Best Original Score Nominees (90th Academy Awards)

A catchy song with memorable lyrics can certainly do a great service to the movie it’s in, and since we’re all pretty familiar with most of the standard song forms we could expect to hear from such a thing, they’re also easier to talk about and judge from a layman’s perspective. But the overwhelming majority of music present in most films doesn’t usually have much on common with a typical pop song. It’s there to serve the tone, setting, and style of the film scene by scene and it’s there to enhance the filmgoing experience mostly without actually calling an inordinate amount of attention to itself. That doesn’t mean a great film score can’t have catchy hooks or melodies, many of the absolute classics certainly do, but if the entire score of a film was that kind of thing over and over it would probably come off as intrusive and detract from the point the filmmakers were actually trying to make. This more nuanced quality makes film scores a trickier topic. Hopefully I can do this year’s nominees some semblance of justice.
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February 16 & 17: Happy Birthday Rene Russo and Michael Bay


Rene Russo is celebrating her 64th birthday today; she is today’s WTHH birthday.  She was signed to a contract by the Ford Modeling Agency in her late teens—the story is she was spotted by an agent at a Rolling Stones concert—and spent over a decade as a top model with a number of magazine covers to her credit.  In the mid-1980s she moved into acting.  After a screen debut in the short-lived ABC series Sable in 1987, she moved into feature film work 1989’s Major League.  Her breakout role was as Internal Affairs investigator Lorna Cole in Lethal Weapon 3, following which she costarred with Clint Eastwood in In the Line of Fire, and played Z-list actress Karen Flores in Get Shorty.

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Jon Bon Jovi: Music to the Eyes

Movie stars want to be rock stars and rock stars want to be actors.  Most singers-turned-thespians don’t get very far in their second career, but Jon Bon Jovi actually got good reviews for his acting debut in Moonlight and Valentino.  That lead to a lot of supporting roles and indie movies.  Most recently, Bon Jovi appeared in the ensemble rom-com New Year’s Eve which may be his swan song as an actor.  But at the time of this profile from the February 1998 issue of Movieline magazine, his acting career looked like it was just heating up.

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Worst to First: Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel Universe Posters

Black Panther, the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hits theaters this weekend with glowing reviews and off-the-charts buzz.  Before you visit the nation of Wakanda, why not review the previous Marvel movies from Worst to First?  Since this article originally ran last November, I have added Thor: Ragnarok to the list.

via Worst to First: Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Fixing Oscar For One Film: Part Two 1941-1946

We all have that one movie we really wish had taken home the Best Picture Oscar that one time – even if we say we don’t care about the Oscars at all. At least most of us do if we’re reading an article on the subject on a pop culture blog on the internet. Well, LeBlog is teaming up with its readers to select one Best Picture loser from the previous eighty-nine years of the awards as our favorite also-ran. This is the picture we will be affording a unique honor here with the title of “Best-Loved Loser.” Come help us weed out the good from the great as we consider five more movies that came up just short on movies’ biggest night.
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Pretty Gone Plain

When an actress wants to win awards, she plays down her looks.  Just like for a while there, actors could count on nominations for playing characters with disabilities, usually glamorous actresses were often rewarded for playing down their physical beauty.  The often controversial Joe Queenan made this observation in a very politically incorrect column from the February 2003 issue of Movieline magazine.  I expect this one will ruffle some feathers, so be warned.  Queenan’s viewpoint was out-of-date 15 years ago and it hasn’t improved with age.

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Best Original Song Nominees (90th Academy Awards)

The Oscars’ Best Original Song category is one that has gone through some serious shifts over the years. When the category began back in the mid 1930s there was no shortage of movie musicals to pull original songs from. It was one of the most popular genres at the box office through a few decades and even with the admonition against songs from Broadway musicals being imported to the screen and becoming eligible for the award, they always seemed to be able to fill out the category without too much trouble. After all, songwriting legends like Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, and Irving Berlin were still pumping out hits, and what better way to make sure people heard your great new song than to slap it into a movie? This was true to the point that if you’re someone who has seen lots of old movies you’ve probably stopped being surprised when a straight comedy or even drama stops abruptly to let somebody sing a song that might not have much to do with the rest of the movie.

