While not a fan I completely understand the appeal of 31 Days of Oscar. And while I'm sure to groan once or twice in the coming weeks, publicly, of course, it's really not such a terrible thing to suffer. Honestly, I'm a brat about it, but what do you expect when TCM spends so much time spoiling me with so many hidden gems throughout the rest of the year.
I guess that's my main gripe about 31 Days of Oscar. The gems are aplenty, but very few have been hidden*. These are, after all, all Academy Award nominated films. Again, this is me being a spoiled brat, but I record less off TCM in February than any other month of the year. I think of it like when I was a kid collecting baseball cards: Got it, got it, got it, etc. Not too many Need 'ems.
*In the February Now Playing Guide Robert Osborne mentions 27 TCM premieres this February out of 348 total feature films. Not sure if this is higher or lower than usual. And I do look forward to 1933's State Fair. Not so much 1997's Good Will Hunting.
But I do appreciate my own assumption that 31 Days of Oscar probably brings TCM more new or at least non-regular viewers than at any other time of the year. At least I'd imagine that to be so because of all of those heavy hitter titles that I was just running down as over-played.
But another problem I have with TCM's Oscar month is that it typically includes a slew of more recent releases in its programming. At least it has always felt that way (more coming below).
And that raises the old argument, "What's a Classic Movie?" To me the answer to that question is different from that to the question "What should TCM be showing?" In the case of the latter question I want TCM to show old movies. Now I completely agree that classic doesn't necessarily equal old nor does old always equal classic, but old is often harder to track down than classic is.My opinion about more recent classics has always been that if I want to see a movie from the 1980's or later I have a bunch of other channels that already show them to me. TCM is the only channel that I can regularly view titles from my favorite movie decades, the 1930's and 40's, without commercial interruption. (PS: If you can stand commercials be sure to check your cable provider for Antenna TV. Lots of old movies early mornings from them!)
In anticipation of February's 31 Days of Oscar promotion I was a little put off by TCM's Star of the Month for January, Angela Lansbury, who I view as a star of more recent vintage. When my Now Playing Guide for February arrived I first flipped to the back cover, as I always do, to see who'd be Star of the Month for March. Karl Malden. Ouch.
No insult intended towards Angela Lansbury or Karl Malden, I just tend to be a lot happier with TCM when they put the focus on someone such as William Powell, as was done in December. In the grand scheme of TCM scheduling a disappointing Star of the Month is typically obscured by all of the other great programming throughout the month anyway. So not a big deal. I suppose it's just my complete lack of enthusiasm about February causing this. So c'mon April!
(Picturing myself in my easy chair a few decades from now shaking my cane at the TV wondering how they have the nerve to give me Ryan Reynolds as Star of the Month. Oh the future is scary. Let's just hope they've pre-recorded enough Robert Osborne clips to at least still have him around by the time I have my long, gray beard and ear trumpet.)
This week all of the newer programming aroused my suspicions. From early Tuesday morning through Friday at 6 am (January 24-27) TCM only showed a total of 3 pre-1950 titles out 35 total classic movies aired. None pre-1941.
I became convinced that they changed their philosophy or at least their programming director and had shifted completely away from my 30's and 40's faves.
So I did a count.I think this is that baseball fan in me I mentioned earlier who used to sit around computing fantasy stats after school (and I don't mean fantasy baseball stats, I mean completely made-up numbers and careers). Anyway, I like to add stuff up and stack them in proper order. That's what I did with the Now Playing Guide (no Classic Movie sabermetrics ... yet!).
This didn't take nearly as long as you might think (about 20 minutes) and thus is in no way guaranteed to be completely accurate. I just went to the back of the Now Playing Guides for each January and February 2012 and tallied off the decade for each movie listed. I tried to skip documentaries and I tried to count multiple airings. It's likely not perfect*.
*In fact I know it's not. Robert Osborne mentions 348 features during 31 Days of Oscar. I got 349. At least the count should be close.
Here are the totals for 31 Days of Oscar covering the period February 1 through March 2:
100 - 1940's
76 - 1960's
71 - 1950's
51 - 1930's
28 - 1970's
16 - 1980's
4 - 1920's
3 - 1990's
349 - Total
And prior to that here's January 1 - January 31:
128 - 1950's
102 - 1940's
76 - 1960's
56 - 1930's
21 - 1970's
11 - 1980's
9 - 1920's
2 - 1910's
405 - Total
Totals for all, January 1 - March 2, 2012:
202 - 1940's
199 - 1950's
152 - 1960's
107 - 1930's
49 - 1970's
27 - 1980's
13 - 1920's
3 - 1990's
2 - 1910's
754 - Total
I'm guessing there are 56 more titles in January than February because those Oscar nominated titles can be a might lengthy.
Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised. While the 1950's and 60's combine to edge out my faves from the 30's and 40's by a slight margin over the two months (351 to 309), I'm all right with that. The 50's and 60's may not feature many of my own favorite movies but they do qualify under my personal definition of old movies--those films produced prior to the time I was produced.Movies from the decades of the 1940's and 50's dominate the January-February TCM programming (53%) but that is, even I think, as it should be. I'm even okay with the 1960's topping my own favorite time, the 1930's. It's to be expected, I'd imagine, owing simply to the availability of the titles.
I would like to see them shuffle the schedule a little better. The 1950 and later marathon of this past week has me thinking of the 2011-2012 NBA schedule--imbalanced, to say the least.
But I do appreciate a good theme as much as anyone and that likely had a lot to do with the recent scheduling anomaly. Monday stretched my fondness of TCM's groupings a little. Best I can tell they moved seamlessly from movies with "Kid" in the title to movies containing the word "Gun" in the title. Why, I don't know, but The Kid from Broken Gun (1952) tied it all together just before midday. They got cute. But I always get a kick out of weekday birthday themed programming, even when it's not celebrating a personal favorite.I was pleasantly surprised to find many fewer titles from the 1970's and 80's than I had expected, especially with Oscar month included in the count. I was actually shocked at how few pre-1930 titles TCM airs in January-February. Do they air silent films anytime other than Sunday at midnight anymore? Could use a few more there.
I'd be curious to know in the comments section below (subscribers click HERE) what your thoughts are about TCM's 31 Days of Oscar - Dread or anticipation?
Ambivalence is okay too, but what fun is that? You're probably still shaking your head over my taking the time to count them!
And speaking of the count, do you find any decades over or under represented? Any other observations?