Monday, February 23, 2009

Why does Oscar hate music so much?

Actually, the big news about music this morning is that HBO has hired John Sayles to write and I would assume at least partly direct "Scar," an upcoming series about the childhood of Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis. Even though Sayles' last foray into music, the blues-tinged "Honeydripper," was just a mangled mess, Kiedis' colorful upbringing (with a father who sold drugs on the Sunset Strip) should make for entertaining fare.

But as is often the case on a Monday morning, I really start today with a beef. Though last night's Oscars broadcast was an enjoyable enough affair with some pleasantly surprising winners (but how in the world did Mickey Rourke not win?), the treatment of the best songs was simply atrocious.

And, even though they had already snubbed two worthy contenders in Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler" and Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" by failing to even nominate them, they still had two worthy contenders from A.R. Rahman's sensational "Slumdog Millionaire" soundtrack (a big winner) and a pretty solid tune from Peter Gabriel in "Down to Earth" from "Wall-E."

So why in the world couldn't they have at least offered those three separate performances, well spaced out and bookended by the Indian pop extravaganzas? I mean, really, if you can't mount a Bollywood-style musical number or two, what good is the awards show in the first place?

Instead, though Hugh Jackman got plenty of chances to ham it up (and do one grand musical number with Beyonce Knowles, who should have been a nominee and probably a winner for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Etta James in "Cadillac Records"), the Best Original Song nominees were crammed into one melody, with fairly disastrous results.

It started off well enough, with little A.R. Rahman (and, being a man of fairly short stature, I say little with the highest respect possible) surrounded by beautiful dancers and big drums for "O Saya," which only could have been better with an appearance from M.I.A. (now that she's had the kid and all.) Fair enough.

But then, John Legend - a k a the man who murdered what's left of R&B (sorry for that, but I really hate John Legend, and that shot of him in a coffin from "Soul Men" was just one of my favorite images from all of 2008) - came out to croon "Down to Earth," perhaps because Peter Gabriel knew how his work was going to be treated and refused to show up.

This was pleasant enough, John Legend notwithstanding, but then things really fell apart. Rather than anything even approaching the grand finale of "Slumdog Millionaire" for "Jai Ho" (I mean, really, didn't they already choreograph it for you perfectly, and weren't Dev Patel and Freida Pinto - as well as all those adorable kids - in the audience and ready to dance?), they just limped back into it with none of the grand delivery it deserved. Worst of all, poor Mr. Rahman was left to fight for air time with Legend, who producers thought would be a good idea to have show up for the end of "Jai Ho" (after less than a minute of it!) to sing some of Gabriel's tune at the same time. Simply dreadful.

Oh well. At least Rahman won for both score and for "Jai Ho," though "O Saya" is the better song. And I guess that's enough of a rant about a show that, like I said at the start, had at least a couple of pleasant surprise winners.

Penelope Cruz as Best Supporting Actress might only have been a surprise to me, but it was certainly a welcome one. She was perfectly charming in her acceptance speech, and it was worthy recognition for one of the best comedic performances of the year in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (and the first Oscar win for a Spanish actress.)

And though I thoroughly enjoyed the disturbing Katrina documentary "Trouble the Water" when I got to see it at the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, I was happy to see "Man on Wire" (another flick I saw in Rehoboth) take home the big documentary prize. If you're a fan of heist flicks, than I highly recommend this flick (which must be out on DVD by now) about what might just be the ultimate caper, Philippe Petit's walk between the Twin Towers.

It was also, of course, cathartic to see Heath Ledger's family accept his Best Supporting Actor prize for "The Dark Knight," probably the most deserved award of the entire evening, and being a big backer of "Slumdog Millionaire" I was very happy to see it take home eight awards, including Best Director for Danny Boyle and Best Picture (I suppose I could have started with that, but it is a Monday morning, after all.)

And I'll leave you with the montage clip of 2009's coming attractions from last night's show. The best things to me were the glimpses of "Public Enemies," "Julie & Julia" and Larry David in "Whatever Works," and the most groan-inducing shot would have to be the one of Robin Williams and John Travolta in "Old Dogs." I have no idea how in the world they managed to leave out Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" with Anika Noni Rose, but even with that rather glaring omission, it's still a cool little preview. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Monday. Peace out.


Koenig said...

I feel like I shouldn't harp on a minor point, but I keep seeing this incorrect information all over - Peter Gabriel was at the Oscars last night. He did refuse to perform in that painful medley, but he still attended.

Video from the red carpet:

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for the correction ... I didn't realize he was there, but the fact he didn't want to perform still doesn't say much for the whole idea of making a medley of the songs

Bob said...

All in all, no enormous surprises with the exception of Sean Penn. I really wish it had been Mickey Rourke or Richard Jenkins. Heath Ledger's family being there was wonderful to see.
As far as the show itself, the presentation of the acting awards was absurd. What's wrong with showing a damn clip?! I liked how they were presenting the technical awards. That's about the only thing that kept things moving. Twenty minutes in it seemed like the show was going to run until 2 in the morning (and remember I live on the west coast).
The In Memoriam piece was sickening. Who the hell decided to shoot it that way? And Justin and I (yes, he does exist :)) were both disgusted by the silence when Charlton Heston came up. It's typical Hollywood. You didn't fall in line with our politics so we're not going to applaud you.
All in all, it went on for WAY too long. I really, really want Steve Martin back.

Reel Fanatic said...

Amen to that ... I'll take ANY real comedian over Hugh Jackman .. And that Acting thing was simply ludicrous ... Who was supposed to find them kissing each other's asses entertaining?

Jake Mabe said...

I'm a little peeved that "Frost/Nixon" didn't win anything. Granted, it was up against some heavy hitters, but I thought it was a fantastic film. Frank Langella's Nixon was much more satisfying than, say, Anthony Hopkins' take in the 1995 Oliver Stone flick "Nixon."

Reel Fanatic said...

It certainly was at that, Jake, but as you pointed out, there was just too much competition for him to prevail this year ... As for the film itself, I enjoyed it quite a bit too, with my only beef being that those documentary-style, look-back interviews with the minor players just took away from the big showdown between Sheen and Langella without adding anything to the flick

Sachin said...

I did find it strange that only 3 songs were nominated in the first place. I wonder if there is a minimum number of votes required for a title to be given a nomination? So the three that made it had the most votes while there were quite a few others with a lower number and the Academy took the easy way out and just picked the top 3.

And yeah it was strange for them to pack all three songs in one performance while spending a lot more time showing back-clips of previous winners which really should be done every few years now. They really have to find a way to get the show under 3 hours.

Mercurie said...

I have to admit, I hated the way they treated Best Song as well. But then there was a lot I found awful about the ceremony. I found the way they did the In Memoriam downright offensive.

Jake Mabe said...

I agree about the interview sequences in "Frost/Nixon." They were unnecessary. The narrative was strong enough to carry the film without such a cheap plot device.