Sunday, December 28, 2008

One More For The Year

Oh, my but it's been an eventful year! I finished my opera, got three pieces into next year's Alfred catalog, expanded this blog, renovated my website, had some great premieres and good feedback on my Tuba Concerto, and completed thirteen new pieces of music to submit in upcoming years.

I finished number thirteen just this weekend. I took a fragment that I had started ages ago and finally completed it. It was originally intended for a commission, but after coming up with an ostinato and a main melody, I realized it wasn't what they wanted. So I came back to it and expanded it into something quite nice. It's a Grade 3 piece with lots of shifting - in fact, it's possible to play all the melodies in third position. The scherzo style should be very appealing, but my old problem persists - it remains untitled as of yet.

This is my last post of the year and I'll be converting this blog back to "Oscarwatch 2008," so happy New Year, all - be safe and have a great time!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Don't Rush Gauntlet!

I went on YouTube recently, looking for new videos to link to my website and, not surprisingly, most of the performance videos of my music are of Gauntlet. It's still my most popular piece and it gets a lot of attention. However, while I was looking, I found an odd trend and wanted to comment on it. YouTube allows viewers to post messages and quite a few of them looked like this:

"honestly, i thought this song went much faster...really slowish"

"why do you play it so slow ? we play it waaay faster at my school ."

"its suposed to be alot faster"[sic]

One of the most prevalent problems I hear with performances of Gauntlet is that they're too fast. Gauntlet isn't a race and shouldn't be played too fast. Some young musicians even brag about how fast they can go, but speed isn't the point of this piece. I'd rather hear a performance that's too slow where dynamics, intonation, and expressiveness are taken into full consideration than one where the orchestra rushes through it. In fact, rushing through Gauntlet ruins the opportunity for expressiveness and negates the "dark" quality that people find so appealing.

The recording by the Alfred Studio Orchestra (which you can hear here) is still the best I've yet heard. The tempos are spot on, the intonation and style are perfect, and I've never heard the "hard part" (mm. 56 - 80) sound better. Sure, these are professional musicians playing, but it's an ideal that student musicians can aspire to achieve.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Where's Doug's Website?

I got an e-mail from my web service recently that they needed to move my website, so I now have a new address - you can find my site by clicking here

I also took the opportunity to do a little updating, so look for links to ten new YouTube videos on the "Music/Video" page and new maps with new pushpins on the "Contact" page.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Improv Piece

I spent a lot of time this past weekend working out the details of my latest composition. As I wrote earlier, I wanted to have a piece with an "improv" section, where students could take turns improvising solos. The trick, I decided, would be to make everything as simple as possible. The easiest way to improvise is with a pentatonic scale (wherein it is impossible to play "wrong" or dissonant notes and students don't have to worry about conforming to chord changes). The easiest key for young students is D Major. I wrote out a very simple 8-bar accompaniment over which soloists can improvise and made sure that the last two measures have a definite cadence to indicate a stopping point. I even wrote out two solos in case students have a hard time coming up with their own. I have high hopes for this one and I hope it will be popular!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Breeze in Columbus

More good performance news - the Sycamore Jr. High 7th Grade Orchestra going to perform the Ohio Music Educators Association conference in Columbus and they've selected two of my pieces: "Gauntlet" and "A Breeze In The Keys!" I attended Sycamore Jr. High, so it's even more special. Also, with this performance in January and the one in Chicago at the Midwest Clinic in a few weeks , it's looking like "Breeze" is becoming a breakout piece. Hopefully all this exposure to orchestra teachers will inspire them to go out and buy it. So far, I've heard positive things from teachers and students about it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Improv Piece

Thanksgiving is over and it's back to work!

I think for my next piece, I'd like to write something that allows students a chance to improvise. It's an important skill and is one of the MENC's standards of music education, but I've never seen a piece that integrates improvisation into its structure. I have two ideas to start with: a standard blues structure (always a classic and very appropriate for improvisation) or a Debussy-like pentatonic style.

In either case, I think the best way to go about it is to give soloists a note set and instruct them to improvise using only those notes. This, of course, will be easier with a pentatonic scale and more of a challenge when dealing with the chord changes of a blues structure. In either case, it opens up a whole set of problems to solve:

1. The piece will have the usual written melodies , accompaniments, and bass lines and the improv section will be the middle section of the piece In order to maximize flexibility, I think it would be best to have two lines for each part - an accompaniment part (with a walking bass and horn-style hits to help keep an even beat) and a solo line with the note sets mapped out. This way, directors can assign solos of any length for any of their players. Hopefully, it won't be confusing to read.

2. If the piece is in G major, I should specify "start on G" and "end on D" etc. Young students usually don't figure out on their own how to make a musical phrase sound "complete."

3. Maybe a set of suggestions at the bottom of the page are in order. Or a blank line of music so kids can write in their own solos.

At any rate, it's going to take a lot of thought and testing out with groups.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Midwest Conference

Happy Thanksgiving, all - hope you had a nice holiday.

After much thought, I've decided that I won't be able to make it to Chicago this year for the Midwest Clinic. I got an e-mail recently from the orchestra director who programmed A Breeze In The Keys asking if I'd be there to hear it and, sadly, I had to decline. The Conference has started posting performances online, though, and I'll be able to hear it when it goes on their website. I have no doubt that it will sound great.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Breeze at Midwest

And... Done with another new piece! I'm really cranking them out. As it stands, I have more than I need for next year's submissions, so my plan is to continue writing so I can be choosy when it comes time to mail new music off to Alfred. I hope they like this latest one - it's in 6/8 with lots of delicious hemiola.

In other news, I just found out that one of my pieces will be performed at this year's Midwest Conference in Chicago! A group from Marietta Georgia (a district that has been very good to me in the past) will open their show with "A Breeze In The Keys" - one of my new selections this year. I hadn't planned on going, but now I'm considering it. On the other hand, traveling 300 miles and taking on the travel and hotel expense to hear a two-minute piece doesn't sound appealing.

Anyhoo, if you're planning on attending the conference, be sure to have a listen and stop by the Alfred booth to buy a copy of "Breeze" and any of my other selections that strike your fancy.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Filling Out The Fragments

I decided to tackle the second of my loose fragments first. Since that piece (a fast waltz) is for an intermediate-level orchestra and is less complicated, I figured I could whip it up in no time. And I was right - I got it done yesterday afternoon and celebrated with a trip to the theater (my alma mater had a production of "How To Succeed..." It was very well done).

Now it's back to work. I shaped a main theme today and transitioned it into the secondary theme I'd already developed. This one has some exciting rhythms and I think it will be popular. Up next, it needs a contrasting "C" theme and a recap. Hopefully I can get it done by Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Working With Fragments

I started working on a new piece recently - a minor key piece in 6/8 time. I got a nice tune going and am happy with the accompaniment, but I realized that it felt more like a "B" theme than a "Main" theme for the new piece. Normally I'll write a strong main melody and them come up with something to go with it, that provides contrast or that compliments the rhythms and motifs of the main theme.In this case, I'm starting with the B theme and have to come up with something even stronger to use as a main melody. It's unusual for my process, but maybe it will produce some unique results.

Another part of my process is to take breaks from writing. I like to walk away for a while and return to get a fresh perspective. During a break last night I had a flash of inspiration about a completely different piece of music. I went straight back to my computer, opened a new file, and began working on the new piece, which I'm very excited about.

So now I have fragments of two different pieces to work on. Normally I like to finish one piece before starting another, but who am I to turn down inspiration? In anticipation of your question: no, I can't combine them into one piece. They're in completely different styles, time signatures, and keys and are for two vastly different ability groups. I'd rather get two different pieces out of them than try to wedge them together.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Election Day Anthem (Part 2)

Writing the middle section of my election-inspired piece was easy. Watching the news on Wednesday put me in just the right state of mind and I whipped up 32 measures in no time. Another few days to recapitulate the opening (with a few flourishes, of course), edit dynamics, and add bowings, articulations, and measure numbers and this one's done!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Anthem

I have to admit that the closer we've come to Election Day, the more I've been paying attention and getting excited. It reached a point where I couldn't get to sleep last night and this morning I bolted out of bed at the sound of my alarm. I made it to the polls around 7:00am (they opened at 6:30am here in Ohio), cast my votes, got my "I voted" sticker, and stopped by Starbuck's for a free beverage (I'm not a coffee guy - they were nice enough to give me a free tea).

I mention all this because my Election day excitement has manifested itself in my latest composition. Looking over this year's portfolio, I saw that I was lacking a major-key piece for intermediate-level orchestras so I decided on the key of F major and set to work. My inspirations are not always apparent (even to me) and I realized after I got into the process that the style was inspired by the music for all the news shows covering the election - especially John Williams' "Mission Theme" for NBC and the CNN trumpets. For the B section of my new tune I borrowed a chord progression from a certain inspirational pop song from the 1980's. It's going to be an overture and for the middle section I think I'm going to do something like the hard part of Gauntlet - very nebulous, with overlapping motifs in a contrasting D minor. Like in Gustav Holst's "Jupiter," I think it's important to have a little sadness to temper the joy. Keeping with my inspiration for the piece, I want to acknowledge the sacrifices and heartaches that accompany a triumph.

