Entertainment

An Oscars Q&A with Turner Classic Movies Host Ben Mankiewicz

The Film Expert on This Year's Biggest Snub, the Best Oscars Ever and More

By Sam Eichner ·
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Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images

As evidenced by this week's Oscars-related coverage, we love to talk about movies. But we're not experts. Ben Mankiewicz, the primetime host of TCM, is. And thanks to the hookup from Filmstruck, the Netflix-like streaming platform for classic movies, foreign films, arthouse flicks and, after their recent deal with Warner Bros., iconic movies from the golden age of Hollywood, we managed to ask Mr. Mankiewicz a few burning questions, lightning round-style, pertaining to Oscars past and present. 

1. What was the best movie in history not to be nominated for Best Picture?
A three way tie, all from 1957: Paths of Glory, Sweet Smell of Success, A Face in the Crowd…Come on!

2. What was the biggest snub at this year's Oscars?
Don't love the concept of snubs, but I, Tonya earned itself a Best Picture nomination—and there's an open spot.

3. What was the biggest Oscars-related injustice in history? 
All Oscar injustices have lower case I’s—I mean we’re talking about movies while the real world is filled with genuine injustices…That said, obviously Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan is a colossal travesty…So dumb…regrettably falling for Weinstein’s aggressive PR campaign.

4. You have to choose one upset at this year's Oscars. What would it be?
Get Out is roughly 6-1 to win Best Picture. That's a nice payout and it could win. I'd bet Three Billboards if you could get favorable odds.

5. Your favorite Oscars host ever? 
Billy Crystal is the best I’ve seen. But Jon Stewart, David Letterman and Chris Rock were all good. Incredibly tough job that pundits love to mock.

6. Your favorite Oscars moment ever?
I’m moved by Jane Fonda accepting the Oscar for her dad for On Golden Pond. They had a famously strained relationship at times, but that’s a beautiful loving moment—and a reminder of how movies bind us across generations. 

7. Who would you recommend betting on in your Oscars pool in the technical categories?
Dunkirk, The Shape of Water and Blade Runner 2049 will split them.

8. You can add one category from the Oscars. Which do you add? 
Add a stunt category, won by the stunt coordinator—long overdue. 

9. Of any year since the Academy Awards' inception, which had the best overall class of nominees for Best Picture? 
1939 was pretty good. And 1957 must’ve been great—because three of the best 38 movies of all time didn’t get nominated (and it was a good year—Bridge on the River Kwai, Twelve Angry Men and Witness for the Prosecution, but my three are better than all of them).

10. Laurie Metcalf or Allison Janney for Best Supporting Actress?
Allison Janney—no disrespect to Laurie Metcalf, who’s truly great. But Janney is in a category by herself—no matter what she’s in. 

Sam Eichner likes literature, reality television and his twin cats equally. He has consistently been told he needs a shave since he started growing facial hair.

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