Music takes Center Stage at the Oscars



Last December, Miramax Films released a film adaptation of Chicago, a classic of the American musical stage with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and original choreography by the legendary Bob Fosse. Last night, Chicago, directed by Rob Marshall who stayed very true to the original stage concept, won 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. And while Kander and Ebb’s power line-up of tunes from the 1975 show is certainly one of the main reasons for both Chicago‘s popular and critical success, the awards for Best Score and Best Song were not among the six honors.

Composer Elliot Goldenthal won his first Oscar for the Mexican-inflected score to Frida, Tony–award winner Julie Taymor‘s film about the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. The other nominees in the category for Best Score were 5-time Academy Award winner John Willams (Catch Me If You Can), Elmer Bernstein (Far From Heaven), Philip Glass (The Hours), and Thomas Newman (Road to Perdition).

Goldenthal (along with Taymor who wrote the lyrics) was also nominated for Best Song with “Burn it Blue,” from Frida, but it was Eminem‘s “Lose Yourself,” from the loosely autobiographical film 8 Mile, that took home the Oscar. Although Eminem was not present at the ceremony, Luis Resto, one of the co-writers of the song, accepted the award. The music for “Lose Yourself” was written by Eminem, Resto, and Jeff Bass, with lyrics by Eminem. Other nominees for Best Song were John Kander/Fred Ebb for “I Move On” (Chicago), U2 for “The Hands That Built America” (Gangs of New York), and Paul Simon for “Father and Daughter” (The Wild Thornberrys Movie).

Another musically-based film, Roman Polanski‘s The Pianist, was honored with three major awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Adrien Brody), and Best Director. The film was based on the life of pianist and composer Wladislaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew who survived the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

From the opening nostalgic film montage set to Copland‘s Fanfare for the Common Man to the climactic moment when Chicago was named Best Picture, this year’s Academy Awards ceremony demonstrated how music has been fundamental to the development of cinema, both through its artistic utility in the narrative and through the endless inspiration it has provided filmmakers.

A complete list of winners can be found on the Academy Awards website.