academy award

Forgotten Best Pictures: 6 Oscar-Winning Films You’ve Never Heard Of

How many films can you name that won the Academy Award for Best Picture? Probably quite a few, if you think hard enough, but could you name most of them? Or even half of them?

Among the ninety films that won the Best Picture Oscar, many have been forgotten by modern movie audiences, even if being the toast of Hollywood for one glorious night, or even several years after before fading from cultural memory. Here’s just a few:

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Directed by F.W. Murnau, this movie won Best Unique and Artistic Picture at the first ever Academy Awards in 1929 (Wings won for Outstanding Picture; both categories were replaced by the modern Best Picture category.) It also helped Janet Gaynor, who later played the lead in A Star is Born (1937), win the first ever Best Actress Oscar. If you’re curious to see cinema history, the film is available to watch on YouTube in its entirety.

Cimarron (1931)

Starring Academy Award-nominees Richard Dix and Irene Dunne, this pre-code western was RKO studios most expensive project up to that date. In addition to Best Picture, the film took home two more Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay (for Howard Estabrook who later adapted David Copperfield in 1935) and Best Art Direction (for Max Rée who later worked on John Ford’s Stagecoach.)

Grand Hotel (1932)

Adapted from a Broadway play by by William A. Drake, this lavish romantic drama was Hollywood’s biggest film of the year and one of the first production to bring together an ensemble of several A-list actors — in this case, Greta Garbo, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, and Joan Crawford! It was remade twice in the first two decades after its release, and screenwriting juggernaut William Goldman tried unsuccessfully to adapt it in the 1970s. To date, it is the only film to have won the Academy Award for Best Picture without being nominated in any other category.

Cavalcade (1934)

In addition to Best Picture, Cavalcade won Best Director for Frank Lloyd and Best Art Direction for William S. Darling at the Academy Awards. Diana Wynyard was nominated for Best Actress but lost out to up-and-coming star Katherine Hepburn. The epic drama depicted the life and times of English citizens in the first quarter of the 20th century as the world transitioned into a more modern society. In 2002, Cavalcade was preserved by the Academy Film Archive.

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The second biopic to win Best Picture was The Life of Emile Zola, the 19th-century French novelist who penned J’Accuse in response to the imprisonment of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. The film received ten Academy Award nominations, winning Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Joseph Schildkraut, who portrayed Dreyfus. The lead role of Zola was played by Paul Muni, who had already won the Oscar for playing Louis Pasteur a year prior.

The Lost Weekend (1945)

The Lost Weekend is probably not the first film that comes to mind when people think of Hollywood legend Billy Wilder. Nonetheless, the film was nominated for seven Oscars and won four: Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director and Best Screenplay for Wilder, who shared the latter with co-writer Charles Brackett. These were the first two Academy Awards Wilder won, but not his last. The film noir also shared the Grand Prix at the first Cannes Film Festival.

2019 Academy Awards: The Best Picture Nominees

2019 Best Picture nominees
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

The final award of the night, Best Motion Picture of the Year, is handed out to the eligible producers of the film. Since 2009, the number of nominations has increased from five to a maximum of ten, based on a more complicated voting system that uses a modified preferential ranking process.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture:

Black Panther

Black Panther is the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination and is notable for its themes of race and diverse cast and role models for children of color used to typically seeing white male heroes in Hollywood blockbusters. It was directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler, while the sole producer eligible for the Best Picture Oscar is Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and mastermind of the groundbreaking Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther is up for seven Academy Awards total.

BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman is the latest film from Spike Lee and earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Directing. Based on true events, the film tells the story of an African American detective who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Lee is also one of the five producers eligible for the Best Picture Oscar, including Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, and Jordan Peele, who won a Best Screenplay Oscar last year for 2018 Best Picture nominee Get Out. BlacKkKlansman is up for six Academy Awards total.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody is the latest Hollywood musical biopic to gain a groundswell of awards season buzz, focusing on legendary rock group Queen, with Rami Malek giving an Oscar-nominated turn as iconic frontman Freddie Mercury. The sole producer eligible for Best Picture is Graham King, who previously won the award for Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film, The Departed, and was nominated in the category for two additional Scorsese films, Hugo and The Aviator. Bohemian Rhapsody is up for five Academy Awards total.