I won't be able to work on the piece tonight (I'll be channel-surfing all night between CNBC, CNN, and NBC. And Comedy Central a little too) but I'll write again when I've completed a little more. I should also note that I'm not committed to a title yet. Chances are that by the time I submit the piece to my publishers, the title won't give any indication that I was inspired by the election.

Get out and vote! No excuses!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Royalty Statement (Part 2)

The second part of my annual royalty statement is for the MP3 downloads available at Here are my top five downloaded songs:

1. Gauntlet
2. Gargoyles
3. Avatar
4. Las Mariposas Exoticas
5. Elementals

I'm proud to say that Gauntlet is currently the #1 most-downloaded original song on (only behind an arrangement of the theme from Halo). Gargoyles is also in the top ten.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Royalty Statement

I meant to write about it earlier, but am just now getting to it: about a month ago I got my royalty statement! Every year, my publisher lets me know how many copies of each of my pieces were sold in the past year. They even break it down between the full packet of score and parts and just the scores (which are available separately). They further break it down between domestic sales (within the U.S.) and foreign sales (everywhere else).

The new statement let me know that my first published piece, Gauntlet, is popular. This never fails to amaze me. Also exciting is that the score for Gauntlet is also a big seller - probably because it's now a staple on contest lists and orchestras need extra scores for the judges.

According to the numbers, here are my top five domestic sellers in the 2007 - 2008 school year:

1. Mambo Incognito
2. Agincourt
3. Gauntlet
4. Gargoyles
5. Hot Potato

This is normal - Gauntlet and Gargoyles often sell big and the most recent additions to the catalog are always popular. Here are the five top-selling scores:

1. Gauntlet
2. Gargoyles
3. Las Mariposas Exoticas
4. Agincourt
5. Avatar

This is exciting. I know that the top three are on a lot of states' contest lists, but the other two are newer and higher sales of scores indicates that they're gaining in popularity. Finally, here are the top selling pieces in foreign markets:

1. Mambo Incognito
2. Hot Potato
3. Avatar & Lemon Twist (tie)
4. Zydeco Two-Step
5. Violet's Tango

I'm not sure what to make of this. Apparently, foreign orchestras have much different tastes than U.S. groups. It should be noted that my foreign sales are a tiny fraction of my U.S. sales. I've heard of performances in Australia, Japan, and Germany, but perhaps Alfred Publishing doesn't have the presence abroad that it does in America.

If you're interested in helping me out and boosting my '08 numbers, by all means point your browser to or your favorite retailer ( or perhaps) and do a search for "Doug Spata" to access my complete catalog!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Got My Proofs

I'm up to the next step in the exciting publication process - my editor sent me proofs of the engraved music. When I submit new music, I mail a recording and a printed Finale file of each piece. When they tell me which pieces they've selected, I e-mail the digital Finale file their way. They then mark it up with changes (more on that later) and send it to the engravers, who make a final, finished version of the score and parts. So in this step of the process, my editors send those engraved versions back to me to double-check and make sure everything is correct and there are no typos before hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent printing out all the music.

It's not a foolproof method, but in my experience it is 99% effective. In my ten years as a part of the process, there's only been one serious mistake: in "Flambeaux," some of the measures got mixed up near the beginning in the 'Cello and Bass parts. I didn't notice until I heard the recording and I went back to look at my original file and the proofs they sent. Everything matched, so it must have gotten mixed up between my approval and the final engraving.

So this week, I received proofs for "A Hero's Welcome" and "Quicksilver." The editor, Bob Phillips, had a few editions, which he penciled into my original score. They never make changes to the content - only to little things. Mostly he recommended more bow markings and fewer double-bars. Also, I prefer to use ties, where Bob recommends using more dotted notes. Other than that, it's pretty straightforward.I only found a few minor changes - two misplaced bow markings and a missing dynamic.

Sometimes pieces check out with no changes at all. A few times, it requires a complete overhaul. As it was explained to me my first time out, the folks who do the engraving don't necessarily know music, so besides obvious stuff like wrong notes, clefs might be mis-aligned, articulations missing o,r sharps and flats in key signatures might appear in the wrong places.

I'll be looking for the proofs for my third piece , Porcupine Pantomime. The next step is to send it to press.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bachata Update

I've been sidetracked by a few other projects and commitments lately, but found time to work on my bachata last night. I put a few finishing touches on and added the optional percussion parts - bongo drums and guiro, which are traditional in bachata music. I'm really happy with this one and I'm excited to have written something unusual and interesting.

Whenever I write a piece like this it's always my hope that it will open student musicians to new things and lead then to explore music they hadn't considered or didn't know existed.

All that's left is to edit the dynamics and articulation, add bowings and rehearsal numbers, and get a printed version ready. Unfortunately, it might be a while, because my weekend is booked solid. Not that I don't enjoy prolonging the joy of the composition experience, especially since I'm so close to finishing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I've written tangos, mambos, waltzes, cha-chas, and a bossa nova that's going to be published next year. You might think I like dancing, but really I just embarass myself on a dance floor. Dances are simply fun to write and to play. Nowadays, with "Dancing With The Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance" being such huge hits on TV, dancing (and especially the traditional ballroom styles) are more popular than ever. So when I sat down recently to write a new piece and decided that I want to do something different. I looked up "ballroom dances" online and found a dance that I've never heard of before - the bachata.

A few You Tube views later and I decided that I found my new inspiration. The bachata is a dance from the Dominican Republic, very similar to the merengue. The defining element of the bachata is an accent on beat four - what Wikipedia calls a "pop." The count is: 1, 2, 3, POP, 1, 2, 3, POP. It's a fast tempo (almost like a mambo), but the dance moves are often very close and romantic.

Bachata Video

It also turns out that the bachata has a long history and an established place in the world of latin dance, so it's curious that I'd never heard of it before. It has gone through several incarnations, stylistic fusions, and evolutions over the years.

So far, I've played around with bass lines and accompaniments to get the right "flow" and have come up with a good melody. I'm happy with my bachata so far and just need to come up with a B theme. I intend to play around with texture and dynamics on this one. So far, it's a lot of fun!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Website Updated

I took some time this weekend to update my website. Check it out at:

I corrected a glitch on the home page, added a bunch of You Tube video links to the Music-Video page, and included next year's new titles on the Music-Published page. Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2008

New Music Selected!

I got word from my editor this past weekend and Alfred is going to publish three of my new pieces in the 2009-2010 catalog!

I can't tell you how relieved I am.

First, they selected "Porcupine Pantomime," a beginner-level bossa nova that lets students practice that often-tricky shift from "bow-hand" to "pizzicato hand" and back. Frequently. The effect is that the young musicians get their "quills" in the air, hence the title. There's also an optional set drum part for this one. Even more vindication: I was assured by a colleague that this piece would never get published.

Next, you can look forward to "Quicksilver," an intermediate-to-advanced piece in 9/8 time. It flies along at a rapid pace in a major key and I think that it will be super-popular.

The third selection is "A Hero's Welcome," unusual in that it has a slower tempo, but there is constant, flowing motion, so students can keep interest. It features some shifting and, more importantly, a chance to really emote and bring some higher-level musicianship to the fore. This piece was premiered by the Hersher High School Orchestra when I visited them in February and they did a superb job with it.

I think the folks at Alfred did a great job, selecting a diverse array of styles and levels from my catalog this year. I had a few pieces that I may want to re-submit at some point, but I'm happy and excited with these three. The next step in the process is getting the proofs and contract addendums for these new selections and that usually happens around October.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Doug's Olympic Dream

I've had a lot of unexpected honors in my career as a composer - I've had schoolkids write essays about me, My music has been performed at major festivals and conferences, and I've received a lot of compliments through the years both in person and via e-mail - but I do have an unrealized dream.

Ever since I was but a wee Doug, I've thought about how great it would be for one of my compositions to accompany a floor exercise routine at the Olympics. I remember watching the telecasts of past Olympics and hearing all sorts of great, exciting music during the gymnastics competitions and hoped that someday, some of my music would be selected.

Wouldn't it be cool to see those impossible flips and turns accompanied with Gauntlet, Avatar, or Agincourt? Recordings are readily available online (, but the real issue is exposure. My student-level orchestra music is little-known outside the realm of school orchestras and young gymnasts have no time for activities outside their sport, so they probably wouldn't know that my music exists.

So: If you know a young gymnast looking for an exciting piece of music for her routine, do me a solid and steer her over to the Alfred website. Maybe she'll go far and make both our dreams come true.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Still Waiting

I'm remaining patient, but August 1st has come and gone and still no word from my publisher about weather I'm in next year's catalog. I'm starting to run out of fingernails to bite. Yesterday they sent me the CDs of the 2008-2009 catalog, so I know they're still out there somewhere and that they still have my correct address.

The CDs came in cool packages - tall pocket cards with the playlist printed on the inside, a pocket on the left for the CD, and a pocket on the right for a booklet. Very classy. Kudos to their design team. It also reminded me that I need to send them a new photo for their marketing - I no longer look anything like the photos they used from eight years ago.

In other news, I'm working on two new student pieces plus the opera. Actually, the opera is on the back burner for a little while. It's like a crossword puzzle: sometimes it's good to put it aside, clear one's head, and get some distance. Then when you return, refreshed, it's easier to see things you may have missed before.

