Thursday, January 5, 2012

Coming distractions: 31 Days of Oscar on TCM

My Facebook compadre Kingo Gondo, in a comment on a post at my BBFF Stacia’s She Blogged by Night, humorously refers to the annual Oscar tribute event at The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ as “31 Days of Annual Repetition.”  So even though TCM has their tentative schedule for February up (once again, profuse thanks to Laura at Miscellaneous Musings for passing along the word to little ol’ me) this “Coming Distractions” post is going to be relatively brief.  For those of you just joining us, every year at this time Turner Classic Movies pulls out of the mothballs movie classics that either won or were nominated for Academy Awards, and showcases them in February (and part of March, in order to make “31 days”—this year February has an extra day, I should point out).  Occasionally—heavy emphasis on occasionally—Tee Cee Em will show a movie that’s either not been present and accounted for in some time or is new to the channel, but for the most part it gives classic movie fans the opportunity to check in with their old favorites while the rest of us are thankful that we’re not missing a whole lot, particularly when our fathers are hypnotized by a World’s Dumbest marathon on TruTV.

There are a few new-to-TCM goodies sprinkled on this year’s lineup, however…and I need to state right off the bat that when I say “new-to-TCM” I really mean movies that I’ve not seen turn up on the channel—keep in mind that I’m working with a handicap because I only started getting Turner Classic Movies on a regular basis after making the big move to Athens, GA in May 2008.  (Before that time, the evil cable entity known as Bombast Comcast in Savannah charged extra to get TCM…something my father refused to accommodate because of his high-minded principles and because he’s notoriously tight with a buck.)  So it’s entirely possible that the movies I’ve highlighted here have been on TCM before (and in some cases I have indicated as such)…but for the most part, this is just my first time seeing them on the schedule.  For the rest of the Oscar contenders, you can peruse the listings at your leisure and as always, all times are EST and are scheduled to change.

(Oh, and just more thing…I learned from Stacia that the once-proud Fox Movie Channel has now turned wanton prostitute, branding itself as “FXM” and showing commercials.  Because of this “complete lack of relevance,” as she so rightly describes it, the channel will no longer exist here at TDOY except as a target for my relentless mockery.  R.I.P., FMC.)

February 2, Thursday – John Huston’s next-to-penultimate film, Under the Volcano (1984), is scheduled at 3am; I caught this on the Sundance Channel (another cable movie outlet that seems to be satisfied with letting johns look up its dress) a year or two ago and it’s a must-see movie, with a first-rate performance by Albert Finney as a retired dipsomaniac consul in Mexico (TDOY fave Katy Jurado has a nice turn in this one, too).

February 3, FridayThe Invisible Woman (1940) at 12:30pm. No, that’s not a typo—Woman actually earned an Oscar nom for its special effects, and even though this kooky comedy romp has been on TCM before there’s just something appealing about a movie that features John Barrymore, Charlie Ruggles, Oscar Homolka, Ed Brophy, Margaret Hamilton and Shemp Howard in the cast.  (This was a favorite of mine as a kid but I have a sneaking suspicion it probably doesn’t hold up as well as I remember.)

February 4, SaturdayHoly Matrimony (1943), 6:15pm.  The great Monty Woolley plays a reclusive artist whose plan to assume the identity of his departed servant (Eric Blore) snowballs into complications involving Britain’s own Gracie Fields.  I haven’t seen this one (from what I hear it’s an adventure trying to track it down) but with a cast that includes Laird Cregar, Una O’Connor, Franklin Pangborn, George Zucco and Ethel Griffies it’s one I’ll keep an eye out for.

February 6, MondayVoice in the Wind (1944), 12:30pm.  Another hard-to-find classic (directed by Arthur Ripley) that stars Francis Lederer as a musician whose repressed memory of life under Nazi tyranny returns after an incident in Guadalupe.  My Facebook chum Hal Erickson, in writing about this film at, quotes an anonymous critic who observed that Wind is “one of the pictures that is considered brilliant because everybody dies at the end.”  (Thanks for the spoiler warning, Nameless Critic!)

February 8, Wednesday – The most famous film adaptation of State Fair is probably the 1945 version (with Jeanne Crain and Dana Andrews) but my personal favorite is the 1933 original (which will air at 8pm) because…well, because Will Rogers is one of my personal heroes.  (This may or may not have been on TCM before; I saw it when it turned up on FMC back in the late 1990s.)

I can, however, attest that One Potato, Two Potato (1964) has been shown on Tee Cee Em before…and if you haven’t watched this amazing film you should pencil this one in on your schedule (you might have to program a recording device, since it’s on at 2:30am).  I wrote a review of this film back in May 2009…but if you haven’t seen it, wait until you do because unlike the Voice in the Wind guy I’ll give you a heads-up and warn you that I telegraph the film’s ending.

February 9, ThursdayPete Kelly’s Blues (1955), 12:15pm.  This one’s made the rounds at TCM, too…but I just wanted to give TDOY fave Jack Webb a shout-out.  (This vehicle was inspired by Webb’s short-lived 1951 radio series, and later became an equally short-lived offering on the boob tube in 1959 with William Reynolds in the Webb part, and singer Connee Boswell in support.)

February 11, SaturdayThree Days of the Condor (1975), 12:15am.  One of my favorite conspiracy films (also a previous TCM offering); this is the movie that, oddly enough, I always remember the late Cliff Robertson for (this and 1983’s Brainstorm)…Cliff had a real talent for playing evil corporate and/or government scumbags.

