It’s Friday, and I plan to spend this weekend landing the triple axel of awards season—finding an Oscar night outfit I can wear for 16 hours of reporting, from the nervous chill of the Dolby Theatre to the ecstatic heat of the Vanity Fair party.
Hello from Los Angeles, where we’re standing up with Diane Warren and Common, taking tips on lady characters from Lady Bird, and worrying about a guy named Grigory.
IF YOU WANT TO SING OUT, SING OUT
This year’s best-original-song Academy Award category is stacked with compelling melodies and intriguing performers, hopefully all of whom we’ll see on stage at the Dolby Theatre on March 4. Amid the drive for more inclusion in both the film and music industries, the category is also a rare bright light, with Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez’s genre-spanning lullaby “Remember Me” from Coco;Sufjan Stevens’s indie-folk dirge “Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name;Mary J. Blige’s inspirational R&B ballad “Mighty River” from Mudbound;Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s affirming pop song “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman; and Diane Warren and Common’s stirring soul anthem “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall. In a moment when music industry executives are criticizing the lack of female representation at the Grammy Awards, the Oscars’ song category has women songwriters behind three of the five nominees. (Original score, alas, is still a sausage fest.)
Earlier this week, I spoke with Warren and Common about the unlikely partnership on their song, which began with a chance meeting on a plane, where Warren sang the chorus of “Stand Up for Something” to Common. “I never want to waste an opportunity,” Warren told me of her impromptu airplane performance. The songwriting pair come to their craft from different backgrounds, with Warren, 61, known for sweeping power ballads, and Common, 45, for activist hip-hop. But the duo share an outsider’s perspective on the entertainment industry. “My mother said to me, ‘You, a little black kid from the South Side of Chicago, you’re going to the Oscars . . . Think about that.’ I never would have thought,” Common said, nodding toward Warren. “Just like you, my Jewish sister growing up in Van Nuys.” You can read my full interview with Common and Warren here.
A WOMAN’S PLACE IS AT THE OSCARS
In V.F.’s second special print awards issue, which starts landing in Oscar voters’ mailboxes this month, Katey Richspoke to the screenwriters behind some of this year’s most indelible female characters. “The hoary term ‘strong female character’ has never seemed less useful,” Rich writes. “These women were powerful and weak, determined and indecisive, endearing and irritating—often all at once.” For the piece, Rich asked Lady Bird writer-director Greta Gerwig about one of her most skillfully deployed weapons: a sense of humor. “It’s sort of the oldest trick in the book,” Gerwig said. “Being funny allows you to do some stuff that you would ordinarily think was insufferable.”
THIS ONE’S FOR YOU, GRIGORY
When you’re settling in for a match of mixed doubles curling this Olympics weekend, perhaps say a prayer for one of this awards season’s most compelling characters, Grigory Rodchenkov, a key figure in Russia’s state-sponsored Olympic-doping program. Rodchenkov is a charismatic doctor whose courageous act of whistle-blowing on Vladimir Putin’s drug-fueled athletics program gets the feature treatment in Bryan Fogel’s crackling Oscar-nominated documentary, Icarus, which is currently streaming on Netflix. Rodchenkov, who has said he fears for his life for exposing the program, will appear on 60 Minutes Sunday night, with his appearance disguised. Fogel tweeted Thursday that he hasn’t seen or had contact with Rodchenkov for over a year, but the filmmaker will be watching the Olympics with particular interest this year: he and producer Dan Cogan are hosting a viewing party for the opening ceremony at the Hollywood Athletic Club Friday night.
MY FUNNY VALENTINE
Perhaps Guillermo del Toro’s most impressive accomplishment in making Oscar front-runner The Shape of Water is having crafted an appealing leading man who happens to have gills in Doug Jones’s fish creature. One entrepreneur is taking that R-rated monster romance to its logical conclusion, IndieWire’s Zack Sharfreports, by manufacturing Shape of Water-inspired sex toys. Bad news, though, if you think this solves your Valentine’s Day problem: XenoCat Artifacts began releasing its silicone fish penis toy in January and has already sold out.
This week on V.F.’s podcastLittle Gold Men, executive awards editor Anna Raya discusses our newest print awards issue, and Mike Hogan,Richard Lawson, Katey Rich, and Joanna Robinson dive into the Oscar luncheon shenanigans of Agnes Varda.
That’s the news for this week on the Hollywood and awards beat. Tell me what you’re seeing out there. Send tips, comments, valet-line gossip, big deals you overheard at the Polo Lounge, bad vibes you picked up on at Craft, and Olympic curling tips to Rebecca_Keegan@condenast.com. Follow me on Twitter @thatrebecca.
Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Rebecca KeeganRebecca Keegan is a Hollywood Correspondent for Vanity Fair.