The last two years, we saw something special—and rare—happen at the Oscars: the Best Song category actually meant something to many viewers. Two years ago, we couldn’t get “Let It Go” from Frozen out of our heads (but let’s be honest, did it ever really leave our heads?). That was the year the Idina Menzel tuner left Pharrell’s toe-tapping contender “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 in the dust. Then last year, we saw John Legend and Common force the Dolby to its feet with their performance of winning song “Glory” from Selma, outpacing another fan favorite, The Lego Movie‘s “Everything Is Awesome.”
This year, high-profile artists like Lady Gaga, Diane Warren, Sam Smith, and The Weeknd are in the mix, but their songs don’t have the same appeal as those from recent memory. Still, this year’s diverse lot of songs—ranging from R&B to classical to a James Bond anthem—is worth a listen before this Sunday’s Oscars.
(Read about the entire process of making short film, “In-Kind,” by checking out the “Anatomy of a Short Film” section of this blog.)
“In-Kind” co-director Stephanie Dawson and I recently met with our composer/sound designer Jay Rothman at his studio in Hell’s Kitchen, New York for our spotting session. With limited knowledge about film music—but with an immense appreciation and respect for it—we allowed Jay to guide us a bit. We watched the film in its entirety to get a feel for it, then again scene by scene, all the while conveying the emotions we’re looking to extract from the audience—as well as what the characters are feeling—along the way. Since Jay is wearing two hats, as composer and sound designer, we discussed both crafts simultaneously, highlighting the various cues where music should begin and end, as well as the different sound effects that would help enliven the story.
Often, this time of year, Oscar-nominated films attempt to drum up last-minute support with special live events—whether it be a live musical performance by the cast of Frozen or a Mary Poppins sing-along event for Saving Mr. Banks. These events usually highlight an aspect of the film that’s nominated (or would be potentially nominated), which is why I found it interesting that Birdman‘s score was recently performed live in LA during a screening of the film.
Since the film’s release in November, the unique jazz drum score has reverberated in viewers’ minds. The Golden Globe- and BAFTA Award-nominated music by Antonio Sánchez was famously disqualified for Oscar consideration because it samples about 17 minutes of previously recorded classical music (an Oscar no-no). Despite his ineligibility, Sánchez took to his drum kit for the live performance last night at the ACE Hotel. Although the performance does nothing to support the film’s (nonexistent) chances in the Original Score category, perhaps it does help further boost Birdman‘s profile, keeping it top of mind for voters who are currently filling in their ballots. And with only one other film acting as serious competition for Best Picture, Birdman can use the added boost to make it to the Dolby’s stage on Oscar Sunday.
Suburban New Jersey. Mid 1960s. A group of teens form a band in the shadow of some of the biggest names of the time—Rolling Stones, The Beatles. In his film directorial debut, Sopranos creator David Chase crafts a film that’s as much a love letter to the 1960s as it is to the classic tunes of his youth. Joining forces with an ideal music supervisor, the legendary Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and himself a patron saint of New Jersey, the duo captures the essence of the era in great detail, though at times the constant in-your-face references breach on annoying. Not Fade Awayfeels a bit disjointed at times and is not as strong as Cameron Crowe’s 2000 Oscar-winning Almost Famous (an easy comparison), but the film does manage to stand on its own two feet and will surely be enjoyed by any child of the ’60s with a garage band. Above all else, the soundtrack is pretty boss.
Limité Rating: 3/5
Director: David Chase
Genres: Narrative, Comedy, Drama
Runtime: 112 min.
The 50th New York Film Festival runs from September 28 – October 14, 2012.