Also, I got an e-mail from my good friend Bruce in Charlotte, NC. He has re-booted his Sizzling Strings orchestra this summer and has started working on Wait Your Turn and Gauntlet.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Working Hard

Aside from a new round of revisions on my opera, I've started a new piece for school-level orchestra. Just like my publishers try to select a balanced catalog every year, I try to submit a balanced portfolio (thus increasing my chances of having more music selected). I usually send eight to ten new pieces every year,so once I've completed a few, it's a good idea to take a look back at what I've done and figure out what I need to write to balance things out.

The easiest way is to plot it out on a graph (yes, kids, graphs come in handy in the real world). On the X axis is style: Major Key, Minor Key, and Novelty Piece. On the Y axis: Beginner level, Intermediate, and Advanced.

Check marks in the boxes let me know that I'm lacking an Advanced/Minor Key piece and that a few Novelty pieces would round out the portfolio. So the new one I started this weekend is an advanced-level piece in c-minor, focusing on accidentals. As it's developing, I can tell that it will be different - Instead of an A-theme and B theme, etc. I think I'm going to let it develop organically like a theme-and-variations. At least that's the plan for now. So far I'm just 16 measures in.

As for the opera, I'm waiting for some books I've ordered from the library on vocal composition. I do realize that it would have been a great idea to study up BEFORE writing a massive three-act 100-minute opera, but hey, it's a learning experience. In other news, my pros showed the piano score and libretto to a big-time, well-connected opera singer and word is that she was excited by it. Fingers are still crossed!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Getting Nervous

I always get a little nervous around this time of year. Each May I send music to my editors at Alfred Publishing and wait out the summer for a response. They always respond around mid-July to early August and around that time I always worry. I understand that how many they accept depends upon their needs for the year, submissions by other composers, and the need for a well-balanced catalog. This year, I figure they'll be a little later than usual - the Alfred HQ is in southern California and I suspect that dealing with the wildfires is taking priority over formalizing the catalog.

The very first year I submitted I learned about the acceptance on my birthday and, since they always let me know around the same time, I always call their notification letter the best birthday gift of the year. Here's hoping it will be a good birthday this year!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Great Meeting!

I'm stoked after a great meeting with the pros! It didn't go exactly how I had expected - I thought we'd play through the piano score and I could get some suggestions on vocal writing while discussing my philosophy on modern opera - but instead, the pros (Howard and Brad) gave me something far more valuable: encouragement.

We had a seat in their gorgeous home and discussed options for getting a production - about three steps ahead of where I thought I was with this project. They liked the libretto and they agreed that the tesseturas were in the right places, they had praise for the sense of rhythm and character and had some wonderful suggestions for vocal writing, but they were more excited to let me know about workshops, contacts, venues, and how to get a performance. In the end, Howard and Brad agreed to show my piano score and libretto around to some influential people.

My fingers are crossed and I remain cautiously optimistic. These are the first people to actually read through the libretto without giving up at page 20, which is very heartening, but even more, they really seemed to be excited by the material. Another bonus: no opera hostility. They were excited for me, which is a reaction I've been awaiting for a long time.

We'll see where it goes from here, but in the mean time, I'm making a new recording from my computer and am busy making revisions based on Howard and Brad's suggestions.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Opera Developments

Things are progressing. Maybe.

Last week I finished a new round of revisions to make my opera more singable and then reduced the new score down to a piano part. Just as I was finishing that, one of the "pros" I've been in talks with became available to look at what I've done! This pro is a friend of a friend who is a choir director. Even better, a friend of this friend of my friend is a college opera faculty member and is also eager to look at it and help with the polish. Better still, the friend of a friend of my friend has serious connections and mentioned showing it to some big-time opera-world muckey-mucks.

I know what you're thinking and I totally agree. This road looks awfully familiar and it's hard not to get excited when everything appears to be clicking into place. We'll see how it goes - I'm staying wary, keeping my expectations low, and am taking things one step at a time. Right now we're parsing out the details of when and where to meet, but it looks like next week is likely. Hopefully, I'll have good news to report.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Tuba Conference

This past weekend I attended the International Tuba/Euphonium Association conference. The organization meets every two years and this year, it just happened to be held at my alma mater, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. I drove down, went inside, and promptly got lost. After I graduated they felt the need to tear everything down and re-build, so the only things that are at all familiar are the auditorium and the theater. The old building was a labyrinth, so you'd think they would take the opportunity to build some order and sense into the new design, but no. After stumbling around for a long while wondering where everyone was, I got directions to a different building.

I arrived just in time to hear the last few pieces of a concert conducted by my friend (and pseudo-relative) T.J. Ricer. I met up with T.J. after his show and he introduced me to a lot of people, many of whom have heard and enjoyed the Sonatina I wrote for T.J. a few years back. I also met the guy from Tuba-Euphonium Press, who published the piece and got to autograph a copy after one of T.J.'s friends bought it.

T.J. is currently working on the concerto I wrote for him and I'm excited to hear how it sounds (apparently I got carried away and wrote it as if for a clarinet. Who knew Tubas aren't accustomed to lots of quick multi-octave leaps?).

So Saturday was a good time and I made a lot of good contacts. Hopefully, it will lead to more sales and exposure!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Going Ahead With It

After getting the cold shoulder from more than a handful of vocal-music "pros," I've decided to be proactive with my opera and take a hard look at it myself.

Being an instrumentalist, I take for granted that we can hit any note out of the clear blue at any point in a piece of music and play an independent melody, but singers are a different breed. As I understand it, they need cues and hints throughout the accompaniment to stay on pitch and in place so, with this in mind, I've started revising my score. I've been adding more cues, adjusting both the accompaniment and vocal lines, and, in some especially tricky spots, letting instruments double the voices.

I hear Beethoven had the same issues.

I've worked my way through most of the first act - I plan on finishing the last scene of Act I tonight - and from there I'll make a new piano score. The hard part is going to be the choruses. I'm not sure how to handle those yet. The good news is that since starting this round of revisions, I've heard back from two of the "pros" that I've contacted. One said he could meet in about two weeks and another said she might be free in mid-July. I hope it will work out and that I'll have some newly-revised music to show them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Opera Hostility

I've become very apprehensive about telling people that I wrote an opera. I think it's generally recognized that
writing an opera is a lot of hard work. It's very time-consuming and requires commitment, dedication, and a lot of personal sacrifice. On top of that, it requires a variety of skills, from playwriting to music composition to orchestration, a sense of drama, and a base knowledge of history. When I started and mentioned to people that I was working on an opera, I expected the reaction to be something like "Wow, that's a lot of hard work," or even "That's quite an accomplishment."

In reality, though, when I tell people that I've written opera the reaction is usually a sneer and a snide comment. The attitude I get is "So you think you're BETTER than me!?"

For the record, I don't think I'm better than anyone. My writing an opera is not a personal attack on anyone. It's a creative, artistic achievement that I'm very proud of - not a psychological weapon. This, I think is why I've had such a hard time getting help refining the piece. Just about everyone I've approached has copped a "How Dare You" attitude. I swear I'm not trying to "take advantage" of anyone. I just want to finish this piece.

In his autobiography, Philip Glass says that in his experience, getting an opera premiered isn't hard - companies are always looking to tout a "World Premiere." The more rejection I face in just having some look at the reduced score, the more I think he's wrong. I don't want to offer my opera to companies until it's performance-ready, but once it is, will they take me seriously or will they turn their noses up? I'm holding onto my hope, but am trying to be realistic through this little ordeal. I am resolved: I will find someone to help me and I will get my opera in the best possible shape.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dissapointing News

I got a heartbreaking phone call yesterday and thought I'd share.

As you may have read, I've been working for the past few years on a new opera. As an instrumental composer, I'm not terribly familiar with writing for voices, so I've been looking for someone with a choral background to take a look at what I've done and make suggestions for making the piece more appropriate for singers. I thought I'd found that help when I contacted a professor at my alma mater. She sounded excited to help but just couldn't seem to find the time in her busy, busy schedule for me. Things got worse when she learned that I don't have a college degree in music composition (never mind the fact that I've had more success as a composer than a lot of graduates who have Composition degrees). "Call me in a week," she said, "We'll work something out." That week was extended to two, then two more, and on and on.

It's been three months now and she called yesterday to say that she is going to be out of town for the summer and that I should try calling her in October. She kicked me around for three months and now it looks like she has no interest whatsoever in spending just a few hours looking over my score. The part that upsets me most is that she has a copy of my piano score and a rough Finale recording, which will sit in her office. I should have asked for it back.

I'm determined to get this thing done, so I contacted two other professors. One seemed genuinely interested, but can't scheduling anything until mid-July (better than October!). The other hasn't responded yet. I'm not getting my hopes too high - this isn't the first (or even the second) time that people at this esteemed university have failed to follow through on their promises. It seems endemic.

I'll write more on what happend next, but I am determined to have someone look at this piece. I am determined to whip it into shape, and I am determined to get it produced on a stage.

Friday, June 6, 2008

New Piece is Done!

