The Return of ’31 Days of Oscar’
Turner Classic Movies highlights classics and new favorites this month
After a delayed start, awards season has begun in Hollywood, which means it’s time for “31 Days of Oscar” on Turner Classic Movies. Each day in April features films which either won Academy Awards or received nominations. TCM is showing the films alphabetically, ending with Best Foreign Language Film winner ‘Z’ on May 1. Here are my top picks for the month:
(All listed times are Eastern Standard, check your local listings or TCM.com for actual air times in your area. Each day’s schedule begins at 6am.; if a film airs between midnight and 6 a.m. TCM lists it on the previous day’s programming schedule.)
4/7, 10:15AM–Gaslight (1944)
“Gaslighting” has become a buzzword in the last few years, but how many people have actually seen the film that gave us that term? Technically speaking, “gaslighting” means when someone lies and manipulates you so that you begin to doubt your own sanity and then you can be committed to an asylum and your tormentor can steal your aunt’s jewels. Ingrid Bergman won Best Actress for her performance as a woman driven mad. The film received seven nominations in total, including Best Picture, which it lost to the Bing Crosby crowd-pleaser Going My Way. Keep an eye out for a young Angela Lansbury in her first film role as Bergman’s maid, she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
4/10, 3PM–Hope and Glory (1987)
The title may sound generic, but this warm-hearted story of British civilian life during WWII has wonderful moments that will stick with you. Writer-director John Boorman tells the story through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy, based on his own experiences during the London blitz. The film received five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, but did not win any awards; in fact it lost in almost every category to that year’s big winner, The Last Emperor.
4/14, 12:15PM–La Ronde (1950)
This French language film by the ingenious director Max Ophuls follows ten characters in interconnected vignettes about the “merry-go-round” of love in 1900s Vienna. Before his untimely death at age 54 in 1957, Ophuls had an amazing late run of four films which are now considered masterpieces, beginning with La Ronde. The film features impressive long takes and sweeping camerawork, as well as a who’s who of European stars including Danielle Darrieux, Simone Simon, Anton Walbrook, and Simone Signoret. The Academy nominated La Ronde for two Oscars, for its screenplay and black-and-white art direction. An all the more notable accomplishment since, even today, foreign language films rarely receive nominations in those categories and the award for best foreign language film was not established until 1956.
4/18, 8PM–Nebraska (2013)
I was happy to see that TCM has included several movies from the 2000s in this year’s 31 Days line-up. The canon of classic films is not a fixed list; it should always be re-evaluated and refreshed as new art is made. Omaha-born Alexander Payne is one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers. His films, including Election, About Schmidt, and Sideways, depict familiar, everyday people with biting dark humor. Nebraska is no exception as the story of a cantankerous elderly man who guilts his adult son into taking a road trip to collect sweepstakes winnings. While several of Payne’s films have earned Oscar nominations, 2013’s Nebraska received the most with six. Surprisingly, it didn’t win in any category, though lead actor Bruce Dern and Phedon Papamichael’s black and white cinematography were certainly deserving.
4/23, 10:30PM–The Red Shoes (1948)
This film about a dancer torn between a devotion to her art and a desire for a conventional life was the tenth collaboration of the celebrated filmmaking team of director Michael Powell and producer Emeric Pressburger. It was nominated in Best Picture and four additional categories, winning much-deserved awards for the art direction and the score. It is visually dazzling, particularly the ballet sequences starring real-life ballerina Moira Shearer. A Hans Christian Andersen story about a pair of cursed shoes provides the plot of the ballet-within-the-film, while the overarching story becomes a surreal take on the “can she have it all?” dilemma. Anton Walbrook, a favorite character actor for Powell and Pressburger, is particularly good as Lermontov, the cold impresario who gives Shearer’s character her big break.
4/28, 1:15AM–The Third Man (1949)
If you have never seen this one, set the DVR, get the app, whatever you need to do–just watch it already. This atmospheric post-WWII noir follows an American investigating a friend’s suspicious death in Vienna. Though Orson Welles gets all the memorable lines, this is really a Joseph Cotten film. I think Cotten is an actor who is generally excellent, but doesn’t have the name recognition he deserves. He came to Hollywood with Welles as a member of Welles’ Mercury Theatre Company and after a large supporting role in 1941’s Citizen Kane, Cotten transitioned into a successful, decades-long movie career (including a role 1944’s Gaslight). The film received nominations for direction and editing, though surprisingly not for the iconic score by Anton Karas; however, the striking cinematography earned the film’s only win.