Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New York, New York: My Awards Body Blues

Look, can we talk for a minute about the Broadcast Film Critics Awards, aka the Critics Choice Movie Awards, aka the Pre-Oscars Oscar Show? I finally got around to watching this show, albeit on fast forward and only stopping for the speeches, and found little to be inspired by. My impression of the group as little more than Oscar-baiting wannabes could hardly be challenged by their straight-faced rewarding of The Help, a film that the critical community hardly heaped effusive and universal acclaim upon, with three statues (granted, all for well-commended acting, but still...) or the nominations to films like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Where Do We Go Now? Still, one category that you'd find trouble faulting was the rewarding of Martin Scorsese with the "music and film" award. Seemingly apropos of nothing, although in the same year that he won a prize for George Harrison: Living in the Material World, if you're going to award anybody for the way the integrate music with motion pictures then you could hardly find a worthier choice (at least amongst the narrow field of people this organisation would be willing to bequeath airtime to).

However, as I watched the pre-speech clip reel I couldn't help but be sorely disappointed that one of Scorsese's - and, it must be said, cinema in general - finest moments was omitted. The maligned 1977 musical New York, New York was given oh but the briefest of shots amongst the clips of The Aviator, Hugo, Gangs of New York and every other Scorsese film imaginable whether they had important, integral, culturally significant music selections or not. I admit to being far more favourable to the infamous New York, New York than most others, but then I routinely find myself on a different wavelength with Scorsese's pictures to most. Hell, I think his latest, the Parisian childhood adventure Hugo is Marty's best work since The Age of Innocence (give or take The Aviator) so I know most of y'all probably won't take my opinions on the man all too seriously. Still, even if you hate (or, as in the case with most people, haven't even seen) New York, New York how can one choose not to include it amongst a montage of the director's finest musical moments? Unless Bob Dylan decided to strum a few bars in his performance, which I obviously pressed the fast forward button on, then it was left out in the tribute, which had little context.

New York, New York starred Robert DeNiro and Judy Garland Liza Minnelli impersonating Judy Garland in a tale of lovers whose opposing musical directions take them into tragic territory. It's messy, sure, but agile and spirited with Minnelli giving a sort of brilliant performance. The artifice that Scorsese lacquers on is not too dissimilar to Steven Spielberg's recent War Horse, except here it's a director truly experimenting and daring himself to do something he's never done before. The big climax is a breathtaking rendition of (the original, might I add, but sadly ignored by the Academy's original song category) "Theme from New York, New York" by Minnelli. Written by the famous duo of John Kander and Fred Ebb, the song would go on to become one of the most famous songs in the world as versions by Minnelli and Frank Sinatra both became standards.

So why the ignoring of it, one of the most definitive pop cultural moments that Scorsese has ever been involved with, in a package that was supposed to be so specifically tuned to his achievements at blending cinema with music. Were the BCFA's shoes wanting to stray? As critics, they should know well and good not to base opinion of a film on what was spoken about it at time of release. Granted, New York, New York leans much closer to the feminine side of Scorsese's filmography alongside Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, The Age of Innocence and The Aviator, but even the most manly of men can get a bit damp in the eye and dry in the throat over Liza's song so it's exclusion can hardly be put down to "it's a bit too gay" or whatever reductive thought could come from such detours of the brain. I mean, hear and see the crowd's reaction in this live performance (I assume at the opening ceremony of the Olympics? I'm not too sure) to see what I mean.

Basically, the BFCA are awful and pander to the general consensus both in their awards and in their summation of this man's career. That I know of a few members who are smart, unique and erudite means little when the end results speak as beige as they do. I obviously think you could do far worse than watch New York, New York (must watch the extended version featuring the infamous "Happy Endings" sequence), but I know it's place as a famous flop does little to encourage, especially when a critics organisation can't even be bothered remembering it (oh, but Daniel Day-Lewis tapping his glass eye in Gangs of New York? So music oriented!!) Oh well. They can keep their Bob Dylan as long as I get Liza. Fair trade, I say.

Don't toast the BFCA, Kirsten. They forgot about you, too!

1 comment:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

You're ire is understandable, I hate that New York / New York is retrospectively maligned and even Scorsese "fans" refuse to see it because they "heard it's no good" which, of course, goes to show little fans of it they are.

And, the extended version of Happy Endings is AMAZING, tis a shame Liza couldn't get an Oscar nod for this, I think I might like it even more than her stellar work in Cabaret.