February 12, SundayHester Street (1975), 10:45pm.  This one turns up on Showtime/Flix a lot (I watched it back in 2008) but this is the first time I’ve seen it on the TCM schedule.  It’s a first-rate movie helmed by one of my favorite directors, Joan Micklin Silver, and I thought I’d included it here in tribute to its being named to the National Film Registry in 2011 (along with TDOY faves The Big Heat and Twentieth Century).

February 13, MondayZ (1969), 8pm.  Another conspiracy movie fave (and yes, this has been on TCM before, too.)

February 18, Saturday – I mentioned that TCM was showing Joan of Paris (1942) in January in a previous “Coming Distractions” post but they are apparently going to encore it in February (at 6:15pm).  But the big draw for me will be the channel’s scheduling of The Day of the Jackal (1973; 10:30pm), a longtime favorite—I remember that a couple I knew in Morgantown talked me into seeing (I might have been drugged; it’s all rather fuzzy) the 1997 remake with Richard Gere and Bruce Willis and that the entire length of the movie I complained about how the 1973 original was much better.  Ah, good times…

February 24, FridayPieces of Dreams (1970), 4:30am.  I’ve honestly never heard of this movie, but seeing that Robert Forster, Lauren Hutton and Will Geer are in it I’ll have to check it out.  (The reviews at the always reliable IMDb are not promising.)

February 26, MondayL.A. Confidential (1997), 4:15am.  The last time TCM ran this one I was recording it and that fershlugginer cable box of mine did one of its little “let’s-turn-to-another-channel” tricks midway through the movie.  (Just another piece of evidence pointing to the Worldwide Annoy Ivan Conspiracy…which is masterminded, as you are well aware, by the United States Postal Service.)  I know that many of my classic movie brethren and sistren shrink in revulsion to see recent fare showcased on TCM but as I have argued in the past, since the other cable channels refuse to show it in letterbox I’m grateful to see it on the schedule.

February 27, TuesdayThe House of the Seven Gables (1940), 6:15pm.  You young kids may not remember this, but there was a time when American Movie Classics showed exactly what their name implies and not pretentious, “we-want-to-win-fistfuls-of-Emmys” crap like Hell on Wheels and The Walking Dead.  (AMC has recently announced the acquisition of CSI: Miami repeats to its lineup, so they’re clearly not even trying anymore.)  But that’s where I first saw this adaptation of the classic Nathaniel Hawthorne novel, and so I’m itching to revisit it again with its subtly subversive script (courtesy of future Hollywood Ten member Lester Cole) and superb performances from George Sanders and Vincent Price.

Later that evening, TCM has Come to the Stable (1949) on the schedule (at 9:30pm), a movie I was introduced to back in 2009 on  I really like this film, and it’s not easy for me to admit this because my usual reaction to Loretta Young movies is a kind of scrunchy face.  But Stable also features fine performances from TDOY faves Celeste Holm, Elsa Lanchester and Dooley Wilson, and if you haven’t seen it it’s a nice little picture perfect for the entire family (it has been featured often as a Christmas offering in the past).

February 28, Wednesday – Luis Buñuel’s Tristana (1970) kicks off the morning at 6am, a film that’s been on my “must see” list for quite some time now, and that’s followed by Blockade (1938) at 7:45—a watered-down Spanish Civil War tale starring Madeleine Carroll and Henry Fonda.  Come nightfall, TCM will show one of my favorite John Huston films (notice how I subtly bring this back full circle) in The Man Who Would Be King (1975), the classic Rudyard Kipling romp featuring the wonderful teaming of Sean Connery and Michael Caine.


Kevin Deany said...

Really looking forward to "Holy Matrimony" and "Voice in the Wind." Never saw either of those before.

I look forward every year to the 31 Days of Oscar. It's one of my favorite TCM months of the year, because it allows me to play catch up to the titles I've recorded off TCM over the other 11 months.

Stacia said...

Kevin, I was thinking the exact same thing! January is short on movies I want to record (I love Lansbury so have already seen lots of her films) and there are only 5-6 on TCM I'm interested in.

I started laughing when I saw your post this afternoon, Ivan, because I had just tweeted that I couldn't wait for February and everyone asking "Where's Silent Sunday Nights?" again.

Sooo excited for Under the Volcano. It's been on my wish list for ages, I admit entirely because Finney in those shades just looks so damn cool. I'm shallow.

Mike Doran said...

Last time I saw Invisible Woman was a few years back on Svengoolie.
Since it's a Universal, maybe Rich Koz will give it another spin soon ...

Mark said...

Hey Ivan,
Good post - you always pull me in with the Campus Theatre image. I'm heading there tomorrow to see 'Hugo.' Hope it's good.

One of the film noir guys I pal about with works at TCM, and I asked him about this issue of the repeats. I got a REALLY long answer that boiled down to licensing issues. I wasn't aware that TCM had to license films, but apparently now that they are a Time / Warner network they have to rent all of their content.

Nonetheless, there are more rare gems this year than last, highlighted by Holy Matrimony, which I think might be my only unseen this year! (I'm still reeling from The Valiant, The Trespasser, and The Moon & Sixpence last month!)

Voice in the Wind is pretty interesting - I took a lot of notes the first time I watched it as it's included in a few noir books, but in the end I didn't think I had anything original to add so I left it alone.

I'm with you on One Potato.... and Pete Kelly's Blues. Joan of Paris was to Alan Ladd what Thelma and Louise was to Brad Pitt.

One last thing: Blockade is just a terrible film, worth watching for sheer badness!