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C E L E B R AT I N G M U S I C I N C I N E M A FEBRUARY 24, 2021 | OSCAR PREVIEW

ANDRA DAY JANELLE MONÁE RASHIDA JONES SPIKE LEE & TERENCE BLANCHARD

LESLIE ODOM JR.

Commands a new stage as Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami PLUS OSCAR’S 20 BEST MUSICAL MOMENTS

D E A D L I N E .CO M


INCLUDING

BEST PICTURE BEST DIRECTOR

BEST ACTOR

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

DAVID FINCHER

GARY OLDMAN

AMANDA SEYFRIED

6

G O L D E N G L O B E®

B E ST P BEST DIRECTOR DAVID FINCHER

(DRAMA)

12

C R I T I C S ’ C H O I C E AWA R D N O M I N AT I O N S

BEST ACTOR GARY

“THE BEST PICTU “ACTED TO PERFECTION BY GARY OLDMAN AND AMANDA SEYFRIED.” ABC NEWS

“THIS GLAMOROUS, GLORIOUS TRIP BACK IN TIME TO HOLLYWOOD PAST IS

PURE MOVIE MAGIC ABOUT MOVIE MAGIC.” AFI


N O M I N A T I O N S

ICTURE OLDMAN

(DRAMA)

INCLUDING

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS AMANDA SEYFRIED

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARD NOMINEE ®

BEST ACTOR GARY OLDMAN

RE OF THE YEAR.” AWARDS DAILY


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6

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARD NOMINATIONS

CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARD NOMINATIONS

®

INCLUDING

INCLUDING

BEST PICTURE

OUTSTANDING CAST

BEST DIRECTOR - SPIKE LEE

NOMINEE

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR CHADWICK BOSEMAN

WINNER

NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW AWARDS

T H E S O C I E T Y O F CO M P O S E R S & LY R I C I S T S

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A STUDIO FILM

WINNER

T H E S O C I E T Y O F CO M P O S E R S & LY R I C I S T S

SPIRIT OF COLLABORATION AWARD

INCLUDING

TERENCE BLANCHARD

BEST PICTURE BEST DIRECTOR - SPIKE LEE

(HONOR)

TERENCE BLANCHARD AND SPIKE LEE

“ THE BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR.“ “+++++

SPIKE LEE HITS A NEW CAREER PEAK. He has made more than a SOUL-STIRRING film for our time. He’s made one for the ages.”

“A lush and booming score by SPIKE LEE’S

LONGTIME COLLABORATOR TERENCE BLANCHARD.” F O R

WRITTEN BY

Y O U R

C O N S I D E R A T I O N

DANNY BILSON & PAUL DEMEO AND KEVIN WILLMOTT & SPIKE LEE

DIRECTED BY

SPIKE LEE

FILM.NETFLIXAWARDS.COM


6-30

42

Janelle Monáe turns tables with her song demanding change

48

FIRST TAKE How Andra Day embodied her idol in The United States vs. Billie Holiday

The Shape of the Race: A guide to the Academy’s shortlists On My Screen: On the Rocks’ Rashida Jones’s film and karaoke hits

32

ON THE COVER Leslie Odom Jr. tracks his life and career trajectory from Hamilton to legendary singer Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami

OSCAR’S 20 BEST Rolling Stone’s Noel Murray picks the greatest hits of the Academy stage

THE PARTNERSHIP Spike Lee and his longtime collaborator Terence Blanchard dig into their directorcomposer relationship ON THE COVER Leslie Odom Jr. photographed exclusively for Deadline by Josh Telles. Styling by Avo Yermagyan, hair by Anittria Wicker, grooming by Eliven Quiros, clothing by BOSS ON THIS PAGE Janelle Monáe photographed by Billy Moon


B E S T D O C U M E N TA RY N O M I N E E F I L M

I N D E P E N D E N T

S P I R I T

A W A R D S

FROM EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AND MICHELLE OBAMA

DIRECTED BY

NICOLE NEWNHAM AND JIM L EBRECHT

“EXTRAORDINARY. MOVING AND PASSIONATE. THE SIMPLEST SCENES ARE CHARGED WITH A SENSE OF HISTORY IN THE MAKING.” , JUSTIN CHANG

“A FREEWHEELING , UNINHIBITED , LIVELY AND SPIRITED FILM.” FILM.NETFLIXAWARDS.COM


p. 14

| The shape of the race p. 20 | Rashida Jones’ onscreen favorites p. 28

On Holiday How singer Andra Day turned lead actress to pay homage to her much-loved icon in The United States vs. Billie Holiday BY STEVIE WONG

6

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

COU RT ESY OF PARAM OU N T P I CT UR ES / H U LU/E P K .T V

Janelle Monáe turns the tables


“THE BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR” U S W E E K LY

BEST PICTURE B E S T AC T R E S S C A R E Y M U L L I G A N

BEST DIRECTOR

4

GOLDEN GLOBE

®

AWARDS NOMINATIONS INCLUDING

BEST PICTURE BEST ACTRESS

DRAMA

CAREY MULLIGAN

BEST DIRECTOR

©HFPA

INCLUDING

DRAMA

6

CRITICS CHOICE AWARDS NOMINATIONS

“Dari n gl y dir ec ted by Em e r a l d Fe nne l l a nd fe r o ci o us ly perf ormed by a n al l - ti me gr eat Car ey Mu l l i g a n, t hi s u l t r a -m o d e r n f a ble is s eductive, br uis i ng a nd u tte r l y i nt o x i ca t i ng ” TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

WRITERS GUILD AWARDS NOMINEE

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY EMERALD FENNELL

WINNER BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR San Diego Film Critics Society Music City Film Critics’ Association Columbus Film Critics Association Sunset Circle Awards Kansas City Film Critics Circle

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS NOMINEE

OU T S TA N D I N G AC T R E S S CAREY MULLIGAN

© 1995 SAG-AFTRA

®

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION IN ALL CATEGORIES INCLUDING

BEST PICTURE BEST ACTRESS CAREY MULLIGAN

BEST DIRECTOR EMERALD FENNELL

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY EMERALD FENNELL

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY EMERALD FENNELL Sign up at FocusInsider.com for exclusive access to early screenings, film premieres and more. For more on this film, go to https://focusfeaturesguilds2020.com/promising-young-woman/conversations.

SOUNDTRACK AVAILABLE ON CAPITOL RECORDS

© 2021 FOCUS FEATURES LLC


DOOMED AFFAIR Andra Day as Billie Holiday with Trevante Rhodes as undercover Federal agent Jimmy Fletcher.

It’s a performance that we almost

convince him, like, ‘I’m so glad to meet

that the film would be talking about the

as a distinct voice of the 21st century,

government going after her for singing

Andra was faced with the challenge of

‘Strange Fruit’, it was very incentivizing

how to approach an artist that is not

that we would have an opportunity

only one of a kind, but someone whom

to vindicate her legacy, and the world

she idolized deeply. “I did not want to

would have an opportunity get to know

do this movie without doing her voice,”

her as the godmother of civil rights. So, it

admits Day, “because I look at her voice

was a powerful moment and revelation

as a scroll and on it is written all of her

for me.”

experiences, every hit from a man, every

Day, born Cassandra Monique

time she slammed heroin, every time

Batie, has lived with the music of Billie

she stood up against the government

Holiday for a very long time. When she

when they came after her for sing-

was 11, she was introduced to the songs

ing ‘Strange Fruit’, every drag from a

“Sugar” and “Strange Fruit”. Upon first

cigarette. Her voice is just as much her

listening to “Sugar”, Day’s immediate

personality and character as she is, and

reaction was, “Her voice sounds nothing

so singing the songs was not just about

like Whitney. What is this?” But it was

emulating her, it was interpreting her, to

the second song that left a deeper

tune in on where her voice comes from.”

impression with the young girl. “All I knew

Achieving this took a slightly off-kilter

was that whatever I was listening to was

effort for Day. “Vocally, she sits in a

extremely powerful and I could hear the

higher place than mine,” she explains.

sacrifice. I was like, ‘Wow, she’s giving up

“But it sort of has to travel through all

something.’ It wasn’t until I was about 18

of this gravel in order to get out. I tried

when I started to dive into who she is.”

to pay attention to every single subtle

She was so influenced by the jazz

cue about her voice, and also just

didn’t get the chance to see. When

you, but make sure you just get the right

legend that, when it was time to choose

stopped taking care of my vocal chords

director Lee Daniels met up with the

person and do what you need to do.’”

a stage name, Andra added ‘Day’ as a

the way I would as a singer. No drinking

tribute to Holiday’s nickname Lady Day.

tea, just drinking cold gin and being

two-time Grammy nominated Day, the

But that conversation was preceded,

two actually bonded over the fact that

on Day’s part, by a deep dive into Billie

And as Andra Day, the singer quickly rose

out in the cold and smoking cigarettes

neither of them thought she would be a

Holiday’s life, leading the director to

to fame with her distinct, soulful, bluesy

and laughing and yelling. I do not

good fit for this role of a lifetime.

realize the extremely knowledgeable

voice, highlighted in the smash Grammy

recommend it.”

talent he had on his hands. For Day, it

nominated single “Rise Up”, which has

her, she’s not an actress,’” recalls Day.

was the angle of this story that really

garnered many millions of streams since

seeped into her performance, further

“And I had a horrible idea that I would be

made her reconsider her desire to take

its 2015 release.

research into the tumultuous history

a stain on her legacy. So, I was trying to

on the role of Holiday. “Once I realized

“He’s like, ‘I don’t want to work with

8

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Having already established herself

But as the vocal cues of Lady Day

of the singer would make its way to the

COU RT ESY OF PARA M OU NT P ICTU RES /H U LU/E P K .T V

IT WAS LESS THAN A WEEK INTO FILMING THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY WHEN ANDRA DAY FOUND HERSELF ON SET SINGING “STRANGE FRUIT” IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE FILLED WITH EXTRAS. THEY WERE PLAYING POLICE WAITING TO ARREST THE SINGER FOR UTTERING EVEN A WORD OF HER POLITICALLY CHARGED AND, AT THE TIME, BANNED SONG. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, why would they set me up like this?’” she laughs. “It’s like they don’t want me to be successful, because this should be the last week. I think the nerves helped to affect me because I’m sure [Holiday] would have been nervous singing ‘Strange Fruit’, knowing that all those police were back there. I just had a brand-new respect for actors, marinating in all that trauma and familial pain. Honestly, I was really transformed by it.”


FO R

YO U R

C O N S I D E R AT I O N

I N

A L L

C AT E G O R I E S

I N C L U D I N G

BEST PICTURE BEST ORIGINAL SONG “WUHAN FLU” WRITTEN BY

ERRAN BARON COHEN • SACHA BARON COHEN • ANTHONY HINES


NO JUSTICE In court, with Fletcher (Rhodes) and antidrug campaigning official Harry Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund) looking on.

“I think Billie Holiday wanted to be loved,” she says. “I think she also wanted to be loved a certain way and it had a

that stuff, allowing our spirits to sort of

changed her life. “There are things that

co-mingle. Honestly, I was just praying

I’m still trying to recover from, but I

my way through it.”

would never have done it any other way.

Some days on set, the performances

lot to do with familiarity. It was this idea

led to private conversations with her

of her getting beat up, or her husband

idol. “I had been in her headspace for so

punching her in the face or knocking

long,” says Day. “I felt so inhabited by her,

her out cold as more familiar and more

by the spirit of God just bringing me into

comfortable than her being vulnerable

this place. And it was so many moments

completely with a man. I feel like in her

where even in my own head, I’d have to

mind, she reasons, ‘Great, I’ll get hit in

stop and be like, ‘OK, Lady Day, where

the eye, but that’ll heal in whatever time

the fuck are we at? What’s going on?’ I’d

it’ll heal. Heartbreak, that could last what

have to talk to her. It was honestly a total

feels like forever.’”

out-of-body experience to the point

The experience also brought to the surface some personal memories that Day had to confront. “Singing her, it was

where I still feel a little bit like I am trying to establish who I am in this season.” The intense immersion has paid off

I TRIED TO PAY ATTENTION TO EVERY SINGLE SUBTLE CUE ABOUT HER VOICE, AND ALSO JUST STOPPED TAKING CARE OF MY VOCAL CHORDS THE WAY I WOULD AS A SINGER.”

