TCM's Oscars marathon spiced with historical tidbits

How often do the Academy Awards get it right?

“I basically think the Oscars always get it right for the time,” says TCM host Robert Osborne, who has written the official history, 80 Years of the Oscar. “It's not fair to critique an Oscar winner if you weren't there at the time. You don't know what people were going through.”

He cites Around the World in 80 Days, the 1956 winner for best picture, as an example.

“It was originally shown on a huge screen with a terrific music score,” Osborne says. “It was an overwhelming experience. Famous people were bit players. Now when you see it, if you don't know who the people are, that inside amusement is not an element of the film anymore.”

Osborne will share Oscar lore for TCM's 31 Days of Oscar, which begins Sunday. Only Oscar winners and nominees are presented during the marathon. Through the years, TCM has arranged the movies by Oscar categories or alphabetically. This year, the movies are grouped like college courses by topics.

The night of Feb. 15 salutes fashion photography in film: from the frothy Funny Face to the serious Darling to the murder mystery Blowup. Earlier that day, TCM pays tribute to painting and art history with The Picture of Dorian Gray, An American in Paris, Moulin Rouge and Lust for Life.

“You're not seeing the same type of movie over and over,” Osborne says.

In his TCM intros, Osborne tries to put into context why certain people won Oscars. He says that Gloria Grahame was named best supporting actress in 1952 because she had four films that year. “She was so awfully good in all of them, and it's a cumulative effect,” Osborne says. But he notes that she has little to do in the movie she won for, The Bad and the Beautiful.

Osborne said this will be a good year for the Oscars, which will air Feb. 22 on ABC.

“Last year, the movies were so tough, so serious, and audiences didn't want to go seem them,” Osborne says. “This year, they were all movies I wanted to see.”