31 Days of Oscar, week 4

TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar comes to an end this week, so here, for the last time, are my choices for stuff to watch this week, most of which I’ve seen, some of which is stuff I know by reputation. All times Mountain.

Tuesday, Feb. 23: The Caine Mutiny (1954) at 6 pm is the undisputed highlight of the day. Concerning the mutiny on a battered old destroyer called the Caine, it stars Humphrey Bogart in one of his best roles, as the clearly disturbed Capt. Queeg. Led by Van Johnson with an assist by Fred McMurray, there is, as you might have surmised, a mutiny, and a trial. And it’s great, followed by another equally tremendous scene. It’s the must-see movie of the week. That’s followed by Marty (1955) at 8:15 am, a soft melodrama about a lonely guy (Ernest Borgnine) that won the future McHale’s Navy star an Oscar. It’s only OK, in my view.

Wednesday, Feb. 24: A powerhouse day on TCM begins at 12:30 pm with Mighty Joe Young (1949). Not a great, or even very good, movie, I can’t pass up the opportunity to watch the handiwork of stop-motion pioneer Willis O’Brien (King Kong) and the future giant of the art form, Ray Harryhausen. At 4 pm, All the King’s Men (1949), features another surprise Oscar winning performance by Broderick Crawford as a Willie Stark, a backwoods politician who rises to power, only to become corrupted. Mercedes McCambridge also won a supporting actress Oscar, and the film won best picture. M*A*S*H (1973) at 8 pm is one of the groundbreaking films of the 1970s, and if you only know it from the long-running, preachy comedy, you should check out this very black comedy. That’s followed by prescient Network (1976) 10:15 pm, a profoundly cynical satire of TV news and politics that popularized the expression, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” I was blown away by this film when I saw it back in 1976, and it’s still great — maybe even greater — today. And finally, there’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) at 12:30 am, another powerfully influential, groundbreaking classic.

Thursday, Feb. 25: The delightful My Favorite Year (1982) at 11 am is a sweet natured comedy about a fading swashbuckling movie star (Peter O’Toole, in one of his EIGHT Oscar nominated, non-winning performances) making a chaotic appearance on a 1950s live TV comedy. It’s great fun. After that, a couple of famous films I haven’t seen: Giant (1956) at 2:30 pm is the Texas oil epic starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and the last performance by James Dean, and Red River (1948) at 9:15 pm, a Howard Hawks-directed western classic starring John Wayne and, in his movie debut, Montgomery Clift.

Friday, Feb. 26: The absence of Stephen  Spielberg films is rectified with his sci-fi classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) at 3:30 pm. At 6 pm, director/writer/actor/genius Mel Brooks is on full display in the hilarious and loving homage to old horror movies with Young Frankenstein (1974). The scene where Dr. ‘Fronkensteen’ (Gene Wilder) bring his monster (Peter Boyle) to life uses some of the same pseudo-scientific equipment used in the 1931 Frankenstein. The all-star comedy cast includes Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and Cloris Leachman. A comedy must0see. After that, Robert Redford is an idealistic candidate who loses his idealism (don’t they all?), in The Candidate (1972) at 8 pm, a film very much of its time.

Saturday, Feb. 27: Earlier in this 31 Days of Oscar we saw Frederick March’s Oscar-winning version of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde . This version, from 1941 at 4 am, has Spencer Tracy in the title role. Later, there’s the slow-moving but worthwhile Best Picture winner Chariots of Fire (1981) 3:45 pm, featuring one of the more famous soundtracks in movie history, by Vangelis. Breaking Away (1979) 6 pm is not especially well-known, but it’s well worth seeing, a funny slice of American life film about a teen who develops a passion for bicycle racing. An Oscar winner for best screenplay. At 8 pm, there’s the classic coming-of-age film Diner (1982), followed by the thrilling Ron Howard/Tom Hanks collaboration, Apollo 13 (1995) 10 pm.

Sunday, Feb. 28: It’s Oscar night, but before you indulge, enjoy Double Indemnity (1944) at 1:45 pm, the noirest film noir of them all, with Fred McMurray and Barbara Stanwyck as an illicit couple plotting a murder for insurance money. A great Billy Wilder film, and a must see. After the Oscars (if they end on time) check out the gangster classic  The Public Enemy (1931) 12 am. Corny at times (of course … it’s 85 years old!), it made a star of James Cagney. It features the famous scene where he smashes a grapefruit in the face of Mae Clark.

Monday, Feb. 29: OK, one more day. I recommend The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) at 10 pm, with a great performance by Charles Laughton as the hunchback. Somewhere in the crowd scenes was my dad, who picked up money as an extra in the movies while attending USC. Other films in the Richard Tougas oeuvre: Sun  Valley Serenade, The Duke of West Point (a terrible film, but I think he is briefly visible in a hockey sequence) and possibly Gone with the Wind. I say possibly, because dad may have been playing poker somewhere when he should have been a corpse.

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