CONTRIBUTED BY JAKE THOMPSON
Best Original Song has always been a bit of an odd category to me. I have found that terrible movies that still get Oscar nominations will fall into two categories. If it’s a bad big budget, effects-heavy blockbuster, it might land a nod in one of the technical award categories (sound, visual effects, makeup). If it’s a bad drama or comedy, it might land a nod in a music category (song). Examples include the awful 1987 film Mannequin, whose song “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (performed by Starship) was actually nominated (music and lyrics by Albert Hammond and Diane Warren), the awful 1983 film Flashdance, whose song “Flashdance… What A Feeling” (performed by Irene Cara) actually won for that year (music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Keith Forsey and Irene Cara), and the awful 1997 film Con Air (yes, THAT Con Air), whose song “How Do I Live” (performed by Trisha Yearwood) was actually nominated (music and lyrics by Diane Warren). It really bugs me to no end that good songs are written for such terrible movies, and that better songs to better movies should have taken their places. That is why I now shine a light on good films with terrific songs that were wrongly snubbed when the Oscar nominations rolled by.
1982’s The Secret of NIMH immediately comes to mind as a major snub. Jerry Goldsmith had incorporated his wonderful main theme as the melody for the song “Flying Dreams,” performed by Paul Williams (who also wrote the lyrics). An excerpt of the song is performed by Mrs. Brisby (singing voice of Sally Stevens) early in the film to comfort her sick son. The entire song would be performed by Williams and appear during the end credits. It’s such a shame the Academy didn’t nominate such a beautiful song. Goldsmith himself was an 18-time nominee (17 score nods & 1 song nod, 1 score win for 1976’s The Omen). Williams was a six-time nominee (3 song score nods & 3 song nods, 1 song win for 1976’s A Star Is Born). It is interesting to note that both men won their only Oscars in the same year.
The actual nominees at the 55th Academy Awards were:
“Up Where We Belong” – An Officer and a Gentleman (music by Jack Nitzsche & Buffy Sainte-Marie, lyrics by Will Jennings) (*Winner)
“How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” – Best Friends (music by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Alan Bergman & Marilyn Bergman)
“Eye of the Tiger” – Rocky III (music and lyrics by Jim Peterik & Frankie Sullivan)
“It Might Be You” – Tootsie (music by Dave Grusin, lyrics by Alan Bergman & Marilyn Bergman)
“If We Were In Love” – Yes, Giorgio (music by John Williams, lyrics by Alan Bergman & Marilyn Bergman)
1986’s Highlander featured several new songs by Queen that could easily have taken one of the Original Song slots. I could easily pick “A Kind of Magic” (music & lyrics by Roger Taylor), “Gimme the Prize” (music & lyrics by Brian May), or “Princes of the Universe” (music & lyrics by Freddie Mercury), but I’m going with “Who Wants To Live Forever” (music & lyrics by Brian May), a song about doomed love and the resulting centuries-long pain that is endured by the immortal Connor MacLeod, the film’s main character. It’s such a beautiful song (and one of the film’s many highlights). It’s too bad it wasn’t nominated; it would’ve been cool to see it performed at the Oscars. May has never been nominated for an Oscar (on a side note: this is not the Brian May who is an Australian composer known mainly for the first two Mad Max films).
The actual nominees at the 59th Academy Awards were:
“Take My Breath Away” – Top Gun (music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Tom Whitlock) (*Winner)
“Somewhere Out There” – An American Tail (music by James Horner, lyrics by Cynthia Weil)
“Glory of Love” – The Karate Kid Part II (music by Peter Cetera & David Foster, lyrics by Peter Cetera & Diane Nini)
“Mean Green Mother From Outer Space” – The Little Shop of Horrors (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman)
“Life In A Looking Glass” – That’s Life! (music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse)
1993’s Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is another major snub that easily
comes to mind. There’s so many excellent songs to choose from, but I’m picking “Jack’s Lament” (music & lyrics by Danny Elfman, who also performed as the singing voice of Jack Skellington). The song is about Jack’s yearning for something much more in his life, which has become increasingly predictable and dull. It’s simply a terrific song that should’ve been nominated. Elfman is a four-time nominee (four score nods, zero wins).
The actual nominees at the 66th Academy Awards were:
“Streets of Philadelphia” – Philadelphia (music & lyrics by Bruce Springsteen) (*Winner)
“The Day I Fall In Love” – Beethoven’s 2nd (music & lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, James Ingram, & Cliff Magness)
“Philadelphia” – Philadelphia (music and lyrics by Neil Young)
“Again” – Poetic Justice (music & lyrics by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, & Terry Lewis)
“A Wink and a Smile” – Sleepless In Seattle (music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Ramsey McLean)
2005’s Corpse Bride is another major snub in the Best Original Song category. My favorite song from this film is “Remains of the Day” (music & lyrics by Danny Elfman, who also performs as the voice of Bonejangles). The song is performed in a pub in the land of the dead where Bonejangles and the locals explain (through song) to Victor the back story of Emily, the corpse bride. I actually thought this song was a shoo-in for a nomination, but a lot of weird snubs ended up happening that year. Such a shame.
The actual nominees at the 78th Academy Awards were:
“It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” – Hustle and Flow (music & lyrics by Juicy J, Frayser Boy, & DJ Paul) (*Winner)
“In the Deep” – Crash (music by Kathleen York & Michael Becker, lyrics by Kathleen York)
“Travelin’ Thru” – Transamerica (music and lyrics by Dolly Parton)
2008’s The Wrestler was a huge snub for that year. Everyone thought the song “The Wrestler” (music & lyrics by Bruce Springsteen) would get nominated. In fact, Springsteen had planned his tour so that it would end with a performance at the Oscars. The song is a metaphor for the life that Mickey Rourke’s character “The Ram” endures, one in which he continues to wrestle because it’s the only thing he’s good at, feels empty on the inside, and isn’t accepted by most people. Nearly four years later, I still can’t believe the Academy didn’t nominate this song (even the Golden Globes didn’t screw this one up!). Springsteen himself is a two-time nominee (won for “Streets of Philadelphia” from 1993’s Philadelphia, nominated for “Dead Man Walking” from 1995’s Dead Man Walking).
The actual nominees at the 81st Academy Awards were:
“Jai Ho” – Slumdog Millionaire (music by A.R. Rahman, lyrics by Gulzar) (*Winner)
“O…Saya” – Slumdog Millionaire (music & lyrics by A.R. Rahman & M.I.A.)
“Down To Earth” – Wall-E (music by Peter Gabriel & Thomas Newman, lyrics by Peter Gabriel)
Other songs that were considered included “Scarface (Push It To the Limit)” (music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Pete Bellotte) from 1983’s Scarface, “Is Your Love Strong Enough” (music & lyrics by Bryan Ferry) from 1985’s Legend, and “If We Could Remember” (music by Jerry Goldsmith, lyrics by Paul Williams) from 2002’s The Sum of All Fears.