Saturday, August 14, 2010

1930/1931: Cimarron

While there were several things I didn't like about this film, I must say that it was well-done and effective.  But it's definitely not my favorite movie, and I was definitely not a fan of Richard Dix's hair.

The main thing that bothered me was that the two main characters, Yancey and Sabra Cravat (what kind of names are those anyway?) are at opposite extremes when it comes to priorities.  Yancey is very concerned with Indian rights, which is good, since he's pretty much the only one.  However, he treats his wife Sabra miserably.  He keeps leaving her to go off on adventures for years at a time, without ever contacting her while he's gone.  One time, he comes back after being gone for five years, and the first thing he does is go to court to defend the unfortunate woman who stole his land claim at the beginning of the film.  Now, of course, that is the gallant and chivalrous thing to do, but he totally ignores his wife, who had to take over his business when he just disappeared for five years!  But she, on the other hand, doesn't seem too upset about the way her husband treats her, or even about how ridiculous his hair looks; she's more upset that he cares too much about Indians and defending that woman.  Their priorities were totally screwed up, but I'm pretty sure that was the point (except for maybe the hair thing), so the fact that it made me so upset means that this was a very effective film.

My favorite aspect of this film was the way it showed the passing of time.  It started in 1889 and went all the way up to "present day" (i.e. 1930), and it kept skipping huge chunks of time.  The actors, particularly Irene Dunne, did a tremendous job of changing their demeanor as they got older and more mature, and I also liked the way certain minor characters kept recurring and evolving.  I'm pretty sure that that really helped this film win the award, and I applaud the Academy for recognizing this highly effective technique.  Basically, the story bothered me, but I liked the way it was put together.

I also think it's very interesting that both The Broadway Melody and Cimarron had a supporting character with a stutter.  So far, half the Best Picture winners have had a stuttering character; every second one.  Interesting pattern; I wonder if it will continue.  Is there something about a stutter that makes a film Oscar-worthy?  Or is it mere coincidence?  Perhaps we shall see.

Next on the list: Grand Hotel

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