Last night I worked out the bowings, added articulation, rehearsal numbers, and dynamics, and finished the new piece! All that's left is a title and I have plenty of time to think about that. My original thought was "Nairobi," but it's such an evocative title that I might want to save it for a more dramatic composition. Also, Kenya is in East Africa and this new piece is inspired by West African drumming. With all the cross-rhythms and pizzicato going on at once, maybe something like "Mosaic" or "___ Mosaic" would be good. "Tapestry" also crossed my mind.

Monday, June 2, 2008

New Piece Taking Shape

I got quite a bit done on the new piece this weekend. I worked out a 16-measure "C" section of the rondo where the whole orchestra gets to drum and pizzicato. It's set up as a two-measure pattern starting in the 'cellos and basses. After four measures, the violas join in. Two more measures later the violins II enter, and two measures after that, the violins I play high pizzicato notes over the whole thing. The last four measures build the intensity and lead harmonically toward a recap of the main theme. Limiting the rhythms in each part to repeated two-measure phrases should make it a little easier to play.

I actually wrote this section backwards - I started with the most complex layering of rhythms and then added measures before it, judiciously taking away parts.

The recap features the 'cellos bowing an extra harmonic line under the violins. Today, I need to iron out a few transitions, come up with a suitably flashy ending, and start the editing process. More on that later!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The New Piece Progresses

The new piece starts with 'cellos, basses, and violas drumming, Violins I playing a melody, and Violins II handling harmony. After that, everyone switches around - Violas and 'basses get melody, 'cellos handle the harmony line, and the violins drum. The tricky part is the transition between and working it out so the rhythm flows without a gap. I have to leave space for musicians to pick up or put down bows, and I think I worked out a reasonable solution.

I like to write for a few hours, and work out what I can, but an important part of my process is to walk away for a while and take short breaks. They allow me to work out ideas and then come back with a fresh perspective. When I come back, I'll ususaly make changes to what I've just done and move on from there.

I only have one theme, but in one of these breaks, I've worked out the form of this new piece. I think it will be a rondo (one of my favorite forms) with this theme alternating with a call-and-response section and a C Theme that consists entirely of drumming and pizzicato.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Started a new piece

I hope your Memorial Day was a good one. I slept in, did some gardening, watched a classic old movie ("Forbidden Planet" with a pre-ironic Leslie Nielsen) and started a new piece of music.

It's unusual for me, but I started with the title this time - "Nairobi" (evocative, no? It might change.). Young musicians, especially the basses and 'cellos, love to drum on their instruments, so I thought I'd give them a chance to incorporate that into a new piece of music. This is an "advanced" piece, so the rhythms are a little more complex. The chin-fiddles will have a chance to do some drumming too, but the piece starts with the floor-fiddles.

For inspiration, I got out my old record player (ask your parents, kids) and put on one of my favorite recordings - "Zungo!" by Olatunji Babatunde, a West African singer/drummer. I soaked in the flavors of the album to give me a direction for the rhythm and the melodies and went to work. The first 16 measures sound pretty good and I think I'll have to include some call-and-response later in the piece. I'll keep you informed as progress is made!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Got My New Music!

There are three very exciting parts of the publication process: receiving word from my editor about which pieces they decided to take for next year, hearing the recordings by the Alfred Studio Orchestra for the first time, and receiving complimentary copies of the finished music.

Yesterday, I received my music! This year's two new pieces are A Breeze In the Keys and Sleigh Ride to New Haven. Alfred used to send me two copies of each new piece, but they recently upped it to three. I've seen the music before, when they sent me proofs last autumn, but the copies I got yesterday are on the good paper with the cardstock binder. Before, it was hypothetical, now it's official.

It's been ten years since my first publication, but I still get excited over these little things and I'm always grateful and surprised when they decide to publish even more of the stuff I write. I sent a packet of new music to California two weeks ago, thus beginning the annual cycle of nail-biting anxiety and it won't end until July or August. Getting the shipment yesterday provided a nice break.

Getting the finished music means that music stores have started receiving the finished music too, so check your local retailer or online supplier. Also, it won't be long before the recordings are made available on Both are really good this year, but I'm especially happy with the recording of A Breeze In the Keys.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My New Website

This weekend I successfully updated my website! Check it out at

I noticed that it needs a litle tweaking, but everything is there - new graphics (including a cool navigation bar), links to recordings, published music, and YouTube videos, better organization, and a more streamlined, professional look. Even a few photos of me.

So, check it out and drop me a line - I always respond to e-mails.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Indian Hill Concert

I had a great time last night at the Indian Hill Middle School Orchestra Spring Concert!

My friend Candace Putz is the director and she mentioned a few weeks ago that her 8th graders would be playing Westward Motion. She invited me to say a few words before the performance, so I cleared my calendar and set my VCR to tape Lost. I got there a little late (unusual for me) but slipped backstage after the 6th graders finished to let her know that I'd arrived and was ready to speak.

"Oh, great!" she said, "Look, the kids want you to conduct the piece."

I was a little stunned at first, but said "Okay, let's do it!" Thank goodness I thought to wear a tie and nice shoes.

So I went back to the band room, quickly introduced myself, got everyone in places, and ran through the piece. I had no score and conducted with a xylophone mallet, but it worked out fine. The orchestra sounded good and several students commented that Westward Motion was their favorite piece. After the run-through, I answered a few questions and we went outside to wait for the 7th graders to finish.

The 8th graders took the stage and the performance was great. Mrs. Putz lent me her baton and there was a score waiting for me at the podium. The kids generally weren't happy with the rest of their performance, but Westward Motion sounded good. After the show everyone convened in the auditorium lobby for a reception, where I talked with several parents, who were very excited and appreciative. They seemed to like the piece.

So it was a great night and I had a great time! Mrs. Putz always does an excellent job and it's wonderful to see the progress her students make over the years.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Doug's New Opera: The Libretto

So, yes, I've written an opera. I've written symphonies, ballet scores, concertos, chamber music, and countless pieces for string orchestra, but there's one challenge for composers above all others and I thought it was time to take it on.

The first and most time-consuming task was to write the libretto - probably the most important aspect of an opera. Operas are about music, but it must have a compelling story and interesting characters. Good music can't save a bad story. I decided to write the libretto myself rather than finding someone else for purely selfish reasons. I've seen it happen before; if the libretto is good, people will focus on that and not the music. An opera is a lot of work and I want to get credit for my efforts and my vision.

I started the whole project with a concept and then organized my characters. I don't want to go into the plot details, but the libretto is based on real historical people in a purely ficticious situation. So once I decided on the concept, I had to ask myself questions: Who is involved in this story? What motivates them? How would they react and interact with each other? What do they want from each other? After that was decided, the plot fell into place.

Next, I created an outline of events and wrote the first draft of, what I felt, was a pretty good play. Dialogue was the tricky part. I wanted each character to have a unique speech pattern, like real people do. Since the main character was very quotable, I assembled as many direct quotes as I could and replaced the dialogue in my draft with her quotes. Of course, I had to take a lot out of context, but I got a good feel for her vocabulary and speech rhythms and filled in the rest of the dialogue with words to match her speech pattern. Other characters weren't nearly as quotable, so I found modern celebrities whose personalities and backgrounds matched and used their quotes as the basis for my dialogue. In total, about a third of my libretto consists of direct quotes.

Five or six drafts later, I had my completed libretto which, printed out in single-spaced screenplay format, came to 60 pages. As I set the words to music I would delete or change lines here and there and the finished text now takes up about 54 pages.
The whole writing process, from developing the concept to research to writing and editing the libretto took about a year.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Direction

I originally started this blog as an Oscar newsletter, giving my predictions for the 80th Academy awards, but since that's over and I've been working on updating my website, I thought I'd re-purpose this blog into an extension of my website (which, by the way,can be found at I hope to put up a newly-redesigned version of my website in a few weeks, with cooler graphics, YouTube links, and updated content.

I have no set schedule for updating this blog, but I intend to check back here when I can to write about what I've been working on, share my thoughts, and occasionally discuss the opera I've been working on. Of course, in January, I'll re-focus on my favorite holiday season and dedicate this blog to Oscar predictions.

Please feel free to ask questions or make comments in any of these posts. Thanks for reading, and I hope you come back to see what I'm up to!

Monday, February 25, 2008

2008 Post-Mortem

Another Oscar Night is done and the final count is Doug: 12, Oscar: 6. That's 67% - about par for me. Of those six misses, a few were genuine surprises, such as Visual Effects going to The Golden Compass. The Best Actress and Art Direction races were close and I don't feel bad about missing them. No Country's win for Best Picture was predicted by many prognosticators, but I let my personal opinion sway my choice there. My only regret is switching my picks in the Sound categories from The Bourne Ultimatum to Transformers. It was a dumb move, and it could have upped my average significantly. On the bright side, I correctly picked six of the eight top categories (75%!) and once again beat Entertainment Weekly, who only scored 55% accuracy.

I think the broadcast was okay, especially since a lot of it was put together at the last minute. This was the 80th Oscars, so you'd think they would do something really special (something other than the tired "every living Acting Oscar winner on stage at the same time" roll-call that they did for the 70th and 75th Oscars). Instead, it was pretty low-key, with a series of montages from past ceremonies and a clip from all 79 previous winners. Jon Stewart did a nice job and had some funny improvised lines - I especially liked the bit about Cate Blanchett's acting range.

