Even though 1929 saw The Marx Brothers making their film debut, Hitchcock arriving with his breakthrough works (doing both a silent and an inventive sound version of a single, thrilling tale), and arguably the brightest period for G.W. Pabst and his newly-minted muse, the indelible Louise Brooks (working together this year on two very divergent stories), this was a no-contest year for me. Dziga Vertov's undyingly lively travelogue is a marvelous amalgamation of impressive imagery and, most importantly, rhythmic editing, all working in concert to craft a singular view of daily Soviet life (and, in a mindbending twist, the making of the film itself). I've always liked to say that Vertov's movie is limber enough to be transformed by whatever music you chose to play along with it (heck, I even watched it once with Simon and Garfunkel backing it, and it still worked). To this day, it feels as if its nearly a century before its time, mainly because few feature filmmakers have dared to follow its remarkable lead (though the advent of MTV unknowingly underlined its influence). As for the shorts, Disney (and Ub Iwerks) win their first, and Dudley Murphy's dreamy quasi-doc starring Duke Ellington and the Cotton Club crew beats out the estimable Laurel and Hardy. But the bowler boys will have their day soon. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are in no way reflective of the choices made by the Oscars.
DIRECTOR: Dziga Vertov, MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (2nd: G.W. Pabst, Pandora's Box, followed by: G.W. Pabst, Diary of a Lost Girl; Alfred Hitchcock, Blackmail (sound version); King Vidor, Hallelujah!; Ernst Lubitsch, The Love Parade)
ACTOR: George Arliss, DISRAELI (2nd: Erich Von Stroheim, The Great Gabbo, followed by: Ronald Colman, Bulldog Drummond; Maurice Chevalier, The Love Parade; Chester Morris Alibi)
ACTRESS: Louise Brooks, PANDORA'S BOX (2nd: Gloria Swanson, Queen Kelly, followed by: Louise Brooks, Diary of a Lost Girl; Mary Pickford, Coquette; Helen Morgan, Applause)
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED): THE SKELETON DANCE (US…Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney) (2nd: The Barnyard Battle (US…Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney), followed by: Tusalava (UK…Len Lye), Haunted House (US…Walt Disney))
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION): BLACK AND TAN (UK…Dudley Murphy) (2nd: Big Business (US…James W. Horne), followed by: H2O (UK…Ralph Steiner), You’re Darn Tootin! (US…Edgar Kennedy))
SCREENPLAY: Alfred Hitchcock and Benn Levy, BLACKMAIL (2nd: Ernest Vajda and Guy Bolton, The Love Parade, followed by: Ladislaus Vajda and Joseph Fleisler, Pandora's Box; Julien Josephson, Disraeli; Wanda Tuchock, Richard Schayer, King Vidor, Ransom Rideout, and Miriam Ainslee, Hallelujah!, Morrie Ryskind, The Cocoanuts)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Mikhail Kaufman, MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (2nd: Gunther Kramph, Pandora's Box; Paul Ivano and Gordon Pollock, Queen Kelly
ART DIRECTION: QUEEN KELLY, The Broadway Melody, Disraeli
COSTUME DESIGN: PANDORA'S BOX, Queen Kelly, The Broadway Melody
FILM EDITING: MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, Pandora's Box, Blackmail
VISUAL EFFECTS: MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA
And here are the winners as chosen by the readers of WONDERS IN THE DARK.