- May 31, 1999
- Castaic, CA
- Real Name
- Jonathan Burk
Cimarron at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of Cimarron, the Academy Award winner for Best Picture of 1930/31. This was part of the ongoing screenings of every Best Picture winner, in chronological order.
The pre-screening entertainment included a recording of "Yes, Yes", as performed by Eddie Cantor in Palmy Days (1931). Next was a newsreel highlighting the gala premiere of Grand Hotel at the Chinese Theater. It was hilarious to see the Hollywood publicity machine of 1931 in full swing, and every movie star I knew (and many I didn't) from that era was interviewed. Starting next week, they'll be showing the winner for Best Animated Short with each show. Next week we get Flowers and Trees, and after that The Three Little Pigs (any bets on whether it is an original version?)
Before the screening began, Randy Haberkamp (the Academy official who is organizing the series) addressed the audience. As I've mentioned before, they were selling $75 passes which would get you into all the films. These are sold out. From here on out, you must buy a $5 ticket to get into a screening. I don't know how they'll handle the demand for tickets, considering that they've sold enough passes to fill the theater for every show. Randy then gave a little history on the film, asking us to remember the era in which it was filmed (read: it has some racist undertones). This was also one of the first epic films, based on a book by the popular author Edna Ferber (who also penned "Giant"). He also apologized for the quality of the print, which wasn't nearly as good as the fully restored All Quiet on the Western Front, which we saw last week.
As for the movie itself, I liked it. The story starts with the Oklahoma land rush, and I found the portrayal of this scene to be more exciting than the Far and Away version. While the portrayals of the black servants, Jewish peddlers and Indians were jaw-droppingly awful, I found the overacting and melodrama to be so sincere that I was drawn in, in spite of myself. The print was in terrible condition, with scratches and missing frames throughout, but it was tolerable knowing this was the best existing print in the world.
In addition to enjoying each film, I've found the chronology of seeing a slightly newer film each week to be very educational. You can see how the language of film started to devolop, especially with camera movement, sound and editing. It will be interesting to see the progression of film from black and white, 1.37:1 mono to the widescreen films of the 60's, to the digital sound of the 90's.
I plan to go to just about every single screening, and seating will get really tight for the more popular ones (Cimarron was about 80% full), so if any HTF members are planning on going, let me know and maybe I can save you a seat.