As Warner Bros. celebrates its 90th anniversary, this boxed set collects the twenty films that the studio has won the Academy Award for best picture. As one would expect it’s an eclectic collection featuring musicals, comedies, dramas, action, and even a fantasy film. The set begins with “The Broadway Melody of 1929”, an early talkie musical and concludes with the 2006 mob film “The Departed”. In between you get a number of films that are not only Oscar winners but that also rank among the greatest films in history such as “Gone With the Wind”, “Casablanca”, “Ben-Hur” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The World War II years were big for Warner Bros. as the studio won Best Picture in 1942 “Mrs. Minever”, 1943 “Casablanca” and again in 1946 with the post war drama, “The Best Years of Our Lives.” The 1950’s brought on films that were the epitome of grand Hollywood epics. In 1956’s “Around the World in 80 Days”, Phileas Fogg accepts a wager that he can circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days. This was a film I loved when I saw it as a kid sometime in the 1970s. It’s big, bold and spectacular in every way.
Equally bold and spectacular but in an entirely different way is the 1959 biblical epic, “Ben-Hur” starring Charlton Heston. As Judah Ben-Hur, Heston plays a Jewish nobleman enslaved by the Romans, who later escapes to seek his vengeance. The film’s signature chariot race remains the blueprint for many action sequences in later films.
1992’s “Unforgiven” saw actor/Director Clint Eastwood return to Westerns, the genre that made him a star in the 1960s. This ode to Westerns also featured Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman, who won the Best Supporting Actor award.
For genre fans there obviously isn’t a lot of appeal. The one exception being 2003’s Best Picture “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” the final part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but for fans of film in general you can’t help but be thrilled with the collection. It’s a tour through cinema history from its earliest days through the present. It’s interesting to see great films from different eras but whether films are in black & white or color and filled with CGI effects the common ground in these films is superb performances and outstanding direction.
The 20 films come on 23 DVDs (because Around the World in 80 Days, Ben-Hur, and Gone with the Wind take up two discs). Most of the films feature DVD extras and including commentary on many such as Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Ben-Hur, Around the World in 82 Days, An American in paris, Chariots of fire, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Unforgiven, etc…
There are also a number of outstanding documentaries to be found. Michael Curtiz: The Director You’ve never Heard of takes a look at one of Hollywood’s great Directors of the 1930s and 1940s. The set also includes a booklet which gives a synopsis of each film along with noting all of the Academy Awards that each film garnered.