Sunday, January 24, 2016

Best Song: "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" (1976)

Scene from A Star is Born
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 1976 and The Academy is celebrating its 49th year. This was the year that director John G. Avildsen's underdog sports drama Rocky swept The Oscars, including a win for Best Picture. Network actor Peter Finch became the first Best Actor recipient to win posthumously. For the same film, Beatrice Straight became the Best Supporting Actress winner with the least amount of screen time with under six minutes. The film is also the last to receive five acting nominations. Piper Laurie received her second consecutive Oscar nomination for Carrie, following her last performance 15 years prior for The Hustler. Seven Beauties made Lina Wertmuller the first ever female to receive a Best Director nomination. Meanwhile, A Star is Born continues The Academy's love of Barbara Streisand with the Best Original Song winner "Evergreen (Theme Song from a Star is Born)."

The Nominees

Song: "A World That Never Was"
Film: Half a Mouse
Performers: ?

*Note: Song begins around 1:30 into the video

If I can be totally honest, I am not really enjoying these mellow songs that really have no high point or low. Try as I might, the lyrical quality is something that never manages to make the songs better. Having gone through a lot of this list, there's a certain expectation I've come to expect from the best of these. Simply singing a song straight without any emotional flairs is a little disappointing, and for which makes this song pretty hard to remember, let alone call great. Even if it was cheesier, I might have enjoyed it more. For whatever reason, this song was just fine, but not in a way that makes me like it. Needed more emphasis on something.

Song: "Ave Satani"
Film: The Omen
Performers: Choir

Well, I'll hand it to The Academy. They at least are picking an interesting direction this year. Speaking as I have seen The Omen, I honestly never considered this a song - as the score feels very indicative of choirs anyways. However, the demonic quality features Jerry Goldsmith doing something fascinating and archaic. It's ethereal and monotonous in the way that chants are, digging under your skin and asking you to not be freaked out. This song is straight up satanic. While I think it's a little lacking in rhythm, it definitely does the trick of working as a staggering number that at least reflects the Best Original Song category trying to do diversity. For that alone, it deserves some credit.

Song: "Come to Me"
Film: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
Performers: Tom Jones

If I can be honest, I think that Tom Jones is one of those talents who make less sense the further from his prime that we get. While I get the appeal of him serenading audiences with that rich voice and those lush harmonies, he always felt like a lesser, more poppy, version of something like Frank Sinatra - where the production is great, but it's inevitably the singer who has to sell the song with his vocal skills. This isn't a bad song, but I don't know that Jones really has a range that makes his music necessarily romantic, whether compared to Sinatra or later performers. I think it's fine and does the trick of a generic love song, but I think that there's been a lot of better Jones music out there and that this feels more like a filler nominee than anything else. It may play better live, but that's not what I'm here to judge.

Song: "Gonna Fly Now"
Film: Rocky 
Performers: DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford

I have to admit that I really like that The Academy nominated TWO songs this year that are the least conventional things imaginable. "Avi Satani" is a foreign language chant over a few minutes, and "Gonna Fly Now" is merely an instrumental with the title repeated occasionally. In fact, I would hardly call this a "song" in the way that Best Original Song is meant to nominate them. However, it's still one of the reasons that Rocky works so well. Bill Conti's production is phenomenal and the trumpets herald in the motivation so that by the time that the instruments do the breakdown, you're pumped. Maybe this gets overlooked in favor of "Eye of the Tiger" more often than not, but I still think that this is one of the best theme songs (from an Oscar-winning film, anyways) out there. It really makes you want to get up and do something. I just don't know that I care about the vocals at all.

The Winner

Song: "Evergreen (Theme from A Star is Born)"
Film: A Star is Born
Performers: Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson

It makes sense why this won. You have Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand dueting together. Speaking as Streisand has pretty much been nominated more years than not this decade, she probably wasn't going to be ignored for this song. In all honesty, her vocal patterns is probably the best part of the song. She really has a passion in there that reminds me why I am struck by her capabilities. I just wish that I cared more about the song, which comes across as being one of those conventional numbers thrown together merely to fill a presumed love song necessity in A Star is Born. It's a good song, but it doesn't capture necessarily what was great about Streisand, and is a far cry from when she won for "The Way We Were" a few years back.

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. "Ben" - Ben (1972)
6. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
7. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
8. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
9. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
10. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
11. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970
12. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
13. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
14. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" - Mahogany (1975)
15. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
16. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
17. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
18. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
19. "Gegorgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
20. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
21. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
22. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
23. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
24. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
25. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
26. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
27. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
28. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
29. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
30. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
31. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
32. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
33. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
34. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
35. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
36. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
37. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
38. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
39. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
40. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
41. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
42. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
43. "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 We Were" - The Way We Were (1973)
4. "The Way You Look Tonight" - Swing Time (1936)
5. "The Morning After" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
6. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
7. "Swinging on a Star" - Going My Way (1944)
8. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
9. "Theme From Shaft" - Shaft (1971)
10. "For All We Know" - Love and Other Strangers (1970)
11. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
12. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
13. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
14. "I'm Easy" - Nashville (1975)
15. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
16. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
17. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
18. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
19. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
20. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
21. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
22. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
23. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
24. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
25. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
26. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
27. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
28. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
29. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
30. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
31. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
32. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
33. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
34. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
35. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
36. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
37. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
38. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
39. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
40. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
41. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
42. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
43. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

1 comment:

  1. Behind The White Glasses. A documentary about Lina Wertmuller.