In case you hadn’t heard, a little award show called the Oscars is this weekend. We may have mentioned it once or twice around here recently. Keeping with the theme, today’s Roundtable is all about the best and worst songs that have ever been nominated for Academy Awards.
Why the Best Original Song Oscar is considered in any way prestigious is beyond my comprehension. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is, obviously, not a music-based organization. The typical Academy voter is about as qualified to decide the merits of an original song as I am to present an award for Best Unified Field Theory Physicist, which is to say not at all. Nonetheless, they still hand the things out every year, and viewers of the show continue to act like the prize matters.
For the purposes of this Roundtable, any song that has been nominated for an Oscar is fair game. See this Wikipedia page for the complete list of nominees and winners.
2007 was a great year for music in movies, and it was made extra memorable by ‘Once‘ actually winning Best Song (“Falling Slowly”) over three tracks from ‘Enchanted’. After Glen Hansard gave a short acceptance speech, the ceremony cut off Marketa Irglova and went to commercials. I don’t know if this ever been done before or since, but when the show came back from the break, host John Stewart gave Irglova an extra minute to say her thanks. For a completely unknown underdog, I was surprised that this happened. I couldn’t be happier about the win, even though that same year featured some huge snubs, the biggest of which was Eddie Vedder for any song from ‘Into the Wild’. ‘Enchanted’ held three-fifths of the nominations and the amazing soundtrack to ‘Into the Wild’ got nothing.
Although the movie itself is clichéd and predictable, I absolutely love Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from 2002’s ‘8 Mile‘. For me, this isn’t just a catchy and well-written rap song, it’s one of the best hip-hop tunes of all time.
I also have to give at least an honorable mention to “When You Wish Upon a Star” from the animated classic ‘Pinocchio‘. After 70-plus years, this song has become an iconic part of the Disney brand, probably more than any other song given to us by the House of Mouse.
As for worst, there’s a reason why Phil Collins rarely (if ever) includes “You’ll Be in My Heart” from Disney’s ‘Tarzan‘ in his set lists for any of his live concert performances. This track is utterly forgettable and simply did not deserve top honors over Aimee Mann’s “Save Me” from ‘Magnolia‘, but that’s Academy politics for you.
‘Best Friends‘ (1982). I’ve probably said it before, but I like parts of this cheesy movie – mostly when the characters go to Buffalo and Burt Reynolds freezes his ass off ’cause he’s not used to the cold. As someone who went to school in Rochester, NY and goes to visit relatives in Albany for the holidays, I can completely relate to the shock of dealing with bone-shattering cold when you’re no longer used to it. Aside from several parts of this movie that are less than stellar, there is one element that really, REALLY sucks: the theme song. Now I find out that it was nominated for an Academy Award! Holy hell, that category really deals with some slim pickings! Here is the song “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” My apologies.
Oh, and in reading up on it, I just learned this little detail: Celine Dion performed this chestnut as a duet with… a hologram version of Celine Dion during ‘Celine’ in Las Vegas (2011).
This is an interesting Roundtable topic, because the Oscars seem hell-bent on throwing out this category altogether. This year we have two nominees, and one of them (“Real in Rio” from ‘Rio‘) has to be one of the worst nominated songs of all-time. In a year that had some good songs, like ‘Everything is Hunny’ from ‘Winnie the Pooh’ or every other song on the soundtrack to ‘The Muppets’, the Academy decided to nominate a song that sounds like Miley Cyrus is somehow involved. I wonder if this category will even be around in years to come. As of right now, “Real in Rio” takes the cake as the worst song ever nominated for an Oscar. Yes, worse than that ‘Titanic’ song.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
These days, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” is best known as the background music for Carnival Cruise’s TV spots and what you’re stuck listening to in your dentist’s waiting room. Believe it or not, that song from the end of ‘Dirty Dancing‘ took home a Grammy, a Golden Globe Award and, yes, an Oscar. This poster child for Adult Contemporary FM radio isn’t even the best song from ‘Dirty Dancing’, let alone the class of 1987! Also in contention that year for Best Original Song: Bob Seger’s “Shakedown” and Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” I’d write more, but I’m getting dizzy from shaking my head in disappointment.
I’m not particularly a fan of (or even knowledgeable about) hip-hop, and I went into ‘Hustle & Flow‘ with the lowest of low expectations. A movie about a drug-dealing pimp who wants to be a rapper? Why would I ever want to see that? I’m glad I did, because I wound up loving the movie. One of the things that the film does really well is to demonstrate the hard work that goes into the creation of a good hip-hop song, and how difficult it is to find the right repetitive hook that can put the rapper’s “flow” into proper relief and make the whole thing feel structured and tight. Judging only by the title, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” ought to be one of the worst songs ever written, but somehow the thing is great infectious fun. In a rare case of the Academy voters having some genuine balls, they shocked (if not horrified) the world by giving an Oscar to a previously obscure Memphis group called the Three 6 Mafia, and they absolutely made the right decision that year.
The worst Oscar song? Does it even really need to be said? I’m sorry for doing this, folks.