Sunday, October 20, 2013

Introducing 90 Years of Cinema: my "alternate Oscars", 1923 - 2012


My personal picks for the best of each year from 1923 to 2012
Six illustrated lists will follow each day this week, beginning tomorrow

In January 2012, Allan Fish introduced a new weekly series on Wonders in the Dark: an "alternate Oscars" series in which voters on the site offered their picks (20/20 hindsight & all) for the best feature, short, director, actor, and actress of every year since 1921. I missed the first few weeks but began voting in 1923 and kept it up all the way through 2012, which concluded this past weekend.

Providing ballots based on his encyclopedic knowledge of film history, Allan eventually expanded the categories to include supporting actor and actress, cinematography, and score. Many of us, overcome by enthusiasm, added further categories just for our fun (since they wouldn't be tabulated). From my fifth ballot on, I voted for screenplay and editing, and in years when the competition was tight I added more playful groupings like "best line," "best ensemble," "best scene," and "best use of music."

Ironically, despite my age (as I write this, still in my twenties, but just barely) contemporary cinema proved my weakest area - I just haven't been going to movies in recent years, and my choices were sparse though I'm more than happy with my (surprise) #1's. Prior to the eighties, I'm pretty comfortable with what I've seen though of course even in my deepest years I'd seen less than half of Allan's massive nominations list. But then few have, and part of the fun of this exercise was discovering new films alongside familiar favorites.

Nowhere was this more true than in the "short film" category, which Allan planned to abandon after 1960 once the field of classic comedies, cartoons, and experimental films thinned out. Since many of my favorite short films hail from the past half-century, I volunteered to compile this section of the ballot myself and Allan graciously let me participate. Every week I would offer a new slate of a dozen or so shorts, each linked to a YouTube video as encouragement to watch and then vote. It was often difficult corralling enough voters to certify an official winner but I'm proud to say as a result of continuing this category, many of us (including me) were introduced to amazing new cinematic experiences, no less vital or eye-popping due to their running time.

Judging from my small share of the labors, which proved time-consuming and often irritating to put together, I can only imagine how overwhelming the task was for Allan himself - but he kept at it week after week, revealing winners (and sometimes deflating them with caustic wit), providing new contenders, and interacting with the lively conversations that always seem to emerge on Wonders when the subject is cinema's wild, exciting, and diverse historic output, from every continent, era, and style.

It's that very diversity which excites me most about this whole endeavor and so tomorrow I will begin posting my own very eclectic picks in chronological order. I've decided to list my results by category rather than grouping them year by year - which results in easier comparisons and more streamlined flow. If you want to see my full ballots in their original context, click on the linked year next to the each winner.

Monday morning I will post my favorite features year-by-year, followed by shorts on Tuesday, actors on Wednesday, actresses on Thursday, directors on Friday, and finally all the other categories corralled onto Saturday. At that final post, just for fun (as if any of this was anything but, the world's biggest and tastiest grain of salt) I've noted recurring winners in all categories, as well as breaking results down by country and genre or style.

Finally I have included an appropriate images for each and every winner in the big five categories, as well as some images sprinkled throughout the final post. After all, cinema is a visual medium and in the end it's all about the films themselves - I hope this silly adventure will encourage you to seek new experiences, revisit distant memories, and share your own cherished classics: what are your picks year-by-year? Let me know below this intro, and also below the posts in coming days. I can't wait!

MondayFeatures
TuesdayShorts
WednesdayActors
ThursdayActresses
FridayDirectors
SaturdayThe Rest
(cinematography, score, screenplay, editing, and random fun add-ons, plus stats)

We are also be posting the results of the Wonders poll this Saturday, on Wonders in the Dark itself. And voting in the final 2012 thread is still open - let your voice be heard!

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