Looking back on the times the Academy got it right when it came to the biggest prize. The night of the Oscars ceremony – which was first held 90 years ago this May – is the one essential date in the movie world calendar, the giddy, glamorous apex of industry celebration. It’s fascinating and infuriating. But the Academy Awards don’t always get it right. In fact, on many now infamous occasions, they got it totally wrong. Giving How Green Was My Valley best picture over Citizen Kane, for example. But while there is always going to be debate over whether the best picture actually won best picture – merit is a difficult thing to quantify, after all – each year’s top prize winner and, perhaps more importantly, the reaction to it, tells us something about the cultural zeitgeist.
The Academy Awards represent, indeed, a snapshot of a section of America’s prevailing concerns, the issues and themes that are deemed important by the Academy voters and by the audiences who voted with their feet and put the film on the awards circuit in the first place. Of course, prevailing concerns can be swayed, as they were in the era of Harvey Weinstein’s notoriously forceful awards campaigns. And the issues that concern the average Academy voter are unlikely to overlap much with those of the average punter. But the best of the best pictures over the past nine decades are not just the most elegantly crafted pieces of film-making – they are the films with themes that resonate still with a present-day audience. Wendy Ide
Content gathered & updated by the Bergen Review Media team.