Sunday, January 3, 2016

Best Song: "The Way We Were" (1973)

Scene from The Way We Were
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 1973 and The Academy is celebrating its 46th year. This was the year that director George Roy Hill's The Sting stylishly won its way into the Best Picture circle. This was also the year in which the infamous streaker crossed the stage as David Niven was presenting Elizabeth Taylor. Meanwhile in the Best Original Song category, Barbara Streisand won while insisting that we remember things for "The Way We Were."

The Nominees

Song: "(You're So) Nice to Be Around"
Film: Cinderella Liberty
Performers: Paul Williams 

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome composer John Williams into the conversation. Having covered other greats like Marvin Hamlisch and Henry Mancini, it's interesting to hear the young and not bombastic Williams work. In fact, it sounds strangely organic and emotional by comparison. While I do think that Paul Williams' voice is a little too muddled for my liking, the song as a whole works as a melancholy love song that captures the joys of being in a wonderful relationship. I like the harmonic and the orchestration is top notch. As a whole, it's a pretty good song, even if there's never a moment that makes me love it as anything more.

Song: "Live and Let Die"
Film: Live and Let Die
Performers: Wings

Well, I'm sure that I would get backlash if I didn't pick this song. It is possibly one of only a few dozen movie theme songs that have also resonated as genuine radio hits. I will admit that the song feels strangely condensed, jumping to a bouncy style towards the middle for what feels like little payoff. This isn't to say that it's a bad song. Paul McCartney was usually reliable at writing catchy songs, and the rhythms here are top notch. If I can be honest, this Best Song column has been both enjoyable and eye opening to how the progression of the category goes. While songs like "Theme From Shaft" show something new, it's underwhelming how few funky songs I've heard in the years to proceed. In this case, the song is so full of aggression and life that I wonder why it took this long to get a "Fast" song into the mix. As much as I like the slower songs, I feel like this category needs to literally step up the tempo a bit.

Song: "Love"
Film: Robin Hood
Performers: Nancy Adams

I am unsure if it's a common feeling, but I hated this song as a child. It was the least part of Robin Hood: a film that I was already apathetic about. Having heard it for the first time since being young, I realize that there's a lot that works nicely about it. Nancy Adams' vocals are tender and beautiful. The fluttering rhythm towards the middle adds a nice personality. It's not as bad of a song as I once thought. It even works at just under two minutes. Overall, a really good song that thankfully reminds us that Disney made songs that had an impact. I'll admit that it feels in some ways secondary to the classics, but it still works pretty well on its own.

Song: "All That Love Went to Waste"
FIlm: A Touch of Class
Performers: Madeline Ball

Maybe it's because I know that "The Way We Were" won this year, but it's hard for me to appreciate this song knowing that there's a similarly downtrodden song during this year. It's not that Madeline Ball's song is bad. I do like that it captures the familiar heartbreak. It's just lacking something in the melody department. I don't entirely buy its morose nature, but it still works as a solid ballad about things going wrong. It's a good song, but I'm just not sure if knowing what won distracts my overall first impression of this song and the need to compare the two. This one definitely doesn't have the immediacy that Barbara Streisand's number has - and I unfortunately may be holding that as my unfair bias.

The Winner

Song: "The Way We Were"
Film: The Way We Were
Performers: Barbara Streisand

It almost seems unfair to even judge this against most Best Original Song winners. In all honesty, it's one of the few songs that I've heard (in total) that have captured the overwhelming sense of reflection and grief in a beautiful and striking way. Barbara Streisand definitely gave her all to make this song something beautiful and haunting, and the lyrics are superb in every field. It's hard really to judge the song for having any flaws, largely because it's an overwhelmingly beautiful song with a lot of great moments. If nothing else, it's likely to be among my all time favorite when all is said and done. This is just too perfect.

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. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
14. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
15. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
16. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
17. "Gegorgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
18. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
19. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
20. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
21. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
22. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
23. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
24. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
25. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
26. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
27. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
28. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
29. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
30. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
31. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
32. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
33. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
34. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
35. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
36. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
37. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
38. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
39. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
40. "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. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
15. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
16. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
17. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
18. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
19. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
20. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
21. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
22. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
23. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
24. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
25. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
26. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
27. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
28. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
29. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
30. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
31. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
32. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
33. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
34. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
35. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
36. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
37. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
38. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
39. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
40. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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