Oscar loves a lot of movie-things with predictable regularity though it should be noted that those things go in and out of style (when was the last time you saw a hooker with a heart of gold?). But one thing that never seems to go out of style with filmmakers: Biopics of musicians. Whether or not Amy Adams ever gets around to her Janis Joplin picture, or Hathaway goes through with the Judy Garland picture (I'd so prefer her to do Liza Minnelli who hasn't been done!) or Jane Krakowski ever gets the greenlight for Jackie Jormp-Jormp, there's plenty to choose from in the library already. And awards bodies, not just Oscar, often choose them. It's as good a way as any to be noticed.
How do you think Get On Up, from the director of The Help will fair with AMPAS? Reviews may be mixed but they don't seem to be for Chadwick Boseman's playful performance in the energetic title role. Hollywood is always searching for "the next Denzel Washington" and he's one of the candidates even though 'the next...' is always so problematic since true stars are always their own unrepeatable thing. Remember that uncomfortably weird forcing of so many actresses into 'the next Julia Roberts' tag? Even Julianne Moore (lol) was once in that lineup in a major magazine.
Let's look back at the past 50 years within this particular subgenre and see how many films we've gotten and how many of them won awards traction. I came up with about 27 pictures (excluding biopics of musicians who weren't singers or snapshots of the industry more than individual singers because you have to narrow it down somehow) though it's possible I missed a few.
27 FAMOUS SINGER BIOPICS (1964-2014)
How many have you seen?
Your Cheatin' Heart (1964) - George Hamilton as Hank Williams. (no awards traction)
Funny Girl (1968) - Best Actress Babs as Fanny Brice. 8 Oscar noms including Best Pic
Star! (1968) -Julie Andrews as Gertrud Lawrence (Golden Globe nom). 7 Oscar noms
Lady Sings the Blues (1972) Diana Ross as Billie Holiday. 5 Oscar noms including Best Actress
Bound for Glory (1976) David Carradine as Woody Guthrie. 6 Oscar noms including Best Pic (but not for Carradine)
The Buddy Holly Story (1978) Gary Busey as Buddy Holly. 3 Oscar noms including Best Actor
Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) Best Actress Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn. 7 noms including Best Pic
Sweet Dreams (1985) Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline. 1 nom for Best Actress
Sid & Nancy (1986) Gary Oldman as Sid and Chloe Webb as Nancy. but oops... i guess this is non-singing. No awards traction beyond critical adulation.
La Bamba (1987) Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens. Golden Globe nominee for Best Pic (but none for LDP)
Great Balls of Fire (1989) Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis. (no awards traction)
The Doors (1991) Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison. (no awards traction)
What's Love Got To Do With It (1993) Angela Bassett (Golden Globe win) and Laurence Fishburne as Tina and Ike Turner. 2 Oscar noms for Best Actress and Best Actor
Selena (1997) Jennifer Lopez as Selena (Golden Globe nom)
Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1998) Larenz Tate as Frankie Lymon. (no awards)
Beyond the Sea (2004) Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin (Golden Globe nom).
Ray (2004) Best Actor Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. 6 Oscar noms including Best Pic
Last Days (2005) Michael Pitt as Kurt Cobain. (no awards)
Walk the Line (2005) Best Actress Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix as June and Johnny Cash. 5 Oscar noms including Best Actor
I'm Not There (2007) Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan. 1 nom for Supporting Actress
La Vie En Rose (2008) Best Actress Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf. 3 Oscar noms
Nowhere Boy (2009) Aaron Taylor-Johnson as John Lennon (no awards)
Notorious (2009) Jamal Woolard as Biggie (no awards)
Sex Drugs and Rock N Roll (2010) Andy Serkis as Ian Dury (BAFTA nom)
The Runaways (2010) Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart as Cherie Curie and Joan Jett (no awards)
Jersey Boys (2014) John Lloyd Young as Franki Valli (no awards after that Tony)
Get On Up (2014) Chadwick Boseman as James Brown (awards TBD)
What can we learn from this? It's easier for women to score playing music icons! What else?