Academy Award for Best Song 2017

Here’s a quick look at the songs nominated for Best Song at the 89th Academy Awards.

My money’s on either of the La La Land songs, but could there be an upset on the cards? Surely Sting is out of the running before he discussions have even started.

What do you think?

La La Land – “City of Stars”

La La Land – “Audition”

Moana – “How Far I’ll Go”

Jim – “The Empty Chair”

Trolls – “Can’t Stop The Feeling”

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La La Land DOES clean up at the Academy Award nominations

Well, I said it probably wouldn’t happen, but I couldn’t be happier that it did. La La Land has managed a whopping 14 nominations today in the Academy Award nominations, equalling the record held by All About Eve and Titanic.

It should be noted that since two are in the Best Song category, where it will effectively compete against itself, but that still leaves plenty of scope for it to miss out on a couple and still win big.

If you’ve not watched it yet, then make sure you do! Then, once you’ve done that, read my review here.

Why La La Land probably won’t clean up at this year’s Academy Awards

The critical enthusiasm for La La Land has been matched, for good reason, by the audience’s outpouring of affection. The music is now firmly stuck in the heads of everyone who has seen it, with many of its devotees wondering what the odds are for it to clean up at the Oscars.

Here I’ll explain why this probably won’t be the case.

What’s the current record?

Three films have won 11 Oscars: Ben Hur, (1959), Titanic (1997) and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Titanic managed these with 14 nominations, whilst the final Lord of the Rings film achieved a clean sweep, winning 11 out of 11 awards. Elsewhere, All About Eve (1950) received 14 nominations, though it only won 6 of these.

For La La Land to get close to this, it’s therefore going to need 11 or more nominations, and win almost all of them.

Which awards does it have a good chance of winning?

La La Land has a great chance at winning in many or all of the categories available to it: Best Picture; Best Director; Leading Actor and Actress; Original Song; Original Score; Best Writing (Original Screenplay) will certainly be places it will be nominated, so assuming the swell of enthusiasm continues it will probably do well in what are considered to be the major categories.

So where will it fall down?

There are 24 categories that the Academy awards prizes in, but that doesn’t mean that a film can win in 24 categories. There are two awards for animated films, two for documentary films, one for a film in a foreign language and one for a live action short film. So that’s six prizes that can’t be won.

There are two prizes for Best Writing: one is for an original screenplay and one is for an adapted screenplay. Since La La Land is an original script, it is excluded from the adapted screenplay category. That’s another one down.

Perhaps the most glaringly-obvious problem it faces is that there are only two characters in the film: Mia and Sebastian. So whilst they will probably get the nominations for leading actress and actor, there isn’t anyone of note in the film that could be classed as a supporting actor or actress. The closest would be John Legend’s portrayal of Keith, the frontman for the jazz band Seb joins halfway through the story, followed by Rosemarie DeWitt as Laura (Sebastian’s sister). It seems unlikely to pick up nods in these categories. Two more down.

Finally, a few categories have already been announced and La La Land doesn’t feature in any of them. The long-lists Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Visual Effects excluded La La Land from their lists. Two more down.

So where does that leave it?

It only has access to 13 awards and will need a nomination in each of the categories if it is going to break records. It’s not unrealistic for it to achieve this, but it will require nods in the likes of Best Production Design (awarded for interior design for the sets) and Best Costume Design to get there.

However, with a weak field to compete against, it is quite possible that it will do. this anyway! Here’s hoping!!

Academy Award for Best Original Song – What could be nominated?

At 1:18pm on Tuesday 24th January, the nominations for the 89th Academy Awards will be announced. Whilst most of the categories are fairly open – albeit with a host of strong contenders likely to lead the field – some of the categories are long-listed ahead of the announcement.

One such category is for Best Original Song, which has a 91-strong long list out for all to see on the official Oscars website. Many of them simply won’t get a look in, even though it would have been great for Sausage Party’s “The Great Beyond” to have a giant spotlight shone on it.

