Friday, March 5, 2010

The Heart of Oscar Night

Dear Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,

A couple weeks ago the news hit that the producers of the Oscar telecast decided to cut the tradition of having the nominations for Best Song perform during the Oscar telecast. While the reasons cited for cutting these performance were practical (ratings, cost of performances), frankly I'm disappointed. Though, I'm not surprised that you would put these reasons above celebration one of the most important parts of film and featuring one of the most important roles of music in our popular culture.

Songs from films have become some of the most influential songs in popular culture from classics like "Moon River" to Disney standards like "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?" Featuring these performances not only provided variety in the show but acted as a tribute to not only the songs that were nominated but essential role that music plays in films.

Some years, the best song category doesn't lend itself to great performances but between the possibility of seeing Jeff Bridges perform a song from Crazy Heart, a performance form Nine and featuring Randy Newman a national treasure for his work on The Frog Princess, it truly is a shame to let these performance go unseen.

Think about some of the performances that we would have missed if you made this decision years ago.

Bruce Springsteen standing alone on stage singing "Streets Of Philadelphia" was breathtaking. This intimate, subtle and brilliant performance made you feel like that Bruce was singing right through the television and straight into your soul. I actually bought this soundtrack album to Philadelphia before seeing the film. It was after listening to and falling in love with the this song that I watched this film which has since become one of my favorites.

People simply didn't take South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut seriously as a film (which I've argued in this earlier post). Not only was this cartoon a brilliant piece of social commentary but it is one of the greatest film musicals. So when Robin Williams strutted on stage and performed "Blame Canada," he legitimized the film, brought this song into the forefront of popular culture in a performance that could only occur on an Oscar stage.

The film industry has always prided itself in being on the forefront of cultural diversity. Film music like "Theme From Shaft" by Isaac Hayes proved that the Oscar community was embracing not only the development of music in popular culture but a wider breadth of what it meant to be in popular music.

When Three 6 Mafia (who were the only African American artists since Hayes to win an Oscar in this category) performed "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow, it went against the sensibilities of red carpet and the broadcast but it was a moment when the Oscar community was reminded that film's greatest achievement is reflecting the diversity of the human spirit and this performance did that in a way that some may have not liked but no one could ignore.

People watch the Oscar's for different reasons and you've taken away one of the biggest reason I watch the broadcast. I applaud you're willingness to change and take chances with the broadcast, but I question your priorities if you are willing to cut one of the memorable and meaningful parts of the broadcast.

At least we have the great performances of the past and for that I am grateful. Maybe by reflecting on some of the these past performances you will realize how important these moments truly are.

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