As the Best Movie Month of the Year Enters Its Long-March Phase, We Have Recommendations.
So now we enter week two of 31 Days of Oscar. From February 1 to March 3, every film shown on TCM will be an Oscar winner or nominee. Remember this is a classic film marathon, not a sprint. You might need to pace yourself. I’ve scoured the schedule for lesser-known gems, must-see essentials, and personal favorites and selected my top picks for all 31 days. Read on for my recommendations for February 11-17 and come back next week for more.
(All times listed Eastern Time)
8:15 AM – What Price Hollywood? (1932)
The Academy loves a showbiz story. Nominated for its original screenplay, What Price Hollywood? was one of the first films to treat the film industry as the setting for a serious dramatic story. Producer David O Selznick and director George Cukor set out to portray what real Hollywood life was like, rather than poke fun at the movie business. The main characters, an alcoholic director whose career is on the decline and the waitress he marries and turns into a star, were based on contemporaries in the industry. One star rising while another fades. Sound familiar?
Selnick returned to this material in 1937, refocused the story on the female character, and made A Star is Born with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March as a starlet on top of the world and her husband lost at the bottom of a bottle. The film received nominations in seven categories, but its only competitive Oscar came, ironically, for Writing, Original Story. Cukor would also return to direct the musical remake of A Star is Born with Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954. Including 1976’s A Star is Born with Barbra Streisand and the 2018 remake, which both moved the setting to the music industry, each iteration of this story has received multiple Oscar nominations. However, besides the writing award for the 1937 version, the only win (as of this writing) has been for Streisand’s original song Evergreen.
8 PM – The Remains of the Day (1993)
10:30 PM – My Man Godfrey (1936)
Tonight’s double feature juxtaposes two of cinema’s most famous butlers: Anthony Hopkins’s repressed, single-minded Mr. Stevens of The Remains of the Day and William Powell’s charming title character in My Man Godfrey. The Remains of the Day, from the dream team of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, is a gorgeously photographed drama set in the late 1930s. My Man Godfrey was a contemporary screwball comedy in theatres in 1936. What would Mr. Stevens have made of Godfrey, a “forgotten man” hired on a whim by the zany Bullock family?
4:45 PM – The Crowd (1928)
A gem of the silent era, The Crowd tells a simple story about a working-class couple building a life together among the millions living in New York City. I’s notable not only for its realistic, unsentimental look at the life of ordinary people, but also for impressive technical filmmaking. Director King Vidor achieves camerawork which seems impossible for the 1920s, such as the most famous shot in the film which pans up a giant skyscraper, dissolves inside, then moves across a sea of identical desks and anonymous office workers before finally settling on desk #137. The Crowd is also the first movie to show a toilet on screen. We see the toilet being repaired, not actually used. However, studio boss Louis B. Mayer thought the mere sight of a toilet made the film obscene. At the first Oscars, where The Crowd was nominated for Unique and Artistic Picture, Mayer encouraged Academy members to vote for Sunrise instead. The Crowd is not available on DVD or streaming, so don’t miss this chance to see it.
8 PM – The Philadelphia Story (1940)
2 AM – Dodsworth (1936)
For Valentine’s Day, I’ve selected two films about falling in and out of love, marriage, and divorce. The Philadelphia Story received six nominations, winning for its clever screenplay and lead actor James Stewart. Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Stewart, and Ruth Hussey form a love rhombus of sorts as high-society exes and the reporters assigned to cover their shenanigans. Stewart’s win for Best Actor was a surprise to many. In his acceptance speech, Stewart claimed that he’d voted for Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath. With its intelligent script and nuanced portrayal of a middle-aged couple growing apart, Dodsworth deserves to be more widely known. It was nominated for seven Oscars, though its only win was for art direction. Though social expectations have changed, the story still plays well today.
9:50 AM – Little Women (1933)
5:30 PM – The Bad Seed (1952)
The daytime theme is films about kids, so I’ve picked one about four very good kids and another about one very bad kid. 1933’s Little Women, my favorite of the many filmed adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s novel about four sisters coming of age in Massachusetts during the Civil War, received three nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, and Writing (Adaptation). It won for Writing, but lost out to the little-remembered Calvacade in the other categories. Though today it seems like just campy fun, The Bad Seed actually received four Oscar nominations. Yes, it got more nominations than Little Women starring Katharine Hepburn. Patty McCormack as the titular bad seed, Nancy Kelly, and Eileen Heckart all received acting nominations in addition to a nomination for the film’s cinematography. The film did not win any Oscars, but it lives on as a cult classic.
11:30 AM – The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
Today’s slate of Westerns starts at 6 AM with Cimarron, the first Western to ever win Best Picture. However, I don’t think that movie has much to offer beyond further proof that Irene Dunne is a badass. Instead, let’s watch The Ox-Bow Incident, adapted from the novel you read in 11th-grade English and starring Henry Fonda as a man who witnesses a lynch mob. The film’s only nomination was for Outstanding Motion Picture, as Best Picture was called then. The eventual winner was Casablanca, which I cannot really argue with; however, this unique frontier story told with claustrophobic intensity is also worth a watch.
2 PM – Oliver! (1968)
This lavish adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist came as the era of big budget film musicals was ending. In fact, Oliver! was the last musical to win Best Picture until Chicago in 2002, a 34-year gap. To put it in context, in the 10 years prior to Oliver!, four other movie musicals had been awarded Best Picture. The film received 11 nominations and won 5 awards, for Best Picture, director Carol Reed, art direction, sound, and score of a musical picture. Choreographer Onna White also received an honorary Oscar for her work on the film.