Some other notable things about the 2008 Oscars: The Best Picture winner won the most awards (4), but the second-most-winning movie was The Bourne Ultimatum with three wins in the technical categories. Also, for the first time, perhaps ever, the Best Song Oscar actually went to the best song.

And now some superlatives:

Best Dressed: George Clooney was born to wear a tux. He just can't do it wrong. Apart from that, Jennifer Garner's curvy black fishtail number was great and, speaking of fish, Marion Cotillard's scale-pattern white gown by Jean-Paul Gotiller was just perfect. I'm also a fan of Nicole Kidman's dress, draped with diamonds. One of the more controversial looks was Tilda Swinton. Sure, it was a shapeless black bag, but she has a distinctive, modern style and her pale skin, shock of red hair, and angular features really made it work for me.

Worst Dressed: Conversely, Diablo Cody's shapeless leopard dress was not flattering. Yes, she has a "quirky" 80's style and proudly showed off her pinup tattoo, but there was a better way to go. Cameron Diaz's dress was nice, but maybe could have been better in a different color. And if it had the wrinkles steamed out. The absolute worst, though, was the one-two punch of Daniel Day-Lewis and his wife. Let's start with her. Her gown was lumpy, had incongruous red ribbon straps, and - worst of all - was festooned down the front with absurdly over sized clusters of crystals. She could probably power the Enterprise with that gown. As for Mr. Day-Lewis, we should go from the top down. First, there's the floppy rat's nest of hair. Then there is the pair of pirate-style hoop earrings. Then, we come to the tux with rounded lapels (never a good look) and weird brown piping (yeesh!). Finish it off with brown boots and you have one of the worst-dressed men in memory.

Best Hair: Again, I liked Jennifer Garner's tousled up-swept do. I also liked Tilda Swinton's hair. Very modern. In addition, it was good to see Javier Bardem with a normal men's haircut and I have to mention Clooney again for his perfect, dignified gray.

Worst Hair: Okay, I'll just say it. Did John Travolta look weird to anyone else? Did his hair look a little too perfect? Like a sprayed-on helmet?

Best Acceptance Speech: It could have been Marion Cotillard or Diablo Cody's tearful speeches, but my pick goes to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, winners for Best Song. Their speeches were so heartfelt, sincere, and grateful, that Jon Stewart took time to let Irglová back on stage to finish. Another great moment was Daniel Day-Lewis kneeling before Dame Helen Mirren, as if being knighted by the Queen. I also enjoyed Joel Cohen's speech - which he gave twice - a simple "thank you" and he let his brother Ethan take the mic.

Worst Acceptance Speech: I know he's a million years old and the guy invented art direction or something, but there should be a time limit on the honorary award acceptance speeches.

Best Irony: The award for Documentary Short went to a film about gay marriage and was presented by members of the U.S. military.

Best Presenter: It seems too easy to pick Tom Hanks, but it fits. There it is.

Worst Presenter: Oh, there's a list. Jennifer Hudson's delivery was so stiff and mannered, I have to wonder how she won an Oscar for acting. I suspect Colin Ferrell might have had a drink or two before the show. He slid on the stage, walked back, and did it again. Odd. Steve Carrell's Office-esque banter with Anne Hathaway is getting tired, but Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill's faux-bickering was annoying and time-consuming. Then there's Jerry Seinfeld, presenting Best Animated Short as his Bee Movie alter-ego. When will the producers learn that animated characters presenting awards isn't cute or clever?

So there it is - another Oscar Night down! I hope you had as much fun reading this blog as I did writing it! I'll send an e-mail to friends and family before next year's Oscar season about my next blog, and if you stumbled on to this blog somehow, check back in December for more. Thanks!


Friday, February 15, 2008

Final Picks

The Oscars are still more than a week away, but I'm ready to make my final picks. Please bear in mind that these picks are who I think will win - not nescessarily who I want to win.

Best Picture: There Will Be Blood
Best Director: Joel & Ethan Cohen
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Actress: Julie Christie
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem
Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton
Best Original Screenplay: Juno
Best Adapted Screenplay: No Country For Old Men
Best Cinematography: There Will Be Blood
Best Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum
Best Art Direction: Atonement
Best Costumes: Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Best Makeup: La Vie En Rose
Best Visual Effects: Transformers
Best Sound: Transformers
Best Sound Effects Editing: Transformers
Best Score: Atonement
Best Song: "Falling Slowly" from Once

You'll notice that I've changed my mind about a few categories. Upon reflection, and deep consultation with the mystic oracle (i.e. Entertainment Weekly) I think Transformers has a better shot at the Visual Effects and Sound categories than I originally onsidered. I'm still picking Bourne Ultimatum for Best Editing. Also, despite my low opinion of No Country, support has been growing. I'm going to pick it for Adapted Screenpplay over There Will Be Blood. EW and I still disagree on many categories (Costumes, Editing, Art Direction, and Picture) but I'm confident with these choices.

Now I don't make official picks for the short films, documentary, and animated films, but this year I'd like to make a few unofficial predictions. Oscar magnet Michael Moore is up for Documentary Feature for Sicko, but I think it will get beat by No End In Sight - a critically acclaimed, level-headed, unbiased look at a badly-planned war. Also, the Best Animated Feature category is a weird on this year. We have the perennial Pixar entry (Ratattouille), a movie about surfing penguins (Surf's Up), and a tender look at a free-spirited girl dealing with life in an opressive culture (Persepolis). Oscar loves penguins and Pixar's record is impressive, but I'm going to have to go with Persepolis on this one. Substance beats flash, and how often do you see a socially relevant animated film?

So the final count, according to my predictions is: There Will Be Blood: 3, No Country: 3, Atonement: 2, Michael Clayton: 1, and Juno: 1.

That's it for now - The Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 24 at 8:00pm Eastern Time. Check out the pre-show and the specials before the show on ABC. After the show, I'll post the list of winners and give a run-down of the show with my superlatives. Happy Oscar Night, everyone!

Doug's Big Oscar Quiz - Part 6, Answers

1. "If I'd known this was all it would take, I'd have put that eye patch on forty years ago."
d. John Wayne

2. "Gee, this isn't what I imagined it would be in the bathtub!"
a. Diane Wiest

3. "You've broken my streak... I've gotten used to not receiving awards."
e. Al Pacino

4. "I'm so happy that every organ in my body is in a very bad way."
b. Roberto Benigni

5. "Mom, I guess it was worth living out of the car."
c. Hillary Swank

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Doug's Big Oscar Quiz - Part 6

Match the acceptance speech quote with the correct Oscar winner:

1. "If I'd known this was all it would take, I'd have put that eye patch on forty years ago."

2. "Gee, this isn't what I imagined it would be in the bathtub!"

3. "You've broken my streak... I've gotten used to not receiving awards."

4. "I'm so happy that every organ in my body is in a very bad way."

5. "Mom, I guess it was worth living out of the car."

a. Diane Wiest
b. Roberto Benigni
c. Hillary Swank
d. John Wayne
e. Al Pacino

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Best Picture

And now, the big one.

Personally, I'd love for Juno to win. It has so much going for it: charming characters, zippy dialogue, and a good time at the movies. Unfortunately, it's the fluffiest, least "substantial" of the five nominees. Michael Clayton, on the other hand, is anything but fluffy. Its conscience-conflicted characters rub against each other like sandpaper and create real dramatic heat in the process. Still, its complex plot and character-centric focus might turn voters off. Aside from Juno, Atonement is the only movie of the five with a love story, and it's the sweeping, historical, epic, British sort of love story that Oscar loves to reward. I wouldn't be unhappy if Atonement won, but its lack of a Best Director nod and the fact that most of its other nominations are clustered in the artistic categories doesn't bode well. No Country For Old Men got my pick for Best Director(s), but I suspect that it might be too violent for the older Oscar voters. Actually, they don't mind violence, but it's senseless, glamorized, and consequence-free violence in films like No Country and Pulp Fiction that tends to turn them off. There Will Be Blood is plenty violent, but the body count is much lower and it has the historical and epic qualities that voters are often attracted to. Its themes are clearly presented and it has artistic merit and great performances throughout. No Country and Atonement might surprise with an upset, but my pick for Best Picture of 2007 goes to There Will Be Blood.

Best Director

The Best Director race is a tricky one this year. Let's start by weeding out the least likely candidates. Juno's director, Jason Reitman, is the youngest of the five and is nominated for his second feature and, though he is a second-generation director, hasn't earned the standing that all the other nominees enjoy. Next is Michael Clayton's Tony Gilroy - a more established prescence, if not a household name. The real accomplishment of his movie is the writing and acting and I think his chances are slim for Best Director. Next is the spoiler - Julian Schnabel, for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. His is the only movie here not also nominated for Best Picture, but many critics agree that his direction stands out so much that he may win despite a relative lack of nominations backing him up. Conversely, the Cohen Brothers and P.T. Anderson have received nominations across the board for No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood, respectively. Their high-nomination count makes their movies the front runners and therefore, puts them in the lead for Best Director. It's a tough call, but I'm going to pick the Cohens. They are seen as very prolific, artistic-minded directors and are the "elder statesmen" among their competition. Voters often reward not just the nominated movie, but the body of work that backs it up and I think that will be the case this year. By the way, if they win, this will be the second time that the Best Director award goes to two directors for the same film. The only other time was in 1961 when Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins shared the award for West Side Story.

