Monday, February 22, 2010

Oscars Nix Best Song Performances

Ok, so I haven't done an Oscar post. Mostly because I haven't seen most of the nominated films. Therefore, I can't really make a judgment about possible winners.
I do find the changes to the nomination process and the telecast interesting. For the first time in Academy Award history, the Best Picture category has a whopping ten nominees. The category usually recognizes the five films that voters find to be the best and typically caters to drama. However, it has been expanded to accommodate different types of films. The Golden Globes have been splitting the drama category from the musical/comedy category for years but the Oscars have typically been reserved to only "serious" films. Fantasy films, animated films, musicals and comedies are often shut out of Oscar glory. There are instances such as Lord of the Rings and Chicago where the top film happens to not be a traditional drama, but in most cases the winning film tackles a serious topic or is carried by a stunning dramatic performance by the cast.

This year the Academy Awards has set out to include films that normally wouldn't be included. The moving animated film Up is nominated as well as Blind Side which was not necessarily critically acclaimed but became a massive box office success because of word of mouth promotion and Sandra Bullock's performance.
The Oscars and other award shows are losing viewers and there seems to be a disconnect between what people want to watch and what the shows offer. The Oscars have always been a stuffy affair but they have made a conscious effort to liven things up with more popular hosts and big opening numbers. This is the same process that has happened with the Grammy awards. A show that used to be for adults has been influence by its audience, paving way to honor more contemporary artists and spotlight star power. Popular artists who are heralded as icons have been shut out in the past. Therefore, allowances have been made to honor Dance, Hip Hop, contemporary R&B, and Pop. Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Janet Jackson have fewer Grammys than their contemporaries not due to lack of talent but due to the fact that a category didn't really exist for them. These days, popularity and record sales factor into the process more than before. How else would we explain Taylor Swift's album of the year trophy. She had the top selling album but certainly not the best creatively. Art is subjective though. We could argue all day about what should be valued.
The same has happened with the Oscars. Meryl Streep may see her films being nominated alongside blue aliens more often.
As I said, I understand the need to focus on image and to connect with viewers and consumers. Fashion magazines and cosmetic campaigns do the same thing by casting celebrities instead of real fashion models. They have to sell a product. They have to keep people watching. Though I see the motivation, I'm still not sure how I feel about it overall. Especially with the Oscars...

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In other Oscar news, this year's show will not feature performances of the Best Song nominees.
[Excuse me while I go and shout expletives]
We all know that songs can make a film what they are. Titanic's "My Heart Will Go On", Breakfast at Tiffany's "Moon River", and Purple Rain's title track have been embedded in our heads as part of the film landscape. In the past years, the Best Song category has been tweaked many times. Original performers have been pushed aside for big name stars to sing instead (Beyoncé, Antonio Banderas) and more recently the songs have been shortened to medleys to take up less time. What are they doing to my awards show??? I now see the frustration that a friend of mine had with the Grammys. I don't mind that the Oscars are stuffy. They have always been and I have liked them anyway. What else do you expect from Jeremy Irons and Helen Mirren?
This year's song nominees come from French movie Paris 36, The Princess and the Frog, Crazy Heart, and the musical Nine.
Hopefully, they bring the music back one day.

[READ more about the Best Song performance absence HERE]

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