Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007's best soundtrack, and a serious Oscar snub

When I found this morning that the Oscar short list of 59 original songs had been released I was at least a little excited. I love music almost as much as I do movies, and when they come together perfectly it's just sublime entertainment.

Before reading the list, I just assumed there would be at least one song from easily my favorite soundtrack of the year, but I was once again disappointed (we'll get to more about that in just a little bit.)

To be fair, there are some genuinely good selections that did make the list. Kate Bush's "Lyra," which plays over the closing credits of "The Golden Compass," is a haunting tune that will surely be in the final five or so (and, really, isn't any new Kate Bush music at all just a reason to cheer?) There are also three of Eddie Vedder's great songs from "Into the Wild" ("Society," "Guaranteed" and "Rise"), one from John Sayles' "Honeydripper ("China Doll"), and two from John Carney's simply sublime "Once" ("Falling Slowly," the better of the two, and "If You Want Me").

But, of course, among these great tunes you get plenty of silliness, including three (three!?!?) songs from "Good Luck Chuck" and something called "The Tale of the Horny Frog" from "The Heartbreak Kid." Now, I didn't bother to see that Ben Stiller flick, but I can't imagine anything with that title is exactly poetry.

And what they snubbed completely was anything from my favorite soundtrack of the year (with the one for the Joe Strummer doco "The Future is Unwritten" a close second), Loudon Wainwright III's "Strange Weirdos: Music from and Inspired by the Film 'Knocked Up'."

Along with being a slyly funny folkie, Wainwright has been a regular fixture in Judd Apatow's movies and TV shows. In "Knocked Up," he was the obstetrician who flaked out on Heigl and Rogen on delivery day, and he was even better in a bigger role as Jay Baruchel's dorky dad on the much-too-shortlived TV show "Undeclared."

For the soundtrack (which you can buy track-by-track for .89 cents a cut at Amazon), the songs perfectly match the tone of the movie, ranging from bitterly funny ("Grey in LA") to almost-too-sappy ("Daughter.") Except for two songs from Joe Henry, this is all Wainwright, and I assure you it contains at least 10 songs that could have been among the 59 being considered for an Oscar.

To read the entire list of Oscar contenders, click here.

Pedro Almodovar's back in a noir mood

I need to get a job where I can just pick up the phone and get Penelope Cruz on the other end and have her do whatever I want (nothing terribly dirty implied there, I promise.)

Spanish director Pedro Almodovar seems to have that power, and I'd certainly say he's earned it by now. For their next collaboration, Almodovar and Cruz will be making "Los Abrazos Rotos" (if anyone can translate that for me, please do), which the director describes as a "four-way tale of amour fou, shot in the style of '50s American film noir at its most hard-boiled." Sounds like tons of Almodovar fun to me.

Almodovar regulars Blanca Portillo (from "Volver") and Lluis Homar (from "Mala Educacion") will co-star.

According to the director, "Abrazos," which will go into production this spring, is set in the '90s and present day, and will mix stylistic references to films such as Nicholas Ray's "In a Lonely Place" and Vincente Minnelli's "The Bad and the Beautiful" with signature Almodovar themes: "Fate, the mystery of creation, guilt, unscrupulous power, the eternal search of fathers for sons, and sons for fathers."

"Penelope (Cruz) will exchange the era's aprons, cardigans and the hairdos for an updated look, but one that mixes the transparent turbulence of Gene Tierney and the mistreated, challenging beauty of Linda Darnell in Otto Preminger's 'Fallen Angel,' " Almodovar told Variety.

I adored Todd Haynes' ode to '50s-style melodrama with "Far from Heaven," so I'll certainly be keeping my eyes on this to see what Pedro and Penelope can do with an even darker approach.

Eva Cassidy biopic in the works

Always-welcome visitor Nell Minow left a comment yesterday to say that "Walk Hard," Jake Kasdan's upcoming spoof of music biopics starring John C. Reilly, is a real winner that will keep everyone constantly laughing. I certainly hope I agree when I get to see it next week, because this is indeed a genre worthy of sendup.

Which doesn't mean I won't see any more music biopics. I'd certainly spring for Spike Lee's take on the life of James Brown, if he ever gets around to it, and word came today that one of my favorite artists of all time is about to get the cinematic treatment thanks to some very devoted fans.

The story of Eva Cassidy is indeed a real American tragedy. Anyone who spent any time in Washington D.C. in the '90s is probably at least a little familiar with the story of this blues/jazz singer who never received the acclaim she deserved until after her death from melanoma at the way-too-young age of 33.

It was her version of "Over the Rainbow" from the posthumous collection "Songbird" that brought her fame, especially in Europe. And now, AIR Prods., which this year produced director Amy Redford's "The Guitar" (which I have not yet seen), is going to make a movie about her much-too-short life.

This is certainly good news, at least to me, and since I firmly believe that even the worst day imaginable can be made a little better with a dose of Eva Cassidy, here's a YouTube clip of her performing "Cheek to Cheek" live at D.C.'s Blues Alley. If this doesn't bring a smile to your face, well, I'd just have to imagine you simply don't smile often enough. Peace out.


jeremy said...

Never even heard of Eva Cassidy--thanks for that!
Also, I posted my not-too-glowing review of Juno . . .

Reel Fanatic said...

Uh oh ... I'm gonna have to check that out now, Jeremy, because I've yet to find anyone else who didn't like Juno as much as I did!

Carrie Lofty said...

Los abrazos rotos = The broken hugs.

Reel Fanatic said...

Ah .. thanks, Carrie .. Considering how many people in the U.S. regularly speak Spanish, I should certainly bother to learn more the 10 words or so I know now

Ashok said...

Surprising that "Hard Sun" from "Into the Wild" is not listed (or is it not the original song for the movie? Because I heard it is in some other individual album of Eddie Vedder with some one else.)

All the songs in "Into the Wild", "Once" are good. And I am surprised that Golden Globe did not consider "Once" for Best Musical. (Is once not a release of 2007?)

Bob said...

At least they put "PoP! Goes My Heart" from "Music and Lyrics." That's easily my favorite movie song of the year.

Reel Fanatic said...

If I'm not mistaken, Ashok, "Once" is indeed a 2007 release, since I think it came out in the U.S. in May ... and you're certainly right about that "Pop Goes My Heart" song, Bob .. I saw that flick on an airplane, and even though it's silly as all hell, it was just about right for in-flight entertainment

Mercurie said...

I have to admit that The Oscar for Best Song is the one that never fails to disappoint me. Even if my favourite movie song is by some miracle nominated, it usually loses.

Nell Minow said...

Thanks for the name-check! I'm hoping for one of the "Once" songs to win, but as mercurie said, Oscar voters are...unpredictable when it comes to music.

I'm also glad you mentioned Eva Cassidy, one of my very favorites. Her versions of "Songbird" and "Fields of Gold" are simply sublime.

The Judge said...

Damn. That was an awsome version of that tune.

You're right: Im smiling!

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