Friday, February 3, 2012

TCM's 31 Days of Oscar

This month and the first two days of March, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is holding their "31 Days of Oscar." For those of you unfamiliar with Turner Classic Movies, "31 Days of Oscar" is an annual event that TCM airs to coincide with the Academy Awards, during which time every film that they show is either an Oscar winner or an Oscar nominee. Most years are centred around a certain them. This year it is "Go Around the World with Oscar," with marathons of movies set in a particular country.

Now many classic movie fans look forward to the "31 Days of Oscar" each year, as it is a time when TCM shows some of the greatest films of all time. This month they will be showing Gone With the Wind (1939), Gaslight (1944), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Giant (1955), My Fair Lady (1964), and so on. This means that many classic movie buffs can look forward to seeing their many of their favourite movies this month.

While many classic movie fans look forward to TCM's "31 Days of Oscar," I have to say I am not one of them.  Oh, many of my favourite movies will air this month. In addition to such big names as Gone With the Wind, Casablanca (1942), The Apartment (1960), and The Music Man (1962), Turner Classic Movies is showing such "smaller" gems as The Ladykillers (1955), Town Without Pity (1961), Wait Until Dark (1967), and The Four Feathers (1939). I already know that there are some days when my DVR will be running non-stop. That having been said, I still do not particularly care for the "31 Days of Oscar," at least as it has been handled the past many years.

There are two simple reasons that the "31 Days of Oscar" is my least favourite Turner Classic Movies event of the year. The first is that it is the one time during which TCM is guaranteed to show several movies made after 1970. In my humble opinion, TCM should only show movies made before 1970, with but only a very few exceptions. My reasoning is simply that it takes at least twenty to thirty years before a film can be considered a classic. In other words, to be a classic, a movie must stand the test of time. This month Turner Classic Movies is showing Rocky (1976), Gandhi (1982), Three Days of the Condor (1975), Gloria (1980), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Awakenings (1990), Glory (1989), Victor/Victoria (1982), Logan's Run (1976), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and so on. Now don't get me wrong, I do love many of these films dearly Both Three Days of the Condor and Glory number among my favourite films of the Seventies and Eighties. That having been said, I don't really think they have a place on TCM as they simply have not been around long enough. Sadly, "the 31 Days of Oscar" see more recent films on TCM (some as recent as the Naughts--I think it was last year they showed Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which was released in 2003) than any other time of year. Here I should point out that many of these more recent films could be seen on many other cable channels. Just how many times have AMC and TNT alone shown Rocky?

The second reason I am not particularly fond of the "31 Days of Oscar" is that being nominated for an Oscar or even winning an Oscar is not a guarantee of quality. I believe we can all name films that not only should not have won an Oscar, but should not have even been nominated. A case in point for me is Kramer vs. Kramer. I have always thought that it was one of the worst best picture winners of all time. To me it amounts to a Lifetime movie (made before Lifetime had even launched) that somehow got made as a feature film. About the only thing I can recommend about the movie is its performances, which are top notch. Sadly, Kramer vs. Kramer is not the worst movie to ever win Best Picture, let alone be nominated for it. Conceivably, The English Patient (1996) and Crash (2004), Best Picture winners so bad that they make Kramer vs. Kramer look like Citizen Kane (1941), could air on TCM during the "31 Days of Oscar." They may have, for all I know. Of course, if winning Best Picture is no guarantee of quality, then neither is being nominated or winning any other category necessarily a guarantee. Don't get me started about Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Between the fact that more recent films often air on Turner Classic Movies during the "31 Days of Oscar" and that sometimes inferior quality films will air on TCM during the "31 Days of Oscar" simply they were nominated or won some Oscar or another, I sometimes find myself watching the channel less than I would usually during another time of year.  Whereas during TCM's "Summer Under the Stars" in August I sometimes find myself watching TCM several hours a day, during "31 Days of Oscar" I sometimes find myself not turning to the channel for days at a time.

Now I am not about to say that I think that Turner Classic Movies should do away with the "31 Days of Oscar." I certainly think it is a viable concept and that it is a good way of honouring those films that have been nominated for an Academy Award or have won one. I just wish TCM would revise what is showing during the "31 Days of Oscar." While quality is generally in the eye of the beholder (I realise that there are those who might think that Kramer vs. Kramer is a great film), they could at least limit the films shown to those produced prior to 1970 or at the very least prior to 1980. Indeed, in doing so I think that TCM would be playing to its strongest suit--focusing upon and celebrating older films. I also think I would probably not be the only one of their viewers who would happy if they did so. Let's face it, most of us TCM fans watch the channel to see films of a certain vintage, films not shown any place else and often not even available on DVD. I very seriously doubt many of us would miss many of the more recent films if they were not shown on TCM at all.

Regardless, while I must admit I am never happy to see Rocky or Logan's Run on TCM, while I don't particularly care for the "31 Days of Oscar" as it currently stand, I am looking forward to seeing many of my favourites again. As much as I might complain about the "31 Days of Oscar," it is the one time of year I can see Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Giant, The Music Man, and so on all in the same month and on the same channel.

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