Monday, March 8, 2010
screwed by OSCAR
for as long as i can remember, OSCAR nominees for best original song have been allowed to perform their numbers on stage during the big show. however, this year for some reason they were not. instead, the audience was treated to a very lengthy dance montage that, while very skillful and entertaining, left this viewer thinking: huh?
here's what you need to know: up for best song were two lame randy newman songs, two songs from a high-powered musical, and one incredible song, "the weary kind", that was written by a virtually unknown songwriter named Ryan Bingham (co-written with T-Bone Burnett). Clearly, this category was decided long before the ballots were even issued.
Oscar loves the little guy, and in this case, Ryan Bingham did in fact walk away the statue. however, instead of performing live on stage in front of millions of potential music buyers, he had to settle for a 30 second speech. on a night where his career could have been launched into another stratosphere, he was merely allowed to thank a few friends, his band, and of course, the academy.
now granted, it is still awesome that he won. for a small potato to walk away with such a huge honor is incredible. he will still reap many benefits, and will probably move from the bar circuit to the small theater circuit. but i still can't stop thinking of what could have been. i bet he can't either.
part of the reason i even care at all is that i had the privilege of being in the opening act for Bingham a few years back. just passing through town, he played to an enthusiastic crowd of about 10 people. there were actually more people there to see us than him. from the way he performed, however, you would have thought he was playing the Garden.
after the first verse of his first song that night, i leaned over to the guy next me and said, "this guy is for real. he has got the goods and he WILL make it someday." shortly after that he did make it. with a record deal from Lost Highway in tow, i was soon delighted to see bingham popping up on conan, letterman and leno. to top it all off, he sounded EXACTLY the same as the night i saw him in that dingy little bar. simply amazing.
in spite of my disappointment in oscar's decision, at least they made the right call and gave him the award. if nothing else, he will always be known as academy award winner ryan bingham. surely that will mean something down the road.
if you have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing this artist, please do so asap. both of his albums are great from start to finish, and if you like one of his songs you will probably like them all. while his gravely, growling voice sounds like it would come from a man twice his age, there is also a weary tenderness that make him a true original.
while "the weary kind" was written specifically for the movie CRAZY HEART, it was made possible by years of bingham's own hard-living, vagabond lifestyle. as a musician, i am always pleased to see an artist finally getting their due-credit, especially one as gifted as he. though he may not have been allowed to perform last night at the oscars, he has certainly begun his permeation into main stream society. unfortunately, it just may take a little longer to get there...