Turner Classic Movies: 31 Days of Oscar
CMH Picks: Week One
It’s every Movies Lovers’ favorite time of year: Awards Season — when Hollywood’s most ambitious and artistic films are hoping for that Oscar gold. And if you’re a classic movie fan, then you even have more to be happy about: TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar programming event. During the entire month of February (spilling into March), TCM celebrates the Academy Awards by airing nothing but Oscar nominated/winning films. And, as I am sure you already deduced, this means there are A LOT of good films airing this month – and not nearly enough time to watch them all. So, how will you ever decide what to watch? Well, since we here at CMH believe in civil service, we thought we’d do our duty by doing some of the thinking for you. In fact, we already have given it a good deal of thought, and although there were some tough choices to make, we’ve picked what we consider to be the best of the batch for each day of the event. So, without further ado, here is this week’s picks:
Saturday, February 1: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington at 3:45PM EST
1 Win: Best Writing, Original Story Oscar 1940
Many times a film fills a collective social need. During the depression, musicals were the ‘escape’ that many Americans needed. After World War II, film-noir represented the reality of post-war disillusionment. And right now, whatever side of the political fence you may or may not be on, I think we can all safely admit that world politics is a bleak looking place. Sometimes we just need to believe that there is still some moral and social justice in politics and that our leaders have the people’s best interest in mind. Sometimes, we just need Jimmy Stewart to show us that it’s going to be OK.
Sunday, February 2: The Lost Weekend at 8:00PM EST
4 Wins: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Writing Screenplay 1946
Ray Milland in the throes of addiction.
Winner of four Academy Awards, The Lost Weekend is Hollywood’s first attempt at showing the devastating effects of alcoholism. The film’s plot is simple: we follow Don Birnan (Ray Milland) down his four-day alcoholic binge. And with that simple story we get one of Hollywood’s most brutal demonstrations of the struggles of addiction.
Monday, February 3: Mildred Pierce at 7:00AM EST
1 Win: Best Actress 1946
“You look down on me, because I work for a living. Don’t you.”- Oh, how that line breaks me.
Film-noir, family drama, and Joan Crawford all rolled into one little delectable slice of heaven. Made during the rise of post-war disillusionment, this film questions the nature of human morality and the family unit, asking the tough question: Is family certain? The film was nominated for six Academy awards with Joan Crawford taking home the Oscar gold.
Tuesday February 4: The Battle for Algiers at 1:45PM EST
3 Nominations: Best Foreign Language Film 1967, Best Director and Best Writing Story and Screenplay (Written Directly for the Screen) 1969
The Battle for Algiers is a 1966 war film that shows the Algerian revolution from both the French and Algerian perspectives. The film used various techniques to make the film look like a documentary or newsreel, and used non-professional actors who lived through the revolution to make the film as true-to-live as possible. The results were an amazingly powerful fiction film that felt and looked like a documentary, successfully fooling many Americans to believe it was.
Wednesday February 5: The Best Years of Our Lives at 8:00PM EST
7 Wins: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Writing Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
This is truly one of post-WWII America’s most important films. I have written papers and taught classes on the significance, both thematically and artistically, of this film. Since I don’t have space to do so in this post, I will say this: pay attention to the cinematography of Greg Toland. In a film were everything is excellent, it’s truly amazing that the camerawork should stick out, but it does.
Thursday, February 6: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at 8:00PM EST
5 Wins: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography Black-and-White, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Black-and-White, Best Costume Design Black-and-White 1967
Well, this picture sure sums up a lot.
Academics, booze, and broken self-delusions; who would have thought a movie with those things front-and-center could be so funny. Yes, the film is filled with the darker themes of personal dissatisfaction, alcohol, power and the ultimate absurdity of life, but it also offers the audience the coping mechanism of humor; the same mechanism used by the film’s leads Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. What makes the film so tragic, though, is that when the humor is taken away — the cold hard truth is laid bare for both the characters and audience to see.
Friday February 7: The Search at 2:00PM EST
1 Win: Best Writing Motion Picture Story
A joint production from The United States and Switzerland, this film follows a 9-year old Auschwitz survivor as he is found and cared for by American GI, Montgomery Clift. The film was shot in the ruins of post-war Europe, showing the devastation that occurred during and after the war. The film also marked Montgomery Clift’s debut, for which he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.
Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub