Sunday, August 7, 2016

Best Song: "Into the West" (2003)

Scene from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
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 2003 and The Academy is celebrating its 76th year. Director Peter Jackson cleans up massively with Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King with 11 wins that included Best Picture. This caused it to tie with Titanic and Ben-Hur for most wins, and became the film with the most nominations to have a clean sweep. It was the first third film in a series to win the award. It was also the 10th film to win Best Picture without any acting nominations. Best Director nominee Sofia Coppola became the third woman and first American woman to be nominated in the category for Lost in Translation. She was also the second third generation Oscar winner thanks to her Best Original Screenplay win. Best Actress nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes became the youngest nominee in the category at the age of 13 for Whale Rider. Mystic River's Sean Penn and Tim Robbins won in Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively - marking the fourth time that a film won both male acting awards. Meanwhile, Jackson's fantasy epic showed up big by winning Best Original Song with "Into the West."

The Nominees

Song: "Belleville Rendez Vous"
Film: The Triplets of Belleville
Performers: Beatrice Bonifassi

Speaking as the whole The Triples of Belleville phenomenon escaped me, this is my first exposure to the music of the film. What is immediately impressive about it is that the guitar has one hook, and its choice to play it incessantly actually works in its favor. What comes out the other side is a dizzying, catchy song that I would've probably been singing along to if I spoke French. It's so nice to see infectious tunes making the cut, and I definitely think that everything about this song is pretty great. I like how immediate it is and how it never loses its pacing. It could've gone on another five minutes and I wouldn't have minded. It's just so good.

Song: "Kiss at the End of the Rainbow"
Film: A Mighty Wind
Performers: Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara

Oh, how I love Christopher Guest movies. A Mighty Wind is no exception, and I feel like this list could've easily been populated with all of the songs from the film. Instead, we get this one. It is by no means bad. In fact, I really think it's sentimental in the way that shows how Guest's style of comedy transcends parody and goes for loving. This is a genuinely good folk song and manages to work in its humbleness. I think that it may be a little underwhelming, but it definitely has a warmth and soul to it that I don't hear in too many other places. If you didn't know that this was from a comedy, it wouldn't change one thing. It's that good.


Song: "The Scarlet Tide"
Film: Cold Mountain
Performers: Alison Krauss

I have to admit that Cold Mountain is a very underrated movie. I do think that Alison Krauss also gives a great and tender performance in this song. It has a beauty that is nuanced and plays well with the underlying piano. While I admit that the song lacks any hook to make it great, it does manage to work well enough to make me feel moved by what's on display. The production is solid and captures the charm of Cold Mountain perfectly. I wish that I liked this song more, but its status as just fine will have to do for now.

Song: "You Will Be My Ain True Love"
Film: Cold Mountain
Performers: Alison Krauss

It may be easier to copy and paste my thoughts from the previous entry here. I like the song and all, and it works very well in context. However, there's not enough hooks or rhythm to make it stand out as a genuinely exciting or pleasing song. It's good and all, but I want something more from it. Alison Kraus does an excellent job in making what she has work. Of course, I guess this is all very deceptive, because I noticed that Sting wrote and composed this song. It's almost become a joke that Sting sleeps his way through most of his career - and I would have to argue he fell on the keyboard and wrote "zzzzzzzzzzzzz" this time as well, but with a better and more interesting singer.

The Winner

Song: "Into the West"
Film: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Performers: Annie Lennox

Listen. I get why this won. I loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy just like everyone else. It was a big deal. I think that Annie Lennox's booming voice towers everything with a certain beauty and tenderness that makes the lyrics hit harder. In fact, its status as an end to an epic series is very much earned. It's just not a song that I particularly love all that much. Its production may be the best of the bunch - so there's that. However, I still wish that there was something more to it. Maybe I think that this song unfairly won because of what it was attached to and reflects a shift towards the winning songs mostly being from the lone nominee that people have heard. However, I still think that this is good, not great.

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. "Belleville Rendez-vous" - The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
18. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
19. "Journey Into the Past" - Anastasia (1997)
20. "Belle" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
21. "I've Seen it All" - Dancer in the Dark (2000)
22. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
23. "Friend Like Me" - Aladdin (1992)
24. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
25. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
26. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
27. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
28. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
29. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
30. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
31. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
32. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
33. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
34. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
35. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
36. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
37. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
38. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
39. "Again" - Poetic Justice (1993)
40. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
41. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
42. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
43. "That'll Do" - Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
44. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
45. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
46. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
47. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
48. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
49. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
50. "The Hands That Built America" - Gangs of New York (2002)
51. "That Thing You Do" - That Thing You Do (1996)
52. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
53. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
54. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
55. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
56. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
57. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
58. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
59. "Vanilla Sky" - Vanilla Sky (2001)
60. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
61. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
62. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
63. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
64. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
65. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
66. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
67. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
68. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
69. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
70. "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. "Lose Yourself" - 8 Mile (2002)
13. "It Goes Like It Goes" - Norma Rae (1979)
14. "You'll Be in My Heart" - Tarzan (1999)
15. "Colors of the Wind" - Pocahontas (1995)
16. "Theme From Shaft" - Shaft (1971)
17. "For All We Know" - Love and Other Strangers (1970)
18. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
19. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
20. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
21. "I'm Easy" - Nashville (1975)
22. "Beauty and the Beast" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
23. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
24. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
25. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
26. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
27. "Fame" - Fame (1980)
28. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
29. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
30. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
31. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
32. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
33. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
34. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
35. "Things Have Changed" - Wonder Boys (2000)
36. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" - The Lion King (1994)
37. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
38. "Into the West" - Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
39. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
40. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
41. "The Streets of Philadelphia" - Philadelphia (1993)
42. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing (1987)
43. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
44. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
45. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
46. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
47. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
48. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" - Dick Tracy (1990)
49. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
50. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
51. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
52. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
53. "You Must Love Me" - Evita (1996)
54. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
55. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
56. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
57. "If I Didn't Have You" - Monsters Inc. (2001)
58. "When You Believe" - The Prince of Egypt (1998)
59. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
60. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
61. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
62. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
63. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
64. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
65. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
66. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
67. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
68. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
69. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
70. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

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