Monday, February 11, 2008

There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood is an epic on American themes - specifically the clash between capitalism and faith. Daniel Plainview is a shrewd turn-of-the-20th-Century oil prospector. A self-made success, he has made his fortune by his ability to charm common people out of the oil on their property by appealing to their values, speaking plainly, and making them think they're getting the better end of the deal. He's like Gordon Gekko from Wall Street crossed with Teddy Roosevelt. When he is alerted to a vast untapped oil field in the town of New Boston, he works his charm, expresses modesty, and conveys experience through a well-rehearsed speech to the townsfolk. He is quickly undermined, though by Eli Sunday. Eli is a young minister, wary of the oil workers who have moved in with their grand promises and when he and Daniel square off, we see the hidden glint in each man's eye - that of two con men recognizing each other and silently staking claim to the same territory. Their battle of wills lasts decades through good times and bad and the struggle changes with the times until patience finally wins out.

This movie takes a little while to get into - it's kind of like Beethoven's 9th Symphony. The fourth movement has one of the world's most recognizable melodies, but can you hum the theme from from the first movement? Many people can't. The thing is, even though it isn't as memorable as the rest of the piece, we need that first movement to set things up, to get us into the right state of mind, to prepare us for what's to come. Likewise, the slow opening of There Will Be Blood is all setup and leads to the compelling middle and astounding, cathartic final scene.

There Will Be Blood is up for nine Academy Awards - more than any film this year. It looks outmatched for the technical awards - Editing and Sound Editing - and barring a sweep, will probably lose the artistic categories - Costumes and Art Direction. I do think it will do well in the Cinematography category and is a lock for Best Actor. As for Best Director, I think the elder statesmen of the category - the Cohen brothers - will take it. As the most epic and ambitious movie, I'm picking it for both Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

Doug's Big Oscar Quiz - Part 5, Answers

21. "I dedicate this to... the six million who can't be watching."
d. Steven Speilberg

22. "This is the highlight of my day. I hope it's not all downhill from here."
b. Kevin Spacey

23. "I love it up here!"
a. Julia Roberts

24. "I'm gonna cry, because this show has been as long as my career."
e. Shirley MacLaine

25. "C'mon, Oscar. Let's go for a drink."
c. Bette Davis

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Doug's Big Oscar Quiz - Part 5

Let's change things up a little. Match the Oscar winner with their correct quote from their acceptance speech:

21. "I dedicate this to... the six million who can't be watching."

22. "This is the highlight of my day. I hope it's not all downhill from here."

23. "I love it up here!"

24. "I'm gonna cry, because this show has been as long as my career."

25. "C'mon, Oscar. Let's go for a drink."

a. Julia Roberts
b. Kevin Spacey
c. Bette Davis
d. Steven Speilberg
e. Shirley MacLaine

Writing Awards

Let's start with the Original Screenplay award. First up is Lars and the Real Girl, a film that was panned by critics and ignored by audiences. Ratatouille was the opposite - praised by critics and a huge commercial success, but it's animation, and is still looked down upon by many as a "kids' movie." Moving on, The Savages splits the difference - it's a movie that earned raves from critics and, due to minimal advertising and a limited run, was ignored by audiences. There are two films this year that are also up for Best Picture, which augments their odds of winning. Michael Clayton is up for more awards, but Juno is this year's "quirky arty," and this is the category where the "quirky arty" gets its recognition. Michael Clayton's characters are sharply written, but Juno's overall charm and immensely quotable dialogue should push screenwriter Diablo Cody up on stage.

The Adapted Screenplay category is a trickier prospect, with the other three Best Picture nominees showing, alongside two other strong contenders. The others in question are Away From Her (written by actress/director Sarah Polley) and The Diving Bell And the Butterfly. Diving Bell is in French, which I think might be a turnoff in the screenplay category, but the Academy loves to give writing awards to actors, so Polley's chances are elevated. Atonement and No Country For Old Men are both adapted from prestegious books and, of the two, I'd give No Country the edge. As I stated in an earlier post, the Cohen brothers' main strength is their dialogue. Finally, we have the loosest adaptation of the five - There Will Be Blood isn't as much based on Upton Sinclair's "Oil!" as it is inspired by it. Still, There Will Be Blood is the front-runner for Best Picture, and its writing really is excellent on all counts, making it my pick for Adapted Screenply.

Best Actor

In a year of tough races, it's nice to have a few categories whith a strong leader. Let's talk Best Actor.

Daniel Day-Lewis is the immediate standout this year, for There Will Be Blood - his pushy oilman is really a tour-de-force and is definitely strong enough to earn him a second win. His nearest competitor might be Viggo Mortensen, in Eastern Promises, just because of the physical demands of the role and the challenging accent. Conversley, George Clooney pretty much played George Clooney in Michael Clayton. Tommy Lee Jones pulled in a surprise nomination for In The Valley of Elah, but Academy support is nearly nonexistant for that film. Still, Jones's unnominated work in No Country For Old Men might bolster his chances. Johnny Depp is enjoying his third nomination (his first for a Tim Burton film), but despite doing his own singing, Depp's chances are slim. I think audiences will see the artifice around the role (costumes, makeup, music) and not the performance itself. Still, despite his pechant for odd acting choices and roles, Depp is gaining momentum and good will with each nomination. So, my pick goes to Day-Lewis. I can't even conceive of who would upset his win.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Doug's Big Oscar Quiz Part 4 - Answers

16. Who was the first person to use the nickname "Oscar" to describe the award in an acceptance speech?
b. Walt Disney

17. In 1956, first official Best Foreign Language Film Oscar went to...
c. Italy

18. Who was the youngest actress to win a competitive Oscar?
a. Tatum O'Neil

19. Which actress reportedly got dumped by her boyfriend just hours before winning Best Supporting Actress?
a. Jennifer Connelly

20. Who is the oldest Best Actress winner?
d. Jessica Tandy

No Country For Old Men

I have a confession that will likely shock many: I can't stand the Cohen Brothers' movies. I know, they're supposed to be a do-no-wrong cinematic double threat and all right-thinking cineasts are expected to bow down to their genius, but I really don't enjoy their work. Any of it. I find their comedies, like Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski unfunny and I find their "artsy" dramas, like Fargo and Blood Simple tedius and unappealing. Their latest, No Country For Old Men is no different and I really can't understand how it got nominated for so many Oscars. The plot follows a man who stumbles across the grisly scene of a drug deal gone bad, steals the money, and goes on the run from a psychopathic mob hitman. It's a slow-paced quiet movie that somehow also manages to be graphically violent - countless people (and two dogs) are either shot or are killed by a cattle-slaughtering device. In an attempt at justifying this mess, the whole sprawling ordeal is punctuated with old men ruminating on their mortality and rambling on about the old days, weather things are worse now, and how the old-timers would have faced modern crimes. Then the movie ends. Nothing is solved, there's no closure of any kind, the movie just sort of decides to stop. If the movie is an exploration of mortality, it never develops the ideas enough to make an impact. If it's just supposed to be just a grisly crime story, it gets muddled in its slow pace and attempts at a "message."

There are two things I can credit the Cohen brothers for, though. First, they're great at casting - especially the small roles like the gas station attendant and the hotel clerk. These are real-live folksy folks and I don't know where the brothers find them. Also, Javier Bardem was an unusual, but ultimately interesting choice for Anton Chigur, the dead-eyed assassin. Second, they write great dialogue. They have an especially good ear for colloquial dialects. If they could cast and write dialogue for other peoples' movies and avoid making any more of their own, it would be an ideal situation.

No Country For Old Men is up for eight Academy Awards. It looks outmatched for Adapted Screenplay, Sound, Sound mixing, Editing, and Cinematography. The brothers, Joel and Ethan, share a nomination for Best Director, but barring an upset, they probably won't win. The film's best bet is its Best Supporting Actor bid for Javier Bardem, who steals the movie with an admittedly chilling performance. As for Best Picture, No Country doesn't get my pick, but strong Academy support could, unfortunately, prove me wrong.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Doug's Big Oscar Quiz - Part 4

16. Who was the first person to use the nickname "Oscar" to describe the award in an acceptance speech?
a. Vivien Leigh
b. Walt Disney
c. Katherine Hepburn
d. Lionel Barrymore

17. In 1956, first official Best Foreign Language Film Oscar went to...
a. Japan
b. Germany
c. Italy
d. Brazil

18. Who was the youngest actress to win a competitive Oscar?
a. Tatum O'Neil
b. Anna Paquin
c. Jodie Foster
d. Judy Garland

19. Which actress got dumped by her boyfriend just hours before winning Best Supporting Actress?
a. Jennifer Connelly
b. Geena Davis
c. Goldie Hawn
d. Shelly Winters

20. Who is the oldest Best Actress winner?
a. Gloria Stuart
b. Judi Dench
c. Helen Mirren
d. Jessica Tandy

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Music Awards

Ah, the music awards. So easy this year.

