"The Broadway Melody" was the movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1928, which means this movie is officially older then my grandma. Now the funny thing about the Academy Awards is that is was created to add sophistication to movies. Some people were beginning to wonder whether or not films were healthy for people, whether or not they were morally corrupt, and whether or not movies could be considered art (and this was seventy years BEFORE the world was a witness to "South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut"). So the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences was created, along with the Academy Awards, to help make films more respectable. Watching "The Broadway Melody" today with this history in mind is a revelation, as this film doesnt really support the fact that movies could be considered art AND entertainment! Now, Im going to try and put myself in 1928's shoes while I describe reasons I think this film won.
This was the first musical to be filmed. It was a major box office hit, making a little bit more then $4 million dollars. It was the first movie to have a scene in Technicolor (though using only two colors). And for all the techniques this film helped create, for all the firsts this film had, watching it today feels like watching a dinosaur worse then Barney. The movie just feels OLD! The storyline involves two sisters who are both dancers, who go to New York to become Broadway stars. Along the way there will be trials, tribulations, and jealousy spouts. This is really all there is to the story, as the musical numbers are always the center of attention for this film. There will be long scenes of musical numbers, followed by two minutes of dialog, followed by ten minutes of dancing, followed by three minutes of dialog, and so forth. In total, there is maybe thirty-five minutes of actual story in this movie, hardly worth debating in my case.
What is worth debating are the dance sequences. Now, I understand this was the first musical filmed, but that doesnt quite explain all the poor camera shots. During musical numbers the camera will pick a spot to film, and stay there the entire scene. Never mind if the dancers are moving, the camera stays still. There are scenes where the dancers will dance off camera, and the camera will star at an empty stage for a couple of minutes before the dancers come back. Sometimes the camera is in such a poor position, that we cant really see whats going on. There is one musical sequence that is shot from overhead, and I cant figure out what is going on since this sequence in a TAP DANCING sequence! Brilliant, they decide they want to have a tap dancing scene, so they put the camera in a place where you cant even see the dancers feet. Why, why did the director think this was a great idea? Even though I have eighty years worth of movies to benefit me in my experience, didnt the director feel scenes like this looked just a LITTLE funny back then?!
Back in 1928? Maybe the director was thinking of how he would watch a Broadway show in the audience, where you got to your seat, and for the whole production you basically saw the show from one point of view. I dont know if this was what the director was thinking, but I do know that even in the audience of a live show I have the ability to turn my head at the very least. Viewing problems aside, there isnt really anything to like about the movie nowadays. The acting, like most acting in the old days, is severally melodramatic and wildly overblown, where even simple things as asking for a cup of coffee is often shouted with exaggerated body motions that follow. I cant say any of the music is really all that catchy anymore, and if I were you I wouldnt be expecting a craving to get the soundtrack when the movie is over. All in all, it's interesting to see where the movie musical got its start, but it feels like such a fossil these days.