a theatre, film & pop culture review
Let me first take a minute to say how excited I was for Beyond the Lights. Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood made me a fan for life with Love & Basketball; her films are certainly flawed, but they always center on strong, smart African American women, and the men in those women’s lives play the supporting role – they always challenge the woman to be the best version of herself. Beyond the Lights is kind of a mess, but again, the female lead – played by a fierce Gugu Mbatha-Raw – is a complex, intelligent woman struggling within the sexist strictures of the music industry. Diane Warren received her seventh nomination for Grateful, which is a pleasant, catchy ballad sung by Rita Ora (just try not to sing along), though the lyric is uninspired self-empowerment. Sorry, Diane, you’re going home trophy-less once again.
The LEGO Movie‘s Everything Is Awesome is pounding, headache-inducing techno with high-pitched vocals by Tegan and Sara. It’s enough to make you crazy, which is kind of the point, I think, and it certainly reflects the mindset of Chris Pratt’s Emmet Brickowski, an ordinary construction worker that, yes, truly believes that everything is awesome. The best part of the song is the rap by The Lonely Island which features humorous lyrics like “Lost my job – it’s a new opportunity! More free time for my awesome community!” but this portion isn’t even utilized in the film, so what’s the point? A failed opportunity, that.
Lost Stars is a soulful plea for understanding and meaning performed by Adam Levin in Begin Again (aka the American Once). The song’s motif is manipulated and used throughout the film, infiltrating the narrative almost like an additional character commenting on the action. It’s a strong contender, but an unlikely winner.
I wasn’t able to see Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me, a documentary of 78 year-old country-music legend Glen Campbell as he struggles with Alzheimer’s while embarking on his farewell tour. But I’m Not Gonna Miss You doesn’t need the film’s context; in under three minutes, Campbell recounts an entire story arc of love and loss. It’s a heartbreakingly simple tune showcasing brave, poignant lyrics like “I’m still here, but yet I’m gone” and “It’s not gonna hurt me when you cry.” Basically, it’s a musical, truncated Still Alice, and it works in a sobering, tremendous way. Campbell received the Grammy for Best Country Song for “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (48 years after winning his first, and only other, Grammy), and, as this is one of the most unpredictable categories, there is more than a chance he could surprise us with an Oscar win.
But folks are also known to vote out of guilt or anger, and Selma‘s general lack of nominations has incited those feelings in a lot of people. It’s a likely recipient here, as it has no chance of winning with its only other nomination (Best Picture), but thankfully, a win for Glory is also a deserved one. Soulfully performed by John Legend and Common, “Glory” is a hopeful appeal for justice and peace that MLK Jr. would approve of. Reflecting the historical film’s strong relevance for today – it name-drops Ferguson in the same breath as Rosa Parks – it’s an epic song with crescendoing strings and a pulsing beat. It reminds us that “Selma is now for every man, woman, and child,” and for that, it cannot be denied.