Tuesday, January 30, 2007

And every single one is better than Dreamgirls

Classic movie buffs, take note: TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" celebration begins Thursday! Here are some highlights I'm hoping to catch; check out the full schedule (a pdf, with the movies broken down by Oscar category) and let me know your picks!

Feb. 1, 10:30 AM - Brief Encounter (1945)
My "British Literature since 1945" professor screened this in college. Attendance wasn't mandatory; he just wanted to enhance our feel for the era. It's quiet and rich, and deeply adult (as in "mature," not "dirty") for 1945. It's based on a Noel Coward play, so I guess that's no surprise, but the overall seriousness might be. Nominated for direction, leading actress (Celia Johnson) and screenplay.

6:00 PM - The African Queen (1951)
I've seen it 3 times already and wouldn't mind going for a 4th. It's a great story, and the performances by Bogie (who won an Oscar) and Hepburn (who was nominated) are basically a master class. Be sure to catch the first 10 minutes; Robert Morley kills me every time.

Feb. 2, 5:00 PM - Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
The boyfriend's DVR, which (as a gift to me) is programmed to record anything with the keywords "Judy Garland," picked this up recently. Judy's non-singing, non-dancing, Oscar-nommed performance is not the only reason to watch this movie, although it might be the best one; Spencer Tracy (also nominated) is as excellent as ever, and the scene where Maximilian Schell switches from German to English, winning an Oscar in the process, is one of my top ten favorite movie moments. (Not that I actually have a list.) [ETA: Discussed at length here.]

Feb. 3, 4:00 AM - Two for the Seesaw (1962)
I've never seen this one, but it stars Shirley MacLaine and was directed by Robert Wise (3 years before The Sound of Music), with Oscar-nominated cinematography, so I have high hopes. Shirley MacLaine is good in everything.

Feb. 5, 12:00 PM - Sunset Boulevard (1950)
If you haven't seen this yet, now's your chance. Musical theatre fun fact: did you know Stephen Sondheim once planned to make this into a musical? Sometimes I dream about what that musical might have been like. And then I weep bitterly.

9:30 PM - The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Don't try to follow the plot -- some plots weren't meant to be followed. Just soak in the atmosphere. Once you've seen this best-picture winner, you'll know pretty much all you need to know about an entire genre.

Feb 7, 8:00 PM - Inherit the Wind (1960)
As Judy Garland fascinates in Judgment at Nuremberg, so Gene Kelly fascinates here. The movies also have matching best actor nominations for Spencer Tracy, and best black-and-white cinematography noms for Ernest Laszlo. The play will be on Broadway later this season, but will it have Gene Kelly? I think not.

Feb 8, 6:00 AM - A Free Soul (1931)
What do movie geeks mean when they talk about "pre-code" pictures? Why is Norma Shearer my favorite actress? Just how stupid would Clark Gable look without that skeevy mustache? This is the film to answer all your questions. Norma, definitely not wearing anything under that satin gown, scored an Oscar nom; Lionel Barrymore, haggard but still hammy, won.

6:00 PM - The Philadelphia Story (1940)
I hate Cary Grant and I always will. And I'm not sure I really like the story, when all is said and done. But I'm hard pressed to name a better, or funnier, screenplay, and anything directed by George Cukor is bound to be worth watching. Plus, I love Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey and Virginia Weidler so much -- always, but especially in this movie -- that I'm more than willing to overlook Cary's unctuous yet wooden presence. Stewart won the Oscar, as well he should have.

Feb 9, 8:00 PM - The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
My favorite of the Muppet movies (it won an Oscar for Joe Moss's music), and the source of my longstanding crush on Lonny Price. Watching it still makes me think, "Someday I want to live in that magical place called Manhattan!" And then I realize: ...Oh.

Feb 13, 11:45 AM - Harvey (1950)
More Oscar-nominated drunkenness from Jimmy Stewart, and a triumph for the theatre in Josephine Hull's Oscar win! Funny, heartwarming, memorable. You'll feel like a better person for having watched.

Feb 15, 2:15 AM - Camille (1936)
A Valentine's Day(ish) showing of this classic Garbo romance, which for years I knew only as "the movie they go to see at Radio City in Annie." It wasn't till this year that I realized Camille was directed by George Cukor; I caught a captivating half-hour on TCM once and have been hoping to see the rest ever since.

1:15 PM - Born Yesterday (1950)
Judy Holliday is incredible, and if your response to that is, "Who?" I insist that you see this movie. (Ditto if you're thinking, Wasn't Melanie Griffith in that?) Holliday won the Oscar; director Cukor was nominated, of course. [ETA: Discussed at length here.]

Feb 24, 6:30 AM - On The Waterfront (1954)
From a distance, this movie looked -- to quote Sars -- On the Boring as Hell. But I'm glad I checked it out anyway (and on the big screen, too!), because holy shit is this a good movie. It won 8 Oscars, including best picture, and was nominated for 4 more. Made me want to go to film school so I could spend the rest of my life writing papers about how good it is. Just thrilling.

8:00 PM - A Man for All Seasons (1966)
I have a deep devotion to St. Thomas More... but sometimes I think I'm really devoted to Robert Bolt's play about his life, and Paul Scofield's Oscar-winning performance in the film version. Catholic or not, do yourself a favor and check it out. Comes complete with bonus scene-stealing bloat from Orson Welles!

Feb 25, 2:00 PM - Gone With the Wind (1939)
Watch at least the first two hours; the rest is soapy and melodramatic (and still pretty great), but the first half is difficult to overpraise. Won 8 Oscars, including best director for Victor Fleming - but you and I know the best scenes were directed by my man George Cukor.

Feb 28, 12:00 AM - The Little Foxes (1941)
Another great film adaptation of a great play. The combination of director William Wyler and star Bette Davis will knock your socks off; Patricia Collinge and Teresa Wright also do their profession proud. 9 noms, including one for Lillian Hellman's screenplay.

March 2, 10:15 PM - Awakenings (1990)
Like most Penny Marshall films, this makes me cry every damn time. Think you hate Robin Williams? See this before you decide. Embarrassing admission: this was my introduction to the (Oscar-nominated) acting stylings of Robert De Niro, and now, whenever I see him in anything else, I can't quite shake the impression that he's playing a mentally handicapped person.

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