With this year’s Academy Awards just a few weeks away, let’s savor some treats with Oscar pedigrees. Here’s what’s available this weekend on broadcast and cable television.
The Lion in Winter (1968)
Jaws dropped on Oscar night 1968 when Ingrid Bergman announced the winner of the year’s Best Actress award. Newcomer Barbra Streisand was a popular favorite in competition with Joanne Woodward who won raves for Rachel, Rachel, Patricia Neal who was lauded for her comeback in The Subject Was Roses after suffering a stroke a few years earlier, and newcomer Vanessa Redgrave as the dancer Duncan in Isadora. Only Katherine Hepburn – nominated for The Lion in Winter a year after winning a surprise Oscar for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – seemed out of the running. The audience was stunned when presenter Ingrid Bergman said, “it’s a tie,” before announcing the winners Streisand and Hepburn! With her third Oscar, Hepburn would set a record – at three awards – that she would break in 1981 when she won her fourth for On Golden Pond.
Saturday, January 31, 2:45 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
By the mid 1950s Hollywood had figured out how to lure people away from watching television in the comfort of their living rooms: deliver epic movies in widescreen! All of the nominees for Best Picture in 1956 were big films, including the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical The King and I, the George Stevens adaptation of Edna Ferber’s Giant, William Wyler’s Friendly Persuasion and the granddaddy of them all, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. But these films lost to a best of the big, the ultimate amazing race from producer Mike Todd, Around the World in 80 Days. Based on the book by Jules Verne, and starring David Niven, Shirley MacLaine and host of Hollywood stars in the first “cameo” roles at the movies, Around offers one visual delight after another, from a bullfight to a flight over the alps, in a delightful tale of a man’s journey to lands yet to be discovered. All these years later, the movie still entertains.
Saturday, February 1, 4 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
When the movies were young, and had not yet started to talk, a small group of movie people got the idea to award the best achievements in film at an annual banquet. They gathered at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel in May 1929 to honor movies made in 1927 and 1928. Tickets for the ceremony were $5 each and the presentation lasted five minutes. At the top of the list of winners was this silent epic tale of war directed by William Wellman. Starring the popular Clara Bow and featuring newcomer Gary Cooper, the movie cost a whopping $2 million, featured more than 300 pilots, and 3,500 extras, for its extensive battle sequences. Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, substituted for Europe in a story of bravery in World War I that, today, reaches beyond the age it recreates. Wings teaches us how entertaining a film could be before the movies began to talk. By the way, that ceremony that started so simply is now the Academy Awards we can’t get enough of!
Sunday, February 1, 9 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
The Great Race (1965)
The great Jack Lemmon was an Oscar favorite throughout his career. He won his first award – for Best Supporting Actor in 1955 – as the harried Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts – igniting a series of delightful comic performances capped by Best Actor nominations for Some Like it Hot in 1959 and The Apartment in 1960. A couple of years later he turned dramatic in what may be the performance of his career as an alcoholic in Days of Wine and Roses and won another Oscar nomination – before returning to comedy for the rest of the decade. His Days director, Blake Edwards, staged a wild ‘round the world epic of his own in 1965, The Great Race, casting Lemmon as a most lovable villain. Years later, while the film may feel overdone, it’s still great fun, especially the over-the-top pie fight. Lemmon would, later, win a second Oscar for the drama Save the Tiger in 1973, with additional nominations for the dramas The China Syndrome (1979), Tribute (1980) and Missing (1982). The man who could make us laugh could always make us think, too.
Sunday, February 1, 1 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
The Birdcage (2011)
The amazing Robin Williams was, as well, an Oscar favorite throughout his career, with the Academy acknowledging his standout performances. He won his first nomination as a disc jockey with a point of view in Good Morning, Vietnam, in 1987, returning to the nominee circle in 1989 for Dead Poet’s Society and 1991 for The Fisher King. When the actor joined Nathan Lane for this remake of La Cage Aux Folles in 1996, it looked as though his days as a serious actor might be behind him. This film – creatively directed by Mike Nichols – gives Williams one of his few roles to capitalize on his rare sense of humor and dramatic intensity in its delightful tale of gay parents trying to cope with their son’s impending wedding. While Lane as the showier role, Williams grounds the film with his quiet authenticity, enabling us to believe in the potential of the relationships and celebrate the humor of the conflicts. A year later, Williams finally won his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting.
Sunday, February 1, 8 p.m., TVGN
Sharing movies can be as easy as turning on the television or going online. And, when you watch as a family, take the time to chat about what you’re seeing. That makes it even more fun.