Glenn here and it's the weekend, which means there is no better time to discuss Oscar's original song category (er, right?). Much like that other much-maligned category, animated feature, The Academy's songwriting branch somehow need to come up with five nominees even if there aren't enough worthy contenders. Last year's introduction of a guaranteed five nominees produced "Academy Award Nominee Ted!", although it did allow for the beautiful song from Chasing Ice (performed by ScarJo!) to come to our attention so maybe it's not such a bad thing after all? I strongly believe that this is their penance for not nominating "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" from Burlesque a few years back. Diane Warren's music branch voodoo doll works in mysterious ways, folks.
At least one song we can all be pretty confident about is "Let It Go" from Disney's Frozen. Apparently the studio will only be submitting this one song from the film despite a wide roster of contenders. They're going for the win it would seem and, at least at this stage, unless reception to the film isn't particularly positive it's probably the best bet for the win based purely on history. The video below isn't the best, but it's all we've got at the moment that isn't a Demi Lovato pop version.
The Butler, The Great Gatsby, Belgian bluegrass and Tom Cruise after the jump!
Another film with a rolodex of contenders is Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. I continue to be skeptical that someone as maligned and fresh-faced to the pop world as Lana Del Rey could be an Oscar nominee by next February, but her "Young and Beautiful" is nothing if not prominent the film. I'm a big fan of Del Rey and not just because she bares an uncanny resemblance to Karen Black. I think the song is a strong one so I'm all for it. Less integral, but equally possible is "Over the Love" by Florence + the Machine, although I'd figure Jay Z's "100$ Bill" is less likely to be appearing on ballots come phase 2. Lastly, don't tell anyone (sshhh!), but I'd personally get a kick out of seeing "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)" performed at the ceremony, alas it appears it won't be submitted by the studio. Sad face.
Ever since I saw Lee Daniels' The Butler I've had a hunch that a ditty called "In the Middle of the Night" performed (and co-written) by former American Idol winner Fantasia Burrino. If nominated alongside Lana Del Rey then that would make two very unlikely Oscar nominees for the year. The song plays over a civil rights montage that will likely play very well with the branch committee who view these songs in the context of the movie. The film features one more eligible track, "You and I Ain't Nothin' No More" by Gladys Knight, but I don't recall where it sits in the film. Can you help answer this question? Either way, both songs are great and the classic soul sound could certainly help them stand out.
The underdog of the race will surely be Short Term 12's "So You Know What It's Like" (available on Spotify), right? We've yet to hear as to whether the song will even be eligible - it's not even two-minutes long and the "music" of "music and lyrics" is almost nonexistent - but if it is it would be incredible to see Keith Stanfield nominated. He wouldn't be able to perform it due to its heavy use of expletives, but it'd make for one hell of an Oscar moment if he won!
Foreign films frequently pop up in the category despite lack of attention elsewhere. Lest we forget Paris 36 (I've certainly tried)! A far better candidate I suspect will be Belgium's foreign language submission, Broken Circle Breakdown. I'm not 100% sure on what songs from the bluegrass soundtrack are original and which are covers or adaptations, but multiple sources say there are some original tracks on there and being a musical will surely help any.
One of a very, very small list of musicals in 2013 is Black Nativity and I sadly have to call ignorance on not knowing much about the project. I hear there are three original songs amongst its soundtrack and if it happened for August Rush then it can happen to anything. Still, they skipped right over Mary J Blige's song from best picture nominee The Help so who can tell?
I'm far less convinced by Karen O's "Moon Song" from Her, but maybe that's just because I don't care for that winsome hipster style of music that she's doing. Her songs couldn't make it in for her last Spike Jonze collaboration, Where the Wild Things Are, but "Moon Song" is integrated into the plot and performed by Joaquin Phoenix so perhaps the music branch will be more forgiving this time.
Apparently 12 Years a Slave also includes an original song. The spiritual that plays at the very beginning, in fact so if the music branch wants to go that way - they don't always want to go with songs that are barely a minute long even if they are from a best picture frontrunner - it certainly will look good in the presentation. I doubt they'll go there, but it bears noticing.
Just like any other year, the eligible song list will likely be full of big names performing in big movies. However, as the category has tended to lean almost exclusively on non-end credits tunes these last few years I don't expect any to make the final cut. Amongst the future Golden Globe nominees that Oscar will ignore are Beyonce with "Rise Up" from Epic, "Happy" and "Just a Cloudy Day" by Pharell from Despicable Me 2, Kings of Leon's "Last Mile Home" from August: Osage County (?!?), Coldplay's The Hunger Games entry "Atlas", and some band called U2 with "Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. I'm falling asleep as I type the words. Still, I'd most definitely be open to "Oblivion" from the titular (terrible) Tom Cruise vehicle performed by French electronic band M83 and Susanne Sunfor. Or how about the highly unlikely "Becomes the Color" from Stoker. Stranger things have happened, I guess. There's even another Diana Warren song, but it's from something called The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, so maybe not.
One end credits song that many seem far more confident in is "Amen" from All is Lost. The Alex Ebert song has curiously gotten a lot of attention for the category despite playing, as far as I remember, exclusively over the closing credits. It's a nice enough song, but if the film goes over well with the Academy they may be actively searching for places to honour it and this could be a perfectly agreeable place to do so. I mean, it's better than "Pi's Lullaby"!
So, readers. What do y'all think of this category? Will the music branch be forced to make some left of center choices or will the lack of standouts from the big movies mean they go decidedly middle of the road?