And more from our Gossip Girl: Sam Cooke remembered and re-mastered … Nikki Yanofsky, another candidate for “A Star Is Born?”
“TOO MUCH of a good thing can be wonderful,” said the great Mae West, one of the few truly autonomous women of film.
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WHILE I tend to agree with Miss West in most matters, I must say that the Academy of Motion Pictures Art & Sciences‘ take on West’s “wonderful” is just, well … too much! I was stunned last year that Oscar decided to open up the Best Picture category to ten films rather than the traditional five. I was not alone in finding this absurd, especially as all the other categories remained numerically the same — five best actors, actresses, supporting, screenplay… and director! Ten movies nominated by only five directors? How did those extra five movies come to be made? The films were good enough to be nominated, but not the directors? What the hell kind of sense does that make?
Then again, what the hell kind of sense do the awards make in general? I’m very glad Natalie Portman, “The King’s Speech” Annette Bening, Colin Firth and various others I admire were nominated. But, just for example, if they are nominating Jeff Bridges (whom I admire and he also won last year) then they could have slipped in Mark Wahlberg for “The Fighter.” Mark’s co-star, Christian Bale, was nominated, and as has been pointed out — even by Bale himself — his performance could not have happened had it not been for Wahlberg’s restrained, excellent acting.
Oh, well — it’s all about money anyway. That’s why there are five more best picture nominations. Hollywood hopes to hype the box office on these “extra” films.
We’ll be all cynical and ho-humish until Oscar night. Then — it’ll be a bit of magical boredom for three hours, and we’ll give in and believe for a minute that everybody really deserved what they received on the stage of the Kodak Theater. As if there is any real point of “comparison” between Annette Bening and Michelle Williams’ performances. Or any fairness in that, yet again, Oscar has chosen to ignore Doris Day’s lifetime achievements.
Oh, P.S., Feb 27th, Oscar night, is also the 79th birthday of three-time Oscar recipient Miss Elizabeth Taylor.
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THE DEATH of soul, pop and gospel singer Sam Cooke in 1964, at the age 33, robbed several generations of his artistry. (His shooting death in a hotel room is still one of the most hotly debated stellar mysteries — up there with Harlow, Marilyn, Jim Morrison, Princess Diana and Michael Jackson.) Jan. 22nd would have been Sam’s 80th birthday, and in celebration ABKCO and HDtracks have re-mastered four of Cooke’s greatest albums — “Sam Cooke At the Copa,” “Keep Movin’ On,” “(Ain’t That) Good News,” and a splendid compilation released after his death — “30 Greatest Hits – Sam Cooke Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964.”
Of Sam Cooke, Keith Richards has said: “He is somebody other singers have to measure themselves against, and most of them go back to pumping gas!”
This collection is worthwhile just to hear again — in pristine restoration — Sam’s devastating “A Change Is Gonna Come,” which he wrote and recorded as the Civil Rights movement exploded across the nation. Sadly, Sam Cooke did not live to see that change.
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SPEAKING OF great singers … the other day we wrote about Clint Eastwood’s plans to re-make the old “A Star is Born” tale, with Beyonce in lead. Fascinating idea, from every angle.
But as good as Beyonce is, and as interesting as it would be to have a woman of color in the role, one wonders if, like Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, Beyonce is now just a wee bit too mature — and way too famously glamorous — to be playing an unknown singer, aspiring to see her name in lights.
It might be refreshing, not to mention much more realistic, to cast a truly young girl, and one who has not made a huge name. I’m thinking of Nikki Yanofsky, the 17- year-old Canadian singer. She is known in the biz, has had some success, but is hardly a superstar. However, she can really sing. Not only that, her tastes run to Ella, Peggy, Frank, Anita O’Day, revved-up with intense, brilliant jazz infusions. She performed this week at Manhattan’s Blue Note and knocked the crowd out. (Believe me, you’ve never heard “Old MacDonald had a Farm” done until you’ve heard Miss Yanofsky’s way!)
The one problem? She’s only 17. And for all her maturity in her choice of material, and how well she interprets the standards, when she speaks to her audience, she sounds like the very young person she is. Smart and charming, but life has not tested her, yet. It is difficult to categorize her, or to properly package her, right now. But … if she can act, her youth would be a boon to a movie plot that has yet to really be done properly. Clint Eastwood? Go see Nikki in concert. (Oh, and please — I’m not dissing Beyonce, who is gorgeous and talented. Just throwing out another suggestion.)