Here I take a look at some of the likely contenders for the big prize. It’s worth noting that at the Academy Awards, only two songs from one motion picture can be nominated and only five can be nominated in total.

The Obvious Choices

There are a few songs that are almost certain to be included. It seems unlikely that La La Land won’t get at least one song in there, probably two. Those will most likely be Golden Globe winner “City of Stars” and the excellent “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)“. Sorry John Legend!

Elsewhere, it would be a bit of a shock if the best track from the wonderful Disney animation Moana, “How Far I’ll Go“, doesn’t get a nod. It would be fantastic if the 16-year-old breakout star Auli’i Cravalho was invited to perform too!

I can’t see a situation where Kim Burrell and Pharrell Williams miss out for “I See A Victory“. Great song, great performers and supposedly a very good film too. A no brainer.

Entertainment Value Choices

It’s not always the case, but most of the nominees will be performing on the night of the ceremony. As such, it’s likely there will be at least one choice that will boost the ratings by planting a big-named performer in the middle of the night. It would be great to see Justin Timberlake performing his summer smash “Can’t Stop The Feeling“from Trolls. Another good option would be “Faith“, the track from the animated film Sing as performed by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande. P!nk’s “Just Like Fire” from Alice Through The Looking Glass would fit this bill too.

Sia’s gorgeous song “Angel By The Wings“, from the critically-acclaimed documentary The Eagle Huntress, is a great excuse to put her in front of millions of people and blow them away, though “Never Give Up” from Lion (same artist, different film) might be more of a crowd-pleaser.

The Outside Bets

I’d love to see “A Minute To Breathe” get a nod. The song, from “Before The Flood” and performed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, would be an unusual but brilliant choice, the song blending some understated backing that leaves the focus squarely on the lyrics. As he sings “We’ll all be judged by what we leave behind,” the hairs will stand up on the back of your neck.

Gary Clark Jr.’s “Take Me Down” might not be an obvious choice, and Deepwater Horizon probably isn’t going to feature heavily in the other categories, but it would be great to have a song in there for no other reason than it’s a great song. 

Finally, we can only hope that they give in to the luscious electronic indie of Sing Street and grant “Drive It Like You Stole It” some space at the biggest cinematic awards event of the year.

Film review – Moana (John Musker and Ron Clements, 2016)

Walt Disney Animation Studios have released their 56th animated film, the musical Moana. I’m going to whisper this quietly, but it might actually be better than Frozen.

The story follows 16-year-old girl Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) as she defies her passage to become the leader of the tribe on the fictional island Motunui. Her father Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison), leader of her island tribe, and her mother Sina (Nicole Scherzinger), are fearful of the water and want her to remain on the island, but her outgoing grandma Tala (Rachel House) encourages her to leave and hunt down the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) to solve a mysterious curse that she believes has led to a poor harvest.

Moana and Maui

The basics of the story are, on the face of it, quite by-the-numbers. There’s a teenage protagonist, which makes it relatable for the younger viewers. She goes on a quest that has a practical purpose but also helps her develop as a person. She teams up with an unlikely buddy to help her in her journey. We’ve seen it many times before but the familiarity doesn’t hamper its success.

Where the story excels is threefold. Firstly, it has a brilliantly sharp and humorous script, which the actors are clearly having a lot of fun with. Secondly, the animation of both the characters and the surroundings is absolutely stunning. Finally, the music, which was written by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i, is outrageously good, and goes much further than simply one great flagship song (in this case “How Far I’ll Go”, sung by the lead and effectively Moana’s answer to “Let It Go”).

Indeed, it is unfortunate that the film has been unleashed in the same year as La La Land, which is destined to sweep up at most of the award ceremonies, at least in the Best Song categories. Miranda may have to have another attempt in a less competitive year.

