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Tommy Academy Award Nomination! Academy Award Nomination! 

By Jeff Shannon

If you've ever wanted to hear Jack Nicholson sing (or try to) or marvel at the sight of Ann-Margret drunkenly cavorting in a cascade of baked beans, Tommy is the movie you've been waiting for. As it turns out, the Who's brilliant rock opera is sublimely matched to director Ken Russell's penchant for cinematic excess, and this 1975 production finds Russell at the peak of his filmmaking audacity. It's a fever-dream of musical bombast, custom-fit to the thematic ambition of Pete Townshend's epic rock drama, revolving around the titular "deaf, dumb, and blind kid" (played by Who vocalist Roger Daltrey) who survives the childhood trauma that stole his senses to become a Pinball Wizard messiah in Townshend's grandiose attack on the hypocrisy of organized religion.

The story is remarkably coherent considering the hypnotic dream-state induced by Russell's visuals. Tommy's odyssey is rendered through wall-to-wall music, each song representing a pivotal chapter in Tommy's chronology, from the bloodstream shock of "The Acid Queen" (performed to the hilt by Tina Turner) to Nicholson's turn as a well-intentioned physician, Elton John's towering rendition of "Pinball Wizard," and Daltrey's epiphanous rendition of "I'm Free." Other performers include Eric Clapton and (most outrageously) the Who's drummer Keith Moon, and through it all Russell is almost religiously faithful to Townshend's artistic vision. Although it divided critics when first released, Tommy now looks likes a minor classic of gonzo cinema, worthy of the musical genius that fueled its creation.

Academy Awards

Tommy received Academy Awards nominations for Actress (Ann-Margret) and Music Scoring (Best Original Song Score or Adaptation Score; Peter Townshend).

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FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this soundtrack from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Rated PGNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Ken Russell

Stars: Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, Roger Daltrey, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Keith Moon, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson, Robert Powell

Released: March 19, 1975

Availability: DVD VHS CD


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