The Anatomy of a Best Song

What is it that makes the “Best Original Song” for a motion picture?

This year is a particularly fascinating year for Best Song.

There appears to be a clear front runner in La La Land, nominated for the maximum two songs – “Audition” and “City of Stars.” Being a “movie musical” (yes, in quotations) the songs function in a very clear and direct way, allowing their effectiveness and RTDW to be more objectively quantifiable. With two nominations, however, it runs the risk of cancelling itself out.

Furthermore, historically the academy has chosen songs by famous pop artists, which gives an edge to Justin Timberlake and Sting. Although THIS year, with the massive pop appeal of Hamilton, the prize could go to Lin-Manuel Miranda. So it’s really up in the air.

There is always going to be a large amount of subjectivity when evaluating a creative endeavor. Ideally, the law of averages works it out so that the opinions of an educated sample reflect the opinions of the educated majority.

Remember, though, that while the nominations are made by Academy members who are songwriters and composers, the winners are decided by the membership as a whole. (So beware Lin Manuel Miranda – the deciding vote may come down to a tone-deaf cinematographer.)

I’ve always thought that songs in motion pictures are a difficult thing to judge, and precisely because of that they are almost always a difficult award to predict. Add to that the bizarre and ever-changing rules which govern the nominations of songs, which results in years where only two songs (???) are even nominated.

I thought it might be interesting to go through the nominations and see how to evaluate them on the principles of the Academy. According to the voting rules of the Academy: Continue reading The Anatomy of a Best Song

The Host With the Most

“It’s a wonderful night for Oscar (Oscar, Oscar!) who will win?”

Thus began every Oscar monologue given by the master Billy Crystal.  The first time I ever seriously watched the Oscars (I was super invested in “Good Will Hunting” winning) it was hosted by Billy.  He worked his ass off to entertain – a true performer and just plain silly.  He came out 3/4 of the way through the show at crouched behind the glass podium exclaiming: “Look!  I’m a present!”  7998822

His songs during the opening monologues, pointing out the (at the time) 5 Best Picture nominees were the precursor in many ways to what Neil Patrick Harris has accomplished many times at the Emmy’s and Tony’s.  To Matt Damon and Ben Affleck he crooned to the tune of “Night and Day”: “Matt and Ben – you are the ones.  Your script was tight and, damnit – so are your buns.”

images-1This Sunday, however, will be hosted once again by Ellen Degeneres.  Ellen did a great job the last time she hosted with her signature folks-y, meandering comic style with surprise zingers.  She last hosted when Helen Mirren would win for “The Queen.”  Ellen quipped: “Lots of British nominees.  Would I say ‘too many’?  Not here.  Alone at home in my pajamas with a box of chardonnay in me? who knows what I’d say!”

The good thing about Ellen is that she never gets too overtly political, which is bad for the air on Oscar night.  Chris Rock went very far in that direction, holding his mic like a true stand-up, with this joke that didn’t even have anything to do with the Oscars: “Bush did some stuff you could neeeever get away with at your job, man.  You know when Bush got into office they had a surplus of money.  Now there’s like a 70 trillion dollar deficit.  Now just imagine you worked at the GAP…”

Whoopi got political the first time she hosted (the first time ANY woman hosted), but she condensed it to one “political soapbox rant” that ended with: “Let Frank Sinatra finish!”

Jon Stewart, who I love on Daily Show, was also a bit political, but less so.  He just seemed ill-at-ease while not behind his desk.  He didn’t know what to do with his hands.  But he did have some great lines such as: “Diablo Coldy used to be an exotic dancer and now she’s an Oscar-nominated screenwriter…I hope you’re enjoying the paycut.” And my favorite of his:  “This year’s theme is “Bringing Back the Glamor” and let me just say — thank god.  Because for too long Hollywood has been without.”

Second to Billy as my favorite host is definitely Steve Martin:  “When they asked me back in January if I wanted to host the Oscars my first thought was: “Would there be enough time for my facelift to heal.”

What they both do so well is poke fun at Hollywood, which I think is so necessary on a night where super rich celebrities give each other statues made of gold.  And when he joined forces with Alec Baldwin (the first DUO to host the Oscars) it was pure magic.

Unfortunately it lead the way to one of the WORST Oscar duos – James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

So here’s to Ellen and a great night at the Oscars!

 

 

OSCARS Live Tweet

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love the Oscars. The celebrity, the art, the speeches.  The Oscars make me fall in love with show business over and over.

In fact, the only thing I love more than the Oscars is LIVE-TWEETING the Oscars. The jokes, the snark, the hashtags.

So follow me on twitter (@btryback) and this Sunday, March 2nd follow join me starting at 4e/7p.  I won’t quit until the last man affirms his heterosexuality by thanking his girlfriend/wife/escort.  Or the wine puts me to sleep, which ever happens first.

See you Sunday!  And may the statuettes be ever in your favor.

BT Oscars

Lincoln’s a Bitch

Lincoln
As dramatic and historic a time as the Civil War was, attempting to dramatize the “struggle” of Abraham Lincoln is damned near impossible.

If you saw the recent Spielberg movie, you know that Daniel Day Lewis’s portrayal of the 16th President is sweet, subtle, and extremely endearing – all attributes that Lincoln was noted to have.  But the truth is, even 3-D glasses wouldn’t give this Lincoln any dimension.

Having written a play about Abraham Lincoln myself…
tumblr_m27hunmZoZ1qggv4ro1_500…I know a little bit about what Mr. Tony Kushner was dealing with. Continue reading Lincoln’s a Bitch

RYBACK TO SING NOMINATED SONGS FOR “RED CARPET MEMORIES” AT THE COTERIE

Just in time for the Oscars, The Coterie will present the spectacular concert event Red Carpet Memories: A Celebration of Academy Award-Nominated Songs. Featuring an all-star lineup of vocal talent from Broadway, Television and the Los Angeles music scene, this highly-theatrical musical revue will pay homage to some of the most beloved songs in movie history. Relive your favorite movie memories with the songs of Fred & Ginger, Judy Garland, the kids from Fame, Kermit the Frog, and more. The movies have never sounded so good!

The performers are Recording Artist and Disneyland headliner Tomasina Abate, Los Angeles musical theatre favorite Jessica Bernard, Rogelio Douglas Jr. (star of Broadway’s In the Heights, The Little Mermaid and “The Voice”), Recording Artist Lexi Lawson (star of RENT, In the Heights, and “American Idol”), Ovation Award-nominated composer and performer Brett Ryback, and Recording Artist and Broadway leading man James Snyder (Cry-Baby).

Red Carpet Memories: A Celebration of Academy Award-Nominated Songs will run Feb. 10-19. Showtimes are Fridays & Saturdays at 8:30pm, Sundays at 8pm.
Doors will open 90 minutes prior to showtime for dinner.
Advanced tickets are $10-$25 and may be purchased in advance at www.thecoteriela.com.
Tickets may be purchased (cash or credit) at the door 1 hour prior to showtime if available. A two item food/drink minimum per person will apply.