You have to hand it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Just as it is in the heat of putting on a little TV awards show over at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night, the group still found time to stage the first-ever “Oscar Concert” on Thursday night at UCLA’s Royce Hall — and turn out in force. This ambitious show, which featured suites conducted by all the nominated composers for Best Original Music Score as well as performances of the four Oscar-nominated songs, was put into the works and approved by the Board of Governors last year, according to former president Hawk Koch, one of last night’s attendees. But as Academy Music Branch governors Arthur Hamilton and Charles Fox put it, most of this was cobbled together in the six weeks since the nominees were named. All the top Academy brass were there humming along, including president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson along with numerous members, particularly from the music branch.
It was quite a logistical challenge pulling the event off, which I am told by reliable sources cost in the neighborhood of half a million dollars to produce. And it may be sparking a trend: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences plans to do its own concert at Royce Hall on May 21st featuring composers of new and classic TV scores. But I’m afraid Oscar has set this bar pretty high with a program that ranks as one of the highlights of the entire awards season, a classy event that saw tickets going to the general public for up to $100 each and discounted tickets for Academy members at $75 for orchestra seats. Box office was sweet as the place was packed. Read More »
David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor.
This year’s bevy of awards contender films is not only uncharacteristically large but also varied, particularly in how they were scored. The lack of similarity is apparent in everything from genre to instrumentation and even transcends musical matters, touching on the very core of the process. Specifically, when the composer is handpicked to buttress feelings and emotions primarily expressed in visual terms, what is his or working relationship with the director? Several prominent composers spoke about that intimate union, which in some cases was a new collaboration and in others a welcome reteaming.
Alexandre Desplat first worked with Stephen Frears on The Queen in 2006 and gratefully accepted the director’s offer to work on this year’s Philomena, a bittersweet road movie starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. “The story is intimate and deeply moving, and Stephen thought I could emphasize that,” Desplat says. “The story is such that it’s difficult not to be in tears: This little woman who seems to be lost but is actually ahead of everyone. It was so appealing to me. I came out with the main theme rather quickly.”
Related: ‘Philomena’: Could It Be This Year’s Oscar Sleeper?
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Steven Spielberg, John Williams and Jim Gianopulos were among the big names attending the dedication of the Lionel Newman Music Building. The building on the Fox lot in Century City has been renamed in honor of the late composer, conductor, pianist and longtime head of Fox’s music department, whose tenure with the studio spanned nearly half a century and more than 200 films, including his Oscar-winning score for 1969′s Hello Dolly! He also earned 10 other Oscar noms for such films as Doctor Doolittle and There’s No Business Like Show Business. He also worked on numerous TV series including Batman and M*A*S*H. Spielberg talked about meeting Newman during the scoring of Jaws, and five-time Oscar winner Williams spun tales of Newman’s colorful career at the studio. More than a dozen members of Newman’s family also were on hand, including his nephew Randy Newman, a two-time Oscar-winning songwriter and 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. “The music at Fox while Lionel was there was better than it was anywhere else,” he said. “The music he conducted, I always thought — and so did most of the composers — sounded better than the music he didn’t conduct.”
BBC Radio 3 Poll: ‘Star Wars’ Still A Force Among Soundtracks
A poll of BBC Radio 3 listeners has concluded that John Williams‘ Star Wars soundtrack is the all-time No. 1 among Britons. Williams’ 1977 score received almost 25% of votes on a list that spans 64 years of cinematic history. It’s still the highest-grossing orchestral film music recording of all time, and, of course brought him an Oscar. Behind Star Wars on the BBC poll is Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly at No. 2 and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story at No. 3. The vote is part of the BBC’s Sound Of Cinema season that’s dedicated to exploring the composers, songs and film scores that form the soundtrack to the big screen. Rounding out the top five are Lawrence Of Arabia and Vertigo.
Gillian Anderson To Play Blanche Dubois In ‘Streetcar’ At Young Vic
Gillian Anderson will return to the London stage next year in the Young Vic’s adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. She’ll play Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ classic tragedy, the BBC reported. Benedict Andrews, whose take on Chekhov’s Three Sisters won the 2012 Critics’ Circle directing prize, will helm. Anderson’s London stage credits include A Doll’s House at the Donmar Warehouse in 2009 and What The Night Is For in 2012. Also this season, Juliet Stevenson will make her Young Vic debut as Winnie in Natalie Abrahami’s new production of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days.
Disney brass thinks Star Wars is so important they went to Germany of all places this weekend for Star Wars Celebration, the global Star Wars fan convention that began in 1999 to celebrate the release of the first prequel. Today at the confab Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy confirmed that composer John Williams will return for JJ Abrams‘ Star Wars: Episode VII after scoring all six previous films. Joining Mouse House execs in Essen, Germany are franchise stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Jeremy Bulloch, Warwick Davis, and Peter Mayhew, flown in for a Return of the Jedi reunion. Disney is set to unveil more for fans stateside at next month’s D23 Expo in Anaheim.