Oscar History

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Entries in Bret McKenzie (3)


First Round Oscar Predix Continue: Sound & Visual FX

The Oscar chart construction must continue. Maleficent was asking and you don't want to keep her waiting. 

Visuals Chart - In Progress. More Categories To Come
You'll find early predictions for Visual F/X and the always confounding Makeup & Hair category. For Visual F/X I'd love to push Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes higher up the charts but I'm still trying to wrap my head around Oscar's complete disinterest in a) superhero movies that don't feature a man in a batsuit -- and that wouldn't confound me at all if they didn't have such deep abiding love for the Transformers franchise of all things which is surely less reputable than Marvel movies --  and b) Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) which won hugely favorable reviews and surprised virtually everyone in its year and seemed like a likely finalist in several Oscar categories but only ended up a VFX nominee. Will Oscar turn its nose up at those damn dirty apes and their stinking paws on round two (which is really round eight)?

Sound Chart - In Progress. More Categories To Come.
I'm very willing, nay, desperate to hear your thoughts on which films might have Original Songs. I'm super curious about Sound Mixing this year as well in that it's a category that loves blockbusters, musicals, potential Best Picture nominees, and films involving lots of water and there are quite a few films that fit at least one of those categories this year. Regarding music movies or traditional musicals: by my count it's quite a robust year iin that there are at least five on the way from obvious contenders like Into the Woods and Get On Up to less prestigious or smaller players like Annie, Begin Again, and The Last Five Years

As for Best Song, also added to the chart, Bret McKenzie won an Oscar for his last go round with The Muppets (we interviewed him). I think he's less likely to get nominated this year now that the novelty has worn off but if he is the Celine Dion/Miss Piggy ballad "Something So Right" seems most likely but my favorite song in the movie is the delightful nonsense of  "I'll Get You Want You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)"

If the new song doesn't sound out of place within its classic song score, it seems unlikely sight unseen sound unheard that any song other than the new Stephen Sondheim / Meryl Streep Into the Woods collaboration (previously squealed over) need show up on the big night. 

Supporting Actress | Animated Film | Lead Actor | Movies To Watch For 


Interview: Bret McKenzie from The Muppets and Middle Earth

Bret McKenzie at the Muppets premiere in 2011Oscar's music branch has been known to throw an unpleasant curveball over the years  in the Original Song category (no Cher performance last year? Ouch! No Springsteen in 2008?! It still stings.) but if they don't deliver us a performance by the resurgent Muppets on the February broadcast, felt fur will surely fly. We get so few original musicals these days so The Muppets was the go to musical comedy last year.

Bret McKenzie has given Oscar ample reason to include the beloved characers on the big night. The actor/musician, most famous as one half of the Flight of the Conchords duo and soon to be seen as an Elf in Middle Earth (however briefly) in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wrote two songs that have landed on Oscar's Best Original Song eligibility list: "Life's a Happy Song" and "Man or Muppet". (The third eligible song from the movie "Pictures in My Head" has different composers).

I spoke to him recently on his awards buzz, his cult hit show and (very briefly) Middle Earth. He calls the response to his Muppets songs "Pretty incredible. I did not expect to get awards for this movie."

Nevertheless, the honors have been coming. Both of his Oscar eligible songs are up for the Critics Choice Award this Thursday (imagine competing with Elton John!) and who knows? An Oscar nomination (or even two!) could follow. 


Nathaniel R: Did you feel crazy pressure about taking on this job. The Muppets have "The Rainbow Connection" which is an all time classic. The music is very connected to their whole mythology. 

BRET MCKENZIE: It was a very intimidating job, taking on Paul williams shoes. Luckily I wrote one song at a time for it. Initially I wasn't writing three or four so I didn't feel so much pressure. But one of my friends was like 'Oh man, you're never going to write another 'Rainbow Connection' [Laughs] I was like 'Yeah, you're right!'

But, you know, we just did our thing really. Luckily James  [James Bobin director of The Muppets who also had a hand in Flight of the Conchords] and I had just spent the last five years doing Conchords. We had done a lot of comedy musical numbers so we were pretty comfortable with the genre. The challenge was just to make sure that the songs felt like Muppet songs.

Nathaniel: Was this a situation where they knew exactly where they wanted a song. "It goes here and it's about this!"? 

