The Hollywood Revue of 1929 ★★½

Stilted, creaky early MGM talkie is a story-free collection of vignettes; most of their stable of stars come out to perform in little skits that are mostly stiff, with boring flat set design not helped by the pair of two-strip Technicolor scenes. There are a couple of OK dance sequences -- the one celebrating Lon Chaney and scary masks is fun -- and, for fans of studio pictures of this period, a charming scrappiness, but the only individual sequences that really take off are those with Bessie Love and Marie Dressler and an exceptionally strange one with Buster Keaton in drag (even Laurel & Hardy fall flat), as well as the closing "Singin' in the Rain" chorus which of course would be eclipsed in a little over twenty years. Most of the comedy and vaudeville pieces are terminally unfunny, suffering as usual from the off-track timing of sound films from the '20s. No idea how this got a Best Picture nomination; there are so many better Hollywood films from 1929, and this one doesn't even stand up to the lackluster MGM musical that won that year, The Broadway Melody.

Fans of the various stars included will probably want to see it once, as will fellow nerds into pre-Code stuff (there's a good bit of sexual suggestiveness and near-nudity here, for the record) or trying to catch all the Oscar films, but fair warning to those on any such quest: the film as presented on the Warner Archive disc is in terrible shape, with an off-center transfer of a faded-out, muddy print, though the sound is mostly decent.