Our modest proposals for the Oscars telecast

Oscars logo

Oscars logo

“It’s just an awards show,” Oscars telecast host Jimmy Kimmel said (as quoted by Deadline: Hollywood and other outlets) about the annual telecast by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

He’s right. With that in mind, here are some modest proposals to make the telecast better. It’s just an awards show, not rocket science or God’s work.

Cut back the lame jokes: A little humor goes a long way. Did we need “mean tweets” (a bit from Kimmel’s ABC late night show)? Did we need the tour bus skit, a bit that went on for what seemed like a long time.

And do we need any skits once it hits 11 p.m. in the Eastern time zone? By that point, the show had been going on for two-and-a-half hours. Yes, the show is being done in California where it’s three hours earlier. But people in the eastern time zone are starting to hit the sack (if they haven’t done so already) by 11 p.m. Time to cut to the chase and get the major awards made.

Maybe lengthen In Memoriam by a whole two minutes: It’s really hard to present all the major actors, directors, writers, etc. in less than three minutes. This year’s edition squeezed in 45 in 2:48.

If the segment were, say, five minutes, you’d still get fans upset about a favorite performer or director being left off. But the audience — it’s just an awards show, remember — really are invested emotionally. Maybe you should throw them a bone.

You remember the audience, don’t you academy? In case you forgot, they are the ones who buy the movie tickets and home video releases that keep your members employed.

With all of the montages and skits, this year’s telecast could easily have filled up five minutes for In Memoriam. If it had been five minutes, you might have been able to note, say, the passing of the director of Goldfinger, or the last surviving star of The Magnificent Seven.

Keep the envelopes with the winners organized: That’s a Mr. Obvious observation but on Monday morning the show — sorry, the “just an awards show” — was mostly being discussed for announcing the wrong Best Picture. Not the kind of publicity one wants, right PricewaterhouseCoopers?

Drop the claim that 1 billion people worldwide watch the Oscars: One, it’s not true. Two, it comes across as particularly silly with all the news accounts about the show’s declining ratings.

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Ken Adam makes In Memoriam; Robert Vaughn doesn’t

Ken Adam (1921-2016)

Ken Adam (1921-2016)

Ken Adam, production designer on seven James Bond movies, was included in the “In Memoriam” segment of the Oscars telecast Sunday night.

Adam also designed the sets of 1964’s Dr. Strangelove and won Oscars for Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George.

Also referenced in the segment was film editor Jim Clark, whose credits included 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

Not making the segment was actor Robert Vaughn. While best known for television’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Vaughn was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for 1959’s The Young Philadelphians. He was also the last survivor of the actors who played The Magnificent Seven in the 1960 film.

Also not making the segment was Guy Hamilton, director of four James Bond films, including Goldfinger.

UPDATE (Feb. 27): I re-watched the In Memoriam segment. There were about 45 people shown in 2:48.

Writing’s On The Wall’s Oscar triumph

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes got the Oscar award for Best Original Song in 2016 Academy Awards edition. It was the second triumph for the James Bond series had in that category.

In the 20th century, Bond songs were beaten by the likes of “The Way We Were” (winning over Live And Let Die) or “You Light up My Life” (winning over Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me) and “Arthur’s Theme (The Best You Can Do),” which won over For Your Eyes Only. For that matter, 007 classic songs such as Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever weren’t even nominated.

The spell was broken three years ago when Skyfall received the academy’s nod over songs like the solid “Suddenly,” from Les Miserables.

In September 2015, when Sam Smith introduced his performance of the song “Writing’s On The Wall” for SPECTRE, it divided the Bond fans between the ones showing appreciation and the ones turning a big thumb down – not to mention a great deal of bullying towards the 23-year-old singer for his falsetto voice, hidden under the shadows of the social networks.

“It’s the quickest song I’ve ever written,” Smith said, claiming he and Napier finished the job in just 20 minutes. (Later Eon Productions co-boss although Barbara Broccoli said it took much more time than that.)

Despite Smith’s vocal register, “Writing’s On The Wall” featured an unmistakable Bondian sound reminiscent to “Thunderball” with a touch of the recent “Skyfall.” A melody so accurate that it looks like composer Thomas Newman barely retouched the original instrumental for the scene where James Bond and his love interest Madeleine Swann get steamy on a train going through the Moroccan desert.

