Friday, November 29, 2013

A Look at "Frozen" and the Best Original Song Category

I would like to apologize for my lack of consistency in the past few weeks. Hopefully with December proving to have a lot of goodies, I shall be more consistent.

This past Wednesday saw the release of the Disney film Frozen. Maybe it could be that this year hasn't been the best for animated films, but there is an inevitability of the film receiving a nomination. Along with highly positive reviews and lack of competition, it is looking to become part of the zeitgeist simply for being most people's only option to theatrical family entertainment. However, there is one interesting angle that gives the film even more potential. It is a musical with plenty of songs receiving a large amount of buzz, but can it sneak into the Best Original Song category?

I am not the best at predicting the Best Original Song selections one iota. With very little knowledge currently available about the eligible songs, I will only have to speculate for the rest of the post based on the notion that a song qualifies simply because it was original. While it is true that some songs get disqualified for using previously existing material, I am just going under the umbrella that all songs are considered. However, due to the entirety of Inside Llewyn Davis being covers of folk standards, it unfortunately is disqualified.

While I have yet to see Frozen, there has been plenty of buzz of this being one of Disney's best. The adaptation of a Hans Christian Anderson story is a full blown musical that has been praised for its theatricality. Critics have even compared it to their iconic films The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast in terms of its execution of story and song. In an era when musicals fall somewhere between Rock of Ages or Les Miserables, it may be harping too much on the film to call it a revelation. In fact, Disney has done some justice to the musical genre in the past decade, including Tangled and the more successful Enchanted.

One song in particular is receiving a fair amount of recognition and has quickly swept attention for the Best Original Song category. Idina Menzel sings a whimsical, optimistic song called "Let It Go," which has almost served as the film's example of a lead single. Appearing in the advertisements and creating a sense of wonderment appropriate for the tone, it immediately stands out as one of the few original songs of the year that can seriously be considered for contention. Listen here:

It immediately recalls all of the Disney standards and feels anthem-like in nature. Of course, Disney films in general have had a fortunate luck with the Academy. Besides the Pixar bias, the Academy has always recognized the musical decisions of Disney. Since 1941 with a nomination for the Dumbo song "Baby Mine," the studio has racked up over 20 nominations and continued in 2011 with a win for The Muppets song "Man or Muppet." Their relevance remains strong and Frozen looks to be a shoe-in for yet another nomination.

It is impossible to call it anything more. While Adele's "Skyfall" seemed to win before it was ever released, very few of these categories feel as confident as last year's winner. In fact, it is hard to fully grasp what even the top 10 selections look like at this point without guidelines. This becomes even more problematic when considering that last year featured a nomination from the comedy Ted, which may have been done by Seth MacFarlane as host, but reflects the often unpredictable thrust of the category. 

Even if this is being praised as a film on par with the Disney musicals such as Beauty and the Beast, I don't feel like it will be as recognized as those films. In fact, prior to 2009, Beauty and the Beast was the only animated film to receive a Best Picture nomination as well as two for Best Original Song ("Be Our Guest" and "Belle"). Even if the 5-10 sliding scale makes it easier for films of different technical features to slide in, the comparisons probably will stop at song quality. It is already a crowded field and probably will suffer the fate that all except three animated features have had in the Academy's long history. It will only be nominated for Best Animated Feature.

I don't wish to speculate on all of the other songs from Frozen, as it seems like all of the energy will be into getting "Let It Go" into the nomination. Instead, I would like to take a brief moment to think of some other potential songs that could be nominated. I will return to this idea when the eligibility list is released, but until then, accept this as my personal selections.

Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" from The Great Gatsby is something that I have been hoping to receive nomination ever since I saw the film. While I consider the film to be underrated, its strongest element remains the piercing, deep soulful voice of Del Rey singing about the fleeting power of youth. While it hasn't been socially acceptable to like her music since an unfortunate Saturday Night Live appearance, she remains vital to music and in fact is someone I hope to hear more from. Her music may vary in quality and often dubbing her the "gangster Nancy Sinatra," but lyrically and stylistically, she is cinematic. This song proves it beautifully.

Gladys Knight's "You and I Ain't Nothing No More" from The Butler  is probably one of the stronger contenders as well. A legendary singer belting a powerful, soulful song is sure to get the Academy's attention just like Adele did last year. Her voice is soulful and the melody driving emotion. It also helps that The Butler is shaping up to be this year's The Help. A solid film that will succeed because of the popularity and appeal it has with mainstream audiences. That alone will give this song more recognition than it otherwise wouldn't receive.

Karen O's "The Moon Song" from Her is another big contender. While it could largely be based off of personal bias, I would love to see Karen O finally receive a nomination. As anyone who has seen Where the Wild Things Are will share, O's music throughout the film was some of the strongest material to be overlooked by the Academy. Her slow progression into film soundtracks has been impressive with a resume that includes work in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Frankenweenie. With this acoustic ballad, it will hopefully not be too nuanced to be over the Academy's head. In fact, I am still curious to see if this film resonates well enough to maintain any traction when it finally gets released.

Ed Sheeran's "I See Fire" from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is probably more considered because of the legacy that J.R.R. Tolkien's adaptations have had with the Academy. Annie Lennox won the Best Original Song category with "Into the West" from Return of the King. While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey failed to capture the nomination magic of the previous series, there is still hope that each progressing film receives more acclaim and nominations. 

David Hughey and Roosevelt Credit's "My Lord Sunshine (Sunrise)" may receive a nomination just because I predict that 12 Years a Slave is going to be a runaway winner in majority of categories. Also, where I badmouthed Hans Zimmer's pointless score, I was more impressed with the musical selections and am surprised to see that this is an original song. It fits in very well with the tone of the film and at very least feels different from its competition. It may seem awkward if the Academy decide to air performances of the nominees this year, but as a whole, this is one of those songs that works within context. With the film standing out to so many people, it is likely that it will lift this song's profile as well.

Alexander Ebert's "Amen" from All is Lost is one that has been receiving considerable amount of attention for the powerful strings and crackling voice. In all honesty, I haven't paid as much attention to All is Lost as I should have. I am aware that Robert Redford has gotten some serious Oscar buzz in the Best Actor race, but with lack of effort put into seeing it, this remains one of my weak spots. I can only predict that based on the positive reviews and awards-worthy clout of the performance that it is on the radar. With that said, I haven't heard much about All is Lost and therefore feel like it may fall out of the race simply because it hasn't been as strong of a presence as its competitors.

Emily Wells' "Becomes the Color" from Stoker is probably the farthest away from receiving a nomination. However, in order to raise its profile, this is my favorite song that could possibly  be eligible for Best Original Song. Popping with personality and atmospheric strings, it is haunting, beautiful, and fun. Even if it gets ignored for being in a film that is itself overlooked by everyone, I hope that by at least bringing it into the conversation that it brings someone out to check out the Wells song and the brilliant soundtrack as a whole.

Is Frozen guaranteed to win Best Original Song? Who is its biggest competition? Is 12 Years A Slave just going to win the category because of its narrative in the awards season?

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