The Favourite

The Favourite is the latest critically-acclaimed art house film from Greek writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer). The period dramedy depicts the rivalry between two cousins vying for the favor of 18th century British Queen Anne. Lanthimos is one of four producers eligible for the Academy Award, along with Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, and Lee Magiday. This is the first Oscar nomination for Dempsey and Magiday, while Guiney was previously nominated in the category for Room in 2015. The Favourite is up for ten Academy Awards total.

Green Book

Green Book is a dramedy set in the 1950s Deep South, based on a real life concert tour of African American pianist Don Shirley and his white driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga. Five producers are eligible in the category, including director and co-writer Peter Farrelly, who made a name with his brother for slapstick comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. He shares the nomination with Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Hayes Currie, and Vallelonga’s son, Nick Vallelonga, who is also co-nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Green Book is up for five Academy Awards total.

Roma

Roma is a deeply personal, semi-autobiographical film by Alfonso Cuarón set in Mexico City in the early 1970s and shot beautifully in black-and-white. In addition to sharing the Best Picture nomination with Gabriela Rodriguez, Cuarón also wrote, shot, and directed the film, for which he received additional Oscar nods. This is the first nomination for Rodriguez, and the first nomination in the category ever for a Latinx woman. Along with the The Favourite, Roma has the most Academy Award nominations this year, with a total of ten.

A Star is Born

A Star is Born is the third remake of the original 1937 film, updated by director and star Bradley Cooper after years of development hell with several filmmakers attached. Cooper shares the Best Picture nod with Bill Gerber and Lynette Howell Taylor. This is Cooper’s second nomination in the category (the first was for American Sniper) and seventh overall; it’s the first nomination for both Gerber and Taylor. A Star is Born is up for eight Academy Awards total.

Vice

Vice is a dramedy biopic of former Vice President Dick Cheney, starring Christian Bale in heavy, lifelike prosthetics. The film is writer and director Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short, which similarly took a quasi-comedic look at the lead-up to the 2008 Great Recession, and which earned him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. McKay is eligible for Best Picture along with Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Kevin J. Messick. Gardner has been nominated for Best Picture six times in the last seven years, winning twice, for 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight; Kleiner has been nominated five times, sharing both Oscars with Gardner. This is the first nomination for Messick. Vice is up for eight Academy Awards total.

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

2019 Academy Awards: The Best Editing Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Film Editing:

BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown

This is the second Academy Award nomination for Barry Alexander Brown, with his first dating back nearly forty years ago for the 1979 documentary feature The War at Home. Since then, Brown has edited several of Spike Lee’s films, including Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, He Got Game, 25th Hour, and Inside Man. He’s also edited The Giver, and directed the rock documentary, The Who’s Tommy, the Amazing Journey.

Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman

John Ottman has edited several major motion pictures, but has also been the film composer for dozens more. He has edited several of Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer’s films, including The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil, Superman Returns, Valkyrie and three X-Men films. Some of the films Ottman has scored include The Cable Guy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Astro Boy, Orphan, and Fantastic Four. This is his first Oscar nomination.

The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis

Yorgos Mavropsaridis has edited nearly eighty films, including those of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos — Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and The Favourite, which has earned him his first Oscar nomination. He will also work in post-production on Suicide Tourist, currently filming, starring Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito

Green Book editor Patrick J. Don Vito has edited over a dozen films, including Another House on Mercy Street and My Life in Ruins, and has worked in the editing department of several more, including Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Welcome to Mooseport, and Semi-Pro. Don Vito also edited the visual effects on the first Austin Powers sequel. This is his first Oscar nomination.

Vice, Hank Corwin

Hank Corwin was first Oscar-nominated for his work on Adam McKay’s previous film, The Big Short. Corwin has also edited for other prestige directors such as Terence Malick, Robert Redford, Barry Levinson, and Oliver Stone. Some of his credits include Natural Born Killers, Nixon, The Horse Whisperer, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The New World, and The Tree of Life.

 

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

2019 Academy Awards: The Nominees for Best Directing

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s nominees for Best Achievement in Directing:

BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee

Lee has been a figure in American cinema since his 1986 feature debut, She’s Gotta Have It, which was adapted into a television series in 2017. Many of his films have examined race relations, urban life, political issues of the 20th and 21st centuries, and the role media plays in modern society. In 1983, Lee won the Student Academy Award, and has since been nominated for an Oscar five times, though this is the first time he’s been recognized for his Directing. BlacKkKlansman is up for Best Picture and stars John David Washington and Adam Driver as 1970s NYPD detectives exposing the Ku Klux Klan.

