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The Oscars Were Alive with the Sound of Music
February 23, 2015  | By David Bianculli  | 3 comments

Most nights at the Oscars, the musical numbers performed live are instantly forgettable. This year, they not only deserved their place in the show – they helped make the show…

And I’m not talking about Sunday’s opening song by Neil Patrick Harris. That high-tech, tongue-twisting, Hollywood-savvy number was wonderful – but by now, given Harris’ stellar track record as awards show host on TV, that’s almost expected.

No, I’m talking about three musical performances in particular – each of which, in its own way, was impressive emotional, and unusually memorable.

Tim McGraw. Glen Campbell, who performed and co-wrote (with producer Julian Raymond) “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” for the biographical documentary Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me, was unable to appear at the Oscars due to his deteriorating health from Alzheimer’s disease. Campbell’s wife, Kim, asked McGraw to appear in his place, and she and the Campbells’ daughter Ashley watched as part of the black-tie crowd as McGraw performed, flawlessly and poignantly.

The song, written by Campbell when he was in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s, was about the only “good” aspect of having contracted the disease: that his family’s pain of watching him deteriorate and lose his memory would not be shared equally by him. McGraw sang the number without any ornamentation, and without even accompanying himself on guitar. He just sang, so the focus was on the lyrics. What a sad, loving moment it was.

John Legend and Common. The cast and crew of Selma didn’t get much love from the Oscars in this year’s nominations, but they certainly got it from the staging, and reception, of the song that did capture a nomination: “Glory,” written by John Legend and Common.

The two men performed the song intensely and perfectly, eventually backed by a choir of singers who performed their parts with just as much emotion. The hope – and demand – for racial equality, framed anew in this globally televised setting, made Selma star David Oyelowo weep openly. And he wasn’t the only one, in the theater or watching at home.

Moments after they performed, Legend and Common and “Glory” won the Oscar, and more glory, for Original Song. Their acceptance speech also framed the events of Selma against modern injustices, and, again, fit the occasion superbly.

Lady Gaga. We know already that Lady Gaga, no matter how much she likes to dress outrageously, has a deep old-fashioned streak as well – hosting a network TV Thanksgiving special, recording a set of standards with Tony Bennett.

But here, to honor the golden anniversary of the movie musical The Sound of Music, Lady Gaga dove all in – and played the part of a Broadway-style vocal superstar like it was a role she had embraced for a major motion picture. She looked the part, she acted the part – and working her way through a challenging medley of  “The Sound of Music,” “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” boy, did she sound the part. If she’s looking for movie and TV musical roles in the future, she just nailed the world’s most high-profile audition.

And then, when she was through, original Sound of Music star Julie Andrews came out to embrace her and offer her approval, thanks and unofficial benediction. Another unforgettable moment, capping another unexpectedly powerful musical number.

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Tats aside, Lady Gaga was a revelation with her excellent performance. NPH is a talented song and dance man, no argument there, but his shtick was not funny. I like my Oscars host to be an edgy comedian/comedienne with a decidedly offensive point of view to counteract the inherent blandness of the show. I dislike entertainers using the Oscars platform for their unsolicited political rants.
Feb 24, 2015   |  Reply
Being the old fart that I am,it was distracting to see Gaga's tatoos. That trumpet tat-since it has a mute,a tribute to Miles Davis? Herb Alpert? I think many an OF like me,who could actually stay up till well after 11PM EST to see this,discovered that the chops she displays with Tony Bennett are for real. She's no fluke;it's just the material she chooses is so banal. And unfortunately when even tackling standards, The Sound of Music always seemed like Richard Rogers Lite,except for My Favorite Things. Just being an OF...are you still on my lawn?
Feb 24, 2015   |  Reply
Amen to that.
Feb 23, 2015   |  Reply
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