Review: ‘The Big Picture — 75 Years Of Oscar’

Describing film music, John Mauceri told the Hollywood Bowl audience that scores were initially "insulted, ignored or damned with faint praise."</B>

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The Big Picture — 75 Years Of Oscar

(Hollywood Bowl; 17,383 seats;$80.00 Top)

Presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. Produced in cooperation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Performers: Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by John Mauceri. Reviewed September 20, 2002.

By JOEL HIRSCHHORN

Describing film music, John Mauceri told the Hollywood Bowl audience that scores were initially “insulted, ignored or damned with faint praise.”

Today, contributions of composers ranging from Max Steiner to John Williams are revered, but calling his tribute “75 Years of Oscar” is misleading.

Opening clips of best picture winners (expertly edited by Andrew Schrader and Marc Elmer) reflected thematic diversity not carried through in the program’s choices, and genres such as horror, Westerns and comedy were slighted.

Some excerpts were stirring, others overly familiar. Though one portion was called “Contemporary Hollywood,” you wouldn’t have guessed from the selections that rock ever existed. Even jazz, utilized with revolutionary force in Elmer Bernstein’s 1955 “Man With the Golden Arm,” was shortchanged in this enjoyable, but hardly definitive, overview of Oscar’s musical landscape.

Mauceri began impressively with Erich Korngold’s “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex,” and Max Steiner’s glorious “Gone With the Wind” score was matched against a film clip of Vivien Leigh vowing “I’ll never be hungry again.” Franz Waxman’s “Sunset Boulevard” featured shimmering strings and a marvelously melodramatic, biblical “Salome” theme to dramatize the madness of Norma Desmond.

Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ In the Rain” has been unveiled too often; at this point, the sequence made it seem as though “Singin'” was the only great musical from Hollywood’s golden age.

“Casablanca” is another staple, but it worked more powerfully because enough of the picture was included to offer an overall musical experience with moods of love, danger and patriotism.

Under Mauceri’s brisk baton, Miklos Rosza’s “Parade Of the Chariots” from “Ben Hur” had a Roman grandeur, and Henry Mancini’s arrangement of the Nino Rota/Carmine Coppola theme from “Godfather Part II” was lushly melodic and a masterpiece of orchestration.

The second, contemporary half featured a sprightly rendition of Richard and Robert Sherman’s “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and the Menken/Ashman “Beauty and the Beast” lent itself visually and melodically to a concert performance. The only other song was “The Way We Were,” by Marvin Hamlisch and the Bergmans, with Mauceri accompanying Barbara Streisand’s vocal on screen.

In a 75-year tribute honoring songs, it made little sense to eliminate Burt Bacharach, Michael Gore, Phil Collins, Carole Bayer Sager, Stevie Wonder, David Foster, Carly Simon, Paul Williams or Elton John. And no Oscar tune tribute should neglect Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers or Berlin.

The highlight of the show was Elmer Bernstein’s haunting “To Kill a Mockingbird.” From its delicate opening piano strains, this was the perfect marriage of thematic beauty, well-chosen cues, impeccable musicianship and visuals.

Randy Newman’s “The Natural” spotlighted a fine orchestral rendition, but as a live piece, it tended to bog down against the slow-motion visual of Robert Redford running around the baseball field. Jerry Goldsmith contributed “L.A. Confidential,” the sole score to embody modern turbulence, tension and percussive drive.

Violinist Bruce Dukoff was the superb soloist on John Williams’ “Schindler’s List” (although he would have benefited from stronger miking), and this selection provided an emotional orchestral climax. Encores, “Star Wars,” “Over the Rainbow” and “Do Re Mi” drew predictably enthusiastic response.

The entire evening was consistently entertaining, but safe, never as adventurous or comprehensive as it could have been.

The Big Picture — 75 Years Of Oscar

The Big Picture -- 75 Years Of Oscar

Hollywood Bowl; 17,383 seats; $80 Top

Production

Presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. Produced in cooperation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Performers: Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by John Mauceri. Reviewed September 20, 2002.
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