A column chronicling conversations and events on the awards circuit.
It’s party time in Hollywood as the town awaits the opening of the envelopes — hopefully the correct envelopes this time. And it looks like Bonnie and Clyde might be getting another chance.
For the 90th anniversary of the Academy Awards, it appears producers Mike De Luca and Jennifer Todd are going to have a considerable number of past winners on the show including announced presenters Eva Marie Saint, Rita Moreno, Christopher Walken, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Nicole Kidman, Helen Mirren and of course last year’s winners Emma Stone, Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis — but not Casey Affleck, who took himself out of the picture because past sexual harassment allegations inevitably would cloud his participation in light of the heavy #MeToo and #TimesUp focus this year.
These are just the names announced so far, but it appears the Academy might be repeating the idea from the 2009 Bill Condon/Lawrence Mark-produced show that brought out quintets of past acting winners to present in those categories. It was brilliant. I hope they are copying the idea.
Saint, who is 93 and won Supporting Actress for 1954’s On the Waterfront and gave birth to her son a couple of days later, is keeping the whole thing secret (clearly on orders from the producers) but is simply saying we will have to tune in to find out why she is there this year (she took part in the group giveaway in 2009). For the 70th anniversary in 1998, the Academy rolled out bleachers full of past winners for a class photo op, and that kind of thing also could be in play, but the Academy has announced all of the above as presenters. Two names not announced are last year’s memorable Best Picture presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, but TMZ and its intrepid stalkers say they were spotted being whisked into the Dolby Theatre for rehearsal on Thursday and will be presenting Best Picture for a second consecutive year
According to the website, one of the lines Beatty rehearsed was announcing Gone with the Wind as this year’s winner, but its report says writers still are working on their exact lines. When I asked producer Todd in May after she and De Luca were tapped to return as producers about this possibility she simply said: “I mean, you can’t not think about it. I think anything is up for grabs at this point, but we’ll see.” She was similarly coy on GMA on Thursday when she was asked the same question and said, “It’s an interesting idea.” It certainly would be the right call. We will see soon enough about all of this, but I can’t help but speculate. It’s what I do.
AN OSCAR CONCERT FOR THE AGES
But no matter what they and host Jimmy Kimmel have cooked up for the show, it will have a tough act to follow after the thrill of Wednesday night’s Oscar Concert at Disney Hall, where the best (musical) notes on the season took place this week just to rev up Oscar mania one more notch. This event put on by the LA Phil in conjunction with the Academy itself was beyond compare, superior in every way to the previous — and only — time they tried this in 2014 at Royce Hall, which had great music but was bogged down by conversation. Not this time.
Academy music branch governors Michael Giacchino, Laura Karpman, and Charles Bernstein curated the evening even as Bernstein was celebrating his 75th birthday, and what a gift he delivered. They kept the emphasis on the music, and the SRO audience couldn’t get enough of it. It was flawless, and quite frankly the Academy ought to take it on the road. It is something they seem to be contemplating, at least the idea of doing this again and not just because it’s the milestone 90th anniversary this year. “Movie music needs to be more celebrated like this,” an obviously pleased Academy President John Bailey told me right after the show broke.
In fact this new partnership between the two organizations is going to result in the LA Philharmonic hitting the Oscar stage next year for the 91st. New LA Phil CEO Simon Woods, along with Bailey, made brief remarks at the Founders Room afterparty, where it clearly was a love-in. Academy CEO Dawn Hudson told me that when the idea was broached she suggested making a call to LA Phil, even though she thought it was a long shot at best. Twenty-four hours later, however, the talks were on and it produced an evening no one who was there is going to forget anytime soon.
Giacchino told me they were able to put the whole thing together in just a couple of months, starting shortly before Oscar nominations were announced. “It’s what we do,” he said, while also throwing a lot of the credit to his sister Maria, who runs his touring shows. “Still I wish we had some more time.” He didn’t need it. It would be hard to imagine how it could be improved upon, especially with the superlative sound in Disney Hall. It was probably appropriate, considering the name of this premier Los Angeles venue for music, that the show opened with a suite from Disney/Pixar’s Up. Giacchino, who won his Oscar for that score, presided over a live demonstration of the scoring process. Then it was on with the show.
The program was broken into two parts, with the first half dedicated to the process of writing music for the many moods of film, accompanied by impressively compiled film sequences representing the entire history of film. LA Phil conductor Thomas Wilkins smoothly navigated through the various sections, starting with the Sound of Home introduced by Slumdog Millionaire composer A.R. Rahman. A Fantastic Woman star Daniela Vega provided a brief intro to the Sound of Love, where themes from Korngold’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, Luis Bacalov’s Il Postino and Tan Dun’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon provided the lilting music behind clips of those films but many others from Out of Africa to Lady and the Tramp. Get Out composer Michael Abels then walked us through the Sound of Fear, followed by Fast and the Furious star Michelle Rodriguez’s words on the Sound of the Chase (85-year-old composer Lalo Schifrin was in the packed audience to hear his music from Bullitt included here), and finally Ava DuVernay intro’d the Sound of Courage, featuring suites from Spartacus, Spirited Away and Malcolm X, with that film’s composer Terence Blanchard joining the orchestra on trumpet.
