Monday, March 12, 2012

Will the Best Original Song Category Live On?

Look, we all know the Academy's music branch is seemingly self-destructing before our very eyes. As if their continued refusal to believe original scores that incorporate a few songs can't truly be classified as original enough to qualify (hello Drive, True Grit, Black Swan, There Will Be Blood and many other incredible scores you've heard in the last few years - hell, this particular trick goes all the way back to The Godfather in 1972), the implosion of the Best Original Song category was one of the truly baffling circus sideshows of this year's season and an indicator of the negative effect that the Academy's constant tinkering has resulted in. 2011 was bad enough, when Diane Warren's Burlesque belter, "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me", was curiously (and unforgivably for some people) left out of the field of four (FOUR!) nominees despite its existence as the exact kind of song the category rules had been changed to favour: It was original, included within the narrative of the film and held specific resonance to the plot - not to mention being rather incredible and prime for a big show stopping performance on the actual ceremony by the one and only Cher. When Randy Newman is calling your voting tactics out live on air you know something's wrong!

Of course, 2012 will probably lay claim to being the year that official broke the category. With its two nominees, none of which were particularly any good (each nominated film, The Muppets and Rio had better, worthier songs in their repertoire), everybody can tell the category is in serious need of help. There could have been a perfectly respectable roster of nominated songs this year what with tunes from The Help, Captain America, Take Shelter, Footloose, W./E. and the aforementioned nominated flicks, but because of the baffling shortlist we got on nomination morning it looks as if the category may not even exist come next year's ceremony.

And that, dear readers, would be a shame.

It would be a shame because every now and then songs do come along that feel so organic to the movie-making process that they warrant the Oscar attention. While it's true that the musical genre isn't the reigning champ in this category that it once was, music and original songs eventually become an altogether different part of the filmmaking process that the category's place still felt necessary (or, at least, as necessary as it always had - we won't go into the many other aspects of filmmaking that probably deserve a category more). Can you imagine a world in which Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia", Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and (despite my ambivalence to the film) The Swell Season's "Falling Slowly" didn't exist and weren't subsequently feted by the Academy? Music has always been so much a part of cinema that, even if some years are weaker than others, original songs do play a vital part from time to time in the way we view films. Yes, the branch throws up some questionable selections ("If I Fall" from 127 Hours?), but so does every category. In the grand scheme of things, the winner of this category ends up a worthier selection than many others.

I only bring this up because I wonder whether the category will live on long enough to honour the original songs of 2012. It's already been confirmed that Les Miserables will have an original song, and Dolly Party has provided several for the Joyful Noise soundtrack, not to mention all the others that will pop up along the way (Rock of Ages, Dorothy of Oz, Brave and many more will surely throw up viable options). One I am already in love with is "La Casa de mi Padre", from the upcoming Will Ferrell/Diego Luna/Gael Garcia Bernal comedy Casa de mi Padre. I wasn't even aware the film existed until I heard the song, performed by Christina Aguilera, and was instantly in heaven. It's a big, operatic Spanish language tune that one Twitter friend described as "free of flaws". Amen! I've basically had it on repeat since I heard it and it has certainly stemmed the increasing anticipation for Madonna's new record, out in two weeks. Written by Andrew Steele and Patrick Perez, it's the sort of track that the Academy may have spotted some genuine craft in and saw fit to nominate. You know it would make for a showstopping moment on the telecast, but performances are even more of a dying breed than nominations for this category so it seems foolhardy to hope for it.

I hope the Academy sort themselves out in regards to this category and maybe the music industry could do their bit by making so much great music that they're forced to pay attention.

[Flash 9 is required to listen to audio.]

  • La Casa
  • Christina Aguilera
  • Casa de Mi Padre

To end on a chuckle, I love the Wikipedia entry for this song. Clearly written by an uber-fan, it is positively dripping with praise!

Christina Aguilera got in touch with her Latin roots on 2000’s Spanish language album Mi Reflejo, and now the chanteuse, who is of Ecuadorian heritage, is singing en espanol once more. Her new song, “La Casa” (aka “The Home”), comes from the soundtrack for the upcoming Will Ferrell movie Casa de Mi Padre, and the bilingual singer practically drowns us the melodrama yet still manages to maintain control over her incredible vocals.


The song has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. The song includes roaring horns and Aguilera emoting her trademark soul throughout the track. It is a sexy, yet melancholy Mariachi infused number. Full of passion, raw emotion, and Aguilera’s incomparable, undeniably flawless voice.
So much Passion! Raw Emotion! Roaring Horns! So much melodrama she SHE PRACTICALLY DROWNS, you guys! That's a lot of melodrama.


TonyFilangeri said...

I couldn't agree more with this article. The Oscars only nominating two songs (Rio's sucked by the way) was a slap in the face to every original song produced last year. Really? Three more aren't good enough songs? Really.

And don't forget for 2012, Adele is singing the next Bond track. I smell Oscar... if the category still exists anyway.

Runs Like A Gay said...

I suspect part of the problem is the quality of chart music at the moment. And, as we're coming to the end of the cycle of Pop Idol and X Factor et al this might begin to see the tide turn.