In the race for Best Score, the contenders are 3:10 To Yuma, Michael Clayton, Ratatouille, The Kite Runner, and Atonement. Here's why Atonement will win: Typewrters. In a strikingly genius move, Dario Marianelli used a typewriter as a percussion instrument, matching his tempos to the action on screen and still managing to underscore, but not overwhelm the pathos of a beautifully told tragic love story.

In the Best Song race, three nominations were hoarded by Disney's Enchanted. Songwriter Alan Menkin is no stranger to the Oscars. His work with Disney in the late 80's and early 90's earned him enough Oscars to shingle his roof. The song "Raise It Up" from August Rush and "Falling Slowly" from Once are also nominated. If there's any justice in the world, voters will ignore the August Rush song, split their vote among the Enchanted selections, and recognize "Falling Slowly" for what it is - the Best Original Song in a Motion Picture. First, it's a great song (not that that ever factors in at the Oscars). Second, it's use in the movie is integral to the plot of the film and effectively defines the main characters' relationship in the course of its performance. I told myself that I would pick winners based on facts and not my personal preference this year, but in this case, I have to go with my heart. My pick goes to Once.

Best Actress

In this year's Best Actress race, two performances really stand out among the five. I love that Ellen Page was nominated for Juno - her performance cannot be overrated - but she is the youngest nominee and has the least-showy role of the five. Likewise, Laura Linney is outmatched for her role in The Savages by more high-profile films. Perennial Oscar record-breaker Cate Blanchett is now the first woman to be nominated for the same role in two different movies (1998's Elizabeth and this year's Elizabeth: The Golden Age) but, like its predescessor, this sequel is more a showcase for its costumes and sets than its performances. That leaves two ladies standing: Marion Cotillard, who absolutely inhabits the role of Edith Piaf from the ages of 20 through 60 in La Vie En Rose, and Julie Christie as an alzheimer's patient in Away From Her. On one hand, Cotillard physically transformed herself and threw herself into a turbulent role, but on the other hand, Julie Christie has won nearly every acting award so far this year. I'd love to see Cotillard's name called, but I think voters will feel that the movie is too over-the-top and melodramatic and will go with Christie's more understated, brave performance.

Monday, February 4, 2008


If Juno features young characters too willing to abandon their childhoods and bravely face the consequences, then Atonement features the opposite - a young girl is thrust onto an adult situation she is unprepared for and spends a life of regretting her actions. Thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis lives a life of privelage and posesses the rich imagination and fantasy life of a writer. A series of misunderstandings lead her to the mistaken judgement of local boy Robbie Turner. The misunderstandings turn tragic when Briony is asked to be the sole eyewitness to a horrible crime that she blames on Robbie, half-understanding that he is innocent, but convincing herself nonetheless. Briony's sister, Celia was in love with Robbie and the false accusation changes all three lives with dire results. The regret cuts Briony so deeply that years later, even in her fantasies, she doesn't let Celia and Robbie forgiver her.

Atonement is up for seven Academy Awards and actually has a shot a a few of them. The best bet is for music - Dario Marianelli's brilliant score features a typewriter as a percussion instrument, perfectly signifying Briony's dangerous fantasy life at precise moments in the film. It also has a good shot at Cinematography, most notably for the virtuosic five-minute tracking shot that involves a quarter mile of beach and a cast of thousands. Art Direction was also great in Atonement and will probably win. Less likely to come to fruition are Atonement's nominations for Costume Design, Adapted Screenplay, and Supporting Actress where it is simply outmatched by its competition. As for Best Picture, it does feature many things Academy voters traditionally gravitate toward: an epic storyline, a romantic plot, a period setting, people with accents, war scenes, and a prestigous literary adaptation. It might just take the top prize, but its lack of a nomination for Best Director is a serious hit, showing that while the Academy might recognize it as the best looking film of the year, it will not nescessarily be named the Best Picture.

Doug's Big Oscar Quiz - Answers to Part 3

11. Who was the youngest Best Director nominee?
b. John Singleton

12. Who was the first person to win an acting Oscar for a non-English-speaking role?
c. Sophia Loren

13. Who delivered the longest acceptance speech?
a. Greer Garson

14. Who was the first actor to win an Oscar for a musical?
d. James Cagney

15. Who hosted the most Oscar ceremonies?
c. Bob Hope

Friday, February 1, 2008

Doug's Big Oscar Quiz - Part 3

11. Who was the youngest Best Director nominee?
a. M. Night Shyamalan
b. John Singleton
c. Orson Welles
d. Sophia Coppola

12. Who was the first person to win an acting Oscar for a non-English-speaking role?
a. Roberto Benigni
b. Fernanda Montenegra
c. Sophia Loren
d. Dr. Haing S. Ngor

13. Who delivered the longest acceptance speech?
a. Greer Garson
b. Cuba Gooding Jr.
c. Tom Hanks
d. Vivien Leigh

14. Who was the first actor to win an Oscar for a musical?
a. Catherine Zeta-Jones
b. Fred Astaire
c. Julie Andrews
d. James Cagney

15. Who hosted the most Oscar ceremonies?
a. Danny Kaye
b. Billy Crystal
c. Bob Hope
d. Whoopi Goldberg

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Artistic Awards

The nominees for Best Cinematography are The Assassination of Jesse James, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, No Country, and There Will Be Blood. Roger Deakins has been denied an Oscar despite over a dozen nominations and this year he has two shots - for Jesse James and No Country. Still, I think he will get beat again, this time by Atonement, a movie that manages to make a bombed-out beach look as gorgeous as an English manor. Plus, there was that virtuosic 5-minute tracking shot that involved a cast of thousands.

Best Art directions pits the fantastical and dark (Sweeny Todd and The Golden Compass) against modern (American Gangster) and historical styles (Atonement and There Will Be Blood). I think Atonement will take this one for showing a wide variety of set designs - from a stately country estate to the grungy ruins and triage hospital of WWII France.

In the Best Costumes category, the more ffantastical and outrageous costumes always trump subtlety. Atonement, Across The Universe, and La Vie En Rose each had a great variety of costumes, but they pale in comparison to the Victorian goth look of Sweeny Todd and the outrageous Elizabethan garb in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. I predict that the team from Elizabeth will take the prize.

The three nominees for Makeup are La Vie En Rose, perennial nominee Rick Baker for Norbit, and Pirates 3. Norbit's achievement really is its makeup and Pirates 3 is impressive, but the makeup team from La Vie En Rose transformed Marion Cotillard into Edith Piaf in every stage of her life, from her 20's through her 60's. It was just as important to creating the character as Cotillard's fine acting and I think it will get recognized.

Best Supporting Actor

As with many categories this year, the Best Supporting Actor race features a diverse array of nominees, from fresh faces to veterans. Casey Affleck's youth may be his biggest impediment to winning for The Assasination of Jesse James..., but he does have a secret weapon - a well-reviewed lead performance in his brother Ben's directorial effort Gone Baby Gone. Voters will likely see him in that movie while they're reviewing their screeners for Amy Adams' nomination. Philip Seymour Hoffman is going for his second Oscar, for Charlie Wilson's War, but his is only one of two for that movie. Even though Hoffman is a well-respected actor's actor, only two nominations could mean a lack of support for his movie. Tom Wilkinson is no stranger to Oscar movies and his broad, operatic role in Michael Clayton is an actor's dream come true. On top of that he earns points for doing an accent. Wilkinson's biggest impediment might be his competition - Javier Bardem is the odds-on favorite, having won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actor's Guild Award. His performance may be short, but he steals the whole movie and his stoic killer character has been compared to Hannibal Lechter. On top of that, Spaniard Bardem performs his role entirely in a foreign language. But hold on! Hal Holbrook is also in the running and may cause a huge upset. He is a well-respected actor who has been in the business for decades and is currently enjoying his first nomination. Holbrook looks poised to take the award not for his performance in Into The Wild, but as a defacto lifetime achievement award. My pick goes to Bardem but I'm watching out for Holbrook to upset. All it will take is one profile on

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Michael Clayton

The pseudo-Erin Brockovich "evil-conglomerate-poisoning-innocent-people legal drama" plot in Michael Clayton is really a giant Macguffin. The U/North case and all the behind-the scenes machinations are like a giant, enclosed pinball machine inside of which the characters bounce and occasionally collide. It's the characters who are the real purpose of the movie and, though they all have different, often opposing motivations, they all have one thing in common - they live and operate on the dark side of the moral spectrum while aspiring toward righteousness.

First, we have Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) a lawyer who snaps in grand Network style, after a revelation about the morality of his life's work. He is a man who spent his life being underhanded and suddenly longs to be on the other side, going as far as to cut off all contact with his former life. This, of course, worries his firm, who has millions of dollars riding on his skills, so they send in their in-house fixer, Michael Clayton (George Clooney). Clayton is regularly called in to do the firm's dirtiest dirty work, but, like Arthur, he also longs for a blameless life. the film takes time to show his shattered family life (his attention-starved son, anxious ex, and down-and-out brother), and his dismal financial condition (insurmountable debt from a failed restaurant). The difference between Arthur and Michael is that Michael lives in a world of reality. He knows what he has to do despite his desire to do what is right. The third character is the most interesting. Corporate spokeswoman Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) is really a good, kind woman who meticulously practices and polishes her strong facade, but in her increasingly desperate attempts to protect her company, she finds herself sinking deeper and deeper into moral quicksand. Arthur and Karen each stand on shaky moral ground and their falls are spectacular and sad. Only Michael - the only character who can accept who he is and what he has to do - stays on his feet.

