Up today, Cimarron, produced in 1930 and directed by Wesley Ruggles. It is certainly one of the first of the epic westerns, if not the best executed. In fact it is often cited as being the 'worst' Best Picture.
Cimarron tells the story of Yancy Cravat (Richard Dix), a restless young man of the West. He and his family travel to the newly-organized Oklahoma Territory to make their fortunes and shape the last great American frontier. He establishes a printing press that will tell the tale of the territory. The film follows the Cravat's through to their old age when the West was only a memory.
To tell the truth, this movie isn't all that good. The best part about it by far is the cinematography. The opening scene depicts the beginning of the land rush when the territory was opened up, and it is magnificent in scope. Throughout the movie there are shots that are brilliantly staged, and the camera is moved around in ways uncommon for the time. So I guess watch it if you are into that kind of thing.
But the movie as a story doesn't work. It is based on a novel by Edna Ferber (author of Giant and Show Boat) and it is a work of tremendous scope. This isn't effectively translated to the screen. Many of the conflicts presented come off as trite because they have no depth. The characters are often inconsistent. I think kudos is to be given for the attempt at the adaptation, but it simply doesn't work.
The acting, too, suffers from period showiness. The movie features characters from nearly all the acknowledged minority groups of the time, and they are all caricatured stereotypes. Even the white man is shown to be more statue than person, and the film's message of progressivism is swallowed in a cloud of vaudeville.
As far as early cinema goes I don't think Cimarron is one of the best examples. It's cool technical aspects don't warrant a viewing on their own, and the story is not as complete or involving as lots of other films from the period. It was remade in 1960 by Anthony Mann, with Glenn Ford playing Cravat.
My next entry will likely be a look at Grand Hotel, Best Picture winner from 1932 featuring Greta Garbo and a young Joan Crawford. As for what's going on in the world of today, I suppose you could go see the 3D re-release of Jurassic Park, or just catch up on your Antiques Roadshow.
by Chase Harrison