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FILM CLIPS / A look inside Hollywood and the movies

The Boss? Neil Young? Are We in the Right Place?

March 20, 1994|STEVE HOCHMAN

Great moments in Oscars music:

1974--Connie Stevens turns Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" into a C-grade Vegas lounge number, slinking around the stage amid explosions and flashes.

1985--While Phil Collins does a slow burn in the audience, actress Ann Reinking performs his song, "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)." Collins, who had specially planned a trip from England to be available for the show, was never asked to perform it himself.

1989--The crowing glory, as Rob Lowe--that noted song and dance man--duets with Snow White, leaving the attendees too stunned to show their true appreciation for what they'd just seen.

Sadly, there aren't likely to be any such scenes for the ages on Monday's 1994 Oscar show. Instead, we're stuck with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Tony Bennett, Janet Jackson and a duet of Dolly Parton and James Ingram. At least Parton and Jackson have acting experience, so maybe one of them can bring us something to treasure alongside those earlier highlights. But it seems unlikely.

All kidding aside, this telecast may prove low on corn and cheese, but it's arguably the meatiest musical menu in Oscar history.

Why?

Ask some in the movie music business, and watch the claws come out:

"No Disney film," is the summary judgment of one executive.

Beyond that, though, the consensus seems to be simple: Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, who will be performing, respectively, "Streets of Philadelphia" and "Philadelphia," the haunting musical bookends of Jonathan Demme's AIDS drama, "Philadelphia."

Tisha Fein, who for 20 years has produced and booked musical talent for many awards shows, including the Grammys and the American Music Awards, believes the presence of Springsteen and Young to be part of a positive trend.

"These artists were really affected by the material of the film, so they were inspired to do their best work," she says.

Glenn Brunman, who as vice president of Epic Soundtrax helped supervise the "Philadelphia" soundtrack project, concurs.

"Bruce's and Neil's songs are part of the body of the movie, not just closing-credit songs that were created primarily as marketing tools," he says. "They were really created to express the emotions of the movie in music, and I don't think that was lost on (the Oscar voters). And the songs really mean something to the artists--they were the first two to say they would be there."

But they wouldn't be there if they hadn't been asked--something that might not have happened in the past.

"The directors and producers of the show must be hipper than before," says Jim Mulay, vice president of creative affairs for Largo Entertainment, which made 1993's "Judgment Night," featuring a (not nominated) soundtrack album pairing hard-rock stars with top rappers. "And the music part of the academy is probably becoming younger."

And maybe the Oscar folks have learned from their past embarrassments. Now if only that would happen with the Grammys.

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