Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Enchanted, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, The Academy Music Branch

Despite a hectic holiday weekend, I was able to squeeze in two trips to the movie theater this weekend, which frankly shocked me. I didn’t think I would be able to, but on Friday night I decided to forego shopping and instead went to the wonderful Tivoli Theater to see “Enchanted”, the Disney film about a cartoon price and princess who find themselves transported to our world as flesh and blood people while still retaining their cartoon-world characteristics.

It’s a charming film and Amy Adams deserves all the cheers she’s been receiving as the Princess Giselle. James Marsden is equally winning as Prince Edward. What a year Marsden has had, what with this role and as Corny Collins in “Hairspray.”

The songs in the film are first-rate, provided by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, and Menken provides the excellent background scoring as well.

As an aside, let me say that this has been a stellar year for film musicals, what with “Enchanted,” “Hairspray,” “Across the Universe” and “Once.” I have yet to see “Sweeney Todd” but based on the nearly universal raves it’s been receiving, I can’t wait to see it. I’ve also heard that the original songs written for “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” are first –rate as well.

I’m thinking to myself that at this year’s Academy Awards, we may actually hear some good songs for a change. Anyone who has watched the Oscars in the last decade knows that the Best Song performances are reason to leave the room for a bathroom or snack break. Awful, screeching tuneless faux-rock and –folk songs that are so so, sincere, so so earnest, and so so terrible.

Maybe this year will be different? And then again maybe not. After all, the Motion Picture Academy is, collectively, one of the most tone-deaf and musically illiterate groups of people found anywhere in the world. Shockingly, the Academy’s music branch, the folks who make the music nominations in the first place, are equally to blame. You would think they would know what constitutes a good piece of music, but apparently this is beyond them.

Don’t get me started on the Original Score nominations and eventual winners. After all, the music branch is the group who nominated the headache-inducing Gustavo Santolalla, a man who has admitted in interviews that he can’t write or read music, two years in a row, and went on to win the Best Original Score Oscar both years. “Brokeback Mountain” with its childish guitar melody played over, and over, and over again, and the drivel he “composed” for last year’s “Babel” are living proof the Academy listens to music with that part of the body they sit on.

Of course, I’m sure the Academy members don’t actually vote for the scores, as much for the movies that they appear in. But the fact that Santolalla, who makes Hans Zimmer sound like Erich Wolfgang Korngold, has won two years in a row means the Oscars as an award of excellence are generally worthless.

What does all this have to do with “Enchanted?” I just hope that one or two of its songs get nominated, along with songs from “Once” and “Hairspray.” For the first time in more than a decade trips to the bathroom will be reserved for commercial breaks, and not the previously dreaded Best Song performances.

Rating for “Enchanted”: Three stars.

I also saw “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”. There were about a half dozen movies I would have preferred to see over this one, but my friends’ kids wanted to see it, and sometimes getting together with everyone is more important than picking the right movie.

It was OK, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one, which I found goofy and far-fetched but in a most agreeable manner. This one is pretty much the same movie, but it seemed more dragged out. It could have easily lost 20 minutes. An agreeable time-waster though I don’t know of any movie featuring three Oscar winners (Nicolas Cage, Helen Mirren, and Jon Voight) that is so disposable.

Rating for “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”: Two stars.

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