I would do it exactly the same. It was three years of being in her headspace. It feels so fulfilling and gratifying to be a part of the conversation… especially for me to tell the story of a woman I love so deeply. People can finally say, ‘Oh, wow, she was actually the godmother of Civil Rights. She wasn’t just a tragic drug addict or a troubled singer; she was fighting for us.” As Day looks forward to returning to the studio to record a new album, Billie Holiday continues to inspire the artist in her songwriting. “Her DNA definitely

remembering all of that feeling in my

in droves. Day sits in the space of Billie

body as a Black woman, with the pain

Holiday with such ease that there is a

of lynching, or knowing my own family

lot of Academy talk in the Best Actress

tired of y’all shit,’ but it’s also very honest

members have had crosses burned in

category. Though that seems to be the

and it’s vulnerable and just a little edgier.

their yards, how I’ve been turned away

last thing on her mind. “I’ll tell you, there

A little less apologetic.”

from being served at a gas station,

was an ending scene when we were

and this need to prove a point or to be

singing ‘All of Me’ and Lee says, ‘I need

single, “Tigress & Tweed”, namechecks

defiant to this kind of system. It was the

you to get rid of Billie. I want this to be

“Strange Fruit” and is featured as the

breakdown of my own family unit, my

Andra Day giving an homage to Billie.’

end track to the movie. “I am so grateful

addiction to men in my early twen-

And I say OK. But when I start trying

for that song. It’s literally my favorite

ties and then my shortcomings that I

it, I start crying. It was an emotional

thing I’ve ever written in my life,” Day

inflicted on other people, as well as on

moment. And I realized in that moment I

says. “It feels very, very full circle because

me. That shell of everything that was her

had no idea who I fucking was.”

a huge part of what I am this season is

reminded me of my own experiences with trauma. It was informing all of

10

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Taking a quiet moment, Day opens up on how the whole experience has

—ANDRA DAY

made it onto the new record,” says Day. “It definitely is a little more of, ‘OK, I’m

So much so that her new

Billie Holiday. I’m grateful to be able to sit here and say that.” ★

COU RT ESY OF PARAM OU N T P I CT UR ES / H U LU/E P K .T V

surface, too.


“LESLIE ODOM JR.’S VOICE AND LYRICS SERVE AS A SALVE AS WELL AS A CALL TO ACTION DURING CONTENTIOUS TIMES” “THE BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR” “IMPECCABLY CRAFTED ON EVERY LEVEL”

WINNER

2020 TOP TEN

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION In All Categories Including

BEST PICTURE BEST ORIGINAL SONG “SPEAK NOW” MUSIC AND LYRICS BY LESLIE ODOM JR. & SAM ASHWORTH


CHARTED TERRITORY

Fog of War

DP Newton Thomas Sigel brings visual expression to psychological wounds with Cherry ON JOE AND ANTHONY RUSSO’S CHERRY, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel zeroed in on a singular character going through a series of life-altering experiences, and found inventive ways to express what it’s like to grapple with everything from young love to PTSD. Based on a novel by Nico Walker, the drama centers on Cherry (Tom Holland), a college student seeking purpose in his life, who enlists as a medic in the Iraq War. Upon returning home, he’s crippled by PTSD, and develops a drug addiction, falls into debt and turns to bank robbery to make ends meet. When Sigel set out on the “timely and poetic” project, he knew it called for an impressionistic aesthetic. His task, though, was to break it down into uniquely stylized chapters, ranging in description from “magical realism”, to “farce”, to “human drama”. While the entire film was shot on the Sony VENICE at 6K, each of its movements was filtered through a different set of lenses, which spoke to contrasting emotional states. For Sigel, the joy of working on Cherry was that he was encouraged to be as bold as possible with every choice he made. The challenge, however, was to do so without compromising the weight of the piece. “It really is a character study, and is constantly demanding a uniqueness to its visual representation,” the DP says. “At the same time, the movie is incredibly powerful, and the last thing you want to do is diminish that with stylization.” —Matt Grobar

BEST PICTURE

ODDS

1

Nomadland

13/2

2

The Trial of the Chicago 7

15/2

3

Minari

8/1

4

One Night in Miami

17/2

5

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

9/1

6

Mank

21/2

7

Promising Young Woman

13/1

8

The Father

14/1

9

Da 5 Bloods

16/1

10

News of the World

18/1

SEOUL SEARCHING

into the life histories of Chung and star

Minari costume designer Susanna Song taps into her roots

albums. “It came at a perfect time,

Steven Yeun, and her own family photo because I wanted to go through my

On Minari, costume designer Susanna

immigrant family that moves to

own pilgrimage into my background,”

Song sought to honor fundamental

Arkansas in the ’80s, looking to secure

says Song. “That is inherited within my

truths of the Korean-American

their piece of the American Dream

blood. So, I had a duty to make sure

experience, while focusing on one

by setting up a farm. Given her own

that [my work] was true to the story,

specific version of it. Loosely based

heritage as a Korean American, Song

and not how Americans or the world

on writer/director Lee Isaac Chung’s

wouldn’t have to engage in internet

think these people should be dressed.”

childhood, the film centers on an

research in prep, and instead delved

—Matt Grobar

12

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

FARM LIFE The cast of Minari, which centers on a Korean-American family in Arkansas.

COU RT ESY OF A P P LE T V + /N E WTO N TH O M AS S I G E L/A24

At press time, here is how Gold Derby’s experts ranked the Oscar chances in the Best Picture race. Get up-to-date rankings and make your own predictions at GoldDerby.com


“IMMERSES YOU IN A NOISELESS WORLD –but it’s the star that makes it

SPEAK VOLUMES LOUDLY AND CLEARLY”

F O R Y O U R C O N S I D E R AT I O N I N A L L C AT E G O R I E S I N C L U D I N G

BEST PICTURE

BEST DIRECTOR

BEST ACTOR

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Darius Marder

Riz Ahmed

Paul Raci

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Screenplay by Darius Marder & Abraham Marder Story by Darius Marder & Derek Cianfrance

“Green” Written and Performed by Abraham Marder


“marching orders”. She was ready to work. “I knew where I could put my fear. I knew where I could put my hope. I knew where I could put my focus and it was in ‘Turntables’. I felt like we were in the middle of a turning point in this country. That is how I got back into the studio.” With just one week to write the song, the galvanized Monáe got together with her longtime Wondaland imprint partner, Nate Wonder. Watching the film, they had “a lot of emotions”, she says. “It was anger, there was a frustration. We cried watching a lot of Stacey’s parts of the story.” It especially hurt to watch Abrams recount being turned away from the Governor’s mansion as a teenager. As valedictorian of her high school, she had been invited to the home with her family, but as they got off the bus, the mansion’s security turned them away, believing they were not welcome. “The security guard just knew that this young, Black, smart little girl did not get invited to the Governor’s mansion, when she and her family did. Seeing them get off the bus and be turned away, that’s the kind of stuff that you really want to bring awareness to, that you want to fight. You want

ACTIVIST ARTIST “Turntables” singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe on the video set.

to help in whatever way you can to

Change of Record

but there were many people she

amplify the injustices that are done

wanted to take care of. “People in

to our people.”

Janelle Monáe’s shortlisted original song “Turntables” describes not only The Fight for Democracy, but her hope for a new America B Y A N T O N I A B LY T H overwhelming voter suppression

With a new dream, I’m kicking out the old regime, Liberation, elevation, education. The lyrics of Janelle Monáe’s Oscar shortlisted song, “Turntables”

In the studio, the song began

was trying to figure out how to deal

to take shape, with the help of a

with that and help them.” She also

choir. “We call them the Wondaland

launched her WondaLunch program,

Choir,” Monáe says. “You hear them

an initiative that both saves jobs and

throughout the song, because this

feeds people—just one of the many

song is rooted in community. This

threads of her activism work.

song is not about me. It’s not about

On top of the pandemic, the

being a Janelle Monáe song. This is

following her 2018 run for governor

political situation and the upcom-

about a community of people com-

of Georgia. Rapping about a “new

ing election weighed heavy. “You’re

ing together, using their strength to

dream”, Monáe speaks to the long-

thinking about this election and

turn things.”

sought turning of a societal and

you’re like, Are we really going to

political tide in this country.

have four more years of the Trump

The call came early on in the

administration, with so many lies

America, you’s a lie, But the whole world ‘bout to testify,

are a call for accountability flavored

pandemic. As an Abrams fan and

and so much campaigning going on

I said, the whole world ‘bout to testify,

with positive promise. Written for

a Georgia voter herself, Monáe had

to take the power out of the hands

And the tables ‘bout to,

the Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés-

previously offered to help Abrams

of the people? I was just trying to

Tables ‘bout to,

directed documentary about Geor-

in any way she could. But when the

figure out how I could get strong,

Turn, turn, turn.

gia political activist Stacey Abrams,

documentary team approached,

so I could really be there for other

All In: The Fight for Democracy,

Monáe was, she says, “not in a

people who I felt needed it.”

Monáe’s song aligns in every sense

healthy space mentally”. Not only

with Abrams’ single-minded refusal

were her tour dates disappearing

of All In: The Fight for Democracy,

to record, but it was a cathartic

to tolerate insidious, endemic and

and creative outlets shutting down,

she felt like she’d been issued her

experience for me, because America

14

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

But when she saw an early cut

“The lyric, ‘America, you’s a lie,’ wasn’t something that I was excited

COU RT ESY OF BI L LY M O ON

Got a new agenda,

my family were getting laid off and I


AMAZON

2NAACP

WINNER

IM AGE AWARDS®

ORIGINAL

MOVIE

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

NOMINATIONS

TOP 5 DOCUMENTARY

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY

NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW

SOCIALJUSTICE IMPACTAWARD STACEY ABRAMS

WGA AWARDS NOMINATION

BEST DOCUMENTARY SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY

JACK YOUNGELSON

NOMINEE

STACEY ABRAMS

2

HOLLYWOOD CRITICS ASSOCIATION

WINNER

BEST DOCUMENTARY

THE STANLEY KRAMER AWARD FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

BEST ORIGINAL SONG “TURNTABLES”

AFRICAN-AMERICAN FILM CRITICS ASSOC.

NOMINATIONS

WINNER

WINNER

WINNER

BEST DOCUMENTARY

BEST DOCUMENTARY

BEST DOCUMENTARY

NORTH DAKOTA FILM SOCIETY

ALLIANCE OF WOMEN FILM JOURNALISTS

NORTH TEXAS FILM CRITICS ASSN

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION IN ALL CATEGORIES INCLUDING

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE Directed by Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés Produced by Liz Garbus, Lisa Cortés, Stacey Abrams, Dan Cogan

BEST ORIGINAL SONG “Turntables” Written by Janelle Monáe, Nathaniel Irvin III, George “George 2.0.” A. Peters II “Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés’ illuminating documentary

TRACKS STACEY ABRAMS’ BATTLE AGAINST VOTER SUPPRESSION WITH SUCH PRECISION that it may as well have been made in the aftermath of the 2020 election to explain how things turned out the way they did”

“A POWER ANTHEM…the soulful, empowering song is a rallying cry for a revolution”


BATTLE CRY Stacey Abrams in All In: The Fight For Democracy

is my home,” she says. “This is the

saw the people speaking. We saw

oppressed and obscured history as

talk at least five times a week about

place that my ancestors helped

that it was their turn to talk and to

a nightmare reenactment of slavery

all the ways that we can tell these

build. This is the place that I’ve

be loud.”

bleeds into the present day.

radical and rebellious stories that

Growing up in Kansas City, KS,

With her strong drive from early

place that has not kept its promise

Monáe doesn’t remember a time

on to create societal commentary,

Black joy, and that allow us to see that

to marginalized folks in this country.

when music wasn’t vital. “Music has

does Monáe see a parallel with

spectrum of who we are.”