Cold War, Pawel Pawlikowski

Pawel Pawlikowski is a Polish filmmaker who has helmed several award-winning documentaries and feature films, including Ida, which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2015. At the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Pawlikowski won the Best Director prize his latest film, Cold War. In addition to Best Directing, Cold War is up for two other Oscars — Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film. Cold War is a period film loosely based on Pawlikowski’s parents, who fell in love and played music in Europe during the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West.

The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos

Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has been making a name for himself since his 2009 film, Dogtooth, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. His film The Lobster, starring Colin Farrell, was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. His period dramedy The Favourite has generated a lot of buzz since its release, with ten Oscar nominations in total, including Best Picture and three Acting nods for its main cast of Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, and Olivia Colman. Colman in particular has become a favorite for her leading role as Queen Anne.

Roma, Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón is no stranger to the Academy Awards, having ten nominations total and two wins to date, including Best Film Editing and Best Directing for his 2014 space epic, Gravity. His oeuvre has been varied throughout the years, including Great Expectations, Y Tu Mamá También, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Children of Men. Roma, a favorite in this year’s Oscars with 10 nominations, is a semi-autobiographical story set in the early 1970s and shot in stark black-and-white.

Vice, Adam McKay

Adam McKay has had an unconventional path to prestige filmmaking. The Philadelphia comedian failed his audition to be on Saturday Night Live but earned a spot on its writing staff and eventually became the show’s head writer. He had an instant chemistry with cast member Will Ferrell, and eventually wrote and directed several films starring the actor, including Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers. His career moved to the next level with 2015’s The Big Short, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as a nomination for Best Directing. His newest film, Vice, starring Christian Bale as former Vice President Dick Cheney, has eight Oscar nominations, including three nods for McKay.

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

Editing Like an Oscar Winner: Why Learn Avid Media Composer?

by NYFA Instructor Igor Torgeson

Avid Editing

With a new semester beginning, students at NYFA campuses are starting their first introduction to Avid’s Media Composer system.  Hard drives are being formatted, project directories are being created, and folks everywhere are wondering to themselves “What is YCbCr anyway?”

As Post Production instructors, we often get the asked how Media Composer became the software of choice at the New York Film Academy. I can only assume that question is also asked at the many film schools where Media Composer is the required software.

This uniform approach to editing software comes from three basic facts about Media Composer that have been consistent since the 1990’s and look to continue to be true for at least the next five to ten years.

1. Avid Media Composer is the Industry Standard Editing Software.

All of the films nominated the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2018, as well as all the films nominated for Best Editing for 2018, were edited using Avid Media Composer.

If you’re going to be working in feature films or episodic television, Media Composer is simply the standard for editing software.  Post facilities are set up to use Media Composer and that is the expected workflow.

2. Proficiency in Avid Media Composer Translates to Proficiency in Other Editing Platforms

Students sometimes find the first few sessions with media composer a bit challenging, as the interface does very little to inform you what everything is and what it does. This is a legacy of the software’s creation by engineers for technically-inclined individuals.

The thing to remember, however, is that all the other Non-Linear Editing software on the market is at least in some part inspired by or reacting to Media Composer. That means the general workflow of every platform is the same.  Media gets into the software. A window allows the editor to view and listen to the media.  The editor chooses the media to include in the show and places it in a timeline, which can be viewed in another window.  This is the same in every platform!

Once an editor becomes comfortable with this process in Avid Media Composer, moving to other platforms becomes easier, as the switch is simply a matter of finding the same tools in the new software, as well as understanding which tools the new platform has automated or eliminated.

3. Avid Editors Earn More Than Editors On Other Platforms

Of course, success as an editor is first and foremost a result of talent, skill, and experience — whatever the platform. Nevertheless, the data shows that there is a positive difference in income for Avid editors. For students hoping to move into editing, or at least have a gig that can pay well between other projects, Media Composer is the clear choice.  According to Payscale.com, the median nationwide salary for an editor with Avid skills is over $50,000.  For an editor with Premiere skills, $37,475. In Payscale’s survey, Premiere editors topped out at $53,727, top Avid editors made $105,126!

According to Glassdoor.com, Avid Editors in major markets, depending on experience, can expect even higher salaries, getting to over $135,000 annually. The same site currently lists Premiere Editor positions for $40,000 to $51,000.

For gigs and on an hourly basis, Avid Editors expect between $45 and $75 an hour.  Final Cut Pro Editors fare even worse — Glassdoor currently lists a Final Cut Pro Editing position for $20-$22 an hour.

