The song, not the singer

Posted by · 5:52 pm · August 19th, 2009

Penelope Cruz in NineIt’s a few days old, but I only just found this nugget buried at the tail of a (rather good) David Poland rumination on the potential demise of The Weinstein Company — and since many of you seem to be hungry for details of Rob Marshall’s “Nine,” I thought it worth sharing. Poland has been casting “Nine” as a “problem movie” for a while now, but here he elaborates slightly on his concerns:

It has test screened… results were mixed… they face a problem with hardcore theater types being unhappy with a majority (all but 7) of the show’s songs being cut… but as “The Producers” showed, loyalty to a stage version is not necessarily a good bet.

The film is still in post and you can be sure that all kinds of jiggering is being done, just as it was with “Chicago.” Just like “Class” in that show, there is a song on the bubble that may or may not make it. They added 3 brand new songs for the film and seriously reworked a 4th. The film is running good bit longer than “Chicago” (about 30 minutes at the last screening), though fixing that is a big part of what makes Harvey Harvey.

We all knew it was an inevitability that a newly written song or two would be shoehorned into the film for an extra Oscar bid — just as Weinstein so transparently did with “Chicago” — but that’s a more dramatic score overhaul than one may have expected.

Personally, I don’t think Broadway geeks are a large enough market for Weinstein to get significantly concerned about, in which case the major surgery here points to the comparative obscurity of “Nine” as a source — the stage musical simply isn’t as recognizable to the man in the street as “Chicago,” hence few will notice, or mind, the liberties taken with it. (By the time they reached the screen, “All That Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle” had entered the modern American repertoire — “A Call to the Vatican” and “Be Italian,” not so much.)

It is this factor, however, that gives me some pause where others are predicting “Nine” as an awards-season juggernaut. Something would probably have to go drastically wrong with the film for it to miss the Academy’s list of ten — particularly given that the expansion of the category makes it even more susceptible to campaigning muscle (and, potentially, the return of old-fashioned studio block-voting). Given the inevitably lavish, top-priority campaign Weinstein will mount for “Nine,” it should be an obvious beneficiary of the safety net installed by having ten nominees.

But how invested does Hollywood feel in the material? (Yes, it’s inspired by Fellini’s “8½” — but, as much as I’d love to believe otherwise, I suspect there are an awful lot of people out there to whom that means precisely nothing.)  The only two musicals to make the Best Picture grade in recent years (as high early hopes for “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Dreamgirls” and “Sweeney Todd” were variously dashed) were titles with considerable pop appeal: a postmodern jukebox score in the case of “Moulin Rouge!” and a well-worn original songbook in the case of “Chicago.”

That may not be their distinguishing factor — “Phantom” and “Dreamgirls” had a number of crossover chestnuts in their repertoire too, after all. But it did provide audiences (and Academy members) with a more immediate access point to the material that “Nine” — however famous the singers paired with the songs — might have to work a little harder to locate.

But hey, there’s two slots on that mutating Best Original Song ballot filled — if there is one this year, that is.

→ 12 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

12 responses so far

  • 1 8-19-2009 at 8:52 pm

    BigMoffitt17 said...

    I think the writers on this site use any story about “Nine” as an excuse to show that picture of Penelope Cruz. Not that I’m complaining :)

  • 2 8-19-2009 at 9:32 pm

    Brendan said...

    She can’t even straighten her leg. She’s lovely but I find that odd, as I’m sure any dancer will. You want to love this film. Fine. I wanted to love Mamma Mia but most folks in it could not sing or dance so I found it tedious. Don’t make yourself look silly by jumping on the bandwagon of something that hasn’t yet earned your support.

  • 3 8-19-2009 at 11:09 pm

    andrew said...

    Uh yes she straightens her leg, the trailer makes it abundantly clear. As for the singing, I know that most of the cast is able already, I’ve only yet to hear any singing from Dench and Loren.

  • 4 8-19-2009 at 11:45 pm

    j said...

    Huh, I didn’t know that it’s just been Moulin & Chicago in the last 30 years. Well, maybe Beauty & the Beast counts too.

    Still, that the same guy did the only winning musical in 40 years bodes well.

  • 5 8-19-2009 at 11:51 pm

    Mike said...

    Over at Awards Daily, people are saying that Marion Cotillard gets one of the new songs and that she is amazing in it and in the whole movie. They say that she has the best voice (except for Fergie of course) and that she dances great and is all around incredible. They say she is a shoo in for a best actress nomination (she is apparently lead), and that she might even win. I think that a win is a little far fetched, but then again look at someone like Tom Hanks, Jodie Foster, or Katherine Hepburn, people who won two lead Oscars in 3 or less years. What do you think Kris and everybody else?

  • 6 8-20-2009 at 12:38 am

    jackal said...

    don´t forget that penelope studied ballet for a long time in Spain. the movements are truly. she will win the supporting actress oscar.

  • 7 8-20-2009 at 12:51 am

    Alex said...

    I don’t know how it’ll do awards-wise, but I think it’ll be enough at the box office to dig Harvey out of his hole. It’s like Chicago but with a better cast and different enough story.

  • 8 8-20-2009 at 3:38 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Big Moffitt: You got me!

    Brendan: Did you read the article? I have concerns about the film. Of course I want it to be good — schadenfreude isn’t my thing — but what bandwagon am I jumping on here?

    J: I’d say “Beauty and the Beast” counts.

    Mike: First I’ve heard about it, but who knows? (Remember that, great as Awards Daily is, there’s a keen Cotillard fan club there.)

  • 9 8-20-2009 at 1:32 pm

    Encore Entertainment said...

    so what songs were cut. It’s unfortunate that I was hooked on the music before the movie came out. I hope UNUSUAL WAY, MY HUSBAND MAKES MOVIES, SIMPLE, BE ON YOUR OWN, TI VOGLIO BENE are not cut.

  • 10 8-20-2009 at 1:59 pm

    G1000 said...

    Though this news is distressing, the film still looks fantastic. Can’t wait!

  • 11 8-20-2009 at 2:06 pm

    BerkeleyGirl said...

    Andrew: Dame Judi most certainly can sing. Here’s a recent exhibit:

    After watching the trailer, I’m yet again caught in the spell of Daniel Day-Lewis. More than any of the ladies, I want to see what he does. Just the way he moves in the trailer takes my breath away… (Knowing his rep, I doubt there’s a stunt double involved…)

    One last snarky comment: The one person I’m worried about? Kidman. What has happened to her career???

  • 12 8-04-2011 at 9:18 am

    Jonnie said...

    I was so confused about what to buy, but this makes it undesrtandalbe.