The song that supposedly took Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes less than half an hour to write described a vulnerable state of the rebooted James Bond. Bond lives with the memory of his beloved Vesper (Eva Green’s character in Casino Royale) and his boss-turned-mother figure M (Judi Dench, who bid farewell at the end of Skyfall).

It takes a lot for a man to admit his weakness – particularly a man like James Bond– and this song achieves to do it in a powerful way, as Daniel Kleinman’s main title visuals show our hero naked, wrapped around octopus tentacles coming out of the villain’s back while kissed by beautiful women.

While the artist voice sounds fragile, the seven main notes of the tune explode in power. A power expressing enough strength that the instrumental intermezzo (around the three minutes of the full version of the song) wasn’t cropped out during the usual editing to make a four minute composition fit into a short main title sequence. It was masterfully used to emphasize the artistic visuals.

Sam Smith had the coveted Oscar statue on his hand and dedicated it to the LGBT community he is part of. Among other contenders, he triumphed over Lady Gaga’s “Till It Happens to You,” introduced by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the ceremony.

Some people may not agree, not even Bond fans, about this recognition. But it is truly deserved because the song isn’t focused in the victorious figure of agent 007, but in the depths of the hidden soul of James Bond: his fears, his vulnerability and his overdue need for love.

And this was done with a melody that synthetizes the film, twisting like the sinuous octopus tentacles that symbolize the effect of SPECTRE wrapping into the soul of the man behind the spy, and a voice that shouts what the spy covering the human being will never openly tell.

The emotional complexity of the lyrics, the music and the voice is something that a spectator with an artistic eye can appreciate and enjoy while listening to “Writing’s on The Wall.” When accompanied by Kleinman’s ravishing main title sequence, it’s the way the song was meant to be appreciated.

 

SPECTRE’s Oscar campaign: Nothing to see here?

SPECTRE LOGO

Reader Kevin Koltz, in response to our NOV. 30 POST about SPECTRE’s Oscar campaign, suggested a follow up comparing Sony Pictures’ effort for the 24th James Bond film with two others. So here goes.

Sony, which released and co-financed SPECTRE, has a “for your consideration” website for SPECTRE.  However, as of Dec. 16, had not scheduled any special screenings for members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists to view it.

Meanwhile, for The Walk, Sony scheduled 18 screenings in Los Angeles between Nov. 16 and Dec. 11, a Nov. 9 screening in London, five screenings in New York between Oct. 23 and Nov. 8 and two screenings in San Francisco on Nov. 4 and Nov. 12.

For Concussion, which comes out Dec. 25, Sony scheduled  a Dec. 17 screening in London, 10 screenings in Los Angeles between Nov. 19 and Dec. 21, eight screenings in New York between Dec. 2 and Dec. 22 and two screenings in San Francisco on Nov. 29 and Dec. 7.

2012’s Skyfall received five Oscar nominations and won two, the most for any 007 film.

Hank Simms, extraordinary announcer, dies

An end titles from the first season of The FBI

An end titles from the first season of The FBI

Hank Simms, an announcer best known for the words “a Quinn Martin production!”, died last month at the age of 90, according to THIS OBITUARY But he did lots of other announcing work, including movie trailers and the Oscars television broadcast.

Simms first work for QM was The FBI in 1965. He went on to be the announcer for other QM hit shows including Barnaby Jones, Cannon and The Streets of San Francisco not to mention less successful series such as Dan August, Caribe and Banyon.

Simms also did “bumpers” for Mannix, as in, “Mannix…brought to you by…” followed by the name of a sponsor.

Simms worked the microphone at the Oscars, including when John Stears got his Oscar for Thunderball (explaining that Ivan Tors was picking it up in Stears’ place) and when Roger Moore and many viewers were surprised when Marlon Brando declined his Oscar for best actor.

His work could also be heard in trailers including movies edited from episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. such as TO TRAP A SPY and ONE SPY TOO MANY as well as THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT, the Doris Day spy comedy, and POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES, the final Frank Capra film.

The announcer’s voice was so distinctive when the makers of the 1982 comedy Police Squad! decided to do a QM-style opening, there was only one man for the job:

Rest in peace, Mr. Simms.

UPDATE: Here is the very first Hank Simms announcing job for Quinn Martin:

UPDATE II (Oct. 13): The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences put up an obituary for Hank Simms on its Web site on OCT. 2.

Skyfall breaks 007’s 47-year Oscar drought

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image


RECAP (11:55 p.m.): Skyfall won two Oscars, the first 007 film to win more than one. Goldfinger and Thunderball won one apiece. It broke a 47-year Oscar drought for the Bond series. The highest profile win was Best Song by Adele and Paul Epworth, finally giving the series a win after three previous Best Song nominations.