The American dream is not offered

been in my family for a long time,

Abrams? Even in college, Abrams

to everyone.”

back to my great, great, great, great,

called out for change, burning a

on the elevation and support she

great-grandparents,” she says. “My

Georgia state flag to protest its

can offer women. “One of my biggest

undeniable proof of that dream

great-grandmother, actually, is alive

Confederate emblem.

things with that is making sure that

being deliberately withheld. “I think

and she’s 94. She played the organ

“I definitely feel like Stacey and

the film, All In: The Fight for Democ-

better than I’ve ever heard it played

I are from the same family,” Monáe

who have to put the world on our

racy speaks truth to power,” she

before by anybody. It’s been a place

says. “I think we both grew up with

shoulders and save the world, if it’s in

says. “It talks about the real harsh

of happiness for us when we all get

working-class parents, and having

the election, or if it’s in politics, or if it’s

truth of voter suppression, and what

together. I’ve never known a life

folks in our family who we’ve had

just in organizing, I just want to make

it has done to Black and brown, poor

without music and I’ve never known

to really look after. It is our respon-

sure that we create music for them

folks in this country for so many

a life without storytelling.”

sibility to look after our communi-

that really gives them joy. I think that’s

ties. I think we both feel a bigger

very important.”

And the documentary provides

decades… when the whole world got

And Monáe’s music has con-

center our Black icons, that center

Musically, she’s especially focused

women, specifically our Black women,

to testify, that was the people going

tinued that storytelling. From

purpose, like it’s bigger than us.

to the polls.”

the very start of her career, she

What we’re doing, it’s not about

documentary it was written for hav-

produced more than songs and

us getting the glory. It’s not about

ing made the Oscar shortlist, Monáe

has herself been previously gerry-

albums, creating fully fleshed-out

me getting shine, or her getting

may once again be bringing balance-

mandered—a practice that skews

conceptual experiences, with her

shine. It’s about shining light on the

redressing truth to the Academy

elections by manipulating district

alter-ego ‘android’ character Cindi

folks who, again, have been pushed

stage, just as Hidden Figures’ nomina-

boundaries and wrongfooting vot-

Mayweather representing a societal

to the margins of society. I can’t

tion and Moonlight’s Best Picture win

ers. And in 2017 alone, over 600,000

‘other’—her cartoon-esque pompa-

speak for her, but I feel as though,

did in 2017. During the 2020 awards

Georgia voter registrations were

dour hair, and tuxedo outfit, a ‘uni-

even if folks didn’t know our names,

show’s opening number, Monáe sang,

simply cancelled—an action over-

form’ that referenced the clothes

we would still be doing this work in

“It’s time to come alive, because the

seen by the secretary of state, Brian

she grew up watching her family

some other way.”

Oscars is so white.”

Kemp, who also happened to be

wear to their service industry and

the Republican incumbent running

blue-collar jobs.

As a resident of Georgia, Monáe

for governor against the Demo-

She is, of course, also a story-

Now, with both her song and the

As she danced down into the audiIt’s a boomerang booming back,

ence that night, to stand among the

You laid the egg now it’s ‘bout

rows of famous faces, she declared a

crat Abrams. When people were

teller in a more literal format: act-

to hatch,

given the opportunity to vote for

ing. Her onscreen roles have often

You gaslight and ‘bout to meet

celebration of all the women directors,

their chosen governor, they found

depicted the erasure of Black sto-

your match,

machines were often out of order or

ries, and revealed previously untold

You fuck up the kitchen, then you

how does she feel to be back in the

reduced to a pitifully low number.

narratives. In Hidden Figures, she

should do the dishes.

Academy conversation once again,

And yet, despite all of this, the

played a real-life mathematician

and said, “I’m so proud to stand here as a Black queer artist.” Now, this year,

with a song that addresses the very

people of Georgia refused to be

whose key participation at NASA

cowed. “We saw them exercising

had been entirely written out of

more visuals, more music, more con-

their power as they stood in those

history, and in Moonlight she nur-

cepts. “I’m really interested in putting

long lines,” Monáe says. “We saw

tured a young Black man ostracized

more stories of Black joy on screen,”

and what this song represents to be

Georgia turn blue. We saw us put in

for his sexuality. In her most recent

she says. “I have a company that’s

amplified to as many people as pos-

office our first Black and Indian vice

film, Antebellum, her character’s

been quietly developing lots of proj-

sible,” she says. “We cannot let up off

president, in Kamala [Harris]. We

arc addresses the fallout of an

ects called Wondaland Pictures. We

the gas.” ★

16

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Right now, Monáe is brewing up

core of underrepresentation and marginalization: the theft of democracy? “I want the message in this film

COU RT ESY OF A M AZO N ST U D I OS

known my entire life. This is also a


FOR YOUR CONSIDER ATION

B E S T D O C U M E N TA R Y F E AT U R E

The young men SHED TEARS, SHARE HUGS and OVERCOME their differences to unite in a shared goal. It is both a terrifying study of how far politicians will go to win and a moving portrait of what AMERICA CAN BE AT ITS BEST.”

DIRECTED BY AMANDA

MCBAINE AND JESSE MOSS


NEWS OF THE WORLD

MANK

The Shape of the Race WHAT DID THE ACADEMY’S SHORTLIST ANNOUNCEMENTS OF FEBRUARY 9 DO TO UNWIND THE ROAD TO OSCAR?

TENET

Best Original Score

be a frontrunner to win. AMPAS voters

for his 16th nomination—13 of them in

Passion of The Christ) seem unlikely to

If you are expecting one of the year’s

love to reward scores in movies that

this category where he is almost always

overcome the crunch and crack the

outstanding achievements in music to

are actually about music. And Reznor

nominated on nearly a yearly basis. After

top five with, respectively, either the

be among the nominees for Best Music

and Ross’s gorgeous score for David

losing for perhaps his greatest score,

lesser-seen Ammonite or Jingle Jangle:

(Original Score) at the 93rd Annual

Fincher’s Mank is a glorious tribute to

1917, last year, there will no doubt be

A Christmas Journey. And it seems

Academy Awards, think again. Argu-

the golden age of Hollywood. It has a

sentiment to put him in the mix again,

unlikely, no matter the unquestionable

ably, the most musical of contenders

shot at giving the prodigious pair two

even though his chances of victory in

quality of their work, that a quintet of

is Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom—thanks

nominations in the category.

2021 with The Little Things seem slim

never-nominated composers—Lolita

against the potential competition.

Ritmanis (Blizzard of Souls), Benjamin

Staying on a jazz riff, Spike Lee’s

Branford Marsalis—and it has been ruled

musical maven on so many of his

ineligible, because apparently, it didn’t

films, the great Terence Blanchard,

one of those five nomination slots

Mosseri (Minari), Daniel Pemberton

make the 60% threshold of original

finally landed his first ever nomination

include three past winners looking for

(The Trial of the Chicago 7), and Harry

music to qualify. It might have even won

a couple of years ago for Lee’s

a repeat at the gold: Alexandre Desplat

Gregson-Williams (Mulan)—will be

otherwise. However, there certainly are

BlacKkKlansman. He falls into the

(The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Shape

able to crack the code this year either.

a lot of worthy scores that did qualify.

overdue category, and his peers just

of Water) with a sweeping score for The

Let’s take a look at the playing field.

might recognize that with this latest, Da

Midnight Sky; Gabriel Yared (The English

shortlist this year, and her score for

5 Bloods.

Patient), with the lilting The Life Ahead;

Latvia’s International Film entry (it

One of two possible nominations for the Oscar-winning team of Trent

Wallfisch (The Invisible Man), Emile

Ritmanis is the only woman on the

and Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther)

didn’t make the cut there) was truly

Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social

bridesmaid, with five nominations in

with Tenet. These three are formidable,

impressive. And Gregson-Williams, a

Network) is Soul. The combination of

this category alone, James Newton

with Desplat maybe having the best

true veteran, has incredibly never been

their dramatic score, coupled with Jon

Howard has provided News of the World,

chance of the trio to make the finals,

nominated. Who knows? First time

Batiste’s jazz work on the Pixar/Disney

the Paul Greengrass Western, with per-

having mastered a challenging score

was the charm last year (as Thomas

’toon, made the cut because at the end

haps his finest score ever. A genuinely

for an epic that traverses the Arctic and

Newman well knows) for Joker’s

of the day, both elements are all original,

masterful work.

outer space.

Hildur Guðnadóttir, who also became

even if the two sides did not work

And speaking of an overdue Oscar

The other finalists with an eye for

Howard, however, will likely be

Past one-time nominees Dustin

the first woman ever to win in this

together or individually achieve 60%

competing in finals against the even

O’Halloran and Volker Bertlemann

category. Hope truly springs eternal.

of the entire score on their own. It may

more overdue Thomas Newman, aiming

(Lion) and veteran John Debney (The

—Pete Hammond

20

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

COU RT ESY OF N E T FL I X /U N I VE RSS L P I CT U RES /WAR N E R BROS .

specifically to the great jazz stylings of


JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Best Original Song

of the same name—though he shares

SOUND OF METAL

There’s also Leslie Odom Jr., whose

shortlisted contender is “Green”,

writing credit here with three others—

work as Sam Cooke in Regina King’s

written by Abraham Marder from

pop, rock and rap artists win in this

and “Make It Work” from Jingle Jangle: A

One Night in Miami is hotly touted for

Sound of Metal. It was not expected,

category, especially since they also

Christmas Journey.

a Supporting Actor nomination, and

but it is the perfect example of a song

whose original song, “Speak Now”, that

that carries forth themes of the movie for which it is written.

Recent years have seen well-known

sing their own tunes and that certainly

High profile competition comes

seems to help. The Academy itself

from a number of other popular

he co-wrote and sings, could make him

doesn’t mind this, since the Original

musical artists, including Janelle

a double nominee.

Song nominees can bring a lot of star

Monáe, who co-wrote and performs

Add to that impressive showing,

power—and ratings—to the Oscarcast

the exciting “Turntables” from one of

British soul singer Celeste, who joined

gimmicky tunes. Will Ferrell could find

when those nominees perform their

four documentary contenders on the

with Daniel Pemberton to write the

himself on the Oscar stage singing

own creations on the awards show’s

shortlist, All In: The Fight for Democracy,

powerful and stirring end credit song

“Husavik”, a parody from the Netflix

shining stage.

the doc that details Stacey Abrams’

“Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the

comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The

fight to stop voter suppression,

Chicago 7. It had audiences standing

Story of Fire Saga; and, if nominated,

for the second time. The year before

particularly in her home state of

and cheering at the highly emotional

I just can’t wait to see Sacha Baron

that, Lady Gaga won. John Legend,

Georgia. The ultimate success of that

conclusion of that film and could grab

Cohen croon his “Wuhan Flu”, credited

Common, Sam Smith, Adele, Bruce

drive could help this song go a long way

voters as well.

to nine writers, from the movie Borat

Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Lionel Richie,

as well.

Last year, Elton John took the gold

Melissa Etheridge, Annie Lennox,

Monáe may be joined on the Oscar

Another documentary not as high profile as the others, Mr. Soul!,

Also notable in this collection of semi-finalists are two fun and

Subsequent Moviefilm—a song likely to give ABC censors a heart attack. Finally, no list of Oscar-contending

Eminem, Phil Collins, Carly Simon and

stage by H.E.R., who co-wrote and

about the first Black talk show host,

Stevie Wonder: these are just the ones

sings the powerful anthem “Fight For

has an underdog song entry, “Show

songs would be complete without

who hit the winners circle. Many more

You” from Judas and the Black Messiah;

Me Your Soul” from potential first-

an entry from 11-time nominated

have been nominated.

and/or Mary J. Blige, who co-wrote and

time nominees Robert Glasper and

bridesmaid Diane Warren, who actually

performs “See What You’ve Done”—a

Muhammad Ayers.

has two good chances to break that

The shortlist of 15 songs, from which the final five nominees will be selected,

song from perhaps the lowest profile

Other hopefuls include Emile

dubious losing streak with the spirited

spotlights the trend of chart-topping

of the potential nominees, Belly of the

Mosseri’s beautiful “Rain Song” from

“Free” from The One and Only Ivan and

singer/songwriters once again this year.

Beast, a small Independent Lens pro-

Minari, the story of a Korean-American

“Io Si (Seen)” from the Italian-language

John Legend, a past winner for “Glory”

duction that could bring Blige back to

family trying to start a new life on a

Sophia Loren-starrer The Life Ahead.

from Selma, is high in contention, with

the Oscars after her double nomination

farm in Arkansas, and “Loyal Brave True”

One or both are almost certain to put

two of the 15 songs shortlisted: “Giving

for acting and the original song “Mighty

from Disney’s live-action version of

Warren back in the running for that

Voice” from the Netflix documentary

River” for 2017’s Mudbound.

