Monday, August 16, 2010

1932/1933: Cavalcade

So basically, this film follows one family through historical events from 1900 to 1933 ("present day").  Sound familiar?  The premise is a lot like that of Cimarron, except this film takes place in Britain rather than Oklahoma, and this film covers a lot more historic events than Cimarron.  In some ways it reminded me of Forrest Gump, the way they become entangled with history, except this was not nearly as well done.

The beginning of this film is so boring that I was tempted to stop watching it.  Then it starts to get a bit more interesting, then it gets boring again, then it gets somewhat interesting, and by the end it's just super preach-y.  The only things that remain consistent throughout the film are the melodramatic performances and cheesy writing.  And if that's not bad enough, this movie is extremely depressing!  Once it gets to World War I, it's all about how humanity is in a downward spiral towards degradation, and the main characters hope we can recover, but it seems doubtful.  It's depressing enough earlier in the film when the jovial servant turns into a raging alcoholic and dies in the street, or when the "good son" and his new bride decide to honeymoon on the Titanic, but I was expecting it to end happily.  Oh, no, sorry, we're going to show really depressing images of people being shot and dying superimposed with soldiers marching for 10 minutes, and, by the way, the other son dies right at the end of the war, and his mother has no hopes for the future.  I'm so glad next year's winner is a comedy; I don't know how many more depressing war films I can take.

I don't want to make this out to be a horrible film, because there were some aspects that were very interesting.  While on the whole I didn't like the depressing message, I thought it was fascinating from a historical standpoint.  This film was made in 1933.  A lot of people were very depressed and discouraged with the world in 1933.  Generally, Hollywood tried to cheer people out of the Great Depression with happy endings and uplifting messages.  The makers of Cavalcade had the courage to create a film out of what was on a lot of people's minds.  They didn't do it very well, in my opinion - at least, they could have done it much better - but the fact that they even tried was probably why they won the award in the first place.  Also, this is the third winner to emphasize the horrors of war, which I guess the Academy really likes.

By the way, in case you were wondering, there were no stuttering characters in this film, so I guess that breaks that pattern.

Next film on the list: It Happened One Night (thank goodness)

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