My current Top 5

My current Top 5

3/11/2011

Number 82: Cimarron (Best Picture Ranking)

Another early winner, another movie title with a ‘C’, another big epic – and another big disappointment. I’ve said in my review of Cavalcade that it was a close race for the last place in my ranking – and Cimarron was always a hot contender because there are more things that bother me about this movie than in Cavalcade but I decided that Cimarron also has some positive aspects that helped it to ‘reach’ number 82.

So, let’s start with the good things: first, unlike Cavalcade, Cimarron is more successful in being what it wants to be – a Western. It manages to create a sometimes even interesting atmosphere which is mostly helped by the wonderful production values – especially the Art Direction is fantastic and the way the movie presents the slow change from uncivilized outback to a big city is overall very impressive. As for the acting – the movie mostly suffers from the same problems as Cavalcade which means a lot of dated and over-the-top performances but the characters still become more memorable and distinctive. Irene Dunne made the wise choice to underplay her part to the maximum and that way became the only performance that is still worth seeing 80 years later – too bad for her that her character is the most uninteresting of the whole movie.
And, of course, what’s easily the most lasting aspect of the story is the opening sequence, the land rush in Oklahoma in which apparently hundreds of horses and carriages race across the prairie. The scene itself doesn’t really feature anything remarkable from a technical point-of-view but the cameras capture the spectacle thrillingly. And the movie even has a very unusual following scene when a woman pretends that her horse broke its legs and asks Yancey Cravat, the hero of the picture, to shoot it – only to steal his own horse moments later. It’s a highly promising beginning to what appears to be a gripping story – but the downfall begins right away.

This wonderful opening is followed by a scene of a black boy sitting in a chandelier above the dining table of his masters – and, of course, he falls down just a few moments later and begins to apologize in a way that tells the viewer ‘Yes, them blacks surely is stupid, but, hey, at least them is funny!’ The whole presentation of black characters makes Gone with the Wind’s Prissy look a rocket scientist – and later, that young boy goes out during a shooting in the streets to save Carvet’s children and gets shot during the process. But don’t think anybody notices it or cares about it.

But the most unbearable aspect of Cimarron comes right in its center – in the form of both Yancey Cavet’s character and the performance by Richard Dix which may be one of the most overblown, presumptuousness and over-the-top performances the Oscars have ever seen. And all this fulsomeness is invested to create one of the most despicable and dislikeable characters in movie history but who is constantly presented as a true hero. Yancey is a man who takes his wife out in the prairie, a life that clearly doesn’t please her but don’t think he cares about it for one second. Later, he comes to her in the middle of the day to ask her to start a completely new life in another prairie – and when she can’t decide in the time span of 2 seconds, he goes without her. For five years. Yes, five years. And when he comes back, everything is back to normal. Oh, but first he goes to court to defend a woman his wife has tried to get arrested (okay, in this case, Yancey is actually on the right side but the whole presentation of this marriage, of Yancey’s carelessness for everything that doesn’t concern his life and his wishes is so aggravating that it makes you want to throw something at the TV). Later, he leaves again but he and his wife meet again for the final scene of the movie which may break a new record in awfulness and horrible line-delivery.

While Cimarron may be able to create a captivating atmosphere, the whole story itself lacks every kind of entertainment value. So, Cimarron is definitely great to look at and does have some interesting scenes. But the whole content of the story, the central character and the ridiculous exaggeration of so many aspects make it almost as unbearable to watch as Cavalcade.

7 comments:

Louis Morgan said...

I still have not brought myself to watch this one yet, although I am getting quite interested to see how bad Richard Dix is.

Sage Slowdive said...

Absolutely agree with this one too.

Alex in Movieland said...

the ending is hilarious.

Fritz said...

Yes, it is but I doubt that's what they were going for! :-)

"Wife and mother, stainless woman, hide me... hide me in your love."

dinasztie said...

Gee, I wonder about where you will put The King's Speech.

Fritz said...

What's your opinion on it? Do you dislike it?

Anonymous said...

I knew it! Next is surely The Broadway Melody, The Greatest Show on Earth, Around the World in 80 Days (although I don't get the hate for this film), Tom Jones or The Life of Emile Zola. Great review! I also want to see it after reading it to create my own opinion about it.