We’re a little ways off yet from the Academy unveiling its long list of eligible contenders in the Best Original Song Oscar race. But in the meantime, and particularly since we finally started populating the category’s Contenders section with entrants in the last week or so, it doesn’t hurt to put a finger to the wind and see what’s what.
At the top, Disney will only be qualifying one song from its animated musical “Frozen” this year. There are of course plenty of other original tracks that could be submitted, too, but going with the showstopper rather than risking a chance that votes split across various contenders is smart. And Idina Menzel belting out “Let It Go” on Oscar night will be quite a moment. Consider it the frontrunner.
Somewhere along the line it was suggested that Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” was partly conceived separate from Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.” If true, then like “Come What May” from Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!” – which had originally been written for “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet” but was never used in that film – it would have been deemed ineligible. Warner Bros. knows nothing about this, however, and is moving forward with a big campaign for the song. So maybe it’s not even true. I have no idea where that rumor originated. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic song that comes at a key moment in the film. Here’s hoping it is indeed eligible and can get some real traction in the race.
Speaking of Warner Bros., the studio has another contender in Karen O.’s “The Moon Song” from Spike Jonze’s “Her.” It’s another example of a tune that plays within the context of the narrative (you can catch it at the tail end of the trailer, FYI) and it’s a gorgeous, delicate ditty.
If you’re wondering why playing in the context is important, it’s because these songs are now viewed in that context by voters rather than just arriving on a CD separate from the film for consideration. And there are a few tunes this year that are crucial to their films’ narratives and could register, particularly “So You Know What It’s Like,” a rap track performed by Keith Stanfield at an emotional point in Destin Cretton’s “Short Term 12.”
Moving along, there are heavy hitters in the race this year, as always. And a year after Adele won the Oscar for her Bond theme “Skyfall,” those names could draw attention. Taylor Swift contributes “Sweeter Than Fiction” to the Britain’s Got Talent success story “One Chance.” Beyoncé lends her pipes to the “Epic” soundtrack with “Rise Up.” Coldplay is in the mix with “Atlas” from “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”
The Weinstein Company has four of these, in fact, two from “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”: “You and I Ain’t Nothin’ No More” from Gladys Knight and Lenny Kravitz and “In the Middle of the Night” from Fantasia Barrino. Other than that, Kings of Leon offered up “Last Mile Home” to the “August: Osage County” soundtrack. And then, of course, there’s U2 with “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.”
Speaking of big stars, this summer was pretty much owned by Pharrell Williams, what with contributions to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance.” But there was also the release of “Despicable Me 2” and his eclectic contributions to that film’s soundtrack. I’ve always been a big fan of the work he’s offered on this series, and both “Happy” and “Just a Cloudy Day” were recently sent out to press on a spiffy yellow 45 record. So I guess Universal is giving it the old college try.
Elsewhere, there is “I See Fire” from the soundtrack of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” being campaigned. The “Lord of the Rings” films managed two nominations in this category, though last year’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” got no love from the music branch. And though closing credits songs have difficulty maneuvering in this race ever since the new system of viewing them in the context of the film was implemented, I have to say M83’s “Oblivion” from same and Emily Wells’ “Becomes the Color” from “Stoker” are exemplary entries this season.
Then there’s something that’s a bit out of left field but nevertheless worth considering. Sometimes this branch can embrace tongue-in-cheek stuff and in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” they have a shot at doing that again with “Doby.” I’m told the song is performed by Will Ferrell in the film and is sort of an homage to Michael Jackson’s “Ben,” which was about Jackson’s love for his pet rat. In the film, “Doby” is the about Ron Burgundy’s love for his pet shark, which is a plot point in the film.
And finally, keep an eye on Diane Warren, power ballad songwriter extraordinaire who has been nominated six times over the years for films like “Mannequin,” “Con Air,” “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor,” has a contender in this year’s race: “Unfinished Songs” from “Unfinished Song.” Worth keeping in mind.
I’ll close with one thing of note: “Inside Llewyn Davis” will not have a contender. No, “Please, Mr. Kennedy” is not in the hunt. It’s not a direct cover but it’s a bit of an homage and that won’t play with the branch. But the movie sure is yet another excuse to bring out the old argument that the Academy could use a category for recognizing the work that someone like T Bone Burnett does on movies such as this.
How do you think the original song race will pan out? Have your say in the comments section below, and read more about additional contenders in the on-going discussion there, too.
Gerard will be back on the Tech Support beat next week with a look at the Best Film Editing category.