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Diane Warren (#110 of 3)

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions Original Song

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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Original Song

Interscope

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Original Song

We’re repeatedly reminded that the Academy’s music branch is supposed to be paying attention to context when selecting their nominees for best song, so that they don’t simply wave five closing-credit ballads through, but actually select songs that function as part of the fabric of the film that surrounds them. All five songs nominated this year represent the sole nods for their respective films, two of which are documentaries and theoretically had favorable odds of at least getting nominated in that category. So concerns for context probably stand for very little, given the Academy’s clear indifference to this group of films. They may as well be voting on which song they most like listening to while frantically typing “g” and “h” playing Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage for the 12th time.

Summer of ‘90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ‘80s Nostalgia

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Summer of ’90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ’80s Nostalgia

Triumph Releasing Corporation

Summer of ’90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ’80s Nostalgia

Men at Work is patient zero for the plague of Charlie Sheen movies that infected the 1990s. One tends to forget that Sheen had steady work in that decade, turning out cocky fare like The Chase and Terminal Velocity. And while Men at Work isn’t the first film to use the actor in his then-typical role of a wiseass hot-shot lothario, the casual laziness that would infect his ’90s output has its origins in writer-director Emilio Estevez’s crime comedy. As Carl Taylor, Sheen can’t be bothered to do anything but exist on screen as he wades through his brother’s mercilessly overstuffed plot.

Estevez’s second feature is a major step down from his 1986 debut, Wisdom. For that film, Estevez was flanked by a massively talented crew: It was edited by Michael Kahn, scored by Danny Elfman, and produced by legendary Oscar-winning director Robert Wise, whom Estevez sought out for advice and guidance. Despite all that firepower, Wisdom is shocking in its ineptitude, a crime thriller saddled with far too many useless details and tangents. The more problematic Men at Work suffers from the same screenplay overcompensations, to the point where one wishes Estevez sought out Wise’s contemporary, Billy Wilder, for advice instead. Wilder would have burned the script for Men at Work.

Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions Original Song

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Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions: Original Song
Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions: Original Song

Five respectable, if not especially revelatory, nominees; no controversy. It’s a recipe for irrelevance, which would probably suit some in the music branch just fine this year. They famously shot themselves in the foot last year when they nominated (and then un-nominated) a tuneless dirge from a barely seen red state-baiting exploitation film simply because its composer used his position on the branch’s executive committee to e-blast his colleagues, imploring them not to ignore his work. So does this year’s slate represent an apologia on the music wing’s part? Much more than that, and given the contextual status of the category’s two highest-profile contenders, the best original song race could end up being the entire Academy’s chance to collectively say it’s sorry on a scale that far outpaces the category’s typical stature.