N.Y. Critics Love Altman and Bedroom

New York Film Critics Circle | Grammys

N.Y. Critics Love Altman and Bedroom

Robert Altman's Gosford Park and Todd Field's In the Bedroom were the biggest topics of conversation Sunday night at the annual New York Film Critics Circle dinner.

Altman won Best Director and Field won Best First Film. Mulholland Drive, a movie no one outside of a cult audience has seen, won Best Picture. The director of that film, David Lynch, gave a very witty acceptance speech at the end of the evening. He said of the critics' choice of his film, "What were you people smoking? I love you. My family loves you."

Indeed: though Mulholland Drive has won a few critics' prizes, even Lynch has to admit that the once-rejected TV pilot is beyond understanding. Oscar voters, who are about to get tapes of the movie, will probably not warm to it.

But two movies which will clearly be Oscar contenders and deservedly so, are Gosford and Bedroom. They, along with Lord of the Rings and A Beautiful Mind now look like certain nominees. A fifth choice seems up for grabs among Amelie, Memento and Moulin Rouge.

Here's an interesting anecdote from last night's dinner. Before the awards were given, yours truly introduced Field to Altman. Field told us a story. "When you were making Short Cuts in 1993," he told Altman, "I had a friend on the set who I visited. You let me sit behind you and wear headphones — a set of cans — while you were directing. It was the nicest thing anyone ever did for me."

Altman replied: "You'll have to do that for someone yourself one day."

Field — taking it literally — said: "I don't know how I would like someone behind me."

Altman — commenting on new young directors ready to take his place — misunderstood and said: "There's always someone behind you. And you just have to say, F--- you to them."

More tomorrow from the Film Critics dinner.

Grammys: Same Old Songs, Literally

The Grammy award committee, never known for picking daring nominees, finds itself in a strange situation following the announcement of its new nominees Friday. They nominated James Taylor for Best Pop Vocal for "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." Hey, I remember that song! I was 16 when it came out — that was in 1973! Who's smoking what over there?

"Lonely" is a nice song, very catchy, but it didn't deserve an award back then and it doesn't now. It was a chart single, not a hit, and it appeared on the not successful Taylor album One Man Dog, released on Warner Bros.

So why now?

Taylor re-recorded the song for a Michael Brecker album on Verve called Nearness of You: The Ballad Book. You can hear a sample of it on the Internet. It sounds just like…the old version! Only, of course, with a kind of modern, pompous state of the art jazz arrangement, it's now…important! Otherwise, Taylor delivers a remarkably similar version.

Of course, the Grammy's were incredibly pre-determined from the start this year. Items started appearing more than two weeks ago indicating that India.Arie was in and that Alicia Keys was out for Best Album. The same items started promoting Outkast's Stankonia album, a truly awful piece of junk that should win Best Album just to make the voting committee eat its words.

What's fascinating is that Keys, who was nominated for Best Record, wasn't nominated for Best Performance of the same record.

Taylor, by the way, wasn't the only oldie singing one of his oldies who got nominated. Are you ready for this? How about Billy Joel and Tony Bennett singing Joel's 1974 album track, "New York State of Mind"? Or Black Sabbath doing a live version of one their old songs? It's all there.

In the end though you have to hand it to the publicists from MCA/Universal/Interscope/Motown/Island/Def Jam/Verve/Republic Records. The preponderance of nominations, no matter how preposterous, belong to them. It ain't a coincidence, folks. Not only did they force in all those label names, but Lost Highway Records as well — which got a massive number of nominations for the O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack, Hank Williams' Tribute album, Lucinda Williams and Ryan Adams albums.

How many did the MCA group get? Well, I count 41 different nominations in the first 25 categories. There are 90 plus categories. You do the math extrapolation and call me with the total.

Tommy Mottola must be livid. His one consolation: Mariah didn't get a thing. He must be shocked.