UPDATE IV (11:20 p.m.): Skyfall finally broke the 007 Best Song jinx, winning the Oscar for Adele and Paul Epworth (Best Song Oscars go to the songwriters, not the performer). Adele thanked producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

007 films had been nominated for Best Song three times with no wins: Live And Let Die, Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only. Classic Bond songs such as Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever were never nominated.

A few minutes earlier, Skyfall’s Thomas Newman lost to Life of Pi’s Mychael Danna. Skyfall ends the evening with two wins out of five categories.

UPDATE III (11:03 p.m.): Earlier Adele performed Skyfall. Reaction was mixed in our quick survey of social media. Some fans felt she nailed it, others felt there were too many backup singers or other flaws. Afterwards, two musicians with ties to the 007 series made the “In Memoriam” segment: Hal David, who wrote lyrics for the 1967 Casino Royale spoof, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and 1979’s Moonraker; and Marvin Hamlisch, who scored 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Hamlisch was nominated twice for Spy (score and for “Nobody Does It Better”) but didn’t pick up any wins that night.

UPDATE II (10:20 p.m.): Skyfall broke 007’s 47-year Oscar drought by tying with Zero Dark Thirty for sound editing. Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers picked up Oscars, though they started to get shooed off the stage as the orchestra played the theme from Jaws.

It was the first win for a Bond movie since John Stears won for special effects for 1965’s Thunderball. Just before that, film lost the sound award to Les Miserables.

UPDATE I (9:28 p.m.): Halle Berry introduced the James Bond tribute segment, comprised of clips from the movies accompanied by the James Bond Theme and an instrumental of Live And Let Die.

Immediately after, Shirley Bassey appeared and did a rendition of Goldfinger, with a very traditional sounding arrangement. It was the Bond highlight so far after Roger Deakins’s loss. Twitter lit up with users commenting about Dame Shirley’s performance.

However, Ezra Klein, a political commentator, wasn’t impressed with the 007 tribute part. He wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations, Oscars, you managed to make the Bond franchise look unexciting.”

ORIGINAL POST: Roger Deakins, nominated for his cinematography in Skyfall, lost to Life of Pi’s Claudio Moranda.

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, has been nominated for five awards, the most in the history of the Bond film series. The previous 007 record was held by The Spy Who Loved Me with three nominations (and no wins).

Still to come as of 9:12 p.m. are the best song, best score and two sound categories where Skyfall has been nominated. For now, 007’s 47-year Oscar drought continues. The last Bond movie to get an Oscar was 1965’s Thunderball for special effects. A tribute to James Bond movies is coming up.

2013 Oscars to have biggest 007 component in 31 years

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UPDATE II (8:05 p.m.): Halle Berry said on ABC that’s she has seen some of the Bond tribute for the Oscars show and that it’s “fabulous” and that she’s proud to be part of the 007 franchise. Immediately after, Adele says on ABC she’s “really excited” to perform tonight. Obviously, nothing terribly revealing in either interview.

UPDATE (6:55 p.m.): Shirley Bassey showed up on CNN’s Oscars “red carpet” show. Nothing startling. She sang the word “Goldfinger.” She told Piers Morgan she’s going to be nervous during the show. “With all these stars, I’m going to be jelly.” She said her favorite Bond was Sean Connery.

ORIGINAL POST: Tonight’s Oscars show is guaranteed to have the biggest 007 presence in 31 years.

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, has been nominated for five awards, the most in the history of the film series. The previous 007 record was held by The Spy Who Loved Me with three nominations (and no wins).

We know that Adele will perform the Skyfall title song. That’s one of the five nominations for Skyfall (Adele and Paul Epworth are nominated as the songwriters). Shirley Bassey has been announced as appearing and there will be some kind of James Bond tribute. Tom Jones may be there as well but there appears to be no official announcement to that effect in the PRESS RELEASE ARCHIVE for the Oscars.

A Bond film hasn’t been nominated since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, for best song. The series is 0-for-3 on best song nominations (Live And Let Die and Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me also got nominations). For the 1982 show, Sheena Easton performed For Your Eyes Only as part of an elaborate 007 dance number and Albert R. Broccoli won the Irving Thalberg award, given to a producer for his or her body of work.

We’ll Tweet @HMSSWeblog and turn those into posts here.