Sunday, July 17, 2016

Best Song: "Things Have Changed" (2000)

Scene from Wonder Boys
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 2000 and The Academy is celebrating its 73rd year. Director Ridley Scott's Gladiator stands triumphant as the first Best Picture winner of the millennium. It is also the first film to do so without a directing or screenwriting nomination since All the King's Men. Steven Soderbergh becomes the third person to have multiple Best Director nominations in one year for Traffic and Erin Brockovich. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon became the third film to have a Best Picture and Best Foreign Film nomination. It also holds the most nominations for a foreign film with 10, and its four wins tie it with Fanny and Alexander for most wins by a foreign film. Joaquin Phoenix's Best Supporting Actor nod for Gladiator along with his brother River in 1988's Running on Empty, makes them the first pair of brothers to receive Oscar nominations. Meanwhile, Wonder Boys surprises everyone by reflecting how "Times Have Changed."

The Nominees

Song: "A Fool in Love"
Film: Meet the Parents
Performers: Randy Newman, Susanna Hoffs

What is there to really say about Randy Newman? He's very good at making a melody that makes you feel happy. Even if it feels like nothing else that mainstream composers are doing at this time, he manages to make it feel both American and part of world music. I like the use of Susanna Hoffs to adds a levity to the overall quality. There's not much to say besides that Newman could write any song about any basic emotion and make it work beautifully. This is definitely very good, and I'm glad to see that he still has that charm as we enter yet another decade with him.

Song: "I've Seen it All"
Film: Dancer in the Dark
Performers: Bjork, Peter Stormare

Speaking as this would be the second piece that I've written specifically about this song (third on Dancer in the Dark), then it should come as no surprise how much I really like this song. It's so elegant and rugged in a way that most Best Original Song nominees aren't. In a sense, Lars von Trier took the Jacques Demy approach to this musical and dissected the genre by showing why we love musicals. This song perfectly uses the train tracks and the despairing reality of a blind Bjork accepting her fate. It has a sense of traditionalism underneath its rugged structure, and it never fits into either camp well enough to be everyone's cup of tea. Still, if you give it a few listens, you'll begin to hear the beauty of this wonderful song.

Song: "A Love Before Time"
Film: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Performers: CoCo Lee

On the bright side, this is probably one of the best produced songs in quite a long time. With assistance from YoYo Ma, this song has a certain Eastern elegance to it that is not often heard from at the Oscars. I like that it has the mysticism and energy to make it seem more than just elegant. It transfixes the listener and makes you appreciate the quality that CoCo Lee is putting into the vocals. While yes, I probably should give more credit to the original language version, I felt that since this was on the soundtrack, it would be easier to appreciate as an English speaker. Thankfully, it's still pretty good and I like it overall.

Song: "My Funny Friend and Me"
Film: The Emperor's New Groove
Performers: Sting

Considering that Sting had a notorious track record in the 90's of making the most boring, sleep-inducing music imaginable to ever be nominated for an Oscar, this is quite a step up. For starters, there sounds like there's actually a beat and tempo going on that gives it a rhythm. Sure, Sting is still the sleepy headed do gooder who doesn't know what fun is, but at least he tried to make something that qualified. Sure, this could've been done better by almost anyone else. In fact, I don't even know why Disney thought Sting was their go to for a wacky David Spade comedy. He did it, and he made a halfway decent song. I say halfway because that's how much I'm willing to meet it at. As long as Sting takes a few pep pills next time, he might actually write a good song next time.

 The Winner

Song: "Things Have Changed"
Film: Wonder Boys
Performers: Bob Dylan

Well, this song took me by surprise. Since I know Bob Dylan mostly for his older, folksier stuff, I wasn't ready to hear him sing something that an upbeat, almost cool vibe. To be honest, this song is really good despite not having much of a hook. The guitar is essentially one long hook played ad nauseum as Dylan does his magic on vocals. By the chorus, I buy into his coolness and I'm very charmed by what he has to say. Most of all, I just like that this is a good pop song from someone that I don't take as a pop song kind of guy. It feels cool, and I can understand why it won. I guess we started off the new millennium on the right note, then.

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. "When She Loved Me"  Toy Story 2 (1999)
2. "The Green Leaves of Summer" - The Alamo (1960)
3. "That's Amore" - The Caddy (1953)
4. "A Town Without Pity" - A Town Without Pity (1961)
5. "The Rainbow Connection" - The Muppet Movie (1979)
6. "Somewhere Out There" - An American Tail (1986)
7. "The Circle of Life" - The Lion King (1994)
8. "The Man That Got Away" - A Star is Born (1954)
9. "Ben" - Ben (1972)
10. "You've Got a Friend in Me" - Toy Story (1995)
11. "Somewhere in My Memory" - Home Alone (1990)
12. "I Love to See You Smile" - Parenthood (1989)
13. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
14. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
15. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
16. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
17. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
18. "Journey Into the Past" - Anastasia (1997)
19. "Belle" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
20. "I've Seen it All" - Dancer in the Dark (2000)
21. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
22. "Friend Like Me" - Aladdin (1992)
23. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
24. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
25. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
26. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
27. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
28. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
29. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
30. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
31. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
32. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
33. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
34. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
35. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
36. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
37. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
38. "Again" - Poetic Justice (1993)
39. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
40. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
41. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
42. "That'll Do" - Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
43. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
44. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
45. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
46. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
47. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
48. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
49. "That Thing You Do" - That Thing You Do (1996)
50. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
51. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
52. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
53. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
54. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
55. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
56. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
57. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
58. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
59. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
60. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
61. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
62. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
63. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
64. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
65. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
66. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
67. "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. "My Heart Will Go On" - Titanic (1997)
4. "A Whole New World" - Aladdin (1992)
5. "The Way We Were" - The Way We Were (1973)
6. "The Way You Look Tonight" - Swing Time (1936)
7. "The Morning After" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
8. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
9. "Swinging on a Star" - Going My Way (1944)
10. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
11. "Under the Sea" - The Little Mermaid (1989)
12. "It Goes Like It Goes" - Norma Rae (1979)
13. "You'll Be in My Heart" - Tarzan (1999)
14. "Colors of the Wind" - Pocahontas (1995)
15. "Theme From Shaft" - Shaft (1971)
16. "For All We Know" - Love and Other Strangers (1970)
17. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
18. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
19. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
20. "I'm Easy" - Nashville (1975)
21. "Beauty and the Beast" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
22. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
23. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
24. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
25. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
26. "Fame" - Fame (1980)
27. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
28. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
29. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
30. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
31. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
32. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
33. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
34. "Things Have Changed" - Wonder Boys (2000)
35. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" - The Lion King (1994)
36. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
37. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
38. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
39. "The Streets of Philadelphia" - Philadelphia (1993)
40. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing (1987)
41. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
42. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
43. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
44. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
45. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
46. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" - Dick Tracy (1990)
47. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
48. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
49. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
50. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
51. "You Must Love Me" - Evita (1996)
52. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
53. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
54. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
55. "When You Believe" - The Prince of Egypt (1998)
56. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
57. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
58. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
59. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
60. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
61. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
62. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
63. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
64. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
65. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
66. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
67. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

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