As we saw above, once an editor learns Avid, it’s relatively easy to shift to a new platform.  So not only does an editor have an economic advantage by knowing Avid, in the absence of Avid jobs, it’s easy to shift to another software, even if it means a lower rate for a while.

Sweeteners

So with those three basic facts in mind, Avid Media Composer has been the clear choice for editing software.  Avid has also sweetened the deal a bit for students and New York Film Academy in particular.  First, Media Composer is available to students for about $10 a month, which is an enormous discount off the retail price.  Second, Avid has partnered with NYFA to make us an Avid Learning Partner, which allows us to offer our students the possibility of earning Avid User Certification (if they successfully pass the exam).  

With those things together, our goal continues to be giving students a thorough training in Post Production, on industry standard software, with a competitive advantage when entering the marketplace.  And maybe even a passing knowledge of YCbCr.

The Academy Awards: Our Favorite Cinematography Wins of Last 10 Years

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

While the acting and Best Picture awards typically dominate the buzz and conversation leading up to the Academy Awards, the cinematography category often has — quite literally — the showiest nominees. While typically the director has a say in how a film will look, as well as how specific shots will be laid out, their director of photography is usually the one tasked with creating this look.

Lighting, camera angles, camera movement, focus, and depth of field are just some of the choices a film’s cinematographer will make, with or without the director’s input. They will also have a say in the types of film stock and camera equipment used on set. All of these decisions culminate in a film’s final look, which is why it’s the director of photographer who will take home the Oscar when a film wins the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

While all of the nominees made the short list because of their unique, harrowing, complex, or gorgeous looks, here are just some of our favorite wins from the past decade:

Life of Pi – Claudio Miranda

Ang Lee adapted the novel Life of Pi and perfectly captured its otherworldly tale of a young man trapped in the middle of an ocean with a tiger. The movie is bright, colorful, and larger than life. In addition to taking place mostly on water, it incorporates magical islands and neon-infused skies, making it one of those films that should be illegal to watch on your phone. This deserves the 4K widescreen TV treatment at the least. No wonder it managed to beat out cinematography legend Roger Deakins’s outstanding work on the James Bond smash hit, Skyfall, as well as the other nominees in 2013.

Check out Life of Pi co-star and New York Film Academy alum Vibish Sivakumar here

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

La La Land – Linus Sandgren

Another colorful entry in this list is 2016’s La La Land, though the backdrop was less ocean fantasy and more theatrically artificial Los Angeles. But by combining traditional filmmaking techniques with modern sensibilities, Sandgren managed to put the audience in the world of writer/director Damien Chazelle’s making. La La Land earned multiple nominations and was a certified hit that left smiles on lots of faces.

La La Land

La La Land

Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki

With nearly the entire action thriller taking place in space, you’d think there wouldn’t be much to shoot outside of star Sandra Bullock in an astronaut suit — but that’s partly why Lubezki’s work on Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is so impressive. By using outer space as negative space, Lubezki was able to capture a loneliness and isolation on levels rarely seen in cinema. Conversely, by using the bright blue Earth as a massive, larger-than-life backdrop in certain shots, the film never lost its sense of place, even as Bullock drifted aimlessly into a black nothingness.

Gravity

Gravity


Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki 

Lubezki won a second consecutive Oscar for his work on Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, a film comprised of several long, complicated takes edited together to look like a single, continuous shot. This technique was used to some extent in Lubezki’s previous film Gravity, as well as Children of Men, but it was here where he really mastered the technique, transforming it from a mere gimmick into a statement about acting, theatre, and filmmaking in itself.

Birdman

Birdman

The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki

Emmanuel Lubezki appears frequently on this list because he became the first person to ever win three Academy Awards for Best Cinematography in a row, a distinction that shows just how brilliant he is behind the camera. His third win came for The Revenant, again directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and again filled with seemingly endless one-shots. Even more impressive was that The Revenant used only natural lighting and was shot nearly entirely outside in the wilderness on very cold days. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, The Revenant manages to be one of the most gorgeous looking films of the last decade.

The Revenant

The Revenant

Who will win this year’s award? Could it be Roger Deakins for his expansive work in Blade Runner 2049? Or Dan Laustsen’s grimy fairy tale noir look for The Shape of Water? Or maybe Rachel Morrison, the Black Panther cinematographer and first ever woman nominated in the category for her work on Mudbound? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Interested in studying cinematography and taking home an Oscar or three yourself in the future? Check out New York Film Academy’s cinematography programs here.