There’s no doubt that Turner Classic Movie’s Ben Mankiewicz loves classic film, but he’s also deeply excited by the unique films and fresh talent that’s emerged in 2017. We had the chance to catch up with Mankiewicz this month as he hosted TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar. Read about his favorite nominees below, and be sure to tune in to the last few days of 31 Days of Oscar ahead of the 90th Annual Academy Awards, Sunday, March 4 at 8/7c on ABC.
What are some of your favorite Oscar-nominated films this year, and why have they risen to the top of your favorites list?
Well, I thought this was a really great year for movies! We throw around the word “love” too much, but I really liked a lot of movies. I’m going to remember I, Tonya. I loved Call Me By Your Name and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri—you know I thought it was the best movie. The Shape of Water was terrific, and I really enjoyed The Disaster Artist. There were some amazing films that didn’t get any Oscar love like Wind River and Hostiles. There were just so many movies where I went “Wow that was great!”
TCM fans almost perfunctorily say, “Well they don’t make ’em like they used to.” And while they don’t actually make them how they used to—there’s no studio system—there’s still a lot of quality character-driven stories out there. Not one of the movies I just mentioned had any of the kind of special effects that turn people off. I, Tonya had a lot of CGI work on the skating stuff, but you don’t notice it. It’s not done to trick you or dazzle you! There weren’t two immortals punching each other while climbing skyscrapers—like many TCM viewers, I’ve seen enough of that. So I’m encouraged by this Oscar season! That includes Get Out! it is thrilling to see it get so many nominations, it’s all so different.
There are just so many good movies, and that’s just really encouraging. TCM’s mission isn’t going to change—we’re still going to be showing movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood. We’re still going to be hitting the 40s and 50s, as hard as we do now. But it just seems to me like many of today’s movies would fit in very nicely!
Who are some of your favorite up-and-coming directors?
Gretta Gerwig and Jordan Peele. They both debuted with these really, really impressive movies. Movies that made you feel, and made you say, “Those could be watched a second time, experienced in a different manner,” you know?
What’s your Oscars ritual? How do you enjoy the show?
Well, of course, mostly I don’t enjoy the show cause I just desperately feel left out and want them to include me in it. But that’s what it’s like, when you’re on television and you live in Los Angeles. You’re like “How come I didn’t get in? I want to host it, I could be on the pre-show, I’ve got things to say!” Once I get past the bitterness, it’s fun to watch with people. Because of travel, there have been a couple of times when I’ve been on the road for it, and I sit there in a hotel room and that’s definitely not the best way to experience it.
Twitter helps and it’s stupid, but at least you feel like you’re sharing thoughts with a community and reacting to what other people have to say. It turns out as I get older, I realize I’m not exceptional in any way. I’m like everybody else! I like to share this with people.