Sunday, November 1, 2015

Best Song: "Chim Chim Cher-ee" (1964)

Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins
Welcome to Best Song, a new weekly column released on Sunday dedicated to chronicling the Best Original Song category over the course of its many decades. The goal is to listen to and critique every song that has ever been nominated in the category as well as find the Best Best Song and the Best Loser. By the end, we'll have a comprehensive list of this music category and will hopefully have a better understanding not only of the evolution, but what it takes to receive a nomination here. It may seem easy now, but wait until the bad years.

The Preface

The year is 1964 and The Academy is celebrating its 37th year. Director George Cuckor's My Fair Lady wins Best Picture as well as eight Oscars. There was controversy around actress Audrey Hepburn's snub, which many attribute to her singing portion being dubbed by Marni Nixon - thus making it only "half of a performance." Meanwhile, Hepburn breaks any rumored hostility between her and Julie Andrews, of whom played the same role onstage. Though Andrews didn't have that bad of an evening, since she won for Best Actress for Mary Poppins, as well as for the song "Chim Chim Cher-ee."

The Nominees

Song: "Dear Heart"
Film: Dear Heart
Performers: Choir

While I am a fan of Henry Mancini's compositions, I have to wonder if he has a very specific style that he is overly reliant on. I don't hate it, but it's three weeks in a row now where he's used that ominous melody to make a love song sound melancholic. I think that it's pretty good and distinctive, but it makes it hard to really find anything to say about the songs after awhile. I like this one for the most part. It's got the nice melody, swaying beautifully from chord to chord. I just think that I might like it better if he didn't rely on the choir technique for every one of these songs.

Song: "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte"
Film: Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Performers: Al Martino

I'll admit that the video editing may skewer my thoughts a little bit. With visual accompaniment, the song feels a little campy. However, I like the song on its own. It's got a beautiful, simple melody that is a little haunting. Al Martino has a nice, relaxing voice that makes the melody and the simple lyrics work so beautifully together. I inevitably come on the side of liking this song despite not enjoying much about it beyond the chorus. The rest is fine, but it doesn't have an immediacy that puts it over the top. Still, a rather good song that I may enjoy in time.

Song: "My Kind of Town"
Film: Robin and the 7 Hoods
Performers: Frank Sinatra

I will admit that I think that Frank Sinatra was really good at writing theme songs for cities. All you have to do is look at "New York, New York" or On the Town. He really has a passion for making people proud to be from somewhere. While the big band elements make me feel more like this is New Orleans, I cannot deny that Sinatra makes Chicago sound like a great place to visit. Even the backing vocals kicking in adds a nice touch. I really think that this song works effectively out of context, and I wonder if people from Chicago have adopted it as their own. It's not an amazing song compared to Sinatra's best, but he really knows how to sing and make anything sound flawless.

Song: "Where Love Has Gone"
Film: Where Love Has Gone
Performers: Jack Jones

I guess I can add Jack Jones to the list of people whose voices can make anything sound sweeping and magnificent. The subject of love is nothing new, and this song doesn't necessarily have anything substantially different from what all other love songs have. However, he does have that earnest voice that makes you feel the notes and long for what he wants. Also, the production is top notch and gets you into that reminiscing state of which he sings. For any faults that this song has, it has the emotion to compensate. It's a powerful, unique song worthy of more acclaim. Also, Jack Jones is someone that I'm surprised to have not heard from more often on this list. He's just so good.

The Winner

Song: "Chim Chim Cher-ee"
Film: Mary Poppins
Performers: Dick Van Dyke

I suppose the proper question I should ask is "Why this one?" In all honesty, Mary Poppins is among my favorite musical movies out there. It has front to back one of the richest soundtracks, as well as one of the most iconic. While this definitely will rank high, I don't even consider it among the handful of best songs from the film. It's good, but I don't know if it's the one that should be remembered most fondly on this list. In fact, why can't more than one song from this movie get nominated? It's catchy and fun, but I still think that there's better songs from Mary Poppins worthy of this list.

Best Loser

A comprehensive list and ranking of the songs that were nominated but did not win. This is a list predicated on which song that was nominated I liked the best.

1. "The Green Leaves of Summer" - The Alamo (1960)
2. "That's Amore" - The Caddy (1953)
3. "A Town Without Pity" - A Town Without Pity (1961)
4. "The Man That Got Away" - A Star is Born (1954)
5. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
6. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
7. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
8. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
9. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
10. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
11. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
12. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
13. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
14. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
15. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
16. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
17. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
18. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
19. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
20. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
21. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
22. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
23. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
24. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
25. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
26. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
27. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
28. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
29. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
30. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
31. "I've Got You Under My Skin" - Born to Dance (1936)

Best Best Song

A comprehensive list and ranking of the songs that won this category. 

1. "Moon River" - Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
2. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" - The Wizard of Oz (1939)
3. "The Way You Look Tonight" - Swing Time (1936)
4. "Swinging on a Star" - Going My Way (1944)
5. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
6. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
7. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
8. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
9. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
10. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
11. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
12. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
13. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
14. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
15. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
16. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
17. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
18. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
19. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
20. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
21. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
22. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
23. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
24. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
25. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
26. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
27. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
28. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
29. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
30. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
31. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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