Mulan. And perhaps the other surprise

elusive Oscar. —Pete Hammond

22

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

COU RT ESY OF N E T FL I X /WA RN ER BROS ./A M AZON ST U D I OS

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA


“THE SUPERB ATMOSPHERIC SCORE by Thomas Newman leaves us as melancholy and haunted as the characters themselves.” FRESH FICTION Courtney Howard

“A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE ACHIEVEMENT.” Pete Hammond

F O R YO U R C O N S I D E R AT I O N I N A L L C AT E G O R I E S I N C L U D I N G

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE THOMAS NEWMAN

W W W. W B AWA R DS . COM


COLLECTIVE

CRIP CAMP

Best Documentary Feature

her father’s decline into dementia, has

Alexander Nanau (another film that

phenomenon which sees two docu-

The Oscar documentary feature

earned multiple pre-Oscar awards. The

foregrounds a crusading journalist),

mentaries in the International mix;

shortlist pits the two foremost

only question about its further success

and Chile’s The Mole Agent, by director

Chile’s charming The Mole Agent being

streaming platforms against each

is whether Doc Branch voters, generally

Maite Alberdi. They will try to equal

the other one. There have been some

other: Netflix vs. Amazon.

a conservative lot about filmmaking

what Honeyland achieved last year,

critiques in years past that putting a

techniques, will continue to favor a

earning a double nomination for Best

documentary up as the International

in recent years, winning the Academy

Netflix has dominated the category

film that experiments with the form

Documentary and Best International

Feature submission is tantamount to

Award in 2020 with American Factory

through dramatizations.

Film. —Matthew Carey

cannibalizing its chances (i.e., those

and in 2018 with Icarus. But this year,

Netflix’s The Social Dilemma, which

films have a better shot in the Doc

Best International Feature

Amazon, which had been slower than

inserted a fictional narrative within its

Netflix to embrace documentaries,

nonfiction framework, failed to make

demonstrated its clout with Time,

the shortlist. That was a snub, as was

Feature Film Oscar shortlist came with

submitted). Not the case this year—at

from director Garrett Bradley. The film,

the lack of shortlist love for the Netflix

few surprises when it was revealed

least at this stage—as both movies

about an African-American woman’s

titles Athlete A and Disclosure.

on February 9—the only notable one

made both shortlists.

The expanded International

category and take the place of another narrative feature that might have been

efforts to free her husband from a very

The unkindest cut came with

perhaps being that there were no glar-

long, and many would say, very unjust

the shortlist omission of A Thousand

ing snubs. Save for the last go-round, it

national shortlist was somewhat

prison sentence, made the Academy’s

Cuts. The film by Ramona Diaz, about

has almost become rote that a favored

pre-ordained with such titles as

shortlist and is a favorite for Oscar

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, who

title misses the cut. That’s why, several

Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round

gold this time around.

has dared to criticize her country’s

years ago, an Academy executive

out of Denmark and Andrei Koncha-

authoritarian president, shared

committee was brought in to add its

lovsky’s Dear Comrades! from Russia.

hat trick, keeping three of its films in

Best Documentary with Time at the

two cents for what have been referred

As well, two movies that (along with

contention: Crip Camp, Dick Johnson Is

Gotham Awards, and earned a PGA

to as “saves”. That was done away

Another Round) received Golden Globe

Dead and My Octopus Teacher.

nomination to boot.

with this year as the shortlist was

nominations—France’s Two of Us from

upped to 15 films from a previous 10.

Filippo Meneghetti and Guatemala’s

Netflix countered with a shortlist

Elsewhere, the rest of the Inter-

Crip Camp, about the origins of

Two other films about another

the disability rights movement and

heroic journalist, slain Saudi writer

a summer camp that inspired many

Jamal Khashoggi, The Dissident and

spurred the rule changes a while back

of the movement’s leaders, comes

Kingdom of Silence, also were muted.

was Romania’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and

from Higher Ground Productions,

The Dissident snub was especially

2 Days. After that, Cristian Mungiu

is a nice inclusion—and was recently

the company founded by former

surprising because it was directed by

made the 2012 shortlist with Beyond

acquired by Amazon for a series adap-

President Obama and Mrs. Obama.

Oscar winner Bryan Fogel, the man

the Hills, but the country, despite a

tation starring and produced by Nicole

Higher Ground is the defending Oscar

behind Icarus.

strong local industry, didn’t pop up

Kidman. Iran’s Sun Children, from Majid

again until this year. Alexander Nanau’s

Majidi is a title that itself brings hope

the nonfiction feature shortlist, but

Collective is on the current shortlist,

as it has spurred a movement within

the International Film shortlist too:

and it’s a documentary to boot.

the country to create schools for

champion, having boosted American Factory to victory. Dick Johnson Is Dead, director Kirsten Johnson’s personal story of

24

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Two documentaries not only made

Romania’s Collective, directed by

Funnily enough, the snub that

That brings up an interesting

La Llorona by Jayro Bustamante—were included on the Academy roster. Hope, from Norway’s Maria Sødahl,

street kids.

COU RT ESY OF N E T FL I X /M AG NO LI A P I CT U R ES

MY OCTOPUS TEACHER


“A GREAT AMERICAN EPIC. ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF RECENT YEARS.”

“ELECTRIFYING. A FRESH CINEMATIC RECKONING WITH HISTORY.”

JIM HEMPHILL,

JUSTIN CHANG,

WINNER

WINNER

WINNER

TOP 10

2020 TOP FILM

TOP 10 FILM

2

N O M I N AT I O N S INCLUDING

BEST ORIGINAL SONG “FIGHT FOR YOU”

BLACK FILM CRITICS CIRCLE

MOTION PICTURES OF THE YEAR

GOLDEN GLOBE

®

3CRITICS’ CHOICE N O M I N AT I O N S INCLUDING

BEST SONG “FIGHT FOR YOU”

WGA AWARD NOMINEE

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

BEST PICTURE BEST ORIGINAL SONG “FIGHT FOR YOU” WRITTEN BY

F O R

Y O U R

H.E.R., DERNST EMILE II AND TIARA THOMAS

C O N S I D E R A T I O N

PERFORMED BY

H.E.R.


THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Other titles in the mix include

A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA

some doors, and the International

family’s trajectory from Jim Crow-era

unlikely to topple If Anything Happens

veteran Agnieszka Holland’s Charlatan

Feature race this year continues to

Florida, all the way to Walt Disney

I Love You, from Will McCormack and

from the Czech Republic, Hong Kong

demonstrate the power of cinema

Concert Hall.

Michael Govier. Centered on a couple

box office smash Better Days ($227

in all its forms, no matter the prov-

million worldwide), Venice prize winner

enance. —Nancy Tartaglione

The Man Who Sold His Skin from Tunisia and Venice debut Quo Vadis, Aida? out of Bosnia. Neon, which scored big with last

Live Action, Documentary & Animated Short Films In the Oscars’ Short categories,

Following doctors combatting

consumed by terrible grief after losing

starvation in Yemen, 2019 Oscar

their daughter to a school shooting,

nominee Skye Fitzgerald’s

this stellar short managed to strike a

independently produced Hunger Ward

nerve globally, becoming the first of

is also generating heat.

its category to break into Netflix’s Top

In the Animated Short arena, com-

10 list.

year’s wins for Parasite, has Dear

a legion of independent filmmakers

pelling international titles are once

Comrades! as well as Philippe Lacôte’s

will face off against a handful of past

again prevalent, with entries from

features a strong international

shortlisted Night of the Kings, only

winners, backed by major distributors.

France, South Korea, Belgium, Iceland

presence. But what’s most notable in

and the U.K. making the cut.

its shortlist this year is the presence of

the third entry ever from Ivory Coast.

This year, the category most domi-

Netflix also did well with Mexico’s

nated by those with deep pockets is

lauded I’m No Longer Here from

Documentary Short.

Fernando Frias and Taiwan’s A Sun

The shortlist set up is a probable

Perhaps the most likely to notch up a nomination amongst these films

Like Animation, Live Action Short

an icon. Backed by Sony Pictures Classics,

is The Snail and the Whale, from direc-

The Human Voice is all but certain to lock in a nomination. With his

from Chung Mong-Hong, a well-

contest between Netflix and The New

tors Max Lang and Daniel Snaddon.

reviewed family drama that debuted in

York Times’ Op-Docs series, which

While Lang has earned two Oscar

first English-language film, star-

Toronto 2019.

together claimed five of 10 slots.

nominations in the past, for adapta-

ring Tilda Swinton, Spanish auteur

tions of Julia Donaldon’s children’s

Pedro Almodóvar finds himself vying

films started their careers in 2019

Indeed, many of the shortlisted

nomination, it would likely be for A

books, his latest is by far his most

against two Student Academy Award

or early 2020, and there has been a

Love Song for Latasha, which medi-

ambitious to date.

winners, Karishma Dube (Bittu) and

consensus among filmmakers we’ve

tates on the murder of 15-year-old

spoken with that while they lament

Latasha Harland in 1991, and the riots

short may be no match when pitted

not having had as much in-person face

it unleashed in LA.

against Netflix and Pixar’s offerings.

time with audiences, the pandemic

If Netflix were to secure just one

Anthony Nti (Da Yie), among other up-and-comers. Oscars voting begins on March 5,

Grabbing up two shortlist slots,

with the nominations announcement

in a way has made the campaign trail

its greatest shot in A Concerto is a

Pixar’s lead contender is Steven Clay

following on the 15th. But to see if any

more democratic, and even perhaps

Conversation. Co-directed by Ben

Hunter’s Out, which made history as

greener talents manage to win out at

given more light to films that can

Proudfoot, the short marks the

the studio’s first film centered on an

the 93rd Academy Awards, we’ll have

sometimes be overlooked. Having said

directorial debut of Emmy-nominated

openly gay lead character.

to wait for the broadcast scheduled

that, Parasite certainly broke down

composer Kris Bowers, who charts his

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

The Times, meanwhile, finds

Ultimately though, this charming

But even the Disney subsidiary is

for April 25. —Matt Grobar

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On My Screen: Rashida Jones

The On the Rocks star on her favorite film and television memories, guilty pleasures and karaoke hits BY ANTONIA BLYT H

TV hits like The Office, Parks and Recreation and Angie Tribeca, writing skills that span everything from poignant indie film Celeste & Jesse Forever to Toy Story 4 and Black Mirror, her Grammy-winning documentary Quincy, and a singing career to boot, Jones is a true multi-hyphenate. Lately, she’s been back in the comedy series realm as the larger-than-life Joya in Kenya Barris’ show #BlackAF. And now there’s her lead role in Sofia Coppola’s feature On the Rocks. Jones plays Laura, a Manhattan novelist and mother of two, who finds herself second-guessing her husband (Marlon Wayans)’s commitment. Joining forces with her errant bon vivant father (Bill Murray), hijinks ensue. Jones cites this as the role closest to her real self, as she muses over some career highlights and favorite memories.

MY FIRST ACTING LESSON I think I learned over the course of time that gaining skill and experience should be the focal point and not gaining the notoriety that goes along with gaining that skill and experience. When I was maybe 26 or 27, I was in an acting class and I workshopped Lost in Translation with Sofia [Coppola]. It was one of those opportunities where there’s nothing at the end of the rainbow because I wasn’t going to get the job—it just wasn’t going to happen that way. But the process part of it was mine to enjoy and explore, and also just to be available to her as a director. I think having that cushion where you could experiment and work together with people in a way where the end result was not determining your experience really set me up to realize that process is everything.

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THE BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED I would say the one that’s guided me in the last couple of years is from Mike Nichols, who’s a dear family friend and a dear mentor to me. When I had the choice for [working in the industry] to even be a possibility, his whole motto was “no assholes”. So I don’t work with assholes. In acting, you take the jobs you get and you hope that everybody has the same idea about how work happens or whatever, but there are definitely some difficult people. Once I was writing and directing and producing and had more choice as actress, no assholes was my policy. THE PART I ALWAYS WANTED I think as I get older, my parts are getting juicier, and weirdly, my two favorite parts I’ve done were this year, On the Rocks and #BlackAF, because On the Rocks feels emotionally very tied to where I am at this moment, and in #BlackAF, I was morally questionable and gave no fucks. It was very fun to just be free with that kind of character. I do still think that there’s probably more of me that I don’t even know yet, but I would say I feel like I’m on par for the roles that I have wanted. Now, finally, this year. > Continued on p. 30.

