Wednesday, March 3, 2010

TCM's 31 Days of Oscar - final countdown

Now that I’m ensconced in variously-sunny southern US I have the opportunity to greedily watch the kind of TV we Canucks simply don’t have (yes, a refugee from Canuckistan!). As in Turner Classic Movies (TCM). TCM has been running its 31 Days of Oscar leading to March 7: 360 Academy Award Winning/Nominated films. I’ve been catching the 8 pm screenings....Last night, West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961). Hard to believe this won 10 Oscars. I guess it says something about early-1960s audiences who might have loved the still popular musical genre fused with contemporary urban and racial politics. I know, I know, this is one of the ultimate classics, so who am I?....The opening scene of the Jets clicking their fingers as they embark on a choreographed bullying romp through the asphalt jungle is almost laughable, as are most of the Jets and rival Sharks’ (even the names are funny) scenes....Richard Beymer as Tony (Shakespeare’s Romeo) went on to a long list of TV credits. Natalie Wood as Maria (Juliette) went on to film superstardom and tragedy (god bless her soul). The best things about this piece? The absolutely timeless music (Bernstein, Sondheim) such as Maria, America, Tonight, I Feel Pretty, Somewhere. And of course Natalie is never hard to look at.........Then on Monday there was Morituri (Bernhard Wicki, 1965) with Yul Brynner and Marlon Brando. German expat Brando is blackmailed by the Allies to capture a rubber-bearing ship destined for Nazi Germany’s war machine. Brynner is the captain. Nominated for best cinematography and costume design. I learned from TCM host Robert Osborne that Brando didn’t particularly respect Brynner’s acting. But viewing takes of the scenes changed his mind. And Brynner, who typically had lighting set for his performances, taught that trick to Brando. Brynner and Brando are good and play off each other well. But the play is about a half hour too long. Adrift at sea we feel adrift (sorry)....

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