Best Picture Nominees:
Broadway Melody of 1936
The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
A Midsummer's Night Dream
Ruggles of Red Gap
What won: Mutiny on the Bounty
As mentioned above, this is the last movie (there were only two others) that won Best Picture and nothing else. It makes sense that these three movies happened early on as a) there were less categories in the early days of the Awards and b) the voting makes more and more sense as history goes on (see my culminating post on the seventh Awards). It doesn't make much sense for a movie to win the top award and not be the best in at least one other category. But alas, here we are. I'm not sure why Franchot Tone was nominated for Best Actor, but I do understand why Clark Gable and, especially, Charles Laughton was. Laughton is a powerhouse as the ruthless Naval captain. He is so easy to hate and his physical demeanor is perfect for the role. Perhaps he would have won the award if the votes didn't split with his fellow cast-mates and nominees. The movie is also an achievement in the realm of epic sea-faring scenes. The ship set feels authentic and watching the ship sail the open waters is cinematic to the last.
What should have won: The Informer
The Informer took home the most awards with four. Out of these four, it won three major categories. As previously mentioned, the screenplay was awarded the Oscar, but Dudley Nichols declined the Oscar. John Ford and Victor McLaglen won Best Director and Best Actor, respectively. This duo is strong as the overall dark look of the film complements McLaglen's drunken, and sometimes sorry, state. From the first shot of the movie, in which a large shadow shrinks down to the size of a man, to the climactic court room scene, Informer displays competence in all levels of the cinema. The score by Max Steiner introduces a memorable melody, which is almost unheard of for movies of this time. If not for some extended drunk sequences, which always annoy me, this would be even more of a classic. Regardless, this is still a must-see. It's perplexing why it didn't win as its just better than Mutiny in almost every category.
My Best Picture nominee ranking:
1. Top Hat (8/10)
2. The Informer (8/10)
3. Captain Blood (7/10)
4. Mutiny on the Bounty (7/10)
5. Les Misérables (7/10)
6. Ruggles of Red Gap (7/10)
7. David Copperfield (7/10)
8. Alice Adams (6/10)
9. The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (6/10)
10. Naughty Marietta (6/10)
11. Broadway Melody of 1936 (6/10)
12. A Midsummer's Night Dream (4/10)
My favorite movie of the eighth Oscar batch: Top Hat
While I don't think it should have won Best Picture due to The Informer ticking more cinematic achievement boxes, Top Hat is the most fun of the batch. This film was RKO Radio's best performing movie at the box office for the 1930's and it's no wonder why it was such a smash success. The music and dancing is pure bliss. Each dance sequence tells a story within the choreography. This is none more apparent than the sequence, "Isn't It a Lovely Day," in which Astaire and Rogers become flirtatious as they dance close together, but never touch. "Cheek to Cheek," "Top Hat," and "Piccolino" round out the memorable dance sequences. The music is superb and the story progresses at a nice clip as we go from number to number. It will be a sad farewell to the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers partnership in the Project as none of their other movies were nominated for Best Picture again.
Highest Rating on IMDb: Mutiny on the Bounty, Top Hat, and Captain Blood
No film from this batch has an IMDb score in the 8's. The three referenced films have 7.8's at the time of this writing. Obviously, Mutiny will have the most overall votes due to its status as a Best Picture winner, but Top Hat comes close with three thousand votes shy of Mutiny's totals. If I am to base it on what modern audiences would like the most, it makes sense that Captain Blood has a high rating. It's swashbuckling mentality with a cool hero who overcomes impossible odds makes the movie very akin to modern action movies. It also have a musical score that resembles modern movies moreso than any of the other movies in this batch. It also makes sense that the Best Picture winner gets a high rating, as well as the most financially successful Astaire/Rogers film.