Everywhere I go lately, everyone is talking about Oscars. Not, mind you, the race that will next weekend come to its painfully extenuated close, but 31 Days of Oscar, the TCM mostly-late-night programming block that allows insomniac cable subscribers everywhere an opportunity to catch up on all those "great" films one never gets around to Netflixing. With just seven days left until the big night, TCM is launching into Best Picture Week – here are a couple of highlights:

MONDAY, 9pm PST/12am EST
It Happened One Night (1934), directed by Frank Capra, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
one.jpgShe's a runaway heiress, he's the reporter on her tail. They don't like each other, but by the end of it they'll have fallen desperately in love. The film helped propel its studio, Columbia, off of what was known as "Poverty Row" - and some say it single-handedly invented the screwball comedy. Nominated for five Academy Awards, it was the first film to sweep all the major prizes - and, until One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest in 1975, the only single film to manage that feat. Watch a clip of director/actor Sydney Pollack introducing the film at TCM's website.

WEDNESDAY, 11pm PST/2am EST
An American in Paris (1951), directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.americaninparis.jpg
The last great musical from Arthur Freed's MGM production unit, An American in Paris managed another surprise sweep, this time besting A Streetcar Named Desire and A Place in the Sun for the top honor. This most personal of Kelly and Minnelli's multiple collaborations, Paris narrativizes the inner life of an ex-pat artist (Kelly) through ballets, styled after his favorite paintings and set to one of George and Ira Gershwin's most recognizable compositions. Its release came at a crucial turning point for the Hollywood musical - Freed's type of lavish, all-star extravaganza was on its way out, and a new breed of self-conscious, self-critical musical (including Kelly's It's Always Fair Weather (1955), and later, darker fare like All That Jazz (1979)) swept in. The Paris Oscar sweep seems, in retrospect, like a symbolic farewell to a classical Hollywood era.

Check out the full 31 Days of Oscar schedule at turnerclassicmovies.com.

categories Cinematical