A P P LE T V + /E V E RE T T CO LL ECT IO N /A P P H OTO

RASHIDA JONES HAS MORE THAN A FEW STRINGS TO HER BOW. Between roles in a slew of cult


THE FILMS THAT MAKE ME CRY The first film that made me cry was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It’s so stuck in my memory because I was with my parents and I really didn’t want them to know I was crying; I wanted to hold that in. I remember that very well. Then I was thinking about Will McCormack, who I wrote Celeste & Jesse with, he recently made an animated film on Netflix that has no words in it called, If Anything Happens I Love You. If you haven’t seen it and you feel like it’s time for a cry, just be ready. There’s literally a TikToK challenge where people watch it and they’re sobbing. It’s so heart-wrenching, but also delicate. It’s about school shootings, and it’s about grief and love and acceptance. It’s 12 minutes long and it’s a real sobber. MY TOUGHEST ROLE Probably Celeste & Jesse Forever. It’s a full existential breakdown of who she believed she was and what was working for her. I had to go there, and I haven’t had that many opportunities to go there. I had to be actor-y, wear headphones and not talk to people, and I’ve never done that before. That pain definitely came from a true place. I think it was this idea that you don’t even consider what the thing is that’s going to hurt you the most. Especially in your early 30s, you think you know everything and you’ve got it figured out and you’re good to go. Then shit happens and life happens, and then you’re fucked.

MY MOST TORTURED CO-STAR I do feel like on Parks and Recreation, Jerry/Gary is always the butt of the jokes. Unfortunately, we did torture Jim O’Heir. He’s just so good spirited that he let us do it. So still, in our texts, he’s the butt of the joke. Still when we post things, still when we talk about [the show], he is the butt of the joke and always will be. We did our 10-year reunion at the Paley Center and we took a selfie right before we went on, and I was about to post it and I was like, “Fucking Jerry! He wasn’t even in it!” I don’t know where he was, he just wasn’t in it. MY MOST QUOTED ROLE The don’t quote me, they quote Rob Lowe saying “Ann Perkins”. They just come up and point and say “Ann Perkins” and think they’re the first person who’s ever done it. People yell at me still about The Office, about coming in between Pam and Jim. Somebody got legitimately angry at me in the early days when the show was still on, yelling at me, “You fucking suck, Karen!” It’s good. I really had an impact.

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THE MOST FUN I’VE HAD ON SET I think I Love You, Man was just the best experience. I would go to set when I wasn’t working, which is unheard of, just to say hi and hang out, and sit behind the monitor to watch Jason Segel and Paul Rudd be funny. It was a very, very, very delightful experience. We got to do a lot of improv, and we were still using film at the time. Remember film and cameras? We got some kind of award because we shot 900,000 feet of film. We just kept talking and making jokes, making each other laugh. That scene when Paul is doing ‘slappa da bass’, we both had to ADR that whole scene because the crew was laughing so hard. THE CHARACTER THAT’S MOST LIKE ME I’m going to guess probably Laura in On the Rocks because I’m middleaged and I have a pretty good career. I don’t mistrust my partner like that, and I’m not that insecure, but I do have a really lovely relationship with my dad, who’s a larger-than-life figure. And I’m in the middle of asking myself these huge questions about what I want my life to be defined by, and how I fit into my life emotionally, besides just being relative to the people that I love. That’s probably too heavy.

MY GUILTY PLEASURE I definitely have spent many years in The Bachelor Nation. And I love any kind of home design makeover shows. Oh, and recently I’ve been doing this app called Redecor, which is where you redecorate a room and then you compete and people vote. It’s so great. You get virtual fabrics that you can use in your next room. [You win] pretend wood paneling, a new area rug. So sad. I’m really desperate.

KARAOKE PLAYLIST I think people like songs that are just not in their register. And you have to be very clear about that. But my last, greatest karaoke victory was when I was in Japan and I did Notorious B.I.G. I sang the chorus and I did the rap for “I love it when you call me big poppa.” And it was great. And then my tried and true Bonnie Raitt, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a good one. Sad. They’re sad, but so good. And Journey. I mean, obviously. And Foreigner, “I Want to Know What Love Is.” That’s a good one.


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“Working on FATIMA was a long journey, starting with the placement of just one song and developing into something more complex and elaborate, with the final result being the extraordinary soundtrack written by the talented Paolo Buonvino. Working in a team of people from different cultures and backgrounds was the biggest challenge, but the outcome exceeded our expectations, especially in the difficult year of 2020. The song “Gratia Plena” with it’s 16 different languages reflects a multicultural work team delivering a beautiful message that can resonate with everyone.” -Giovanni Arcadu, Music Supervisor

“The originality of “Gratia Plena” lies in the sequencing of a text in 16 different languages, sung by a choir of children of different nationalities. A single word, united in a single voice through a prayer. The choice of Andrea Bocelli’s voice stems from the desire to share the sense of universality with an extraordinary Italian artist who belongs to everyone.” -Paolo Buonvino, Composer

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possible double nomination, for Supporting Actor and Original Song, for his contributions to Regina King’s One Night in Miami . He tells

Rolling Stone ’s Brittany Spanos about the strength he found in playing the

legendary songwriter and producer Sam Cooke, and the key conversation with a mentor that kept him on the path toward his breakthrough in Hamilton

P H O T O G R A P H S BY J O S H T E L L E S

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

ST Y LI N G BY AVO Y E RM AGYA N (@AVOY E RM AGYA N ) , H AI R BY A NI T T R IA W IC K E R ( @AN I T T R IAW), G RO O M IN G BY ELIV EN QU IROS (@E LLY WAY ) , C LOT H I N G & S H OES BY V ERSACE

Leslie Odom Jr. is on track to burst into the Oscar race with a


RELIVING THE LEGEND Clockwise, from top: Odom (right) as Sam Cooke, with co-star Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown in One Night in Miami; the film’s director Regina King prepares a take;

W

hen Leslie Odom Jr. was about to turn

forever? How do I grow up?” Odom considered hospitality as his next

of what his last decade had really been: a young actor waiting for his moment to arrive, sitting by

30, he thought about

jump, an industry with a customer-service

the phone and hoping it would ring instead of

quitting acting. He

appeal not dissimilar to acting. His mind was

making the calls himself. Robinson encouraged

had been hustling

basically made up when he met with his mentor

him to sing more—something he had only done

for a decade in Los Angeles by then, nabbing

Stuart K. Robinson, an acting coach who also

in the context of stage musicals—and expanded

small TV spots here and there. He loathed the

happened to be his future father-in-law, at a

his idea of all the ways he could become the

unpredictability, and the thought of another

Marie Callender’s restaurant in California. Over

artist he was meant to be.

decade of not knowing whether he would ever

their meal, Odom got some tough love.

be able to get a mortgage or pay down his student loans. “What is going to change about 30 to 40?” he wondered. “Am I just signing up for this

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

“You can quit,” Robinson told him. “Of

“The lightbulb went on in the middle of him talking,” says Odom, now 39, talking over

course, we can talk about things you might do if

Zoom from his home in Los Angeles. After that

you quit. But I’d love to see you try first.”

conversation, Odom re-took Acting 101 classes

In that instant, Odom finally faced the reality

with Robinson. And what followed has been a

COU RT ESY OF PAT T I P E RR E T/A M AZO N STU D IOS

Odom performs as Sam Cooke; Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, left) photographs the champion Cassius Clay (Eli Goree, in the tux) with Brown and Cooke.


“THE FIRST TIME I REALLY FELT I WAS A PART OF A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM WAS AS A PART OF THE COMPANY OF HAMILTON. I FELT IT ALL COME TOGETHER; WHAT IS POSSIBLE WHEN WE ARE GIVEN THE MATERIAL AND THE RESOURCES AND THE OPPORTUNITY.

WE CAN REALLY MAKE SOME NOISE. WE CAN MOVE THE NEEDLE. WE CAN SPARK CONVERSATION.” D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

35


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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


steady climb to the top, and a moment that has never stopped being a moment: within a year, P H OTO G RA P H BY J OS H T E L L ES , ST Y LI NG BY AVO Y E R M AGYA N ( @AVOYE RM AGYA N ), H AI R BY A NITTRIA WIC K ER (@AN IT T R IAW ), G ROOM I N G BY EL I V EN QU I ROS ( @ E LLY WAY ) , C LOTH I N G BY VERSACE

in 2012, he appeared in House of Lies alongside Don Cheadle and nabbed a role in the beloved musical series Smash. His biggest break came in 2015 when he joined the off-Broadway cast of a buzzy musical called Hamilton, playing the role of Aaron Burr.

says. “I didn’t know that was possible until One

O

Night in Miami.” dom is no stranger to playing historical figures, but taking on the role of Sam Cooke proved daunting. This was a voice he had not only been listening to his whole life but

By the time the show moved to Broadway

had grown up imitating. Cooke served as one of

later that year, it was a full-on phenomenon.

Odom’s first figurative “teachers” throughout

Tickets were sold out months in advance. The

his childhood in East Oak Lane, Philadelphia,

soundtrack alone exceeded all previous notions

where his parents lived until finally deciding to

of Broadway-soundtrack success. Hamilton

relocate closer to their son in LA.

won a Pulitzer Prize and swept the 2016 Tony

“You try to mimic first,” he explains. “‘How

Awards, with Odom winning Best Actor in a

close can I sound to these people?’ They’re

Musical over his co-star and the show’s creator

teaching you everything: technical aspects,

Lin-Manuel Miranda.

emotional contours of the song.”

“The first time I really felt I was a part of

Odom was struck by writer Kemp Powers’

a championship team was as a part of the

script, adapted from his 2013 debut play of the

company of Hamilton,” Odom says. “I felt it

same name. The actor had seen firsthand how

all come together; what is possible when we

great material helps make a great performance

are given the material and the resources and

with Hamilton, and Powers’ words gave him

the opportunity. We can really make some

similar chills.

noise. We can move the needle. We can spark

“What I saw in Kemp’s script was something

conversation. We can inspire a generation of

akin to what David Mamet gave those actors

theater-makers.”

with a script like Glengarry Glen Ross, or what

Just after the Tonys sweep, Odom, along

[Tom] Stoppard gave the cast of Shakespeare

with co-stars Miranda, Jonathan Groff,

in Love. Or what Aaron Sorkin regularly gives

and Phillipa Soo, departed the musical.

actors that work with him. It demands

That music career he hadn’t considered

everything you’ve learned about being an actor,

in his twenties was becoming a reality, as

and it requires so little at the same time.”

he reissued his 2014 self-titled jazz debut.

Powers’ story has Cooke, Brown, Malcolm X,

There was also a movie career to consider: In

and Clay all meeting together at pivotal points

2017, he starred alongside the likes of Willem

in their lives. Brown is preparing to leave the

Dafoe, Kenneth Branagh, and Judi Dench

NFL for Hollywood. Clay is on the eve of publicly

in a star-studded remake of Murder on the

revealing his conversion to Islam. Malcolm

Orient Express. In 2019, he played abolitionist

X senses forces within the Nation of Islam

William Still in Harriet.

conspiring against him.

But now, it’s One Night in Miami—a feature

The version of Cooke that joins this group

that imagines a real night in February 1964

is a star who has succumbed to the belief that

when Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius

his career hinges on acceptance from white

Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge),

audiences. Malcolm X clashes with him about

and Sam Cooke (Odom) hung out in a

protest music and whether the “You Send Me”

hotel room after one of Clay’s bouts—that

singer has sold out the Black community. The

has cemented his status as the latest

conversations are fictionalized, but the film

Broadway-to-Hollywood success story,

provides vital context to Cooke’s musical shift

earning him a Golden Globe nomination for

with the song “A Change Is Gonna Come”, a

Best Supporting Actor, as well as for Best

politically charged single he debuted on The

Original Song. Talky and actor-driven, the film

Tonight Show in 1964. The song was released

positions these four historical icons against

as scheduled that December, but Cooke didn’t

and alongside one another in intimate

get to see its success—he had been fatally shot

but challenging discussions that explore

in a Los Angeles motel two weeks prior.

questions of race, identity and purpose.

