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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


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Entries in Original Song (97)


Black History Month: Endless Love (1981)

I know what you're thinking. You're working out some variation of "how perverse to feature a lily white teenage romance for a Black History Month feature!"... and I get it. But let's travel back to 1981 together anyway and I'll explain.

The Italian auteur Franco Zeffirelli had found great success in America directing Romeo and Juliet (1968) which became both a populist hit and an Oscar magnet finishing in the year's top five at the box office and in the Best Picture shortlist. A dozen or so years later Zeffirelli took another stab (pun intended) at the zeitgeist with a similar if much cruder tale of an ill advised tempestuous and horny teenage affair. Endless Love was critically panned (multiple Razzie nominations) though it managed to be a hit if not quite a blockbuster. Its eponymous Best Original Song nominee "Endless Love" by Lionel Richie on the other hand was a monster...

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Musical Oscars: JHud, Kendrick, Jack Black & More to Perform

Anna Kendrick singing her ass off all month on screen and stageManuel here bringing more news about the Oscar telecast. While some continue to ponder whether we’ll really be asked to be Team BOYhood or Team birdMAN (and how’s that for a an apt metaphor for contemporary Hollywood!), we’ll be focusing more on what Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have in store for us during the sure-to-be-endless ceremony that shortchanges winning speeches for needless montages and musical performances.

Speaking of these, it looks like we’re getting a full Best Original Song performance roster, with Adam Levine ("Lost Stars"), Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island ("Everything is Awesome!!!"), Common & John Legend ("Glory"), Tim McGraw ("I'm Not Gonna Miss You") and Rita Ora ("Grateful") slated to sing their respective numbers on the big night.

"We're creating several musical sequences for the Oscars and we couldn't be happier that our friend, Jennifer Hudson, will be performing in one of them," say Zadan and Meron.

On top of this, last week came word that Jack Black would be performing, that Anna Kendrick would be part of a "special performance" and just this past weekend, Meron and Zadan confirmed that Jennifer Hudson would also be performing (my guess is she might be doing the In Memoriam number? That is, unless they’ve designed another “tribute to musicals” like they did in 2013, remember that?)

That already looks like quite a stacked schedule, especially once you add NPH’s number, so maybe we’ll be spared the montages that celebrate “Oscar’s history” or some oddly specific genre rather than the year in film and the actual nominated films?

The Best Picture lineup may look quite oppressively manly, but with all these musical numbers (and NPH on hand), it’ll be quite the glittery gay spectacle, no? Fingers crossed! My only hope is that Hudson wears something as cray-tastic as that cape from her Dreamgirls red carpet.



Living For Love & Skimming Through Grammys

Annie takes us to church, then puts a spell on usWith Taylor Swift's cheekily titled "1989" the music world's best-seller of 2014, and a least half of all movie franchises with their roots firmly embedded in the "me" decade is pop culture forever frozen in 80s amber? We hardly needed another reminder that the 1980s are still roaring but what were the chances that the two best performances of the Grammy's would come from Annie Lennox and Madonna?

I don't ask this as someone with significant ties to loving the 1980s (though I am someone like that) but from genuine surprise. It's not that there aren't great performers that are very now but they all seemed conspicuously absent last night or visibly subdued within the long procession of funureal ballads the Grammys showcased. Hell, even Pharell's boppy "Happy" which memorably gave us Streep shimmying and Nyong'o jumping to her feet at the Oscars last year, was performed with 'everything is not awesome' minor key ominousness.

After the jump movie & Oscar related Grammy stuff and big wins. But first a few words on Madonna and the delicious deep red new video from the undeposed Queen of Pop.

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Podcast: Jupiter Etcetera

Remember us? It's been a month. How did that happen? Nathaniel, Nick, Katey and Joe are finally reunited. We had intended to talk Oscar nominations but we're so far past Nomination Morning that the conversation has a mind of its own and just goes where it may. Nathaniel keeps trying to bring up Nightcrawler and Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Magic Mike and Djimon Hounsou's agent work there way into the conversation, too.

