As you get ready for the Academy Awards on Sunday evening, broadcast and cable television offers some memorable returns to favorite winners and nominees. Take a look.
In one of the memorable Oscar races for Best Picture, two films about the military led the pack in 1970. Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H uses dark humor to express frustration with military commitments in Asia while the Best Picture winner, Patton, celebrates one leader’s life while warning future generations about getting too fascinated with war. As a military leader, General George Patton didn’t believe in necessary war, rather the necessities of war. Because he thought he lived past lives, he sought a historical vindication for each significant decision he made. And he insisted on a level of discipline that often made him outspoken and polarizing. In George C. Scott’s iconic portrayal, Patton comes alive as a man defined by his beliefs, determined to fulfill his purpose, and unable to control his spontaneity. There is no conventional “happy ending” to this story; we are simply left with the belief that a civilization must embrace those who dare to think and act differently in order to have a chance to survive.
Saturday, Feb. 21, 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
The Social Network (2010)
The Best Picture race of 2010 pitted the critically acclaimed The Social Network against the audience favorite, and ultimate winner, The King’s Speech. Social remains a more interesting film because it explores people who aren’t very nice. There is nothing likable about the Mark Zuckerberg – the founder of Facebook – portrayed in the movie. And while we may not care for any of the characters – partly because they are cold, partly because they are self absorbed – we are touched by the film’s ultimate moral that no ambition is so important, no goal so sacred, that anyone can justify hurting friends, family and associates. The Social Network never lets down in its examination of how ego and greed can drive how people connect. Even though it lost the Oscar, it’s the film we remember from that year at the movies.
Saturday, Feb. 21, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Auntie Mame (1958)
It’s hard to believe that Rosalind Russell never won an Oscar. She came close in the 1940s – in the dramas Sister Kenny and Mourning Becomes Electra – before turning to Broadway in the 1950s in the musical Wonderful Town and this comedy by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. When Warner Brothers filmed this Broadway hit, many thought Russell might finally nab the elusive Oscar. But the veteran actress refused to campaign. She believed the performance should speak for itself. Unfortunately, the same year, Susan Hayward launched a lavish campaign to be named Best Actress for I Want to Live and ultimately won the Oscar. But Russell never complained. She loved her work, her family and her audience. And she never let them down.
Saturday, Feb. 21, 3:45 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
The Producers (1968)
The same year that the conventional musical Oliver was named Best Picture, the Academy spread its wings to award the Best Original Screenplay Oscar to an outrageous writer who dared to insult with every line of dialogue. In The Producers – which he would later transform into a hit stage musical – Mel Brooks plays with our sensibilities about success, ego and entitlement as two would-be con men try to come up with the ultimate way to scam the Broadway theater. And that was long before tickets reached today’s prices! With Zero Mostel as a producer who succeeds at failure – and Oscar nominee Gene Wilder as an accountant with a soul – the film tickles with its wit and shocks with its daring. And, if you saw the musical on stage, it’s great fun to see Dick Shawn’s original rendition of Springtime for Hitler.
Saturday, Feb. 21, 9:30 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
A complex relationship between an athlete and her coach is the centerpiece of this haunting look at what it takes to succeed in sport and what price may ultimately be paid. We meet a young woman with little to say about herself except that she is tough, disciplined and hungry for success. That she would appeal to a crusty boxing coach is no surprise; he looks for raw talent. That she would succeed in the sport is a foregone conclusion; new boxers in movies usually succeed. That she would forever change this coach, and his view of life and living, comes as a shock, much as the personal tragedy she experiences as her career ascends. Director Clint Eastwood focuses on the characters without making the film all about the sport. He leaves the ring and, in the film’s most surprising moments, turns the story upside down to create a meaningful study of the choices that must be made about the continuity of life. With his typical restraint, Eastwood never lets the moment get too big. He trusts the audience to appreciate the small moments. The Academy responded with Oscars for Best Picture as well as for Director (Eastwood), Actress (Hilary Swank) and Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman).
Sunday, Feb. 22, 8 p.m., OWN
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.