Best Picture nominees:
The Barretts of Wimpole Street
The Gay Divorcee
Here Comes the Navy
The House of Rothschild
Imitation of Life
It Happened One Night
One Night of Love
The Thin Man
The White Parade
What won: It Happened One Night
This is the very first Big Five winner out of only three in film history. This sweep shows that the Academy found a movie that was beloved and likeable and all aspects were rewarded as a result. The consistency gives me hope that the Academy weren't just voting for random movies, but were really passionate about what was the best for the given year. This movie is classic in so many ways. It sets the standard for the romantic comedy genre, one that does not often get rewarded come Oscar season. Frank Capra not only formulates the ingredients for the rom-com, but also executes each one to perfection. This was the perfect movie to win for the year 1934 in that America was in the thick of the Depression and the charming and good-natured feel of the experience was exactly what American movie-goers were looking for.
What should have won: The Thin Man
After praising the film that actually won so much, why should I pick another won to win? The Thin Man is just that good. The chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy is a tad better than the chemistry between Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The writing is also a tad better. I never thought I could laugh so much at a screenplay that was written over eighty years ago. The comedy-mystery-drama "genre" is a rarity but it is done without fault. The scenarios that play out in Powell's and Loy's apartment are splendid and the pet dog is also used just the right amount. I was even legitimately scared during the scene Powell is poking around in the dark. So many emotions are evoked out of a viewing of this timeless classic. I think this film was the best of the year but I am glad that It Happened One Night won, just for the fact that it was a Big Five winner and we finally see some continuity with the Academy voting. Cleopatra probably would have a better shot if the country wasn't in the Depression. The lavishness and grandness to DeMille's sets seemed to expensive for the country's tastes at the time. Also, Imitation of Life had the heaviness of racial commentary. In the end, though, W.S. Van Dyke's greatest achievement gets my vote as the Best Picture of 1934.
My Best Picture nominee ranking:
1. The Thin Man (8/10)
2. It Happened One Night (8/10)
3. Imitation of Life (7/10)
4. Cleopatra (7/10)
5. One Night of Love (6/10)
6. The Gay Divorcee (6/10)
7. Flirtation Walk (6/10)
8. The House of Rothschild (6/10)
9. The Barretts of Wimpole Street (5/10)
10. Viva Villa! (5/10)
11. Here Comes the Navy (4/10)
The White Parade is, for my intents and purposes, "lost."
My favorite movie of the seventh Oscar batch: The Thin Man
There isn't much more to say about this timeless picture. If comedy is your thing, its covered here. If mystery intrigues you, that's also present. If you want to see a husband and wife actually enjoy each other's company and not bicker, that's also here. The flow of the story is impressive and the wit should have won it a Best Adapted Writing Oscar. It Happened One Night was its main competitor on the night and I think Capra, Gable, and Colbert rightly won their Awards. This really is a 1 and 1A situation when it comes down to the best film of 1934.
Highest rating on IMDb: It Happened One Night and The Thin Man
This finally makes sense! The two best movies of the year correlate to their ratings on IMDb. Both films have 8.2's but It Happened One Night has the edge of more user ratings with more than 56,000 votes while The Thin Man has around only 20,000 votes. Regardless, I think these movies are both solid 8's so it the rating for both of them are indicative of their qualities. You can't go wrong with either film.