Sunday, December 11, 2016

Best Song: A Fond Farewell (For Now)

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's
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.

Well here we are at the end of regular coverage of Best Song. It has been a long and interesting journey through Oscar nomination history. I have learned a lot about music over the years, especially as it applies to Oscar history. For instance, I didn't know that the category didn't start having double nominations until the 1980's with Fame. I also learned that certain songs actually came from movies - specifically when it comes to songs released before 1970. It has been an interesting journey and one that I wish wouldn't have ever ended. To me, there was always something fun about waking up on Sunday morning and knowing that I would be listening to a new batch of songs. There were a few that I knew that I would hate, but in general I went into this with an optimistic and open mindset.

I admit that some of the results suggest that I was closed-minded from the start. "Moon River" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" never left the Top 5 Best Best Songs because they are rooted in a personal emotional response. However, there are many years where I didn't have that bias, and I was able to go in with fresh ears. I heard the progression of music in film from its early days of ballad-like show tunes to the folksy 60's and 70's. I even found appreciation in the post-millennium options that I felt were the official turning point of the award. If you must know any deeper personal thought, just go back and read any of my columns. They're all there in their raw and immediate responses.

I think that having a gut reaction to some of the music does reflect the deeper value of music. On many occasions, I found myself revisiting songs that I had initially written off while others that I loved at the time faded from memory. Sure I loved the Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Bing Crosby numbers. I eventually questioned if I was going too easy on them. However, I always went with my opinion, and I enjoy the conversations that it started. There was the time that I admitted to not liking Pinocchio's "When You Wish Upon a Star" as much as most people. It made someone question me in a way that was stimulating and showed the value of music as a subjective medium. We even begun discussing what songs didn't get nominated. As it stands, the snub factor has been going on since day one. I never claimed that The Oscars were perfect. They're just interesting as a representation of cinema history and its placement in the cultural conversation.

Why did I choose to do Best Song? On top of wanting to find easy ways to make content, I found something challenging in it. Most people can admit to never hearing most of the Best Original Song winners. I wanted to change that. And, with very few exceptions, I have heard all of the nominated songs. There's a pride in that. Speaking as I think that music may be the most universal field at any given Oscars ceremony, I felt like there was something there not only about what songs were popular, but how genres and mindsets change over time. There's still a few winners that baffle me (The Towering Inferno's "We May Never Love Like This Again"), but it has given me room to do research and expand my Oscar knowledge. Speaking as my goal is to write about and explore Oscar's past, present, and future; this seemed way easier than tackling the Best Original Score category. To be honest, the only thing keeping me from doing that field (besides availability) is that I genuinely don't like traditional epic scores like Ben-Hur and Spartacus.

I have been holding off on writing this for awhile because I wanted to make a grand announcement of what I would do next. In all honesty, I have only come up with vague ideas. I want to stick with a music theme, but am unsure what would be an easy discussion starter. I feel like Best Original Song was the perfect balance between history and familiarity. There's little else that's really as prescient. The truth is that the only thing that has come to mind is possibly doing a rundown of every John Williams nomination with similar ranking systems. I am also considering something in the vein of movie musicals, but I am currently not committed to a theme. My plan is to continue to brainstorm over the break to see what sticks. If you have any opinions, please feel free to share in the comments. Just know that I want to try and keep it simpler, as I intend to do columns weekly.

Have I enjoyed Best Song? Most definitely. To me, it's one of the highlights of my writing each week. I will miss covering it regularly. You may ask yourself then what I will be doing for this upcoming year's selection. As of this moment, I intend to do any future Best Song entries on the Sunday following the ceremony. Speaking as I like to fill the preface with trivia, I think it's important to allow information to gather before I compile my final thoughts. I do intend to regularly cover the Best Original Song category for this year in replacement of a weekly column, though I don't know how I will keep it from being redundant. Also, keep an eye out in the next week for my Nothing But the Best on Spotlight. It's something that I intended to do last month but became busy with the holidays. It should be up soon. In closing, I want to say thank you to all of my readers for being supportive. I look forward to doing something soon; presumably starting in the Post-Oscars season. I will let you know as time approaches.

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