Magazine article Variety

Rockers Make a Play for Oscar Song Race

Magazine article Variety

Rockers Make a Play for Oscar Song Race

Article excerpt

The rock world is seemingly fielding ever more contenders in the Oscars' song category, with artists including Sufjan Stevens, Elvis Costello, OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, Sara Bareilles and the late Chris Cornell all performing end-title themes they wrote.


from "Call Me by Your Name" Music and lyrics by Sufjan Stevens (1)

"It was a dream come true," says director Luca Guadagnino about working with indie-rock hero Stevens, of whom he'd long been a "big fan." It wasn't initially easy even getting to Stevens for the ask. "The approach took a long time," the filmmaker says, but once he did, he got more than he bargained for, with the singer delivering two original songs. That went even further toward Guadagnino's hope to "envelop the movie and its emotional fabric in Sufjan's world," which has always tended to mix the melancholic with a sense of wonder - ideal for a coming-ofage love story that goes the way of most such romances.

He leftStevens to his own devices, without much input about which sections of the coming-of-age drama to illustrate. Says Guadagnino: "He had the book, he had the script, and we had three or four conversations about the characters and the kind of movie I was doing. I may have said to Sufjan that I wanted to make an idyll [and that the] movie was very straightforward and simple in its approach. And that was it. If you overbake something, if you overanalyze things, if you micromanage an artist, then you are going to have something that may disappoint you. But if you empower somebody, I think you end up having something as great as we got."

Besides the two fresh songs, Stevens also delivered on Guadagnino's request for a remix of "Futile Devices," a song that has been interpreted as possibly describing a gay relationship, which fit the movie's subject matter, even if only subliminally, since the new version is an instrumental.

"We asked him to rearrange it, and he gave us a beautiful liquid piano that plays very well and organically with the general piano-driven classical pieces of music we chose for the film."

"Visions of Gideon" plays over one of the most memorable end-credits scenes in memory, a live-action single shot that's as powerful as anything that occurs before the credits roll. "This question that repeats itself - 'Is it a video?' - it's such a powerful thing when it comes to this moment, for its intellectual bravery and evocativeness and obliqueness. That idea of a memory as something that can fade, or that can feel like it never happened but was just enacted, is so powerful."

As powerful as that is - what about the other song, "Mystery of Love," which plays through mid-film, and is more wistful, less shattering? That's the one most Oscar bloggers have latched onto as the contender. In this case - unlike some other films like "Coco" or "Greatest Showman," which have multiple original song possibilities - the studio submitted the two as contenders. Adds Guadagnino: "I really love them both."


from "The Promise" Music and lyrics by Chris Cornell (2)

"Promise" producer Eric Esrailian had been family friends with Soundgarden singer Cornell since 2010, with whom he discussed the plan to make a drama about the Armenian genocide of the 1910s. "It's sad that, after all this time, right after Chris had finally done [the song], he's not here to talk about it."

Two months did transpire between the release of the movie and Cornell's shocking suicide - a period during which he performed "The Promise" on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "CBS Saturday Morning" and even visited the Vatican with the filmmakers for a papal screening. …

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