“When I look at the conversation that’s

Odom says it’s the closest to recreating that

happening in One Night in Miami, the reason

“championship team” feeling he had while

I could relate is because those were not only

performing in Hamilton.

the conversations that I witnessed my parents

“I [had] never felt that on a film set,” he

having when I was a kid, but conversations I D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

37


started having myself when I was an adult,”

the show. “We truly hope that this show has

raised $1.6 million in 24 hours for the Equal

Odom says.

inspired you to uphold our American values

Justice Initiative.

and to work on behalf of all of us,” Dixon read, as Pence left his seat. The incident fueled an

country was becoming deeper and more

uproar from Donald Trump on Twitter.

violent. It also coincided with the early days

“I don’t know if I would have done that,”

B

y the time in-person productions were halted due to the pandemic last March, filming for Miami

of the Black Lives Matter movement, sparking

Odom admits, “but I can only imagine what

debate backstage about how a cast almost

it felt [like] doing Hamilton in November

entirely composed of people of color could and

2016 as Trump was elected and Pence is

remaining shots. The film debuted Christmas

should respond to the killings of Sandra Bland

here in your presence.”

Day, to strong reviews.

or Philando Castile at the hands of police.

The filmed version of Hamilton came out

was nearly completed. The cast briefly reunited in July to get a few

But the experience of watching it reel in

during a similarly tumultuous time, debuting

accolades, awards buzz, and nominations has

is, ‘What is our responsibility to the movement

last July, following weeks of protests in response

been bittersweet for Odom. On one hand, he’s

and the moment happening outside these

to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor,

grateful that they were not only able to get

doors?’” Odom says. “We didn’t always agree

and Ahmaud Arbery. Even while isolated due

the film finished but even get it out, when so

on the best way to do that. Lin had very

to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, the original cast

many movies this past year have been put into

different ideas from me from time to time.

of Hamilton engaged with many of the same

a continuous release or production purgatory.

Daveed [Diggs] felt a different way than Chris

difficult subjects they had five years prior.

On the other hand, the most transformative

“What we’re all asking ourselves backstage

[Jackson] from time to time. We would have those discussions backstage.” In November of 2016, after Odom and most

“When the film is coming out [and] our

film experience he has yet had doesn’t get the

company gets together, it ain’t about ‘How

in-person fanfare he had hoped for while they

do we turn this into more followers?’ Or, ‘How

were filming.

of the original players had left the show, the

do we turn this into a photo op?’ It is: ‘What

next iteration of the cast turned that discussion

can we do? Is there some way we can be of

there’s something undeniable about the fact

into action. Upon learning that Mike Pence was

service?’ If you’re not going to make good use

that the world is slow enough and quiet enough

in the audience at a Hamilton performance,

of it, I don’t know what it’s for.”

right now for a movie like One Night in Miami to

Odom’s replacement, Brandon Victor Dixon,

In June, the cast decided to join Richard

He’s trying to focus on the positive. “I think

get seen,” he says. “We’re able to have certain

read an open letter to the Vice President-

and Demi Weitz’s pandemic concert series

conversations in our lives that maybe are

elect on behalf of the company at the end of

for a private Zoom event for charity. They

mirrored with the conversation that these four

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

COU RT ESY OF D I S N EY +

Hamilton took off in the midst of the 2016 election cycle, when the rift between a divided


men are having onscreen.” The rest of the team behind Miami is feeling the intense duality of this experience as well, especially King. “We were on a Zoom a week ago, and Regina kind of spontaneously broke down a bit,” Odom says. “She’s broken up about the fact that we don’t get to celebrate this all together in person. We haven’t seen one another since we wrapped.” Odom received the call from his team about his Golden Globe nominations at 5:30 a.m. on Feb 3. Being nominated for his song “Speak Now”, alongside co-writer Sam Ashworth, was a particularly special surprise. King had requested an original from Odom, and the track plays over the credits, soon after Cooke’s last appearance onscreen debuting “A Change Is Gonna Come” on The Tonight Show. Odom’s excellent mimicry of Cooke’s signature warm voice is threaded throughout the film, and his own intense research made him want to make something that worked in conversation with Cooke’s own reflections. “I swear we’ll never find a way to where we’re going all alone/Don’t take your eyes off TAKE YOUR SHOT Odom as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, alongside the show’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton. A recording of the stage musical, shot in 2016, was released on Disney+ last summer.

the road,” he stirringly sings on the first verse. From there, Odom gently encourages both the process of listening to what’s happening around you as well as speaking up. “Don’t hold your tongue/Speak now.”

“WHEN I LOOK AT THE CONVERSATION THAT’S HAPPENING IN ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI, THE REASON I COULD RELATE IS BECAUSE THOSE WERE NOT ONLY THE CONVERSATIONS THAT I WITNESSED MY PARENTS HAVING WHEN I WAS A KID, BUT

CONVERSATIONS I STARTED HAVING MYSELF WHEN I WAS AN ADULT.”

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

39


Cooke did when he wrote “Change”, Odom and Ashworth looked to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” for inspiration. “We needed to look and say, ‘Are those answers still blowing out there?’” Politically, Odom still carries the weight of what he learned from all the historical figures he has played, from Burr to Still to Cooke. “I like a good story,” he says. Even as he prepared for his role in the upcoming Sopranos sequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark, he dug into the history of the New Jersey area where the film and iconic show were set. “I think that’s my draw. It’s why I love story time at night with my little girl,” he adds with a smile. “History helps us understand what we’re seeing in front of us. It’s not dead. It’s the reason for why we see what

T

we see.”

his awards season, Odom and his wife Nicolette Robinson (who plays Sam’s wife Barbara Cooke in Miami) have another reason to celebrate. Their family

is growing, with the pair expecting a baby boy in March.

Initially, the news brought Odom back to

some of those feelings of uncertainty and dread he’d had when he was turning 30. He wasn’t sure he could raise a son. He didn’t feel ready for a boy back when the couple were expecting their first child, their now-three-year-old daughter Lucille Ruby. Not long after they found out Robinson was pregnant with a second, Odom had a conversation with his Hamilton co-star and good friend Renée Elise Goldsberry. He’d been reeling from the death of Ahmaud Arbery, whose senseless killing at the hands of two armed white men inflated his fears of bringing another Black man into a world full of violence that targets them. “Renée said a really beautiful thing to me about raising young Black men,” Odom says, “that I’m paraphrasing: ‘Black people have been bringing children into a hostile world for generations. If our parents, great-grandparents or our great-great-grandparents waited for the world to be free from hostility before they brought us into the world, we wouldn’t be here.’” Now, as he prepares to turn another decade older, Odom is looking at the future with a different sense of gravity. “My daughter taught me just how much I do have to offer as a STEPS ON THE ROAD Odom in other work. From top: as Ebo in a dream sequence in Sia’s Music;

as William Still in Harriet; as Dr. Arbuthnot in Murder on the Orient Express alongside Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Daisy Ridley.

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father,” he says. “I’m still doing more spiritual work on what it means for me to welcome a little man.” ★

LE F T PAG E: COU RT ESY OF E VE RE T T CO LL ECT I ON RI G H T PAG E : P H OTOG RA P H BY J OS H T E LL ES , ST Y LI NG BY AVO Y E RM AGYA N (@AVOY ER M AGYAN ), H AIR BY A NITTRIA WIC K ER (@ANI T T RI AW) , G ROOM I N G BY EL I V EN QU I ROS ( @ E LLY WAY ) , C LOTH I N G BY BOSS

“We’d ask ourselves, ‘Has the change come? And if it has, for whom has it come?’” Like


“BLACK PEOPLE HAVE BEEN BRINGING CHILDREN INTO A HOSTILE WORLD FOR GENERATIONS. IF OUR PARENTS, GREATGRANDPARENTS OR OUR GREAT-GREAT-GRANDPARENTS WAITED FOR THE WORLD TO BE FREE FROM HOSTILITY BEFORE THEY BROUGHT US INTO THE WORLD,

WE WOULDN’T BE HERE.”


ROLLING STONE’S NOEL MURRAY CHOOSES THE VERY BEST MUSICAL MOMENTS FROM THE OSCAR TELECAST

Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce Knowles & Anika Noni Rose— with Keith Robinson Dreamgirls Medley—2007 What happens when you put three of this era’s strongest singers together? You’ve got yourself a diva battle, baby. Tackling the three nominated songs from the musical Dreamgirls, Hudson, Knowles and Rose—one a movie and TV star, one the queen of the pop charts, and one a Broadway champ—took turns at center stage, seeming to challenge and inspire each other with their Olympic-level

For most of the history of the Academy Awards, the musical numbers have been at once glitzy and sappy, featuring freshscrubbed young dancers in spangled costumes, spinning and kicking behind a couple of old Hollywood stars. But every now and then, amid all the schmaltz, the producers of the Oscars telecasts have set aside some airtime to showcase some of the best singers and the snappiest songs of their eras. Beginning in the 1970s especially, the Academy began opening up more to rock ’n’ roll and R&B, around the same time that the producers started asking the Best Original Song nominees’ original artists to perform. Ever since, the show has featured some the music industry’s biggest stars, alongside a few lovable oddballs and critics’ darlings. All of these types are represented on the list below. And, yes, some of these performances were supported by dancers in eyecatching outfits. Just because something is corny doesn’t mean it can’t also be cool.

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vocal gymnastics. The only thing missing was a rousing chorus of the un-nominated and Oscars-ineligible “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”. (Hudson would sing that at the 2013 ceremony, as part of a special tribute to movie musicals.)

COU RT ESY OF E V E RE T T COLLECT I ON /A P P H OTO


Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes “Up Where We Belong”—1983 Preceded onstage by the marching and chanting of a crisply uniformed University of Southern California Naval ROTC unit, the scruffy Cocker and the casually dressed Warnes quickly countered all that martial energy with their mellow

Diana Ross & Lionel Richie “Endless Love”—1982 Johnny Carson introduced these two venerable Motown stars, who then walked down staircases on opposite sides of the stage, while the orchestra swelled. This was an oldfashioned showbiz entrance—and a radical one in its way, giving a proper spotlight to two brilliant Black musicians who likely wouldn’t have had that kind of star treatment on television 20 or 30 years earlier. The pair proceeded to deliver Richie’s gentle love song with grace and class, and with an unusual intimacy. They stood face to face and matched each other’s honeyed notes.

vibes. The pair barely moved from their perch just above the floor, perhaps because they didn’t want to collide with the ballroom dancers pirouetting below. Nevertheless, their soulful rendering of the climactic An Officer and a Gentleman powerballad cut right through the pageantry, striking a blow for all those who

Irene Cara “Flashdance… What a Feeling”—1984

would rather make love than war.

Cara was an Oscar night favorite in the ’80s, debuting with the nominated song “Fame” in 1981, then returning two years later

Keith Carradine “I’m Easy”—1976 In the movie Nashville,

to rev up the Dorothy Chandler

Keith Carradine’s caddish

Pavilion with the title track from

character Tom Frank sings

the teen musical Flashdance. (She came back again in ’86 to do a

“I’m Easy” at the legendary nightclub the Exit/In, where

comical number about awards

his gentle folk-rock sound

show failure: “Here’s to the

successfully seduces a

Losers.") Accompanied by aspiring

woman he’s aiming to

hoofers from the National Dance

impress. On the Oscars

Institute—many festooned with

stage, the actor (who

leotards and legwarmers, just like

also wrote the song) gave

the welder-by-day/dancer-by-night

the same kind of low-key,

Jennifer Beals in the movie—Cara

unplugged performance

gave a performance high-energy

that he did so wonderfully

and super-limber enough to keep

in the film. The big

any jazzercise class fit and happy.

difference? The man sitting on the stool with his acoustic guitar came across as much more sincere than the guy he played in the picture. Carradine didn’t seem to have any ulterior motives; he just wanted to play a lovely tune for his Hollywood pals.

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Michael Jackson “Ben”—1973 Has there ever been a prettier song about a rodent? A veteran performer at age 13, Michael Jackson held the audience rapt at the ’73 Oscars, singing the title song from the weirdo killer vermin thriller Ben. With his bushy hair and

Robin Williams “Blame Canada”—2000 The ’90s saw a revival of the movie musical in a wave of animated films, many of which were responsible for some of the decade’s best Best Original Song nominees. The R-rated cartoon South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut aimed to be the anti-Disney, with pot-stirring sociopolitical commentary supported by foul-mouthed music. Its one song (barely) clean enough to earn the Academy’s approval was performed by Robin Williams, a man who always knew how to make even the dirtiest jokes seem like good all-American fun. Surrounded by sexy Mounties, he brought gusto to this jaunty ditty about xenophobia.

his charmingly dorky red sweater, Jackson looked like an ordinary kid who had walked through the wrong door and accidentally ended up on TV. But the tenderness with which he crooned this strangely beautiful ballad—which, again, is directed toward a rat—made this performance something special.