Michael Clayton is up for seven Academy Awards - three of which are for its actors, and rightfully so. With some of the most well-rounded characters of the year, the film is an acting showcase above all else. The acting categories are tough this year, but I think Tilda Swinton has the best shot of the three. It is also up for Best Score and Best Original Screenplay, but, again, competition is fierce, though if one movie upsets Juno for writing, it will be Michael Clayton. As for Best Director and Best Picture, Michael Clayton is an intimate film that lacks the epic scope of most of its competition. I'm reminded of another movie from a few years ago (also featuring Tom Wilkinson) called In The Bedroom - a highly-nominated actors' showcase which walked away with nothing. Michael Clayton might not do quite that bad, but don't expect a sweep.

Answers to Doug's Big Oscar Quiz - Part 2

6. Who has the most nominations for screenwriting?
c. Woody Allen

7. Who is the first performer to win an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy?
d. Rita Moreno

8. Which is the only major Hollywood studio that has never won Best Picture?
b. Disney

9. Who was the first actor to refuse an Academy Award?
a. George C. Scott

10. What movie won the most Oscars without winning Best Picture?
b. Cabaret

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Doug's Big Oscar Quiz - Part 2

6. Who has the most nominations for screenwriting?
a. Billy Wilder
b. Christopher Hampton
c. Woody Allen
d. Nora Ephron

7. Who is the first performer to win an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy?
a. Liza Minelli
b. Barbara Streisand
c. Judy Garland
d. Rita Moreno

8. Which is the only major Hollywood studio that has never won Best Picture?
a. Paramount
b. Disney
c. Columbia
d. United Artists

9. Who was the first actor to refuse an Academy Award?
a. George C. Scott
b. Dalton Trumbo
c. Marlon Brando
d. William Holden

10. What movie won the most Oscars without winning Best Picture?
a. The Color Purple
b. Cabaret
c. A Passage to India
d. Saving Private Ryan

Answers will be posted soon!

Technical Awards

My big prediction for this year's Oscars is that the awards will be distributed categorically - that all the artistic awards will go in one direction and all the technical awards will go in another.

Let's start with Best Editing. Surprisingly, this year's nominees focus mostly on storytelling rather than flash. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into The Wild, There Will Be Blood, and No Country For Old Men are all pretty standard when it comes to editing. I think it would be interesting for No Country's Roderick Jaynes to win here because he doesn't really exist - he is the pseudonym for directors Joel and Ethan Cohen, who edit their own films. The real standout, though, is The Bourne Ultimatum, a film whose elaborate and jittery editing really contributes to the style, intensity, and suspense of the movie while complimenting the performances, cinematography, and script.

Sound Editing and Sound Mixing are very different things, but often go hand in hand. This year, the nominees are almost identical in both categories. Traditionally, musicals and animated films are praised for their sound. No musicals are nominated this year, but Ratatouille could be a contender. Movies like No Country, There Will Be Blood, and 3:10 To Yuma are nominated for their effective on-location sound rather than their custom sound effects. More likely to win are the big noisy blockbusters like Transformers, however I think the winner in both categories will once again be The Bourne Ultimatum. It really offers the best of both worlds. It's a successful action movie, it was critically praised, and is also a prestige picture - a thinking man's action flick, much like The Matrix, which swept the technical awards back in '99. Count on two more for Bourne.

Three movies are nominated for Visual Effects, which I find very upsetting. I'm only a little surprised that 300 didn't get nominated for costumes and cinematography, but if ever there was a category for a 90% CGI comic-book-based Bronze-Age war movie, it would be Visual Effects. The films the voters did choose are The Golden Compass, Pirates 3, and Transformers. I think The Golden Compass might still be too controversial to win so I'm counting it out. The CGI robots of Transformers would have been a lot more impressive if the cinematography weren't so veritee. I had a hard time focusing on them with all that camera-shaking. Pirates 3 was impressive, but I think voters may have Pirate fatigue - a "been there, done that" attitude about the whole film. Even still, the maelstrom scene was groundbreaking and required new technology to be invented and the seamless blending of makeup and effects is noteworthy. I'll give my pick to Pirates by a small margin.

Best Supporting Actress

The race for Best Supporting Actress features a wide variety of performances this year. Young Saoirse Ronan got her nomination for a brief but intense performance in Atonement and Amy Ryan put forth an equally intense performance as a grieving mother in Gone Baby Gone. In both cases, I think age will work against them, especially considering the veterans who fill out the category. Cate Blanchett (the only previous winner in this group) plays electric-era Bob Dylan in I'm Not There - a role she shares with several other actors and a clever bit of casting that yielded a bravura performance. If she wins, she will be the second person to win an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite gender (Linda Hunt was the first). This could also be her second win for playing a prominent 20th-Century performer. We shouldn't count out nominee #4, Ruby Dee. Age and experience are always a factor in an Oscar race and sometimes voters will choose the veteran receiving her first nomination over the more challenging performance. I call this the "She was due" argument. Also known as the "Don Ameche Effect." Filling out the category is Tilda Swinton, who plays a reluctantly amoral corporate spokeswoman in Michael Clayton . There are a few reasons why I think she will win. First, the British actress pulls off an excellent American accent. Second, she is the most fully-formed, human character in the bunch. Swinton reveals her character's tough, polished exterior and, in private moments, her regret, fear, and insecurity. Finally, even though she has supporting screen time, she actually has the leading female role in the Michael Clayton cast. Amy Ryan may also claim that distinction, but I think Swinton's performance will get recognized. The vast majority of the voting body is actors and Michael Clayton is clearly an acting showcase above all else. My pick goes to Tilda Swinton.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Oh, kids these days. In such a hurry to grow up. In our modern, fast-paced world, kids are all too eager to abandon the simple joys of childhood but are often unprepared to handle the pressures and responsibilities of adulthood. Such is the case with the titular hero in Juno - a confident and independent-minded teenager who treats the grownups in her life as equals and quietly disapproves of her classmates' childishness. Her friend, Paulie Bleeker, is less adept at the grownup thing. He tries to put up a mature and confident front, but the anxiety of being rushed into an adult world shows through regardless.

When Juno and Bleeker (awkwardly) have sex, they find themselves surprised and unprepared for the most adult of consequences - pregnancy. Bleeker has a quiet freak-out, while Juno barrels ahead, navigating the responsibilities with a matter-of-fact attitude and a quick-witted sense of humor. With the support of her friend and the reluctant help of her parents, she strikes a deal to let a childless yuppie couple adopt her baby. The Lorrings, Mark and Vanessa, seem like the perfect potential parents. Vanessa is a responsible and sensible woman and Mark is a successful commercial musician who long ago gave up his rock-star dreams for a life of quiet suburban stability. Over the course of Juno's pregnancy, she and Mark bond over music and movies and we soon see why they can communicate on the same level - Juno is a child yearning to be a grown-up, while Mark a man trapped in a grown-up life who yearns for the freedom of his youth. As their relationship and Juno's pregnancy develop, Juno begins to see the value in her youth and slows down enough to rediscover the simple joys she had once been so eager to abandon.

Juno is up for four Academy Awards - Best Picture, Best Actress (Ellen Page), Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Clearly, this movie holds the "quirky arty" slot in the Best Picture race (once filled by movies like The Full Monty, Chocolat, and Little Miss Sunshine) and a nomination is probably as far as that will go. Four other, more prestigious films are nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. Twenty-year-old Ellen Page did a brilliant job and successfully carries most of the movie, but she is up against some heavyweights in the Best Actress category. Fortunately, Juno is up for Original Screenplay - the best hope for the "quirky arty." Voters don't feel right giving major awards to "lighter" movies, but often reward them for their sharp writing. And the writing in Juno could cut glass.

Answers to Doug's Big Oscar Quiz Part 1

1. Who was the youngest Best Lead Actress nominee?

c. Keira Knightley

2. Which film's entire cast was nominated for acting Oscars?

a. Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?

3. What was the last all-black-and-white film to win Best Picture?

d. The Apartment

4. Who was the first actor to be nominated posthumously?

b. James Dean

5. What was the first movie to be released on video before winning Best Picture?

b. Silence of the Lambs

Monday, January 14, 2008

Doug's Big Oscar Quiz - Part 1

1. Who was the youngest Best Lead Actress nominee?
a. Vivien Leigh
b. Diane Keaton
c. Keira Knightley
d. Audrey Hepburn

2. Which film's entire cast was nominated for acting Oscars?
a. Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?
b. Moonstruck
c. Murder on the Orient Express
d. The Piano

3. What was the last all-black-and-white film to win Best Picture?
a. All the King's Men
b. All About Eve
c. From Here to Eternity
d. The Apartment

4. Who was the first actor to be nominated posthumously?
a. Peter Finch
b. James Dean
c. Paul Muni
d. Peter O'Toole

5. What was the first movie to be released on video before winning Best Picture?
a. Platoon
b. Silence of the Lambs
c. Rain Man
d. Driving Miss Daisy

Answers will be posted soon!