There are a couple of nice smaller roles that are grasped by those involved. Alan Tudyk may be more famed for his turn as K-2SO in Rogue One this year, but he’s equally hilarious as Hei Hei the Rooster here, constantly stealing scenes with sound effects that match the ridiculousness of the island’s most endearingly stupid bird. Elsewhere, Jermaine Clement shows up as Tamatoa, a giant kleptomaniacal crab who has a penchant for all things shiny.

But the plaudits must go to Auli’i Cravalho, who comes in as a complete unknown and has delivered a lead performance that equals the best Disney has ever achieved. At just sixteen but with a voice as good as anything I’ve ever heard on stage, she has a very bright future indeed.

Moana is a must see this holiday season and should be top of your list if you need to entertain any younger relatives over the coming weeks.

Check out the reviews of other Disney animated features and shorts here:

Zootropolis
Kronk’s New Groove
The Emperor’s New Groove
Destino
Melody Time
Big Hero 6
Frozen

New La La Land trailer released – Watch below!

I was buzzing for days after seeing La La Land at the London Film Festival last month. It’s a truly spectacular film and one I can’t wait to watch again.

Whilst I’m gutted the UK release date has been pushed back to January, I’m thrilled to see a new trailer has been released.

Watch it here:

It’s going to make you very happy.

Film review – Absolute Beginners (Julien Temple, 1986)

Panned on its original release and a complete commercial failure [1], Julian Temple’s musical Absolute Beginners is a film that is often cited as the cause of a partial collapse of the British film industry. Looking at it with fresh eyes, the criticisms are undoubtedly harsh, but the film still has too many flaws to warrant anything more than cult status.

The musical charts the on-off romantic relationship between aspiring model Crepe Suzette (Patsy Kensit) and unestablished photographer Colin (Eddie O’Connell) as they try to make their way in 1950s London. Weaving elements of gang warfare, race riots and youth culture in a way that is almost brilliant, but largely incoherent.

It wuzza strange casting choice

The film starts with the familiar sound of David Bowie’s title track, which was a global hit at the time and proved to be one of his most enduring songs. If, like me, you were made aware of it solely because David Bowie has a named role in the film, then prepare to feel shortchanged. Bowie stars as Vendice Partners, a sales and marketing man who first appears about halfway through the film. By all accounts, his prominence in the film was more a marketing choice than an artistic choice, but his scenes breathe life into a stagnant portion of the film as it threatens to grind to a halt.

Temple was famed for his music videos and by the time this film was released he’d been responsible for some of the most celebrated music videos of the 1980s, including efforts for the likes of The Beat, Culture Club, The Sex Pistols, Depeche Mode, The Kinks and Sade. Some of the best moments in Absolute Beginners are the standalone tracks that could be lifted straight out of the film and placed on MTV. The two best examples are Ray Davies’s ‘Quiet Life’ and David Bowie’s ‘That’s Motivation’, the latter of which has Bowie tap dancing around a giant typewriter.

The film’s lack of focus is its downfall. When Colin gets caught up in the Notting Hill race riots in the final third of the film, he takes a wrong turn to avoid danger and ends up in a neo-Nazi war rally. This is a scene that creates some really powerful imagery but the themes had been underplayed in the build up, making its inclusion neither relevant nor integral to the plot. Indeed, the threat of violence is imminent all around the city without ever feeling anything more than a light touch suggestion. Yes, it’s a musical, but I can’t help think that if they’d just cut a couple of needless scenes earlier in the film there could have been a better balance struck between the romantic side and the social commentary. It is hard to believe that the die-hard fans of the book don’t feel the same way.

It was a troubled film to develop and the brilliant 53-minute documentary now included in the Blu-ray release is enough justification to pick up a copy. It’s also a curiosity for fans of any of the stars in this bizarrely-assembled cast. It is, however, not a good piece of cinema.

[1] Absolute Beginners took £1.8m at the box office in the UK and $930k in the USA against a budget of £8.4m.