February 25, 2013
Oscar Scores More Than Pi in the Skyfall
James Bond at 50 finally earns music gold by Jon Burlingame
HOLLYWOOD—Life of Pi and Skyfall won original-score and original-song Oscars Sunday night at the 85th annual Academy Awards ceremony, held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.
Composer Mychael Danna, a veteran of dozens of independent and art-house films, received his first two Oscar nominations for song and score for Life of Pi, his third feature collaboration with director Ang Lee (after The Ice Storm and Ride With the Devil). So this was his first Oscar win.
Alluding to the ethnic music that he incorporated throughout his symphonic and choral score, Danna said "musicians from around the globe came together to breathe life into this music," and said he shared the award with them.
Adele and her co-writer and producer Paul Epworth accepted the award for their title song for the James Bond film Skyfall. She performed the tune live for the first time in the Dolby Theater, backed by a small ensemble and 32-voice male choir.
The win for "Skyfall" marked the first time that any Bond music won an Oscar; prior to this, three songs ("Live and Let Die," "Nobody Does It Better" and "For Your Eyes Only") and one Bond score (The Spy Who Loved Me) were nominated. Earlier in the show, 76-year-old Dame Shirley Bassey performed her own classic Bond song "Goldfinger," which resulted in the evening's first standing ovation. It was the high point of a 007 tribute introduced by ex-Bond girl Halle Berry.
Also performed live were "Suddenly" from Les Miserables, as part of a Les Mis "One Day More" montage featuring the film's lead stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and others; and "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" from Ted, sung by Norah Jones. Songs from Chasing Ice and Life of Pi were featured only as clips from their respective films.
Movie music was a major theme of the evening, with many classic film themes played throughout the three-hour, 35-minute show. John Barry's Out of Africa theme accompanied the annual "in memoriam" tribute that included photographs of composers Richard Robbins and Richard Rodney Bennett, and songwriters Hal David and Robert B. Sherman.
Barbra Streisand closed the segment by paying tribute to her longtime friend and sometime music director Marvin Hamlisch ("a composer of extraordinary depth and versatility") with a live rendition of "The Way We Were." Except for the Adele segment, all the music was performed by a 60-piece orchestra at nearby Capitol Studios under the direction of William Ross.
Also during the evening, recent movie musicals were saluted including Catherine Zeta-Jones singing "All That Jazz" from Chicago and Jennifer Hudson doing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls.
Jerry Goldsmith's 1997 "Fanfare for Oscar" was prominently featured during the segment in which this year's honorary Oscar winners were introduced.
And host Seth MacFarlane sang two new, irreverent songs with music by Joel McNeely: "We Saw Your Boobs," a song-and-dance number featured during the opening sequence, and "Here's to the Losers," a duet with Kristin Chenoweth, under the closing credits.
An estimated 300 members of the film-music community attended Saturday's annual champagne reception for Oscar music nominees, sponsored by the Society of Composers & Lyricists at the Beverly Hills home of John and Bonnie Cacavas.
Former Academy music-branch governor Charles Bernstein and SCL president Dan Foliart introduced the nominees and praised their efforts. John Williams, nominated for Lincoln and now the most-nominated musician in Academy history with 48 nominations, offered thanks to the Academy music branch, "which apparently has not lost patience with me quite yet."
Alexandre Desplat, nominated for Argo, noted that he "hoped to be back next year," while 11-time nominee Thomas Newman, cited for Skyfall, quipped, "one day I'll win, I swear." First-time nominee J. Ralph (Chasing Ice) looked around the room and marveled that those attending created "the soundtrack of my life."
And Skyfall co-writer Epworth noted that he had just met John Williams, composer of "the first record I ever bought": the soundtrack from Star Wars.
©2013 Jon Burlingame