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[AWARD SHOWS] Need to Eliminate Sour Notes on Stage

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  • madchinaman
    Sour notes on stage Why can t Oscar hold a tune? C mon, music s got to be a way to breathe life into forgettable telecasts. By Patrick Goldstein, Times Staff
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2006
      Sour notes on stage
      Why can't Oscar hold a tune? C'mon, music's got to be a way to
      breathe life into forgettable telecasts.
      By Patrick Goldstein, Times Staff Writer

      If you've ever watched an Oscar telecast, you know that nothing is
      quite so cringe-inducing as the musical numbers that punctuate the
      show, numbers that end up trying too hard to be either flamboyant or
      hip, often falling short on both counts.

      I can easily call up any number of Most Embarrassing Moments, be it
      the culturally clueless Antonio Banderas version of "Al Otro Lado del
      Rio" at the 2005 Academy Awards or the infamous opening number of the
      1989 show, which featured Merv Griffin crooning with dancers with
      coconuts on their heads along with a Rob Lowe duet with a woman
      dressed as Snow White. (You can watch the whole train wreck on
      YouTube by entering "Infamous Rob Lowe.")

      And then there was last year's rendition of "In the Deep"
      from "Crash," which my wife refers to as "the song where they set the
      stage on fire."

      The problem, of course, starts with the best song nominees
      themselves. I won't rant about the poor selections other than to say
      that Paul Jabara won an Oscar (for "Last Dance" from 1978's "Thank
      God It's Friday") while Cole Porter and George Gershwin do not. But
      at a time when Oscar ratings are in a steep decline, isn't there a
      way to use music to breathe some life — and creativity — into what
      increasingly feels like a hollow night of self-congratulation?

      The answer is yes. In fact, a textbook demonstration on how to
      radically improve the show was on display in the form of Rob
      Marshall's dazzling "Tony Bennett: An American Classic" NBC special
      that aired Nov. 21. Passionate and polished from start to finish, the
      show featured Bennett in duets with performers as varied as Diana
      Krall and Christine Aguilera, with each segment introduced by the
      kind of celebrity you'd want to see on the Oscars, whether it was
      Robert De Niro offering praise or Bruce Willis recounting Bennett's
      lengthy tenure in Las Vegas.

      The musical numbers were staged with fresh ideas and innovative
      style, two things sorely missing from the Oscars. Bennett and k.d.
      lang did "Because of You" as if at an early '50s Columbia Records
      recording session, while Elton John popped out from a showgirl's fan
      for a supercharged Vegas-style performance of "Rags to Riches." For a
      duet with Krall on "The Best Is Yet to Come," Marshall conjured up an
      homage to a 1966-era NBC variety show, complete with pop art
      billboards and bare-midriff dancers in white capri pants.

      If Marshall can assemble all this talent for a TV special, imagine
      what the Oscars could do. I'm hoping this year's producer, Laura
      Ziskin, who has the energy of a dozen mere mortals, has some tricks
      up her sleeve. It's long overdue for the Academy to reach out to
      Hollywood's creative talent to overhaul the musical section of the

      If Marshall isn't available to work his magic, there's plenty of
      other talent with canny musical instincts — and the clout to attract
      A-list talent, be it Bill Condon, Baz Luhrmann, Taylor Hackford,
      Jonathan Demme, Spike Jonze or Martin Scorsese.

      As a way for the Academy to get some new blood in its veins, why not
      recruit some USC or AFI students to shoot documentary footage of the
      rehearsal process.

      If compelling enough, the footage could be incorporated into the
      broadcast or packaged with the final numbers as a separate TV special
      on a cable movie channel.

      In the meantime, find the Bennett special when it pops up on DVD.
      It's a great reminder of how seductive music can be on TV, especially
      when in the hands of a modern-day master.
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