Sunday, November 29, 2015

Best Song: "The Windmills of Your Mind" (1968)

Scene from The Thomas Crown Affair
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 1968 and The Academy is celebrating its 41st year. This was the year that director Carol Reed's Oliver! became the only G-Rated Best Picture winner to date. It would be the last British film to win until 1981's Chariots of Fire and the last musical to win until 2003's Chicago. This was also the year that Barbara Streisand (Funny Girl) and Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) tied for Best Actress; a moment that hasn't happened since. Meanwhile, the Best Original Song category turns to The Thomas Crown Affair in order to explore "The Windmills of Your Mind."

The Nominees

Song: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"
Film: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Performers: Dick Van Dyke, Heather Ripley, Adrian Hall, and Sally Ann Howes

I must admit that it's so nice to hear an ensemble song. While there have been choirs or duets, I feel like the group singing dynamic isn't something that comes up much in the nominations. I really like how the vocals progress and four different people get their moment to shine. While I think it's a silly song, it definitely has an endearing quality to it that makes its nonsensical lyrics so much fun. It's not a great song, but it definitely gets points for sheer enthusiasm and its ability to make a song that is essentially about a ran down car so much fun. 

Song: "For Love of Ivy"
Film: For Love of Ivy
Performers: Shirley Horn

I am sure that the song works within context, but it doesn't stand out much by itself. If given time to build upon itself and give the melody something more to do, this could likely be a great song. I definitely find no fault in Shirley Horn's great singing, which creates the calmness that this song needs. It's just that everything else feels a little bit off in comparison. There's not much to the melody that is showy or interesting. The lyrics are also kind of simple and don't really stick with you. I'm thinking that if I heard a longer version of this song, I may like it for. However, since this is the version used within the film, it's a little bit underwhelming.

Song: "Funny Girl"
Film: Funny Girl
Performers: Barbara Streisand

This feels very reminiscent of my issues with "Call Me Irresponsible" a few weeks back. I recognize that the song can be great. In fact, I'm sure that the emotional build-up impacts how you interpret this song greatly. However, the feeling is kind of absent for me going in blindly. It could just be the curse of being born after Barbara Streisand's big run, but her impact is lost on me and while I'm sure Funny Girl was a big deal for her, it hasn't sustained a cultural relevance otherwise comparatively. I'll give her this, she turned a melancholic song into something that definitely feels more personal. Her voice aches and the imperfection adds an endearment to it. I wish I could find the value of her reminiscing on the word funny, but it's not a song that immediately grabs me without context. It's not a bad song. It's just one that I need something more from.

Song: "Star!"
Film: Star!
Performers: Julie Andrews

I have to admit that Julie Andrews is looking to be that new favorite alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra and Henry Mancini. While I try not to have a bias, you'll see what comes across as overachieving in a lot of songs I pick. Speaking as Julie Andrews lead my Best Loser column last week, it seems unfair to pick her two weeks in a row. However, there's something fully formed about her work. The melody is thick and well produced. The lyrics are full of purpose and concision. It immediately grabs you and thrusts you into whatever lays ahead for the film. I'll admit that I'm unsure if picking this over Funny Girl (an otherwise more recognizable musical) will be seen as blasphemous, but that song doesn't work for me on its own. This one definitely has something to offer.

The Winner

Song: "The Windmills of Your Mind"
Film: The Thomas Crown Affair
Performers: Noel Harrison

This song is definitely disconcerting. For the most part, every song that I have heard through this column has had a strict melody structure. They have all focused on similar vibes, moving at a pace that compliments the rhythm. Yet for some reason, Noel Harrison's vocal style immediately felt off. It's going so fast that I had to think for a second if this was a joke page. When it began to slow down, I began to understand its intent. Structurally, I get why this song won. It's definitely unique and tries to capture an atmosphere. My real question is if I should reward its intentions or my interest in the execution. To be frank, I like it more for the former, but cannot seem to get around how distracting the faster parts are. Maybe with a few more listens, I'll appreciate what it does more. For now, it's just a little much.

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. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
6. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
7. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
8. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
9. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
10. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
11. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
12. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
13. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
14. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
15. "Gegorgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
16. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
17. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
18. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
19. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
20. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
21. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
22. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
23. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
24. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
25. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
26. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
27. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
28. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
29. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
30. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
31. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
32. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
33. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
34. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
35. "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. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
10. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
11. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
12. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
13. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
14. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
15. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
16. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
17. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
18. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
19. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
20. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
21. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
22. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
23. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
24. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
25. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
26. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
27. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
28. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
29. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
30. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
31. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
32. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
33. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
34. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
35. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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