It’s Oscar month and that means it’s time for Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM) 31 DAYS OF OSCAR festival. This year, TCM has grouped more than 340 Academy Award nominated and winning movies into trivia-inspired categories such as actors nominated for playing real life characters, the most nominations without a win and the rare times when a movie got nominations in all four major acting categories.
Robert Osborne, TCM’s resident movie historian will be on hand all-month long with hundreds of trivial tidbits that will delight any movie fan. Robert and I had a chance to sit down and talk about what makes a movie Oscar-worthy. Listen in:
Q: Saying, ‘let’s talk about the movies’ is sort of like saying, ‘let’s talk about the history of the world.’
Robert Osborne: Right, but you know it’s the great one universal language. It used to be music. That anywhere you went in the world, people kind of liked the same music, and it was a common denominator. But now, if you find another movie fan, you’ve got somebody that you can have a lively and good conversation, and time well spent.
Q: When it comes to the Oscars, are we looking for the same things in movies that we were looking for 30 or 50 years ago?
Robert: Well, I think basically we are. We’re looking for relief. They’re looking for really excellence in film making, things that are out of the ordinary. I do think that people in Hollywood take a nomination more seriously than the general public does. It’s not necessary to win the Oscar for it to be a great honor to have been nominated. Nominations are made by people in your field. But in the final vote, everybody votes on everything. So you’ve got actors voting for sound recording. You’ve got film editors voting for acting. You’ve got whatever and they may not be the best judges of that. That’s when it gets less pure than the award. I think, to get a nomination from the people that actually do the kind of work you’re doing and they think you’re one of the best, then I think that’s the pat on the back everybody wants.
Q: This year’s TCM Oscar film festival is very unusual in the way it’s laid out. For example, movies that were nominated for Best Director but not for Best Picture. How can you be the best director but not have one of the best movies?
Robert: Well, maybe it has all those other accouterments but it didn’t affect emotionally the people, like some of the other films did. It doesn’t mean the acting was not good or the actors were doing the best they could, the costume designers and everything else but maybe it just didn’t fit. Or maybe it was just terrific, but again for all those years when they only had five nominations, it only got to be number six or something and it didn’t get on the list. It’s a little fairer with the 10 because you have a lot more opportunities to have some of those borderline movies make the list.
Q: When you look at the movies that are nominated for Best Picture you often find movies that few people have seen, while many blockbusters never get nominated.
Robert: It’s absolutely true, but I kind of like that. I kind of like that the Oscar voters kind of stay true. They are filmmakers, they kind of stay true to that original credo of the Academy; and that is to honor merit in motion pictures. So, they’re not just going by box office. Because it would be terrible if the Oscar winners were all “Dumb and Dumber” and movies like that just because they made a lot of money. That say, “The Hurt Locker” ‑‑ I loved “Avatar” by the way, but I kind of love it that “The Hurt Locker” would win over “Avatar.” ‑‑ Which was so enormously popular. “The Hurt Locker” was such a good film.
Q: And now with DVD and Turner Classic Movies, and all of that, people can see the films they missed when they were in the movies.
Robert: Yes, exactly. They’re move accessible now than they ever have been which is great. And that’s what our festival is all about, is the fact that you’ve got all these films that were either Academy Award winners or nominees. And the short subjects that we show are Oscar winners or nominees as well, and if you have the chance to see them again. It’s great because they’re like books. Movies used to be seen, and then when they were gone; they were gone forever. Nobody ever saw a film again. You didn’t have televisions to show them on, and there was no Netflix, no Turner Classic Movies, no DVD’s or anything. So they just disappeared, except maybe the Disney films, which are reissued every seven years; and “Gone with the Wind, ” which was reissued every seven years. Otherwise, our movie was gone. But now they’re evergreen, they’re around, and will be around forever hopefully. That’s just kind of a wonderful thing.
31 DAYS OF OSCAR begins tonight night, February 1, with Self-Made Men (Best Actor nominations who also directed), Love at First Sight (women who got nominations in their debut movie) and What a Character (three actors who were nominated for playing the same character in three different films.) Visit TCM.com for the full schedule and more movie trivia.
I’ll have more from Robert Osborne, including his answer to one of our “Absurd” questions, later on this month.
Robert Osborne photo courtesy of TCM