After intermission, this year’s Original Music Score nominees appeared to conduct their own nominated scores with World Premiere Suites. Carter Burwell led the LA Phil in his evocative score for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (with director Martin McDonagh introducing him via video); Alexander Desplat conducted the melodic theme from The Shape of Water, following kind words from director Guillermo del Toro; Paul Thomas Anderson intro’d music from Phantom Thread, with Wilkinson subbing at the podium for absent composer Jonny Greenwood, the only one of the nominees not to participate. Following that, Rian Johnson brought on 51-time nominee and five-time winner John Williams, who got an enormous standing ovation after the suite from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And after a video intro from Christopher Nolan, Hans Zimmer even topped that, playing with the orchestra to his pulsating suite from Dunkirk that elicited even a bigger standing ovation than Williams had just gotten.
Among those taking it all in were Fox Searchlight co-Presidents Nancy Utley (an Academy Governor) and Steve Gilula, who told me he’s happy to be nearing the finish
line with their respective favored contenders The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. “Whatever happens on Sunday, both of them are smash hits,” he said, especially excited that Billboards is getting a release in China. Also there were Oscar, Grammy and Tony winners Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, who are nominated again this year for “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. Pasek told me he was happy that they have a much more active role in how the song will be presented on the Oscar show, with Keala Settle singing it as she did in the film. Common and Diane Warren, nominated for “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, also were in the crowd. Nine-time nominee Warren told me she’s hoping nine’s a charm. “Just think of me as Mark Rylance,” she said in a reference to the surprise 2015 Best Supporting Actor winner who confounded the odds makers and pulled off a win.
All agreed this night was one for the ages, especially for a film music freak and soundtrack collector like me. Thanks for the invite, Academy and LA Phil.
SURVEY SAYS …
Oddschecker, the British betting firm, says “This Is Me” has been coming on strong since the beginning of the year with a “massive 61% of bets placed on the song to win.” And SportsBettingDime has all sorts of forecasts of its own, including these odds on the subject of Kimmel’s first joke:
Donald Trump: 12-1
Last year’s Best Picture fiasco: 15-1
Harvey Weinstein: 24-1
Matt Damon: 24-1
Jennifer Lawrence: 35-1
Along these lines, my inbox has been inundated in the past couple of weeks with Oscar-related statistics compiled by various research firms and the like, looking to drum up publicity for their firms. TYLT was wondering if I would be interested in data about how millennials feel about the 90th Oscars. It says 58.2% think Kimmel is a good choice for host, 68.6% want to see more politics in awards shows, and 94.2% were more upset about Tiffany Haddish’s snub for Girls Trip than Armie Hammer’s for Call Me by Your Name. But then a whopping 78.1% say awards shows don’t matter anyway.
MusicMagpie sent along the useful conversation-starter that its data shows male stars appear in 23.7 films before receiving their first nomination, while women only have to make 15.8 movies before getting the honor. It pointa out Margot Robbie got her first nom this year for her 16th film (I, Tonya), while it took 7o times before the camera for Sam Rockwell to earn his first for Three Billboards (maybe he should have taken out a few billboards of his own in the past). YouTube has jumped into the Oscar game, analyzing wording used during YouTube reviews. On this scale it declares the dramatic Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as the most “funny” film, simply based on 50% of those reviews using that word. Call Me by Your Name wins the “I cried” prize. Lady Bird was declared “relatable” in 20% of reviews, apparently topping all other relatable movies. Phantom Thread tops all others for positive responses, with 83% of the reviews using the word “love”. Hmmm. Could that be a harbinger of an upset Sunday?
The folks at DirecTV are measuring fan favorites against Oscar winners with the startling discovery that 2002 winner Chicago had the greatest disparity of any Best Pic against the proven fan favorite that year, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Using IMDb ratings, the study discovered that fans preferred Hacksaw Ridge (not La La Land) as their choice over Best Picture winner Moonlight last year. In 2012 they would have preferred Django Unchained over Argo, Inception over The King’s Speech in 2010, and — are you ready? — Star Wars over 1977 Best Pic champ Annie Hall. Say it ain’t so.
Meanwhile, an outfit called Adtaxi has released the results of its first “Streaming the Oscars” national survey and is predicting an 28% increase in digital steaming of the big show this year. It says women are 41% more likely to watch awards shows than men, in case you couldn’t figure that out by all the Revlon commercials you will inevitably see on Sunday — that is if you are among the percentage our experts expect to tune in at all. Then there is this angle from 4CInsights, which tracks social media engagement and has Lady Bird with 429,399 engagements leading all Best Pic nominees by a 3 to 1 margin over closest competitors Three Billboards and Get Out. Favored The Shape of Water, had only 82,726 engagements, just missing last place, which belongs to The Post with 38,537. Is this an omen for Sunday?
Finally Women’s Media Center has calculated that 77% of all behind the scenes Oscar nominations went to men this year, while the percentage increase for women only inched up from 20% to 23%. The good news in this male-dominated industry is that for the 90th straight year no men were nominated in the Best Actress or Supporting Actress categories. Whew!
WANT SOME MORE OSCAR TALK?
Check out the extensive interview that my pal Leonard Maltin (yes, him) and goddaughter Jessie Maltin did when they had me on as a guest on their entertaining weekly podcast show Maltin on Movies. We talk Oscars, movies and stuff. It was fun and we did it right above a comic book store, Meltdown, on Sunset Boulevard just to add to the ambiance. Click here to listen. And thanks to Leonard and Jessie for having me on. And if you can’t get enough after that, check out my Oscar Prediction gallery right here. And if you still want more you can relive all the Actor’s Side video interviews I did this season by clicking here.
See you at the Oscars.