As the season hums to life at the start of the fall festival circuit, it’s time to take a look at the Best Original Song race and figure out what we’re working with.
Just last week, the Academy announced new rules that will have a considerable impact on how things shake out. First and foremost, the screening event and points system has been done away with and a guaranteed slate of five nominees has been put back in place. Voters will still view songs within the context of their films, though on DVD, and they’ll be asked to rank their five favorites.
This should take some of the burden off. Songs won’t necessarily have to play well within the context of the narrative, though of course it will still help. Nevertheless, with a wider net from voting members, songs will likely get in on merit more than they did under the previous system.
I’ve been keeping a little list of possibilities, though I haven’t filled in the category’s Contender section yet. I hope to do that for the next update, but for now, here’s what I’ve got:
First and foremost we can probably save room for “Suddenly,” the newly written and orchestrated track from Tom Hooper’s “Les Misérables.” The musical’s original composers, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer, composed the track, which Hugh Jackman will sing in the film. Sounds like a bona fide contender to me.
Next up is Willie Nelson’s “Midnight Run” from John Hillcoat’s “Lawless.” The Weinstein Company has already started the hype machine rolling on the track. There’s also “Fire in the Blood” and “Cosmonaut,” both written by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and performed by The Bootleggers featuring Emmylou Harris.
There are a trio of songs from Pixar’s “Brave” to consider. “Into the Open Air” and “Touch the Sky” are both performed by Julie Fowlis and seem to me to have the best shot at recognition. “Learn Me Right,” meanwhile, is performed by Birdy and Mumford & Sons. (NOTE: I’ve been told Disney only plans to qualify “Touch the Sky” and “Learn Me Right.”)
Sticking with animation, there is “Love Always Comes as a Surprise” from “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” (which is used within the context of the story), as well as “Let it Grow (Celebrate the World)” from “The Lorax.” And though “The Secret of Arrietty” may be ineligible for the Best Animated Feature Film competition, it does sport an eligible tune: “Arrietty’s Song.”
How about The Arcade Fire? The new rules could help their closing credits track “Abraham’s Daughter” from “The Hunger Games” find some room to maneuver. Ditto Taylor Swift’s “Safe and Sound.” (Though not so fast — I’m reminded in the comments section that its being the second closing credits cue would render it ineligible.)
Going back to musicals, there is also Todd Graff’s “Joyful Noise,” which features a pair of contenders in “From Here to the Moon and Back” and “Not Enough,” both belted out by Dolly Parton (and the latter featuring Queen Latifah, too). Maybe there are others original to the film. I’m not sure.
Oh, and could Whitney Houston’s last recording, “Celebrate,” from “Sparkle,” be a big temptation? Maybe. And while it’s too bad none of the tunes from “Searching for Sugar Man” qualify, documentaries will be represented by “Paul Williams Still Alive” and the track “Still Alive.”
Katy Perry could even be in the mix with “Wide Awake” from “Katy Perry: Part of Me.” Okay, probably not, but it’s eligible regardless so chalk it up as a contender. And just for completist’s sake, I might as well mention Pitbull’s “Back in Time” from “Men in Black 3” and Soundgarden’s “Live to Rise” from “The Avengers.” I assume they were both written exclusively for their films, though who knows?
One final note: there are break-out-into-song moments in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” but I don’t know if “Goblin Town” and “Blunt the Knives,” among others, will qualify, given their lyrical origins in the novel. And “Over the Misty Mountains Cold” is probably in a similar situation. I don’t know if there is some Enya/Emiliana Torrini/Annie Lennox-esque closing credits tune to consider, though.
That’s 22 to throw at the wall and whatever else you might think I’m missing. So rattle off any other potential contenders in the comments section below and we’ll finally start to shape and handicap this category.
UPDATES: Adding contenders mentioned here and via email…
– Florence + the Machine’s “Breath of Life” from “Snow White and the Huntsman”
– Norah Jones’s “Everybody Needs a Friends” from “Ted”
– Karen O’s “Strange Love” from “Frankenweenie”
– Jon Bon Jovi’s “Not Running Anymore” from “Stand Up Guys”
– Jon Bon Jovi’s “Old Habits Die Hard” from “Stand Up Guys”
– Ryan Miller’s “Big Machine” from “Safety Not Guaranteed”
– Christina Aguilera’s “La Casa de mi Padre” from “Casa de mi Padre”