By the time I got around to Call Me By Your Name, I had heard so much about it that it was impossible for me to have anything close to a pure experience. I’d read fawning reviews and brutal takedowns. My daughter loves it while my nephew hates it. I read about the father’s closing scene so often that I relented and watched it on YouTube long before I watched the rest of the film.
Due to the Winter Olympics, this year’s Academy Awards are ridiculously late (March 4), which buys me a little time to sneak in some pre-Oscars blog posts. Specifically, I’m going to spend the next ten days featuring this year’s Best Original Song nominees as well as five of my favorite Best Original Song winners.
Michigan indie artist Sufjan Stevens is this year’s unlikeliest Best Song nominee. The eclectic multi-instrumentalist will seem as out of place on the Kodak Theatre stage as Elliott Smith did performing ‘Miss Misery’ from Good Will Hunting in 1997.
Back in the early ’00s, Stevens vowed to write an album about every one of the 50 U.S. states, capturing the best and worst qualities of each. He started with Michigan then moved on to neighboring Illinois. But that’s where it ended. He has since dismissed the idea as absurd.
Back in 2008, I started what I described then as “an occasional series” on Forgotten Gems, favorite movies of mine that never earned a spot in the popular consciousness as great films.
When a movie or album or performer is lavished with praise in all the “right” magazines and websites, I get a little antsy until I’m in the know. And more often than not, I agree with the chattering class.
In my defense, the critics are usually right, especially when there is near unanimous consent.
My issue with Stevens is that he tries too damn hard. The album of his I own is 2005’s orgasmically-received Come On Feel the Illinoise!, which was the second entry in his “Fifty State Project,” a plan to write and record an album about each U.S. state. He started with 2003’s Michigan and abandoned the project after Illinois.
Now, I actually think that’s a pretty cool idea, whether he ever actually intended it or not. And I’m not knocking him for his ambition.