'31 Days of Oscar': A month to remember



When I was a kid growing up in Tallahassee, Fla., one of the highlights of my week was getting up on Sunday morning and checking out WTCG's "Academy Award Theater" (hosted by local legend Bill Tush), which provided me with my first version of film school. Everything was fair game (from Best Picture to Best Cinematography), as long as it came from the Turner vault (which obviously has ballooned over the years).

So this morning began an even grander kind of movie festival that film geeks look forward to all year ’round, especially those with a decent cable subscription. Each year Turner Classic Movies presents "31 Days of Oscar," which celebrates (with various forms of themed programming) some of the most honored movies of all time. It presents a serious challenge to TCM, which tries each year to mix up its schedule and mine its formidable vault of classic films. Sometimes you see plenty of "retreads," which is inevitable given the category, but then there are loads of surprises.

Daytime programming is focused on genres, while evening programming is dedicated to various decades. Throughout this morning and afternoon, the theme is "Adventure," which includes movies as familiar as The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (11:30 a.m.) to underappreciated The Naked Prey (4 p.m.). Tonight brings a salute to the ’70s, starting with the rather beaten-to-death Jaws (8 p.m.) and concluding with Blake Edwards' Darling Lili (4:45 a.m., Saturday morning), about a World War I flying ace who gets tangled up with a hot spy. (The real question is whether I'll stay up late enough to rewatch my favorite Jack Nicholson performance, Five Easy Pieces, at 2:30 a.m., if for no other reason than this classic fuck-the-system moment ...)

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Future themes include science fiction (Them!, The Black Hole) on Saturday, musicals (The Harvey Girls, Gigi) on Sunday, and biopics (The Eddy Duchin Story, The Joker Is Wild) on Monday — to name a few. The month obviously runs right through the Academy Awards ceremony Feb. 24 and concludes on March 2 (with, of all choices, Backdraft), showing that once again, the selections can come from a wide range of winning categories.

It's all hosted by everyone's favorite Atlanta commuter, TCM's Robert Osborne, who brings a wealth of film knowledge and a bit of panache to the proceedings. Osborne, who is the official greeter for the Academy Awards ceremonies, also updates the official book on the Oscars (including an updated version for the 80th anniversary, due out in September on Abbeville Press. The longtime Hollywood Reporter columnist recently was honored by the National Board of Review, which gave him the William K. Everson Film History Award.

This is the kind of Academy Award theater everyone can love. Get your TiVos started.

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