Sunday, September 4, 2016

Best Song: "Falling Slowly" (2007)

Scene from Once
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 2007 and The Academy is celebrating its 80th year. Directors Joel and Ethan Coen won Best Picture with No Country for Old Men. They also became the second duo to win the category following Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise for West Side Story. This year also was only the second time that featured all four acting winners that were not born in the United States. Daniel Day-Lewis's Best Actor win for There Will Be Blood marked him as the eighth person to win Best Actor twice. Marion Cotillard's Best Actress win for La Vie en Rose made her the eighth person to win for a non-English speaking role and the second in the Best Actress category (the other being Sophia Loren for Two Women). Cate Blanchett became the 11th person to have dual nominations in one year for Best Actress (Elizabeth: The Golden Age) and Best Supporting Actress (I'm Not There). For playing Queen Elizabeth, she became the first actress to be nominated for playing the same character in two different films. Hal Holbrook's Best Supporting Actor nomination for Into the Wild made him the oldest male acting nominee in history at the age of 82. Meanwhile, the Best Original Song category has success with "Falling Slowly" as Once wins.

The Nominees

Song: "Happy Working Song"
Film: Enchanted
Performers: Amy Adams

I will just go on record right now. This is probably the last year that I think that this category was actually above good. It could just help that I really like Enchanted and feel that Alan Menken satirizing his company's legacy is brilliant. It also helps that Amy Adams is just a delightful presence and her pronunciation of "Toilet" and "Vacuum" are the works of genius. I love how catchy and whimsical this song is while satirizing Disney's rich legacy. This really is a special song and one that has withstood the test of time for me. Having just heard it, I have it stuck in my head and now I'm worried that I won't be able to judge it properly against everything else. 

Song: "Raise It Up"
Film: August Rush
Performers: Jamia Simone Nash, Choir

And now you know the plot to August Rush. While I have seen the film, I totally forgot about this song, and I am surprised by how much I like it. There's so much hope in the orchestration and the way that things build is beautiful. I mostly like it from a production standpoint and how it manages to create an overwhelming unification over the theme of lost children. By the end, I want to get up and sing along, or at least clap. For one of two nominees not from Enchanted, I'd say that this is evidence that good music can still make the cut from the least likely of places.

Song: "So Close"
Film: Enchanted
Performers: Jon McLaughlin

Well, I guess that they all can't be winners. I know that I just praised Alan Menken for doing great skewering of Disney classics, but I don't know that his reverent approach necessarily lands for me. It has all the trimmings of classic Disney musicals, but I don't really feel the earnestness in this number. It's so on the nose, and it feels like a familiar and cliche romantic love song. Yes, the production is good. Let's not fault that. However, this feels like such a filler nominee that exists solely because we needed to round out five selections. If nothing else, it's the least memorable of the Enchanted songs for a reason.

Song: "That's How You Know"
Film: Enchanted
Performers: Amy Adams, Marlon Saunders

So... why didn't this song win? I could be forgetting something, but this may be the best Disney song that I've heard at least since Toy Story 2. It has everything that makes Alan Menken so great. He hits the melody correctly and the jarring shifts in musical styles doesn't feel all that jarring. It's so upbeat and lively that it transcends satire and just goes straight for classic. Most of all, the triumphant build is so catchy that by the end it consumes you. Everything about this song is great, and I only hope that this Once song didn't just win because Enchanted had to split the vote three ways.

The Winner

Song: "Falling Slowly"
Film: Once
Performers: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova

Did I miss something with the Once movement? I know that it was a smash hit upon release, but I don't know if the song works out of context. It has all the work of a quality folk song, and I definitely think that it's well produced. The harmonies on the chorus have a beauty to them that makes up for my disconnect from the rest of the song. It is fine, but I never find myself entranced in what it's doing quite as successfully as it wants me to. Maybe if I see Once, it will all make sense. For now, it is a winner that I express a solid dose of apathy towards, and that's about the best that I can do.

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. "That's How You Know" - Enchanted (2007)
18. "Belleville Rendez-vous" - The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
19. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
20. "Journey Into the Past" - Anastasia (1997)
21. "Belle" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
22. "I've Seen it All" - Dancer in the Dark (2000)
23. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
24. "Friend Like Me" - Aladdin (1992)
25. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
26. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
27. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
28. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
29. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
30. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
31. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
32. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
33. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
34. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
35. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
36. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
37. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
38. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
39. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
40. "Again" - Poetic Justice (1993)
41. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
42. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
43. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
44. "That'll Do" - Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
45. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
46. "Listen" - Dreamgirls (2006)
47. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
48. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
49. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
50. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
51. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
52. "Look to Your Path" - The Chorus (2004)
53. "The Hands That Built America" - Gangs of New York (2002)
54. "That Thing You Do" - That Thing You Do (1996)
55. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
56. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
57. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
58. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
59. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
60. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
61. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
62. "Travellin' Thru" - Transamerica (2005)
63. "Vanilla Sky" - Vanilla Sky (2001)
64. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
65. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
66. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
67. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
68. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
69. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
70. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
71. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
72. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
73. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
74. "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. "Al otra lado del rio" - The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
53. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
54. "You Must Love Me" - Evita (1996)
55. "Falling Slowly" - Once (2007)
56. "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" - Hustle & Flow (2005)
57. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
58. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
59. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
60. "If I Didn't Have You" - Monsters Inc. (2001)
61. "When You Believe" - The Prince of Egypt (1998)
62. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
63. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
64. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
65. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
66. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
67. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
68. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
69. "I Need to Wake Up" - An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
70. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
71. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
72. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
73. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
74. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

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