Lights, camera…hope?

pops

Dayton Philharmonic brushes off Oscars’ buried gems

By Morgan Laurens

Photo: Marie Danvers sings the classics at Lights, Camera… the Oscars! Jan. 20-21 at the Schuster

Every true film lover has that moment when they realize, Oh, right, the Oscars are bullshit. Mine arrived precisely 6 minutes and 26 seconds into 2013’s opening monologue, when I heard the phrase, “We saw your boobs,” slip gleefully from host Seth McFarlane’s piss-poor cartoon creating, Rat Pack imitating, frat-boy mouth. McFarlane really set the tone early in the evening with this song poking fun at actresses who have appeared topless in film, from Kristen Stewart in “On the Road” to Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry.” (Because the rape scene in that movie was so funny bro, high five!) Cue the barely contained grimaces and politely restrained smiles.

There have been more than a few musical missteps over the years, and if you don’t remember Rob Lowe (fresh off his sex tape scandal) cavorting with Snow White during the opening number for the 1989 Oscars, consider yourself lucky. If you forgot that ham-fisted 2006 Best Picture winner “Crash” was re-enacted through dance with an honest-to-God set piece burning in the background (just in case the film wasn’t literal enough for you), then kudos.

Let’s be brutally honest: the Oscars are not known for their stellar musical moments. The above list was cherry-picked, sure, but there are more than a handful of other moments immortalized on YouTube just waiting to make you cringe. If you don’t believe me, Google “Lord of the Dance film editing Oscars.”

So why do we still watch the Oscars? American movie attendance is at an all-time low, and with last year’s diversity wake-up call, there is less reason than ever to tune in. And what about the bizarre musical numbers? Well, despite the best efforts of Phil Collins and Randy Newman, there really are some gems hidden within the Best Original Song oeuvre. The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance thinks so, too. This weekend their ongoing series, Superpops, presents “Lights, Camera…the Oscars!” at the Schuster Center, where the Dayton Philharmonic will perform classics from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “Rocky.” If the prospect of hearing an orchestra play the music from Rocky’s training montage doesn’t get you excited, I can’t help you.

“Who doesn’t want to hear ‘Rocky’?” exclaims voice performer Marie Danvers. Though it’s one of only a few instrumental numbers in the ’Pops showcase, the singer’s enthusiasm for “Rocky Highlights” rings true.

“[Composers] wrote melodies that stuck in your head,” she says. “You’d walk out of a movie, and you would walk out singing the theme song. That’s why we go see movies like ‘Star Wars’ because those theme songs stay with you forever.”

The timing couldn’t be better. The Oscars are set to air Feb. 26 this year, though the nominees won’t be announced until late January. With no idea what the Academy might have in store for us this year, it might be nice to take a break and settle back with a few classics.

“It’s the perfect time of year, everyone just got finished with the holidays, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the symphony,” Danvers says.

The Philharmonic will perform Aladdin’s “A Whole New World,” your favorite Disney love song by the Masters of Enjoyable Schmaltz, Tim Rice and Alan Menken; “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s; and a song that hardly needs an introduction: “Somewhere over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“You can’t hear ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ and not be moved, even though we’ve all heard it a billion times,” Danvers says, with contagious excitement. “I think it brings people back to a really happy time. I think that’s why people come to the concert, because of the old movies and old music.”

Although the songs in the ’Pops showcase are mostly from the Golden Age of cinema—roughly 1929-1945—there are a couple of newer numbers included.  “A Whole New World” (1992) is one; Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic” (1997), the most recent entry in the show, is another.

Whether you consider Dion’s theme song about a luxury cruise ship a new classic or not might say something about how likely you are to tune in to the Oscars this year (and unironically enjoy yourself). You may not bother with the actual ceremony anymore, but let’s not forget that Best Original Song, while not the most coveted award, has the potential to be exhilaratingly unpredictable. Stop for a moment and consider this: we live in a world where the title Oscar winner precedes the names of both Juicy J and Burt Bacharach.

A lifetime of watching the Oscars has taught me to cherish unpredictable moments where I can find them because they don’t come along very often. Still, there’s no denying Dayton Philharmonic’s choice of “Moon River” as a stone cold classic. Now if we could just get them to play the theme from “Shaft”…

Lights, Camera… the Oscars! takes place Friday and Saturday, Jan. 20 and 21 at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St. in downtown Dayton. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29-79. For more information, please visit
DaytonPerformingArts.org.

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Morgan Laurens
Reach DCP freelance writer Morgan Laurens at MorganLaurens@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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