[42 Minutes]
00:01 We're back. DGA Awards & Birdman
10:54 Eddie Redmayne vs Michael Keaton vs Bradley Cooper
19:30 Original Song: Selma, The LEGO Movie
23:11 Beyond the Lights & Gugu Mbatha-Raw
27:20 Seventh SonJupiter Ascending 



American Sniper Conversation from the podcast "Fighting in the War Room" 

Please to enjoy and continue the rambling conversation in the comments. You can listen at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes

Jupiter Ascending & More


Selma Luncheon was a "Glory" 

In the last few days of Oscar voting (balloting ends tomorrow at 5 PM PST) campaigns have been running at full bore with events for numerous films ongoing here in NYC were TFE is based. None of them have been greater than the Selma luncheon yesterday which was a beauty from start to finish. The luminaries really turned out for this one: several former Oscar nominees and winners, famous TV journalists, and Harry Belafonte himself, who we recently honored here to coincide with his Jean Hersholt Huminatarian Award and who was so instrumental in the events of Selma and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Common, Ava DuVernay, and David Oyelowo at the NBR gala later that evening

I worried at first during the opening speech (my apologies but I forget the name of the man who introduced the event) that the righteous politics and the "importance" button were being pushed with too much force. I should explain: Selma is indeed tremendously important and a political drama. But it's also an extremely good movie and, all too often, the quality of actual movies, gets lost in the Oscar race. Which is to say that a movies execution, and not its concept of subject matter, is what awards should be based on. Anybody can address an important topic or theme or historical event, only visionary talented artists can render it as beautifully and potently as Ava DuVernay has.

My worries were unfounded. Soon all hint of stridency disappeared once the filmmaking team was speaking and humor, humility, tenderness, empathy, universality were also flooding the room. David Oyelowo, interviewed by Oprah's bestie Gale, told a wonderfully moving and funny story wherein he imitated his father's heavy Nigerian accent and shock and glee reacting to Brad Pitt's recent sing-a-long of "Oyelowo"

Our name is on the map now!

...and also his father's reaction to him playing the King of England on stage. His father had moved to the UK decades earlier when racism was prevalent.

I cannot believe that they let a black man play the Kind of England. And that black man is my son.

Recent attacks on Selma's accuracy were addressed both subtly and pointedly. Famous former New York Times reporter Gay Talese, who turns 83 next month, was interviewed about his first screening of the film. He had reported from Selma during the mayhem of that "Bloody Sunday" that is so horrifically dramatized in the film. He admitted that he had sat down to screen the film with considerable skepticism and was stunned that this woman who wasn't even there had captured it just as he remembered it. He urged those who were interested to watch the actual footage that the networks displayed in a moment that he said changed journalism and the country forever.

I loved Ava DuVernay, opening speech.

If you believe in justice and dignity our effort is you. What we tried to do is deconstruct heroes. No one is all saint. No one is all sinner. There are grey areas inbetween: it's called being a human being. And so what we try to do is unencase people from marble, take them out of the pages of a history book, allow them to breathe and become complex. For us to question who they are debate who tehy are. That was our intention and in doing so illuminate this beautiful time, a time that really changed this country. The fact that we can all be in this room together, celebrating as we are as equals, is the direct result of the events we chronicle. 

She also addressed, with some noticeable sadness, the complaints that she had not depicted LBJ correctly and reminded people that it's a distraction from the resonance of the film: that LBJ's great legacy, the Civil Rights Voting Act has recently been dismantled. That's what people should be angry about.

But for all the fine speeches, the highlight of the event was most definitely a live performance of the Original Song contender "Glory". Common's humble opening speech set the inspiring tone. His stillness and hand gestures as he rapped with John Legend's passionate piano and voice on the chorus combined with the sonic depth that the back-up singers and strings behind them supplied made for an exquisite if ultra-short concert (just one song!).

I recorded it for you and saved it at the highest quality my phone could handle and you can listen right here. Common's speech is the first two minutes. The song begins thereafter. This won't approximate how moving it was to be there (it's only the third time they've performed the song live) but the song is too beautiful not to share.




Oscars Songs & Scores. Plus: Chart Updates

Each year the list of eligible ORIGINAL SONGS that will vy for Oscar nominations holds numerous surprises. These surprises almost invariably fall under the question heading:

That movie had a song in it?"

