Sunday, February 25, 2007

Songs, Scores, Performers for Tonight's Oscar® Gala



SONGS and PERFORMERS

Beyoncé, Melissa Etheridge, Jennifer Hudson, Randy Newman, Keith Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, and James Taylor are set to perform this year’s Oscar®-nominated songs on the 79th Academy Awards® show tonight, telecast producer Laura Ziskin announced late last week. In case you haven't heard, the host is Ellen DeGeneres. To read my post about DeGeneres, click my Archive for September 2006 on the right sidebar.

Three nominated songs from DREAMGIRLS will be sung. Beyoncé will sing “Listen” (music by Henry Krieger and Scott Cutler, lyric by Anne Preven). “Love You I Do” (music by Henry Krieger and lyric by Siedah Garrett) will be song by Jennifer Hudson. “Patience” (music by Henry Krieger and lyric by Willie Reale) will be sung and performed by Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, and other cast mates.

“I Need to Wake Up” from the documentary feature AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH will be sung by Melissa Etheridge, who also wrote the music and lyric for the nominated song.

Randy Newman wrote both the music and lyric for "Our Town," nominated from the animated feature CARS, and he will perform with singer-guitarist James Taylor. Newman also composed the score for CARS.

NOMINATED SCORES

First of all, you can read about, and listen to, excerpts from all five nominated scores from the features BABEL, THE GOOD GERMAN, NOTES ON A SCANDAL, PAN'S LABYRINTH, and THE QUEEN at NPR.org. There you can also read excellent evaluations by NPR's movie-music expert Andy Trudeau. So, go there first, but please come back.

When I attended film school, two things about film scores were drummed into our heads:


1. The score should not overpower the visuals, dialog, and story. If the viewer keeps noticing it, then it is not a good score.
2. The score should stand alone as a unique musical composition, allowing it to be performed in concerts.

Based the second criteria, Gustavo Santaolalla's score for BABEL should be disqualified. I noticed it more than a few times, too. Second strike. It is unique, so that may give it some extra points.

Thomas Newman's score for THE GOOD GERMAN captures the big orchestrations in the Hollywood scores of the golden age with enough variations to ward off the copycat label. It can definitely stand alone as a composition but since I haven't seen the film, I must wonder about it being intrusive. Yes, he is the son of Alfred, the famous film-score composer, but Thomas has his own track record, including the score for AMERICAN BEAUTY.

Composer Philip Glass's score for NOTES ON A SCANDAL? Well, Philip Glass is Philip Glass, is Philip Glass, is Philip Glass. Even a rank amateur listener can discern a Glass composition. To me his music gets monotonous but Trudeau says that in NOTES Glass actually reaches moments of crescendo when there should be a crescendo to match the action of the movie. I did notice more contrast. I'm not sure I would go all the way with Trudeau's statement, "The result is a soundtrack brimming with melodic writing and a moody oboe theme." With those crescendos and melodic moments, the score is not as boring as his earlier works. Nonetheless, it is still somewhat sedate.

As to Alexandre Desplat's score for THE QUEEN, Trudeau says it is a score with many levels, which manages the movie's transitions between pomp and lightheartedness. Since I haven't seen the film, or heard much of the score, there it rests.

Trudeau says that Javier Navarette's score for PAN'S LABYRINTH, is a "rich, intimate score that walks the delicate line between fantasy and horror." Navarette has been composing in Spain for 20 years. His work is well known there and in Europe, but this is his first exposure in the U.S.

Since I have some knowledge of Spanish music and scores for Spanish movies, I've listened to some of this score, and I think the musical references in the score are excellent, especially the overarching theme of the lullaby, a rich tradition in Spanish music. I may have a bias here, but I'm going to choose this score as my favorite. I think it has an excellent chance of winning.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2006 will be presented tonight, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®. The Oscars® will be televised live by the ABC Television Network at 5 p.m. PST (8 p.m. EST), beginning with a half-hour red carpet arrivals segment, “The Road to the Oscars.”

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