Kermit the Frog “Rainbow Connection” —1980 This one’s for the lovers, the dreamers and the kids. After the show’s host Johnny Carson bantered with “everyone’s favorite porcine performer” Miss Piggy about her lack of a Best Actress nomination, the curtain rose to reveal a simplified recreation of Kermit’s bucolic swamp, where the frog was plucking away at his banjo. The Oscars set builders couldn’t entirely replicate the minute details of a Jim Henson Muppet production, but they did recapture The Muppet Movie’s most enchanting quality: a suspension of disbelief so strong that anyone would believe creatures made of felt had feelings.

Björk “I’ve Seen It All”—2001 The Icelandic art-rocker Björk would’ve been the talk of the 73rd Academy Awards ceremony just for her dress, which was designed by Marjan Pejoski to look like a dead swan, draped around the singer’s neck and torso. But Björk fully justified her Oscar invitation later that evening, when she took to the stage to belt out the heartbreaking centerpiece of the offbeat musical Dancer in the Dark: a song about a woman bravely accepting that she is losing her sight. Her fashion sense may have baffled the other attendees, but her talent and heart were undeniable.

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Elliott Smith “Miss Misery”—1998 The Academy Awards telecast has seen its share of muted musical performances, but there has never been one quite as introverted as Elliott Smith’s. With his eyes halfclosed, his voice pitched at a whisper, and his hands idly strumming his song’s simple chords, the troubled alt-rocker couldn’t have looked or sounded more out of place—even with an orchestra fleshing out his music with sweet strings. But there has rarely been a more mesmerizingly vulnerable Oscars moment either. This was a few minutes of raw, honest art, offering a refreshing respite from the night’s usual agenda of fashion and fawning.

Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On”—1998 Titanic’s award-sweeping night at the Oscars was seen by some as the Academy reacting to the previous year’s wave of quirky art films. In that same spirit, the ’98 show’s memorably fragile Elliott Smith performance was effectively counter-programmed by the blockbuster sweep of Celine Dion, looking elegant in her black gown as she bellowed to the back row. As a full orchestra (in matching ice-white suits!) played behind her, the French-Canadian chanteuse knocked out what has become one of the most famous ballads of all time—and in the process proved that big could be beautiful.

Donna Summer “Last Dance”—1979 The Oscars went disco at the end of the ’70s, honoring the kitschy musical comedy Thank God It’s Friday by giving an award to its soaring anthem “Last Dance”. The movie’s star Donna Summer brought her vocal dynamism and her sense of drama to a showstopping performance, which saw her belting out the song while surrounded by shiny rotating panels—like she was singing from the inside of a mirrorball. By the time she pivoted out of her spokenword interlude for a final flourish, she had turned the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion into Studio 54.

Dolly Parton “9 to 5”—1981 Parton is such a national treasure that she could have phoned in her performance of “9 to 5” and it still would have been fabulous. But it was great that she went full Dolly at the Oscars, with colorful makeup, a glittery gown, and a blonde wig that looked like four full cans of whipped cream had been lovingly emptied onto her head. What could make all that more perfect? How about a bevy of male dancers in silky “worker” costumes, miming hammering in front of a set that prominently featured the word “UNITE”? It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it.

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Adele “Skyfall”—2013 The Oscars producers didn’t do Adele any favors at the 2013 ceremony, which included a “50 years of James Bond movies” tribute that had the great Shirley Bassey singing the gold standard of 007 themes, “Goldfinger”. Later that night Ms. Adkins took her turn, giving her “Skyfall” an intense and majestic performance, befitting a song that was itself a worthy

Isaac Hayes “Theme from Shaft”—1972 Can you dig it? The Academy came roaring into the rock and soul era with Hayes’ performance of that year’s Best Original Song—an unshakably catchy funk number overlaid with a symphony’s worth of strings. Although the vocals and instruments were pre-recorded, there was plenty “live” on the stage that night, from the troupe of sexy interpretative dancers to the shirtless, gold-festooned singer. When Hayes and his mobile keyboard rolled through a tunnel of wriggling, disembodied arms and legs, it was like seeing the traditional Oscar musical extravaganza get stripped down and deconstructed, on live TV.

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Bruce Springsteen “Streets of Philadelphia”—1994 The Boss took some chances in the ’90s, exploring new sounds while on hiatus from the E Street Band. Coerced by Philadelphia’s director Jonathan Demme to contribute a song for a movie that would both sum up its AIDS-awareness themes and become a huge hit, Springsteen produced the moody, rhythmic, synth-driven “Streets of Philadelphia”. Before he took home the Oscar, he delivered a fantastic live performance, putting his guitar away and eschewing his usual rock-to-the-rafters style, to sing quietly and powerfully about a sickly man wasting away.

heir to the best Bond numbers. Initially cloaked in darkness, Adele swayed back and forth in front of a collection of backup musicians, also in the shadows. By the end, the stage had brightened and the backdrop sported splashes of blood red… reflecting the power and the passion of a young superstar.

John Legend & Common “Glory”—2015 One of the rare hip-hop numbers to compete for (and win) Best Original Song, this rousing, gospel-tinged anthem combines the socially conscious rhymes of Common with John Legend’s lilting, uplifting voice. The Oscars performance illuminated the song’s lyrics, which are an emotional reflection on the life and sacrifices of Martin Luther King and the others who marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. On the stage, a chorus of backup singers walked through a model of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, creating the impression of a movement toward justice that won’t be denied.


Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper “Shallow”—2019

T

he 2018 A Star Is Born remake is an exquisitely crafted blockbuster that deserved

to win more than one Oscar—even if its lone prize was for this indomitable

smash hit. The Academy voters

Madonna “Sooner or Later”—1991

must have realized their mistake while watching Cooper and Gaga absolutely crush “Shallow” at the

The ever-mercurial Madonna

ceremony. The movie’s co-stars boldly

left her ’80s party girl persona

walked to the stage directly from the

behind to play the retro femme

audience, then took their places at

fatale Breathless Mahoney in Warren Beatty’s self-consciously

their respective microphones, gazing

cartoonish Dick Tracy. On Oscar

at each other with awe and affection

night she essentially reprised the

while working their way to the song’s

role, dressing like a reincarnation

ecstatic climax. They may have lost

of Marilyn Monroe and cocking her

Best Picture (and Best Actor and Best

hips back and forth seductively.

Actress), but they won the night.

The performance was a riveting pastiche of old Hollywood glamor and sleazy burlesque, capped by a Desert Storm-era ad-lib about General “Stormin’” Norman Schwarzkopf. It was the perfect presentation of this Stephen Sondheim song: a classic vamp which amps up the va-voom.

Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová “Falling Slowly”—2008 Writer-director John Carney’s low-budget musical Once started its charmed awards season journey at Sundance, where an unassuming story about a couple of flirtatious Dublin musicians came out of nowhere to become a festival favorite. The romantic and musical chemistry of the movie’s stars and songwriters Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová was just as impossible to resist at the Oscars. Their performance was like a miniature version of the film, starting out tentatively—with the singers edging their way into the tune, each trying to find their place—before building steadily to harmonies so pure and angelic that the whole theater was aglow.

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No.7

SPIKE LEE & TERENCE BLANCHARD

The

Partnership 48

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COU RT ESY OF M AT T SAY LES / N E T FLI X


p

After nearly 30 years collaborating with Spike Lee to compose the music on his films, Terence Blanchard’s soaring compositions are finally getting noticed. He got his first Oscar nomination for BlacKkKlansman, a Best Picture nominee which brought Lee his first Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. And the morning they sat down to discuss the method of their collaboration with Mike Fleming Jr., Lee’s first words to Blanchard were congratulatory, since Da 5 Bloods had just joined the Academy’s Best Score shortlist. The pair have worked together on more than 15 films, including Malcolm X, When the Levees Broke, Jungle Fever, Inside Man and Miracle at St. Anna. Blanchard, who moonlights as a jazz musician in between scoring jobs, has also worked on the Kasi Lemmonsdirected Eve’s Bayou, Anthony Hemingway’s Red Tails, executive produced by George Lucas, and the Matthew Rhys-starrer HBO series Perry Mason. Here, Blanchard and Lee explain why they’ve clicked so well together all this time.


The

Partnership

How did the two of you first begin working

and when we started doing Mo’ Better Blues, I

went, “Huh, excuse me? OK.” But I got out there,

together?

was getting ready to do my first solo project for

and I winged it, man. I was nervous as hell, and

SPIKE LEE: You tell him.

Columbia Records. I sat at the piano, when we

when I finished, Spike walked up to me, and he

TERENCE BLANCHARD: I was just hired as a

were doing the pre-records for the band, and

goes, “Man, you got a future in this business.” I

session musician. Spike’s father, Bill Lee, was

I started playing this tune. Spike heard it and

literally thought he was just trying to encourage

doing the early scores, and there was a guy named

asked if he could use it. And we recorded it, just

me to keep working at it. Next thing I know, he

Harold Vick, who was putting together the bands

as solo trumpet a cappella. Later, Spike headed

called me to do Jungle Fever, and we’ve been

and the orchestras for the sessions. I was told

to the editing room. They shot the scene with

working together ever since.

Harold and Bill Lee wanted to have a mixture of

Denzel, with him on the bridge, and Spike called

LEE: Terence is being shy. In Mo’ Better Blues,

all of the young talent and veteran talent in the

me up and said, “Hey, man, can you write a string

in the movie, when you hear Denzel playing the

city. I got a call to come be a part of this recording

arrangement for this?”

trumpet, that’s Terence, and when you hear

session. That first time I walked in…

My daddy didn’t raise no fool, so that’s one

Wesley Snipes playing the saxophone, that’s

LEE: That was School Daze, right?

of the moments where I said, Now, do I tell the

Branford Marsalis.

BLANCHARD: I had my Lakers stuff on. I had a

truth, or do I lie? I lied. I said, “Sure, I can write a

BLANCHARD: Yeah, and then, you know what

Lakers hat. I’m a big Lakers fan and they’d just

string arrangement for it.” I called my composition

was funny, though? When we shot the scenes for

beaten Boston. I even had the purple and gold

teacher—Roger Dickerson is his name—and said,

Mo’ Better Blues, we put a thing inside the bell so

Converse, with the star on the side, and somebody

“Man, look, I got to do this project, what the hell

Denzel could really blow, because we wanted it

was standing at the door, going, “Lakers fan, huh?”

do I do?” Roger told me, “Trust your training.”

to look real. So, he was blowing really hard, and

That’s all he said to me. So, that was the beginning

So, I brought the music in, and another surprise,

for the people who were sitting in the back of the

for us.

I handed it to Spike’s father, Bill Lee, for him to

club, the extras, Spike actually played the music

conduct. Bill said, “You wrote it, you conduct it.” I

loud, like we were at a club. So, people actually

I played on all of the scores from School Daze,

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COU RT ESY OF E VE R E TT COLL ECT I ON

MUSIC MEN Spike Lee in a recording session with Donald Harrison (center) and Terence Blanchard for 1988 film School Daze.


The

Partnership

MAESTRO Blanchard in action in the studio.

thought they were playing, man. They were doing

with Denzel on the bridge. Spike, what was

correctly, some of the movie was in black and

such a great job, except for one girl. I saw Denzel… I

so exceptional about it that you would use a

white, and then it moved into color. Trying to find a

said, “What’s wrong, man?” He said, “This girl was

piece of music from a newcomer in that film?

sonic match for that was probably something that

sitting down in front and she started giggling.” So,

LEE: I knew it was right when I heard this beautiful

I toiled over more so than anything else.

he’d said, “What you giggling at?” She said to him

melody. We were just waiting around. There was

that she could actually hear what was coming out

a piano and no one playing it. Terence just went

I tell my students this—after I watch the film,

of that horn.

to the piano and started playing this beauti-

when I start working on a scene, I try to watch it

LEE: [Laughs] And another thing, though, with the

ful melody. I’m listening, and after he finished, I

five or six times before I even try to deal with any

exception of Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts on drums, everybody

said, “What is that?” And he said, “That’s a little

music. Because there’s a lot of information in the

else, they were actors. Giancarlo Esposito says, “I

something something.” I said, “Well, no, no, don’t

scene. There’s the tempo of dialogue, the way it’s

know how to play piano.”

give me that.” Finally, he gave it up. It’s called “Sing

shot, the way it’s cut together, performances of

BLANCHARD: Oh, god, I remember…

Soweto”. At that time, apartheid still reigned in

the actors. So, if you learn how to just listen and

LEE: And he was the only one that looked fake.

