Sure, there are problems with TCM's annual 31 days of Oscar celebration, the period when TV's best movie station shows nothing but Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated films. For instance, do we really need to see 1936's The Great Ziegfeld or 1952's The Greatest Show on Earth again? And how about digging up a copy of 1933's Best Picture winner, Cavalcade, which is almost never shown on television?
Still, it's days like today that make you want to give the programmers at TCM a great big bear hug. Playing two of the greatest movies ever made back-to-back? For the cinephile couch potatoes of the world, it doesn't get any better than this.
At 4 p.m., it's the nearly perfect Lawrence of Arabia, as epic a movie as anyone has ever made. Peter O'Toole, in his first starring role, is utterly mesmerizing as the flamboyantly inscrutable T.E. Lawrence, the British army captain who helped unite the Arab world. O'Toole somehow plays Lawrence as prickly, egotistical, committed (some of his fellow officers thought Lawrence should be committed) and totally unsure of himself. His is a performance for the ages.
(The film's not bad, either. And if you've been thinking about buying a big-screen TV, do it, today, before 4 p.m. If ever a movie deserved to be seen on the big screen, it's Lawrence.)
At 8 p.m., it's the absolutely perfect Casablanca, with Humphrey Bogart giving up a lifetime with Ingrid Bergman for the greater good, since "the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."
The movies simply don't get any better than this wartime romance that's all about doing the right thing, for the right reasons. As good as Bogart and Bergman are, don't overlook Claude Rains' delightfully duplicitous Captain Renault.