Friday, February 8, 2013

Dear Academy: Enough with the James Bond Love!

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

When I wrote about Adele's Skyfall theme a few months ago, I predicted that it would be the extent to the film's Oscar chances.  Then things began to pick up and suddenly it feels like James Bond will be integral to this year's ceremonies. With five nominations, Skyfall is making out to be one of the most renowned Bond films that the Academy has ever dealt with. However, it feels like the love doesn't stop there. With the franchise celebrating 50 years, it feels like this quite possibly could be the year when Bond infiltrates the Oscars in a bad, bad way.

I will not deny that director Sam Mendes brought a nice touch to Skyfall and made it one of the more personal, and therefore interesting, James Bond movies of recent memories. With a great performance by Javier Bardem and gorgeous cinematography, this film looks like a success story. The Adele song was only the precursor to the amount of recognition the film would get. Take the Golden Globe nomination and win. I figured that would be the extent to the film's success.

Maybe it isn't entirely Skyfall's fault that what followed became somewhat of an annoyance. First, it was announced that there would be a whole segment of the show dedicated to the Ian Fleming creation. No problem. It isn't like the Academy hasn't recognized the franchise before. They have been nominated dozens of times and very few blockbusters have withstood a bigger test of time and public recognition better than the 50 year old 007. There is plenty of logic for why you would want to pay tribute to a movie at a show that recognizes movies.

In fact, I felt fine when it was announced that Adele would be performing. I took it as a sign that the Academy was finally ready to fix all of its past problems. After last year's embarrassing two-song nominee Best Original Song category, it felt like the show was ready to go back to their roots. Even the announcement of Norah Jones performing her song from Ted called "Everyone Needs a Best Friend" was a nice touch. However, when news halted on further nominees performing, I began to feel a bias. Besides the James Bond factor, the Jones song was penned by Oscars host Seth MacFarlane, which seemed a little dubious and self-fulfilling.

Yet, I am willing to hold my tongue and hope that this isn't the end of the announcements. Names have continued to pop up, including Barbara Streisand. Admittedly, she has no affiliation with Bond. In fact, I speculate that she is going to be brought in for a special performance to honor the passing of Marvin Hamlisch. A great composer (who yes, did compositions for The Spy Who Loved Me) who passed away and would be insulted if he didn't get a full out tribute. While only winning three Oscars, his work is legendary. With Barbara Streisand, he won a Best Original Song trophy for "The Way We Were." While this doesn't answer why the other Best Original Song participants haven't been mentioned, it feels like a fitting tribute that will hopefully somehow tie into the in memoriam section of the show. 

I may be over blowing the situation, but with five nominations and a performance by Adele, the James Bond love is probably at a comfortable level. Yet the insanity grows. Where most franchises, films, and things from the past only get five minutes of love, it feels like the night is slowly turning into a 007 party. Adding to the performances is Shirley Bassey, who sung the themes for Diamonds are Forever, Goldfinger, and Moonraker. Chances are that she will perform one of those along with Adele's "Skyfall." 

I am fine with the show wanting to pay tribute to the franchise, but I feel it is being done in a dubious fashion. I have long held problems with the Academy's voting system. In a sense, it feels like a popularity contest in which some names get overlooked for the more recognized names (that would explain John Hawkes' snub in Best Supporting Actor, though he has been nominated before). This is mostly in regards to the Best Original Score category. Whereas people were hoping that Cloud Atlas, The Master, Zero Dark Thirty or Beasts of the Southern Wild snuck into the mix, Skyfall got a slot. I find this dubious for many reasons.

Back in 2008, Jonny Greenwood's highly acclaimed There Will Be Blood score got ignored because the track "Bodysong" appeared in another movie. However, noticing the contributions of Hamlisch put insult to injury this year. Maybe the Academy has changed a little in five years. They did give trophies to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network. However, where "Bodysong" was a standalone song that disqualified the entire score, Skyfall is a James Bond movie. Everyone knows that there are certain harmonies and chord progressions that have been used in every score before it. While Thomas Newman's score could be argued for originality outside of the 10% of recycled material, it still feels like a bias and a violation of the "original" score concept, especially in a year with a richer selection.

Still, this nomination feels like it happened for the sole purpose of recognizing James Bond. While I am not opposed to the Best Original Song or Best Cinematography award, I have been annoyed with Best Original Score since it was first announced. Maybe I am just nitpicking at this point, but those rules were created for a reason. If Greenwood cannot get nominated for just happening to use a familiar tune, then Newman can't, especially with more publicly familiar fare. In a sense, this completes my trifecta of why the James Bond love is way too much this year.

I just feel like what started off with good intentions has skyrocketed to a desperate promotional side of the show. Why do we need two performances for James Bond? How much of the ceremony are we filling up just dedicating time to a 50 year old franchise? I feel that the bias is narrowing the scope of what the show could do and recognize. True, they have made leaps and bounds with very progressive lists of nominations, but when the Best Original Score features a nod to Marvin Hamlisch's The Spy Who Loved Me score, there is  sense of redundancy. I just pray that Hamlisch gets a proper memorial besides lumping his achievements in with the Bond franchise (which he never actually won an award for).

Do you feel that the James Bond love is over the top this year? Why aren't all of the Best Original Song performers getting their due? Is Thomas Newman really deserving of the Best Original Score nomination? Is this all one big bias?

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