Sunday, February 7, 2016

Best Song: "Last Dance" (1978)

Scene from Thank God It's Friday
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 1978 and The Academy is celebrating its 51st year. This was the year that director Michael Cimino's Vietnam War epic The Deer Hunter won Best Picture. It was also remembered as being the last public appearance of John Wayne before dying two months later. Warren Beatty and Buck Henry became the second duo to be nominated in Best Director for Heaven Can Wait. Beatty was also the first actor since Orson Welles to also receive directing, producing, acting, and writing nominations for the same film in the same year. Maggie Smith's Best Supporting Actress win marks the only time that an Oscar winning performance in California Suite was for an Oscar loser (Diana Barrie). Meanwhile, The Academy was screaming Thank God It's Friday with the Best Original Song winner "Last Dance."

The Nominees

Song: "Ready to Take a Chance Again"
Film: Foul Play
Performers: Barry Manilow

It's been awhile since there has been a genuinely effective ballad on this list. They've all felt in some way to be either too generic or forgetting the passion that makes it work. Barry Manilow's voice has a classic vibe, and one that overwhelms in effective ways; creating a chorus that immediately sinks into your heart. I'll admit that the song is nothing without the chorus, but Manilow delivers something phenomenal during the rest of the song and creates something so passionate and lovelorn that it feels like an immediate classic.

Song: "Hopelessly Devoted to You"
Film: Grease
Performers: Olivia Newton John

It's time for me to weigh in on a controversial topic: I really don't like Grease. This isn't to say that I don't like musicals. I love them, but Grease always struck me as flat and written very poorly (like a subpar Bye Bye Birdie). With that said, I am fine with "Summer Lovin'" or "You're the One That I Want" being the hits that they are; which only makes this number being nominated more baffling. Why is it the one that is chosen? It's goofy and uninteresting in ways that the other songs aren't. This one is fine, but Grease has way better music to choose from - and I am mostly bored by how cliche this song is and how it doesn't really offer much else beyond stock love song. Sorry, Olivia Newton John, but even you have done better than this.

Song: "When You're Loved"
Film: The Magic of Lassie
Performers: Debby Boone

I think that I am becoming jaded to these type of songs. Yes, I recently gave credit to Barry Manilow for managing to throw passion into his song. However, there's something that feels a little familiar to Debby Boone's song. It's not necessarily bad. I love that she tries to add a passionate register into the song. Yet, I cannot help but feel like the song's lyrics and production are a little too predictable. It's a fine song, and one that could probably grow on me, but it's not exactly an immediately distinct song that makes me remember it. I like it, but it needs something a little more to be great.

Song: "The Last Time I Felt Like This"
Film: Same Time, Next Year
Performers: Johnny Mathis, Jane Olivor

Listen, I really have enjoyed a lot of Johnny Mathis' work before, but I can't stand this. It's technically not his fault. The song is well produced despite very hackneyed lyrics. As you can guess from the recent weeks, these overcompensating ballads are just not my thing, and this is the epitome of what I'm not looking forward to in the 80's nominees especially. To me, the rhythms aren't important and you have two singers singing against each other instead of with. It's an ego contest, a disconnect that doesn't amount to very much. I hate this style of music, so hopefully you'll be warned when we get to the inevitable offenders later on. It's a good, not great, song otherwise.

The Winner

Song: "Last Dance"
Film: Thank God It's Friday
Performers: Donna Summer

It was so nice of The Academy to get one more disco song into the mix before the fad faded. If I can be totally honest, I am very apathetic about this song. Yes, it is very catchy and Donna Summer's work is immediately iconic. However, it doesn't have much else going on that's necessarily interesting. You can dance to it, which is fun, but I really want something more to happen. It's a very empty song with not a whole lot to offer. While that isn't as awful as it sounds. It definitely makes me conflicted on how I personally feel about the song. It's not great nor is it awful.

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. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
10. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
11. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
12. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
13. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
14. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
15. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" - Mahogany (1975)
16. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
17. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
18. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
19. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
20. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
21. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
22. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
23. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
24. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
25. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
26. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
27. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
28. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
29. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
30. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
31. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
32. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
33. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
34. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
35. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
36. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
37. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
38. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
39. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
40. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
41. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
42. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
43. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
44. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
45. "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. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
30. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
31. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
32. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
33. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
34. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
35. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
36. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
37. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
38. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
39. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
40. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
41. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
42. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
43. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
44. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
45. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

No comments:

Post a Comment