Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

TV Awash in Oscar-Mania ; Specials, Marathons Remind Viewers Why Past Films Rated a Statuette

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

TV Awash in Oscar-Mania ; Specials, Marathons Remind Viewers Why Past Films Rated a Statuette

Article excerpt

It may be all about movies, but the Academy Awards, airing March 24 on ABC, is really like the Superbowl.

As a TV event watched around the world, the Oscars ceremony has developed its own TV personality over the years. Today the show is sophisticated - if sometimes less than tasteful - fast-paced, and frantically visual.

This year, the televised festivities start early. Three cable networks will celebrate Oscar in their own ways (check local listings). Beginning this Monday, March 11, The Sundance Channel's "Anatomy of a Scene" series will air three documentaries celebrating three Oscar nominees, the independent movies "Memento," "Gosford Park," and "Monster's Ball." The Encore channel will dedicate Oscar weekend to Academy Award-winning films of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. And TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is digging into the distant past for a month-long celebration of Oscar winners in various categories for its "31 Days of Oscar."

"The Oscars are not just about Julia Roberts" and celebrity, says Jonathan Shair, executive producer of programming at Encore. During Encore's "weekend of Oscar," Leonard Maltin will provide insights into past Oscar-winning films.

"Everyone wants to be attached to the movies - it's not just about the allure of celebrity," Mr. Shair says. "It's also about the hard work and the history of the movies. You can rediscover it all and look at [a movie] in a new light." For example, the Tom Cruise vehicle "Born on the Fourth of July" won best film editing in 1989, he says. Now viewers can look at it again and see why.

Says Academy Awards historian and TCM host Robert Osborne, "I think it is increasingly difficult to have an exciting Oscar show because there are so many awards shows. Academy Awards used to be the one place you could turn to watch great names and great stars you could never see on television otherwise.

"Last year, when the ratings slipped later in the show, some people said, 'Well, why should I stay up late and watch Julia Roberts when I've already seen her give that thank you speech four times already? …

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