I think the Oscars are stupid. There, I wrote it down for all the world to see.
I’ve hidden this fact for a long time, but over the last few months I’ve decided to be a little more vocal about it. The list of reasons why I believe the Oscars are remarkably overrated, especially in terms of actually pointing out what films and filmmakers carry historic significance that will outlive the present, is quite long. Among the most compelling of these reasons is that Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar for Best Director, and only one of his films won Best Picture. That film is Rebecca. More on that in a moment, but seriously, try to come up with directors who had a greater impact on film history and film-craft in their careers than Hitchcock did. Yet, he never won Best Director, and he only won Best Picture once.
He is still emulated, if you can even call it emulation. Most just call it ‘Directing.’ Hitchcock pioneered so many methods of filming to increase emotional investment in a film. He was a master at imagining and improving on ways to use the camera to heighten dramatic tension, fear, empathy, and to tell a story visually. Now, most of his methods are taken for granted. Borrowing from Hitchcock isn’t even thought of as borrowing from Hitchcock, it’s just referred to as ‘making a movie.’ Saying he is one of the most important directors of all time isn’t an opinion, it’s just fact. You can have the opinion that you don’t like his movies, but you can’t say he wasn’t important, because 99 out of 100 filmmakers you do like would say they draw from Hitchcock, and the other one would do it without realizing it.
He made films for over 50 years! He is responsible for some of the most beloved and influential films in history. Yet, if you were going to use the Oscars as a gauge, you would think he was a flash in the pan who made one great movie in 1940. Forget the fact that he didn’t even peak until the 1950’s. He hadn’t even begun to peak. And when he did, all of Philadelphia felt it. (Sorry, I had an It’s Always Sunny moment).
Here is just a small smattering of Hitchcock films that didn’t win either award.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Notorious (1946), Rope (1948), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963).
Also, Vertigo lost to Gigi. Case closed. I’ve never seen Gigi, and I’m sure it’s a lovely film…. but better than Vertigo?!? Are you fucking joking? How often do you see Gigi on any director, critic or film scholar’s top ten list of greatest and most important films of all time? Vertigo is on a staggering percentage of them. This includes the list of some nobody named Roger Ebert. What does he know about film history, right? Probably nothing.
This happens a lot, where you look back to see if some of the most important movies ever won Best Picture or Director, only to discover they lost to something no one even remembers. Anyway, Oscar rant over. Up with Hitchcock!!
It’s the story of a young woman who falls in love and marries an enigmatic widower, moves into his famous England estate, Manderley, and discovers that the shadow of his late wife may be too overwhelming for her to bear.
The story opens strong, with a long, eerie single cut dream sequence. We enter through a gate and into the woods, through an overgrown driveway, settling onto the moonlit shell of a massive mansion. All the while, a narrator provides voice-over, beginning with the iconic opening line of the novel on which the film is based: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Once we got through that part, it took a downward turn for me because I thought the emotional cues seemed a little off. However, once it gets rolling, and the unexpected noirish mystery and intrigue starts unfolding, it gets much more interesting and entertaining.
Even in the moments I didn’t care for early on, it was still worth seeing the visual flairs of Hitchcock. Then, once the story grew more engaging, it was Hitchcock in all his glory. Approaching a door through the eyes of our protagonist, seeing what she sees as she hesitantly moves forward, seeing her hand as our hand as it reaches up and slowly opens the door. Or, the ghostly appearance of the late Lady De Winter’s bedroom. Just two of the visual delights the film offers. I can’t really offer more without spoiling plot points, which is something I don’t like doing.
Anyway, Rebecca still holds up as one of the most celebrated films of all time. It’s on tons of ‘Greatest Movies of All-Time’ lists, including: The Empire Magazine 500, Time Magazine’s 1000 Greatest Movies Ever Made, the wonderful list, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and the 1000 movies selected by They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They.
If this era of cinema is to your liking, you should check it out.