Friday, February 1, 2008

TCM's 31 Days of Oscar Begins with a Nod to the '70s

Helena Kallianiotes and Toni Basil are Alaska-bound in Five Easy Pieces

Turner Classic Movies kicks off their annual 31 Days of Oscar special tonight with a slate of films from the 1970s: Jaws, The Hospital, Network, and, my personal favorite of the bunch, Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces. Don't just watch it because it contains what is arguably Jack Nicholson's finest performance (he used to give good ones, you know), or because Karen Black earned a much-deserved Oscar nomination for her role as his needy girlfriend Rayette, whose hair, makeup and general dizziness paved the way for countless Jennifer Coolidge characters.

Watch it because Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe author and celebrated zany sweater-wearing Match Game panelist Fannie Flagg appears in a bowling alley scene. Watch it because of the comically angsty lesbian hitchhikers Palm and Terry (played by Helena Kallianiotes and "Mickey" singer Toni Basil), who are picked up by Nicholson and Black. Watch it because it has a wonderful supporting performance by Lois Smith. You won't find any of those things in Jaws.

Flagg: "Old Man Periwinkle told her to put the sandwich where?"

And gluttons for punishment, take note: Darling Lili, another of those Blake Edwards movies with Julie Andrews that manages to seem oddly gay even when the proceedings are assuredly heterosexual, will air after Five Easy Pieces for reasons known only to God, if God exists, and the TCM programmers. Andrews has about as much chemistry with costar Rock Hudson as Lily Tomlin had with John Travolta in Moment by Moment, for those of you who revel in that sort of thing.

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