Apart from song showcases that are an important part of the narrative - remember that sweet tense reunion between Hiccup's father and mother in How To Train your Dragon 2? - many songs are buried in their movies by way of incomplete airings or end credit positioning when people are exiting the theater  -- you have to be the first music in the end credits to be eligible at all. Come second and you're outta there as Madonna learned the hard way for her end credits "Masterpiece" in W.E. (that's the name of the song, not a qualitative judgement). The other annual head-scratcher question about this category is not the mean-spirited "Why does it exist?" but the far less frequently asked "Why is it afforded more nominees than the Makeup & Hairstyling category since literally all live action films require makeup & hairstyling and only a teeny-tiny portion of films have a composer on their payroll writing original songs. Indeed that question is only ever asked by The Film Experience though we think it a good one.

Makeup & Hairstyling is now the only Oscar category still considered unworthy of 5 nominations annually despite being a craft that's used in 100% of live-action movies which a few other categories cannot claim. But that's a topic for when the Makeup Branch finalist list is announced. Why am I talking about it now? My brain, inside a head that requires no hairstyling, hops track is all. Sorry bout it.

The annual list of eligible Original Scores for Oscar's music branch to consider holds a different kind of surprise altogether. Those surprises are about what's not listed. They fall under the question heading:

They disqualified that one? Why???"

This year apparently the music for Foxcatcher and The Two Faces of January -- to name two examples from famous composers (Danna & Iglesias respectively) -- wasn't "original" enough or something for Oscar. But the headline snub is Antonio Sanchez's work on Birdman. It's won much (rightful) attention for its unique percussive approach.

With Birdman out of the way, expect the five nominees to be: Alexandre Desplat (Unbroken), Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game) Alexandre Desplat (Godzilla) Alexandre Desplat (Grand Budapest Hotel) and Alexandre Desplat (The Monuments Men). I'm joking but there is no rule against it in the craft categories! You know if John Williams wrote five new scores in a year he'd win all five nominations. Somebody give Desplat a sedative before he burns himself out. He's so brilliant but do you think he'll stop working himself into an early grave once they give him the statue? He's won six nominations in the past decade, most of them from Best Pictures nominees or winners no less, but he has still yet to win the gold.


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The Not Grammys Experience

John Waters, Grammy Nominee !This isn't The Music Experience but we should glance toward the Grammy nominees. Among the "record" and "song" of the year categories, which are kind of like the actress and actor to "album of the year"'s best picture --it's a tortured analogy, just go with it --  my votes would go to... no, I can't do it. No preferences. I like most of them but, frankly, they all remind me of other better songs especially "Chandelier" which is like "Umbrella: The Sequel" and "Fancy" which is like a weaker and more annoying Stefani track. Plus I thought "All About the Bass" was a two-for-one Novelty Song download deal with Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" -- I had no idea it was respectable music! What would the Best Picture equivalent be at the Oscars?  I can't even imagine... 

But, again, not a music guy. Outside of movie music as an extension of a my cinephilia and musical theater as an extension of my inner soul (Proud Show Queen and I don't care who knows it... Haters gonna hate hate hate. Shake it off!) I don't think about music that much except to think "What should i put on my gym playlist to help motivate the exercize that I'm not going to do no matter how great the playlist is?!?"

Actors or Directors among the Grammy-nominated this year

  • James Franco (Spoken Word nominee for "Actors Anonymous")
    I think it's worth noting that Franco has yet to win a major prize beyond a Golden Globe but he has now been nominated for the Oscar, the Emmy, and the Grammy Clearly has his sights set on a Tony at some point, too.  
  • Cheyenne Jackson (Principal Soloist for San Francisco Symphony's version of "West Side Story" nominated for Musical Theater Album)_
  • Neil Patrick Harris (Principal Soloist for "Hedwig" revival nominated for Musical Theater Album)
  • John Waters (Spoken Word nominee for "Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America")

MOVIE RELATED CATEGORIES which are always a curious mix of Oscar years given differing eligiblity periods are after the jump...

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