Best Picture nominees:
The Broadway Melody
The Hollywood Revue of 1929
In Old Arizona
What won: The Broadway Melody
With the novelty of sound pictures still very much alive during these years, this film seems like a no brainer. A plot focused on the very popular variety-type stage shows on Broadway let people not only hear the actors converse, but sing throughout. Songs were even incorporated as a plot driver for the first time in film. Musicals have come a long way since, but this movie plants the seeds in a very competent way.
What should have won: The Broadway Melody
Here is the first of probably not so many times I agree with the Academy. With hindsight, I am attempting to pick the very best film of the selected nominees for this project. Sometimes, it seems the Academy picks their winner based on historical significance or other criteria not based on the quality of the film itself. However, I think this is a time where historical significance and the best film align properly. The plot is engaging, the music isn't terrible, and the samples of the stage performances are entertaining. However, I think I would be singing a different tune if I had seen Ernst Lubitsch's lost film, The Patriot. I would take a late silent film over an early talkie any day of the week.
My Best Picture nominee rankings:
1. The Broadway Melody (6/10)
2. Alibi (5/10)
3. The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (5/10)
4. In Old Arizona (4/10)
The Patriot is considered "lost"
My favorite movie of the second Oscar batch: The Divine Lady
This is the second time out of two that my favorite film came from the "Exclusive Award Winner" bunch. This time, it was the film that won Best Director (Frank Lloyd). It should come to no surprise that the only silent film to be included (besides the lost film) is the best. I've gone over it before, but the technical limitations of early talkies made the movies a chore to watch. This movie is creative, gripping, and uses sound to great effect. The acting is superb and the direction by Lloyd justifies his award.
Highest Rating on IMDb: The Hollywood Revue of 1929
It is odd that this is the highest rated film for this batch. Not exactly a movie, this film is just a revue full of dancing, singing, and comedy. A great link between Hollywood movie actors and Broadway stage performers, this "movie" demonstrates a couple of clever camera tricks, but doesn't offer much else. To a viewer in 1929, this was probably phenomenal. Showcasing nearly ever major M-G-M star in a Broadway-type show, this approach was very profitable. Perhaps the people who rated this on IMDb were already interested in these old shows to begin with, so they had a predisposition to like it. As for me, the 7.8 currently associated with this movie is a severe overrating.