I swore I would stop caring about the Oscars, and specifically the Best Original Song category, after “Please Mr. Kennedy” from the frustratingly beautiful Inside Llewyn Davis was deemed ineligible (UH OH) by the Academy for being a “take-off on a parody of a satire.” But three years later, I can’t help but be disappointed by this year’s crop of Best Original Song nominees.
They are: two songs from La La Land, “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and “City of Stars,” both of which are fine, but, if provoked, I bet you can’t sing a single lyric from either; Justin Timberlake’s gratingly cheerful “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s soaring “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana; and something called “The Empty Chair” by J. Ralph and Sting from Jim: The James Foley Story. La La Land has to be considered the omnipresent frontrunner (although I’m rooting for Moana), but there’s not a single earworm, like previous winners “Let It Go” or “Skyfall,” in the bunch. There could have been, though, if the Academy had recognized the original basic bitch.
What defines an Oscar winner? For an actor or actress, it’s usually for a performance that’s either showy (like Denzel Washington in Fences) or understated (Casey Affleck in Manchester By the Sea); for a director, it’s control and vision; and for an animated movie, it’s falling under the Disney umbrella (Moana and Zootopia). But Best Original Song is harder to determine — there’s no such thing as an “Oscar bait” song. It’s the category that awards John Legend and Common for Selma‘s civil rights anthem “Glory,” but still recognizes the Lonely Island’s endearingly goofy “Everything Is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie. Best Original Song is impossible to predict, which is something I should have kept in mind when I thought Sing Street was a lock.