It's hard to believe September is already here -- and heck, 2022 is becoming clearer in view over the hazy horizon.
What do you have planned for Labor Day weekend: A stroll in downtown Pleasanton for the last Weekend on Main street closure of the year? A trip to the fairgrounds to enjoy the return of the Scottish Games? Or maybe just a little downtime at home for the first holiday weekend of the new school year?
The latter is pretty much what I'll be doing this long weekend -- a little R&R at home amid doing some chores, errands and catchup workwise.
High up on the goal list for Labor Day is to watch the Netflix DVD that's been sitting on our coffee table: "The Great Ziegfeld", which took home the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1936.
One of our projects for 2021, although we haven't made as much progress as I'd have liked so far, has been to watch all of the Oscar-winning Best Pictures in chronological order.
Now I don't treat the Oscars as the be-all-end-all when it comes to superior films, but I am fascinated by the winner and nominee lists as a reference point from a movie history perspective. (Which films or performances won, and which ones did not; things like that.)
Although I will admit that in all of the film classes I took and essays I read while completing a cinema studies minor at American University, I don't remember whether a movie won or lost the Academy Award really ever coming up.
Still, as a self-proclaimed movie buff, I was surprised some months ago looking through the Best Picture list to realize how many of the older winners I hadn't watched. And then when we saw how many more of the winners (especially from the 1950s to '80s) my wife hadn't seen, we decided why not just jump in from the beginning.
We've finished the first eight so far, usually working them in among our other TV, sports and movie viewing -- because a slower-paced older movie, or a three-hour-plus epic, just doesn't always seem like a fun watch during or after a hectic workweek.
Highlights for me have been "Wings", "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "It Happened One Night." On the flip side, "Cimarron" and "Grand Hotel" really did not hold up, and by the time we finish they might end up being on my list of the worst Best Picture winners.
"Wings" (1927), the inaugural winner and the only silent film to earn the award (because of a technicality with "The Artist"), tells the story of aviators in World War I, and what stood out were the amazing aerial and ground battle sequences.
Well-executed battle choreography and realistic military setwork are a common thread among other successful early winners like "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935) and "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930).
The latter, which follows young German soldiers in WWI, may be one of the greatest war movies I've ever seen. And believe me, we'll get our share of war films on our Best Picture rewatch campaign. "Cavalcade" (1933) was another early one, focusing on a British family through multiple wars until The Great War.
Of course they referred to it as The Great War because at that time, even when those films were made, World War II hadn't happened yet. To me, sitting here in 2021, the context of that timing is crazy to consider.
As a journalist, I enjoyed that two of the first eight winners centered on newspapermen.
The Frank Capra classic "It Happened One Night" (1934), starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert still holds up as a heartfelt romance. But "Cimarron" (1931), a fictional epic about the Westward Expansion following Yancey Cravat (yes, that's the character's real name) and wife Sabra, just fell flat.
So too did 1932's "Grand Hotel" (great ensemble cast, but hollow story) and "The Broadway Melody" from 1929 (dull plot with unlikeable characters).
Next up we have another New York City musical, "The Great Ziegfeld", a biopic about the life of Broadway producer Florenz "Flo" Ziegfeld Jr. (maybe the "Ziegfeld Follies" rings a bell?).
Not too far ahead are more familiar titles like "Gone with the Wind", "Casablanca" and "All About Eve."
Let me know about some of your favorite Best Picture winners, in the comments with this story online or as I try to get my #BestPicRewatch hashtag to trend on social media. And who knows; with streaming rentals maybe we'll knock two or three off our list this Labor Day.
Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Pleasanton Weekly since February 2017. His "What a Week" column runs on the first and third Fridays of the month.