Sunday, January 17, 2016

Best Song: "I'm Easy" (1975)

Scene from Nashville
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 1975 and The Academy is celebrating its 48th year. This was the year that director Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest made a clean sweep, winning the Big 5 categories (the first since It Happened One Night). Isabelle Adjani became the youngest actress to be nominated at that point at the age of 20 for Best Actress (The Story of Adele H). Meanwhile, George Burns became the oldest recipient at the time at age 80 for Best Supporting Actor (The Sunshine Boys). Jaws was also one of the only films to win all of its Oscars except for Best Picture (it was not nominated for acting, writing, or directing either). Meanwhile, the Best Original Song went down to Nashville and said "I'm Easy."

The Nominees

Song: "How Lucky Can You Get?"
Film: Funny Lady
Performers: Barbara Streisand

It's really hard for modern generations to fully appreciate what Barbara Streisand was doing in her prime. Speaking as I would be one of those who have casually dismissed her, it's been interesting to hear her songs in this column and notice that she does in fact have talent. Her bombastic show tune style is so immediate and exciting. It's hard to find any fault with her as a performer, largely because she gives her all to every note. I really like how this song evolves from its hushed beginnings and ends with a raucous number. Overall,  really solid song and a sign that maybe I should be giving Streisand more credit than I have had in the past (though must she do several movies with "funny" in the title?).

Song: "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)"
Film: Mahogany
Performers: Diana Ross

It feels good to hear a song like this after so long. To me, this is a recall of songs from the 50's and 60's that would show up in the Best Original Song category and feature vibrant productions and booming voices. Thankfully, Diana Ross just has that energy to make her song both tender and immediate in ways that grab you. The backing instruments are loud with their own form of passion, and it all makes an overwhelmingly beautiful song that turns the otherwise trite lyrics into something majestic. I definitely like this song a lot and feel like its rhythm's immediate catchiness gives it an edge overall. It's just great to know that songs like this could still be done correctly with the right talent behind it.

Song: "Richard's Window"
Film: "The Other Side of the Mountain"
Performers: Olivia Newton John

It's a song that's short and sweet. Olivia Newton John's voice is likely the reason that the song works as well as it does. Her tenderness as she sings this love song manages to make it feel more enduring. The lyrics are corny, sure, but her voice gives it a sense of purpose of life. While I think that it's not a great production, its lullaby-like nature gives it enough of a charm to make it at least a worthwhile listen. Overall, a solid line-up of nominees for this year and I hope to hear John come around a few more times, hopefully with even more assured songs that reflect her talent a lot better.

Song: "Now That We're in Love"
Film: Whiffs
Performers: Steve Lawrence

My initial instinct is to take some credit away from this song because of its familiar lyrics. The song as a whole seems like something that should play as filler. However, there's this strange balance that occurs where the rhythm and melody play into some romantic pattern that turns it into something far more soothing and beautiful. It also helps that Steve Lawrence is actually a very assured singer, and the results manage to make this into something far more intriguing. Even if I feel like this is a stock love song, it's a very well made stock love song that manages to achieve more than its short sightings would have you suggest.

The Winner

Song: "I'm Easy"
Film: Nashville
Performers: Keith Carradine

It helps that Nashville is a very good movie with a lot of great original songs that could've easily filled up this year's category. However, it's still great to hear it featured here for one of the standout numbers. It's a small and simple ballad that gives Keith Carradine a showcase for his talent. It's a very traditional-sounding country song with a very simple point. Maybe this bias of liking this Robert Altman film may cause the overall ranking to be a little high, but it's still an impressive piece of work for something that genuinely sounds unassuming otherwise. 

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. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
10. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970
11. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
12. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
13. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" - Mahogany (1975)
14. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
15. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
16. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
17. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
18. "Gegorgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
19. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
20. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
21. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
22. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
23. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
24. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
25. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
26. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
27. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
28. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
29. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
30. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
31. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
32. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
33. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
34. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
35. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
36. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
37. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
38. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
39. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
40. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
41. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
42. "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. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
37. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
38. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
39. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
40. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
41. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
42. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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