Artie Kane, the movies, and an insider’s look at the oscars

For movie fans, Hollywood comes home Sunday — the big night when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents its 79th celebration of filmdom’s best and brightest.

  • Wednesday, February 21, 2007 7:00am
  • News

For movie fans, Hollywood comes home Sunday — the big night when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents its 79th celebration of filmdom’s best and brightest.

And while everyone has a view on the best film or performance, there’s someone in Clinton whose opinion really matters.

Artie Kane is a member of the music branch of the Academy and votes each year on what films and actors should get the coveted golden Oscar.

Kane himself has a long connection with Tinseltown, a history that stretches back more than 40 years.

It’s all about music

It is entirely appropriate that the piano in Kane’s home has pride of place in his front room.

Kane has been making music since he was a child. He started with piano lessons and, combined with his ability to “sight read” a sheet of music, discovered he possessed two skills in great demand by Hollywood when he moved to Los Angeles in 1961 and began working in the film industry.

Kane spent 37 years in Los Angeles as a keyboard player, composer and conductor of scores for film and television.

He composed the music for “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” (starring Diane Keaton), “The Eyes of Laura Mars” (with Faye Dunaway) and “Wrong is Right” (starring Sean Connery).

During the ‘60s and ‘70s, Kane also recorded the soundtracks for such legendary classics as “Dr. Zhivago,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Patch of Blue” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Kane described the conducting process as “being sort of a traffic cop; you need a sense of humor.”

Being in the right place at the right time sometimes paid dividends for Kane.

One morning in 1992, Kane got a call from Oscar-winning composer John Williams, who asked Kane to lead the orchestra for his latest film because he wasn’t feeling well.

Kane arrived to discover he was to conduct the score for “Jurassic Park” in front of studio honchos who were concerned that Williams’ replacement might botch the job.

All went well; by that time, Kane was a seasoned pro.

Teaching a new generation

Kane recently lectured on a class for Literature in Film students from Skagit Valley College.

He began by describing the film making process from his own unique perspective. “There are 200 to 300 musicians in the business down there and most people don’t even know they exist or what they do,” he said.

Kane is realistic about the industry; the movies are a business; very little glamour is involved in their production.

In the beginning (sometimes even before a screenplay is written) is the budget — as the film moves from the original story to the hiring of stars, cast and crew to the filming itself, everyone takes a cut. “The writer may be fired but he still gets paid,” Kane noted.

After shooting, the last item is dubbing where the graphics, sound effects and music come together with a movie that, all hands hope, will make sense to the audience.

The music in a film lacks the purity of real art, Kane said, timed as it is to the action on the screen. Movies are also made in pieces —sometimes the final scene is filmed first — and it’s the editor’s job to put the pieces together.

That being said, Kane admitted there can be magic to the art of film scoring.

Music is the first thing an audience hears as the lights dim in the theater. If done right, music can sweep people to the place the director wants them to go before the first line of dialogue is heard.

Now 77, Kane and his wife decided that they wanted to live far from the increasingly crazy world of Hollywood and are quite happy to be on Whidbey. Kane keeps in touch with old friends; Joann Kane still runs a music-presentation company in Hollywood.

And, of course, there’s always Oscar.

For Your Consideration

In the nominating phase, members vote within their branch —in Kane’s case, for best score and song — and for best picture.

All members then vote for their favorites in all categories.

Kane’s pick for best film?

“’The Departed,’ and Martin Scorsese for director,” Kane said. “I hope Martin finally wins directing honors for his tough crime drama; this was a film I consider powerful with great acting.

“Putting multiple stars in a movie like Nicholson, DiCaprio and Damon doesn’t always guarantee a good movie but it worked for Scorsese this year,” Kane added.

He also enjoyed “Babel,” which reminded Kane and his wife of last year’s winner “Crash,” a film that also got his vote.

“The story has four interwoven tales that come together in the end. If you can pull it off, that’s the mark of a great storyteller.”

Kane thought this year’s batch of nominated films each had something to offer.

“The Queen” was a fine movie, for example. “Terrific performance by Helen Mirren,” Kane noted.

And while “Little Miss Sunshine” was entertaining, Kane said it didn’t stack up to the other films in the group.

Actually, Kane would like to see the Academy expand their Best Picture nominations, much as the Golden Globes does.

“There should be five films picked for drama, and five competing for best comedy or musical,” Kane said. “I mean, how can you compare ‘Sunshine’ with ‘The Departed’ or ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’?”

Kane picked Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” for best actress and actor, respectively.

He loved Eddie Murphy in “Dreamgirls,” and went with Cate Blanchett in “Notes on a Scandal” for the Oscars for best supporting roles.

As for Clint Eastwood’s foreign-language “Letters from Iwo Jima,” Kane said he hasn’t seen it yet.

“I’m not into war films,” he said.

And that’s a problem for studios trying to earn Oscars and higher grosses at the box office.

Studios and the Academy have done all they can to get voters to see all the films nominated in all categories. Each of the roughly 5,600 members receives 70 to 90 DVDs each year marked “For Your Consideration,” each labeled with piracy warnings.

The piracy problem became so acute that two years ago the Academy provided voters a specially encrypted DVD player that would only work with the right discs.

Selected theaters in certain cities, including Seattle, let Academy members in for free. And voters are inundated with subscriptions to trade journals like Daily Variety.

“But only during Oscar season,” Kane noted wryly.

For best score, Kane liked “The Queen.” The driving beat of “Our Town” from the animated picture “Cars” gets his vote for best song. “It’s a Randy Newman piece and it works perfectly with the movie,” he said.

In the end, Kane was glad he worked in the industry.

“It’s the best thing that could happen to a musician,” he said. “There’s lots of benefits for someone willing to work hard and lots of great people and I consider myself privileged to have been part of it.”

Whenever young people express an interest in heading to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune, Kane always cautions them. “Remember, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

SIDEBAR:

The Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2006 will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood, and televised live by the ABC Television Network at 5 p.m., beginning with a half-hour red carpet arrivals segment.

When the first Academy Awards were handed out on May 16, 1929, movies had just begun to talk. That first ceremony took place during a banquet in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Just 270 people attended and tickets cost $5. It was a long banquet, filled with speeches, but presentation of the statuettes was handled expeditiously by Academy President Douglas Fairbanks.

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