When many of you were in college and were expanding your musical horizons, The League sort of made a half-hearted effort to do the same. Our passing interest in David Bowie increased seven-fold, We went through a period where we bought every Talking Heads, David Byrne and related album (and slept happily beneath a subway poster of the least-exciting looking band in rock). And, when JAL took me to the Paramount to see "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" around March of 1995, I fell for the film scores of Ennio Morricone.
I was familiar with soundtrack to "The Mission", and a few other Morricone works, but first "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and then "Once Upon a Time in The West" and continuing with "Once Upon a Time in America"... Morricone stood out to me (as a wide-eyed film student) as the perfect blending of film and music, rivalling John Williams for pure, iconic themes that told the story as much or more than, oftentimes, the dialogue itself.
The score to "Once Upon a Time in America", along with the one-sheet movie poster, are probably actually better than the final product of the film. The score manages to accomplish what many scores fail to do (but what I thought Ottman managed to accomplish quite well with "Superman Returns"), and that is speak the inner monologues for the characters.
As long-time Leaguers will know, I gave up on the Oscars several years ago when I realized most of the pictures nominated either never made it to my neighborhood, or could not possibly live up to the hype once it began. In addition, why on earth would I watch a bunch of over-paid actors run through a list of agents and producers to get their name on the air and thereby force the actor in question to beg for more work even as they're supposedly receiving their profession's highest accolade?
Hollywood is a sick, sick town.
So it was this evening that Jamie lured me down from the Fortress of Nerditude to watch the "honorary" or "lifetime achievement" award to Ennio Morricone, as he must not have ever won an award before and it was making the Academy look kind of dumb. Especially if Morricone died with no awards and having re-written the way in which film scores could work.
It was awkward enough that Eastwood didn't wear his glasses and in front of an audience of 1 billion people couldn't read the teleprompter, but...
well, (a) nobody in the audience really applauded for any of Morricone's scores as they played, except for "Good, Bad and the Ugly". And (b) as if to add insult to injury, someone tapped Celine Dion to lay words over the score to "Deborah's Theme" from "Once Upon a Time in America". Apparently not Dion, the lyricist, the Academy, any directors or producers had actually seen "Once Upon a Time in America" and knew that "Deborah's Theme" was not a song about finding one another in the moonlight. I don't want to get too much into what I THINK it's about, but it is not about filling up four extra minutes in your show at the Bellagio.
Also, Celine forgot the words at the mid-point of the song and just let out a "whooooo!" to cover it up. Well played, Celine. Well played.
This was followed by the appearance that the Academy was unaware that Morricone does not speak English. They invited him to give a speech, and a few awkward moments went by as Eastwood stood there and was supposed to translate, I guess. or Eastwood forgot his glasses and couldn't read the teleprompter again. We may never know.
The good part was that when Morricone got up to give his speech (in Italian, which Paltrow was pretending to understand), Quincy Jones and his daughter (Karen, from "The Office") totally stole Morricone's seat. No, he didn't steal it. He moved down to fill in for the cameras, but I like to think he and his daughter were treating it like a baseball game and thinking "if that guy leaves, we're totally snagging those seats!"
Also, for some reason, a Mussolini look-alike was seated behind Morricone's wife. I guess the Morricone's are old school Italians..?
I suppose I'm mostly irritated to know that the Soccer-Moms of America will now be driving around in their Ford Excursions listening to "the new Celine", unaware that Dion has butchered a once perfectly reputable bit of movie scoring.
Only at the Oscars would people choose to honor a man by taking one of his greatest works, render it unrecognizable, and hand it over to help a hokey Vegas-act sell some CD's at Wal-Mart while diluting any sense of the man's genius from the song. After all, Celine's producer's soft-rock sensibility know that lowest common denomintaor sound that really sells.
Congrats, Ennio. Welcome to LA.