Bret: That's exactly it. When I came on they'd already done the script. I went in to James' office and he had the film mapped out on script cards on the wall, white cards. A blue card was a song. There were songs scattered throughout the movie. That's how we did Conchords as well, so you didn't have songs back to back. They had these sort of loose ideas for what the songs should be. They'd actually -- by the time I came on -- already had dozens of demos submitted. They got lots of people to write songs and they went through and chose their favorites. It was surprising how difficult it was for people to write songs that fit into the musical format.

So you knew which characters your songs would be for ahead of time.

Yes. I was writing for Gary and Walter who didn't exist. I knew who Jason Segel was. I had seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall so I knew him.  I knew he could sing a bit which is always good. Then I got the job of writing the rap for Chris Cooper which was one of the highlights of the film, teaching him how to rap. He's a very serious actor, an Academy Award wining actor. He was quite method! [Laughs] We're quite different people. I'm quite bubbly and he's very serious. 

Even about rapping?

He took it very seriously. He wanted to make sure it was a solid rap performance. I taught him over Skype how to rap! 

Did you test the Muppet music on your kids to see how they responded?

Musical Comedy Divas & Muppet-like Middle Earth Directors ...after the jump!

Click to read more ...


Happy Turkey (and Muppets) Day

Marilyn Monroe and TurkeyWe've been watching the Macy's Parade while cleaning / cooking and there has literally yet to be a musical number from Broadway that's NOT movie-based as I type this. Should've live-blogged and talked Sister Act, Spider-Man, Priscilla, How To Succeed, Newsies and more... Broadway is basically movies on stage now, with a special emphasis on 1990s comedies.

Meanwhile at the multiplex, it won't just be turkeys slaughtered for today's festivities. In Hollywood's infinite wisdom, three showbiz-centric movies for adults must open simultaneously (The Artist, My Week With Marilyn, Hugo) and three movies children might like (Hugo, The Muppets, Arthur Christmas ...two of which are obviously for adults) must open in direct competition as well. There probably won't be enough dollars to go around which is sad because the same ticket buyer might well like all of those movies. On balance, this is an absurdly high quality crop, not one, well, turkey in the batch [Disclaimer: Arthur Christmas is the only one I haven't seen but I hear good things.] 

If all five of those newly released options weren't enough, Oscar maniacs can also sample The Descendants (expanding) and, in NY & LA, A Dangerous Method and Rampart. In case you haven't been keeping up and since we're hosting a big dinner, here are past thoughts...

THE ARTIST ~ review | all posts | best pic race | interviews soon
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN review | more Marilyn on the way
HUGO  ~ the filmmakers speak | work in progress thoughts |  all 
A DANGEROUS METHOD ~ several reviews from our team
RAMPART - all posts | best actor race 

As for THE MUPPETS... I didn't have time to review the new film before guests started arriving but I'd love to hear your thoughts. I found it quite uneven even within both of the narratives. The Muppet reunion brand relaunch is what I came to see and the nostalgia factor there worked like a charm. But individual scenes didn't always sparkle and I wanted more funny performances and less story beats. Meanwhile the musical comedy factor seemed to fall mostly to the Jason Segel / Amy Adams / "Walter" coming-of-age storyline which I liked much more than I was expecting to -- great sight gags in the beginning and Amy Adams could not be a better fit for the Muppet world -- until I didn't. By the time the three of them met The Muppets I was over it because... THE MUPPETS; stop distracting me from them! So my reaction was all over the place and far more colored by my own childhood fixations rather than the movie itself. But if you grew up loving The Muppets it's a total must-see. I recently rented the DVDs of the original series and it is crazy enjoyable -- like giddy-smile making -- just as we all remember. In fact, after watching three episodes back to back I think TV needs a relaunch of The Muppet Show more than the movies need the muppets. Variety shows are sort of back given the plethora of performance competitions but the variety has gone out of them as they are the same thing over and over again, whether that's contemporary pop karaoke or dancing.

One of the new songs "Life's a Happy Song" (Bret McKenzie --yay!) is a total charmer and should give the felt fuzzy group their fourth music-related Oscar nomination (the first three films all won one nomination in Song or Score categories.)


Do your Thanksgiving plans include movies? Have you seen The Muppets yet?