While this emphasis on songs didn’t guarantee nominee classes stacked with classics, by comparison the number of truly legendary songs you find in those first few decades is pretty impressive. Consider 1936 in which “Pennies From Heaven” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” weren’t quite good enough to beat out “The Way You Look Tonight” or 1941 in which “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” “Baby Mine,” “Blues in the Night,” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy From Company B” all lost out to Kern’s “The Last Time I Saw Paris.” Even through the fifties and sixties, more traditional type singers like Doris Day and Frank Sinatra popped up and helped to define an Oscar-winning song as one that might sit comfortably on the shelf alongside the great American songbook. But even a relatively conservative voting body like the Academy couldn’t completely ignore that there had been a definite change in what popular music meant by the late 1960s.
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February 14 & 15: Happy Birthday Jack Benny & Harvey Korman


Jack Benny (1894-1974) learned the violin as a boy, and began performing at vaudeville theaters in his late teens.  Early in his career he was a serious violinist, but by the beginning of the 1920s he used it mostly as a prop.  In the 1930s, he moved into radio; The Jack Benny Program began airing in 1932, featuring a cast headed by Benny as himself, with Eddie Anderson as his valet, Rochester, Benny’s wife, Sadie Marks, as Mary Livingstone, and also including Mel Blanc, Dennis Day, and many more.

At the end of the 1940s, Benny moved to television, with his show airing regularly for fifteen seasons beginning in 1950.  Most of the cast carried over, although Mary Livingstone, who began suffering from severe stage fright in the early fifties, seldom appeared on the television show.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Action Jackson

This week marks thirty years since Carl Weathers made his bid for leading man status with the blaxploitation flick, Action Jackson.  Up until this point in his career, Weathers had played second banana to Sylvester Stallone (the Rocky movies) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator).  Action Jackson was Weathers’ one real shot at being the hero rather than the side-kick.  Unlike a lot of other movies we talk about in this series, Action Jackson was successful enough to warrant a sequel.  But because of studio politics, that never happened.  Let’s take a look at how Apollo Creed almost launched a movie franchise, but didn’t.

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Fixing Oscar For One Film: Part One

Okay, so I’m obviously an unrepentant lover of the yearly film Bacchanalia that is the Oscars. That should be obvious by my obsessive yearly coverage of the awards here at LeBlog. At the same time, it’s not like I’m not fully aware of the shortcomings of the whole exercise and some of the mistakes the Academy’s voters might have made along the way. My recent article on the history of the Best Picture category touches a bit on these things. Anybody with a love of film who has taken the time to consider the winners and losers with any detail or who has sat down and watched the ceremony play out in real time more than a few times probably has that one choice by the Academy that sticks in their craw just a little. Yes, in the end it’s just a meaningless award, but darn it movie Y obviously should have beaten movie X in 19-blah-dee-blah.

Well, I’m here to offer the readers of LeBlog an opportunity to scratch that itch. As a team, we will be sifting through some of the greatest Best Picture nominees to ever come up short on cinema’s biggest night. Every other day for the next couple of weeks I’m going to be presenting five such pictures for your consideration, sharing a few of each movie’s credentials, and giving you a chance to vote for your favorite amongst them. Once we’ve acquired a winner for each group of five, those surviving films will be pitted against one another in a winner-take-all competition whose champion will forever after be known as “LeBlog’s best-Loved Loser.” Yes, anytime the film is spoken of here at LeBlog in the future, that moniker will be attached to it (I can imagine we will come up with reasons to mention it more often than we otherwise would have).

While we won’t strictly be moving forward by decade, some effort has been made to group the films in roughly appropriate chronological sets. Today we start with a rather tightly packed bunch of movies stretching from 1938 all the way to 1940. What can I say? It was a pretty good time for movies.
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Advanced Chemistry

Happy Valentines Day, everyone!  It’s the perfect time to snuggle up with your favorite romantic movie.  Preferably with someone with whom you share great chemistry, but even if you are watching Pretty Woman by yourself for the 100th time, at least you know the actors on screen will be vibing off one another.  On-screen chemistry is unpredictable and it can’t be faked.  Actors either have it or they don’t.  Sometimes real life couples fizzle on the big screen whereas seemingly mismatched pairings click.  In this article from the February 1998 issue of Movieline magazine, actors and actresses were asked who they thought they would have great chemistry with.

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February 12 & 13: Happy Birthday Christina Ricci and Kim Novak


Christina Ricci celebrates her 38th birthday today.  She first attracted notice acting in an elementary school play at 8 years of age; two years later she made her feature film debut in Mermaids, as the younger sister of Winona Ryder’s character.  During much of the 1990s she was a well-known juvenile and teenage actress, starring in the big-screen adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost and in a remake of That Darn Cat, and appearing in an ensemble cast in Now and Then, sometimes considered a distaff counterpart to Stand by Me.  She also played Wednesday Addams in the two Addams Family feature films.

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Why’d it Bomb? Most Movies based on Cartoons

More often than not, when animated TV shows try to make the jump to the big screen they fall flat on their faces.  Kevthewriter thinks he knows why audiences ignore movies like last year’s My Little Pony: The Movie.

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