The Uwe Boll of Oscar bloggers, Tom O'Neil, is at it again over at Gold Derby, where his idle hands on the slowest of slow news days has him making all kinds of trouble for one of the undisputed classics of American silent cinema. "Undisputed," that is, until today, when O'Neil asked and (regrettably) answered the positively unessential question: What was the real Best Picture Oscar winner of 1927-28?
We at Defamer didn't think we cared — but until you've seen O'Neil having his way with a masterpiece, you might be surprised what piques your interest (spoilers after the jump).
I've seen [Best Production winner] Wings a few times and liked it OK. But now that I've viewed [Best Artistic Picture winner] Sunrise, I must concede: Wings soars by comparison. Sunrise is paper-thin, hilariously schmaltzy. All three primary characters are cartoonish clichés and their performances 3-inch slices of honeyed ham.
Mind you, I'm the kinda guy who'd normally side with the weepie. On my top 10 list of fave pix of all time are Peggy Sue Got Married and Titanic. But I just can't shed a real tear when the farmer in Sunrise decides that he just — by golly! — can't off his sweet, dimpled wifey-pooh, after all. Nor could I cheer the scenes of the couple back together, all giddy smiles and kisses, posing for photos like newlyweds, dancing a happy peasant dance, joyous once he decided not to wring her scrawny little neck and hurl her over the side of the row boat.
What corn pone! Smothered in Cheez Whiz! Wings ain't Shakespeare or Scorsese, mind you, but it's better than that!
"Corn pone"? "Smothered in..." Oh, fuck it. Look, we've all got opinions. O'Neil can cough out whatever he wants. Nevertheless, there are some incontrovertibly great films that got movies as we know them where they are today. The haunting, technically dazzling story-in-the-shadows of a simple man's basic struggle with modernity, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise, is one of them. See Roger Ebert's extraordinary review for in-depth reasons why, BUT: Film noir? Thank Sunrise. Psychological horror? Thank Sunrise. Hitchcock, Welles, Kubrick, Scorsese? Thank Sunrise. The short-sighted, star-fucking O'Neil could very well be the main character here, which may in fact signal its most objectionable quality to his Titanic-adoring eye.
So why even mention him? Because people actually read this guy — casual fans wind up browsing him and voting in his goddamned polls outlining the "best" of 80 years ago. They don't discuss; they avoid. They don't watch; they ignore. And while we can endure it with our industrial-size grain of salt every Oscar season, Sunrise and you deserve better. So write a letter, start a petition — anything to make him stop. At least until this fall, when it's not about cinema anyway.