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Turner Classic's '31 Days of Oscar' is a winner

Peter O'Toole (right) as T.E. Lawrence, with co-star

Peter O'Toole (right) as T.E. Lawrence, with co-star Omar Sharif, from the 1962 film "Lawrence of Arabia." Credit: AP Photo

The Academy Awards may take only one night, but, for Turner Classic Movies, they're good for a month.

February is "31 Days of Oscar" time on the channel, and the annual festival of films honored or nominated by the Motion Picture Academy begins anew Monday.

WHAT'S NEW THIS YEAR

This time, each attraction is linked to the following one by a performer they share - appropriately starting and ending with Kevin Bacon, of "Six Degrees of . . . " fame. The first movie is Bacon's 1981's "Only When I Laugh" (Monday at 6 a.m.), and Bacon's "Diner" ends the festival on March 4.

While such classics as "Casablanca" and "On the Waterfront" are almost expected to be in the festival, host Robert Osborne is pleased about some Oscar winners that are new to TCM, including "Titanic" and "Gladiator."

"A lot has to do with what's available," he explains. "Some of these things go in and out of license, so somebody has to be on top of that. We have 'Gladiator' this year, but next year, we may not. It's not always quite as easy as you might anticipate."

OSBORNE WEIGHS IN

In advance of his on-air introduction for each movie, Osborne offers his thoughts on some of the "31 Days of Oscar" features airing this week.

"Lawrence of Arabia" (1962, Monday night at 11): "It's absolutely a big-screen movie, but so many of those aren't accessible in theaters now, I would rather have people be able to see it on TV - particularly now that so many have big screens and high-definition at home - than not see it at all."

"Bullitt" (1968, Saturday at 8 p.m.) and "The French Connection" (1971, Saturday at 10 p.m.): "The same guy [stunt coordinator Bill Hickman] did the car chases in both. I'm told that when [director] William Friedkin and the others were putting 'The French Connection' together, their instructions were, 'Do it like 'Bullitt' . . . but top it.' "

"81/2" (1963, Sunday at 8 p.m.): "It's so interesting, having just seen [the musical] 'Nine,' to see the original source it came from. It's also a great example of black-and-white cinematography."

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