March 8, 2010
Up and Crazy Heart Capture Music Oscars
Reactions were mixed on show's treatment of scores, songs by Jon Burlingame
HOLLYWOOD—Up and Crazy Heart won original score and song honors at the 82nd annual Academy Awards Sunday night, March 7, during a Kodak Theatre ceremony that received mixed reviews for its other musical choices.
Michael Giacchino, on his second nomination for a Pixar film, won for composing the score for Disney-Pixar's Up, while Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett accepted the song Oscar for "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart. Both had been widely predicted as the winners in advance.
Giacchino's acceptance speech, in which he praised his parents for giving him room to express himself artistically, ended with advice to young people watching: "If you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It's not a waste of time."
Co-producer Adam Shankman had previously announced his intentions to install two big dance numbers in the show and to forego live performances of the five nominated songs. Both decisions turned out to be poor ones, as was the choice to pre-record every bit of music heard on the show – believed to be a first in the televised history of the Oscars.
The show opened with a clever Broadway-style production number, "No One Wants to Do It Alone," written by Oscar music director Marc Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, and performed by Neil Patrick Harris. Harris, who hosted the Tonys and Emmys, poked irreverent fun at this year's nominees and all kinds of Tinseltown follies, including himself ("tonight there's two hosts to split the fee / I fired my agent 'cause one's not me").
All of the music was pre-recorded and, as a number of Los Angeles musicians have publicly lamented in recent days, the on-stage band was "finger syncing" throughout the show – that is, pretending to play while conductor Harold Wheeler cued them from the podium.
It's not unusual to pre-record many of the longer, more complex numbers, but to use all of them as playbacks throughout the show appears to have been an Oscar first. It robbed the show of musical spontaneity and was particularly embarrassing when director Hamish Hamilton cut to a shot from the rear of the orchestra while music was playing but the on-stage musicians weren't.
Another pre-show decision – to skip live performances of the five nominated songs (always a high point during Oscar telecasts) – was ill-advised. Instead, only short portions of the five songs were heard, some of them including footage of the recording sessions (notably on the two Randy Newman songs from Princess and the Frog).
Whatever time was thus saved was then wasted on a five-minute, Shankman-choreographed interpretive street dance number set to the five nominated scores, some of which was in shockingly bad taste (jumping around to the music of The Hurt Locker, a movie about life and death in Iraq, and doing "the robot" during the music of Up, at whose heart was the death of a beloved spouse). A better idea would have been to showcase the scores via clips, skip the dancing, and have the five songs performed live.
Also missing during the three-and-a-half hour show was any hint of Jerry Goldsmith's classy "Fanfare for Oscar," which had been used in all of the ceremonies since the composer wrote it in 1999.
Maurice Jarre, the Oscar-winning composer of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, was among those celebrated during the "in memoriam" segment. He died in March of last year.
The day before the Oscars ceremony, the music nominees attended an annual reception sponsored by the Society of Composers & Lyricists in Beverly Hills. Only Frank Thomas, co-write of the Paris 36 song, was absent, having stayed in Paris while his co-nominee Reinhardt Wagner attended the awards. Former Academy music-branch governor Charles Bernstein and SCL president Dan Foliart introduced the nominees and regaled the crowd of Hollywood insiders with music-related anecdotes from movie history.
©2010 Jon Burlingame