South Africa, and our brother, Nelson Mandela,

pay attention and not try to come to it with any

BLANCHARD: Yeah, well, there was a reason for

was still in prison. I loved that [connection], and

preconceived notion, the movie will tell you what

that. He kept trying to play the tunes. You know

I love melodies. That’s where it started for us.

it needs.

when Denzel got to the point where he could play

Last thing: Terence did Fort Greene, Branford. His

all of the melodies, one of the things he started to

brother Wynton, Donald Harrison, all these guys

When does Spike bring you into a movie?

realize was when the track would play, if he made

from New Orleans ended up in my neighborhood.

When you have a rough cut?

a mistake, the natural inclination is to correct your

It was a great time, a new wave.

LEE: Terence gets the script when everybody else gets it.

track would be gone. There were a couple of takes

Which of the movies you’ve done was hardest

BLANCHARD: Sometimes, he tells me before he

where he got off, just a little bit, just because he

to find the handle for musically?

has the script. “Hey, man, I’m going to do this, be

was trying to correct himself. I’d say, “Hey, bro,

BLANCHARD: It’s a hard one to answer because

ready.” That’s what happened when we did When

forget trying to play the right fingers, nobody’s

one of the things about Spike’s films, there’s

the Levees Broke, even though there was no script

going to know. Sing it to yourself because you

a lot of information on the screen. One thing

for the documentary. I get a script when everybody

know it, and just be accurate with that.” I tried to

Roger [Dickerson] always taught me to do is

else gets a script, and the thing that’s really cool

tell Giancarlo the exact same thing, but Gian was,

learn how to listen, and when you see it, you just

about that is he’ll go off, and he’ll start to shoot,

“No, man, but see, I got the chords.” I’m like, “Gian,”

draw inspiration. I think if there was one that I

and I’m already knowing the story. But what I’ve

I said, “G-Money, nobody’s going to be able to see

would have to say was the hardest—and it’s only

learned with Spike is I try not to write anything

what chords you’re playing from the screen!”

because it’s just popping in my mind—it would

specific until I see something. Because one of the

be Bamboozled. It was such a different take from

things that happens, when you read a script, I’m

everything else that we had done. If I remember

creating my movie in my mind, and that ain’t a

Let’s go back to that string arrangement

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COU RT ESY OF M AT T SAYL ES / N E TF L IX

mistake. But as soon as he would do that, the

With all of Spike’s films, what I try to do—and


WINNER TORONTO INT’L FILM FESTIVAL

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VENICE INT’L FILM FESTIVAL 2020

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SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021


The

Partnership

JOINT PARTY Blanchard with Lee at the premiere of BlacKkKlansman.

good way to go.

you know, like they say, ‘A little dab will do you,’ you

just logging video images. I’m like, Wow, there’s no

LEE: That’s ‘A Terence Blanchard Joint’.

know what I mean?

way in hell I’d be able to sit down and put together

BLANCHARD: Yeah, and a Terence Blanchard joint

LEE: Brylcreem.

a story like that.

is sometimes a lot different. Because, he’ll get out

BLANCHARD: Yeah. Those tastes really help

there, and he’ll find some locations and settings,

to send me in a direction. By now we’ve worked

other thing, me being from New Orleans, that was

the way stuff is shot.

together so much, we have a…

the first time I saw any documentary that had

LEE: Shorthand.

brought all of the different various cultures of New

came with Summer of Sam. There’s a scene with

BLANCHARD: Yeah. Once I see it, and I go, Oh,

Orleans together in one thing. Normally, it’s always

John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino, and they’re

this is what it looks like, it sets up a sound or a

kind of isolated, but when you watch When the

coming from Studio 54. They get into an argument,

scenario in my head.

Levees Broke… There’s a real talent there. And when

and when I read the script, they’re arguing, right?

LEE: And I’d just like to say, the greats in all the

you look at Da 5 Bloods, come on! We were at the

But when Spike shot it, she gets out the car and

arts are great for a reason, but in my opinion, the

Oscar show [for BlacKkKlansman] when he told me

starts to walk, and he starts to shoot the empty

greatest artists are musicians. That’s my opinion.

he was going to shoot it, and I was like, “Damn, bro,

seat where she was sitting. And I’m going, Well,

take a break, go smell the coffee for a little bit, just

that wasn’t in the script, and I’m like, I’m glad I

Why?

relax.” He said, “No, I’m out, I got to go shoot.”

waited… She did what?

LEE: I think musicians are the artists that are

LEE: I was on a plane the next day.

LEE: Well, Mira jumped out the car. It happens.

closer to God because what they do, I know you

BLANCHARD: Yeah, the next day, and when he

BLANCHARD: Another instance of that was when

got Picasso and who you want to name, but,

sent me the video, and I’m watching it, and I’m

we did Miracle at St. Anna. I read that script, and

musicians, in my opinion, it’s that gift, the way

sitting there, going, OK, I understand he really

I was so fascinated by the script, a war movie,

they play an instrument, the way they sing, or in

appreciates musicianship, but man, for somebody

and—I hope I say this the right way—the beauty

fact, compose for film. Where they can look at

to take that story and to build it the way that Spike

of it. When he started sending me still shots, it

something, internalize it, and then give you music.

did, not only with the structure of it, but cinemati-

was just gorgeous, right? Every still photo that he

BLANCHARD: Brother, OK, but I’m going to tell

cally, with all the decisions you have to make. Like

sent me was just amazing, and I said, Wow, I’m

you this, though, Spike. I’m doing a film and culture

that battle scene with the helicopter. I love that

glad I waited to start really homing in on what the

class at UCLA. And you know what I have them

shot, that big, wide shot when it goes down into

musical identity would be for that film until I saw it.

watching? I have them watching When the Levees

the valley. It’s gorgeous, and Spike has always had

Because once I saw it, it just sent me off in a whole

Broke, and the thing that I’m constantly telling

a penchant for combining these images of African

different direction.

them about that, what amazed me is how you guys

American people and making them gorgeous in

LEE: But Terence, sometimes, periodically, when

have a talent for taking all of that information and

these very complicated situations. Because all too

I’m shooting, I send you cut scenes too, to get like

telling a very succinct story with it. I remember

often, in the history of film, we haven’t been shown

a little taste. Before you see the whole film.

that war room, watching Butch [Robinson], I think

in our best light, you know?

BLANCHARD: Yeah, and those little tastes, man,

it was, receive all of these hard drives, and guys

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Like, when you look at BlacKkKlansman, that

COU RT ESY OF U N IV E RSA L

My first education into not writing off a script

And when you watch the documentary, the


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H ow M i c h ael a Co el’s c h arged dra ma ser i es s pea ks to a u dien ces everywh ere

A l ook at t he ta l e s of t ri um ph a nd st rugg l e tol d i n Steve M cQue e n’s groundbrea k i ng Sm a l l A xe


The

Partnership in a musical family. His father’s a great bass player; his aunt was an amazing, classically trained pianist. He heard music all his life growing up, and not only did he hear that type of music, but he’s just been a fan of great music all his life. He knows more about this stuff than anybody. He always tries to downplay it… I remember, I think it was Jungle Fever, he said the crack house scene, he already knew when he was shooting it that he was going to use a Stevie Wonder song for that. With Da 5 Bloods, when he told me about doing the movie, he told me that he was going to use Marvin Gaye’s music. He knew that before he started shooting. So, no. There’s no need for me to do that. When you started on Da 5 Bloods, what was the hardest scene in that movie for you guys to figure out the music to? BLANCHARD: The first one, the helicopter scene. LEE: The first battle sequence. MARCHING ON The war vets of Da 5 Bloods return to Vietnam in search of their fallen comrade.

BLANCHARD: Yeah. What did we call it? “What This Mission is About”? LEE: Our brother, Chadwick Boseman.

montage sequence where my man, Harry Bela-

for what was going on in the letter. She’s recount-

BLANCHARD: Yeah, and the reason why, because

fonte, is doing his thing, and then Spike shows all

ing what’s happening in her neighborhood, and

when I saw the film, I was so awestruck by what

of these beautiful faces, you know what I mean?

when Spike saw it, he goes, “No, no, no, stay with

I was looking at. And I realized that was my first

Who’s going to think about doing that? That’s

the sentiment of the letter.” So, I went back and

musical cue. I kept saying to myself, You have

a person [that] not only has a love for the art

redid it. And I think the other one like that was

to get this right, because if you don’t get this

of making film, but is also very connected to his

when we did Miracle at St. Anna. I remember I

right, nothing else is going to work. That scene

community and the needs of the community,

was so excited to have a battle scene to score. I

took me five days to write, a long time. Normally,

understanding that Black women have been feel-

was like, Oh, shit, battle scene! I put [in] all of this

I’m pretty quick, but that took me a long time

ing inferior for a number of years because society

percussive brass stuff, and Spike goes, “No, no, no,

because I wanted to combine what Spike likes

has not deemed them to be beautiful. And he’s

you want to show the heroism of their sacrifice.”

with what the film needed, and try to find those

made a concerted effort to reverse that paradigm.

So, he wanted more of like a melodic, operatic

melodies and make the harmonic shifts and

So, for me, I understand he appreciates musicians,

approach. But that’s rare.

orchestral shifts to accent what was happening on the screen. That took a minute. So, three days,

brilliance to put all of those things together, to me,

Aside from the original scoring you do for

it took me, just to plot all of it out, because I went

is just amazing. I’m the last cog in the wheel. After

Spike’s films, these pictures create memo-

section by section by section.

it’s all done, I’m the guy that comes in…

rable marriages of music to imagery with

I took my time, and then, the last two days, I

LEE: Film is photography, music. All that stuff.

famous songs. I re-watched BlacKkKlans-

was just going through orchestral stuff, just trying

But I’m talking about the existence of music, you

man, and there is this great courtship scene

to figure out how big I want it to be, how small,

know?

between the undercover cop played by John

and a lot of it just stayed big throughout, which is

David Washington and the president of the

always a trap.

I feel the mutual respect. But what happens

Black Student Union at Colorado College

when Terence writes something he loves and

played by Laura Harrier. The scene is sensu-

Why?

you don’t, Spike?

ous, driven by “Too Late To Turn Back Now”,

BLANCHARD: Because then you have no other

BLANCHARD: That’s rarely happened, and I think

this 1972 song by Cornelius Brothers & Sister

place to go. So, for me, it was a thing of trying to

it’s rarely happened because…

Rose that framed what was happening in the

keep that energy moving throughout, with melodic

LEE: What happens is that Terence writes a piece

scene of courtship. It’s there in Jungle Fever

content, instead of more percussive stuff, and

of music for the specific scene, and if I say, no,

with Stevie Wonder songs and in Da 5 Bloods,

[to] keep that emotional shift. Because listen,

we’ll put it in another scene.

with the Marvin Gaye concept album “What’s

we were talking about Spike making movies, but

BLANCHARD: Yeah, that’s happened, but my very

Going On”, in which a returning Vietnam

also, the other thing, too, this was brilliant acting. I

first meeting with Spike, one of the things he told

vet contemplates the problems in America.

mean you’ve got Chadwick Boseman in the scene,

me, he says, “Hey, man, I don’t like underscoring.”

Terence, how much input do you contribute

and Delroy Lindo, whose performances were just

He said, “I like strong melodic content.” So, I’ve

to this preexisting music that helps to drive

amazing. I’ve been in this business long enough

always known, and I think there was two instances

Spike’s films?

now. When I see that, man, I get juiced, and I get

I remember, one was in Crooklyn, where the little

BLANCHARD: You know, Spike always tries to

pumped. And everything is about enhancing what

girl reads a letter, and I started to write the score

hide this, but you’ve got to remember he grew up

those guys are doing on the screen. ★

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COU RT ESY OF DAV I D L E E/ NE T F LI X

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