Thursday, July 09, 2015

OVP: Original Song (2008)

OVP: Best Original Song (2008)

The Nominees Were...

"Down to Earth," Music & Lyric by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, WALL-E
"Jai Ho," Music & Lyric by AR Rahman and Gulzar, Slumdog Millionaire
"O Saya," Music and Lyric by AR Rahman and Maya Arulpraasam (aka MIA), Slumdog Millionaire

My Thoughts: Argh, I sometimes cannot stand Blogger.  Admittedly, I get to use this platform for free for which I am eternally grateful, but on occasion their system gets tricked for some reason and deletes one of my posts, so this is actually my second attempt at writing a recap of the Original Song category (and since I loathe re-writing articles, this is the first one of the week for that reason since I'm also a bit OCD about the order of the categories).  Either way, though, I'm back now and we're going to dive into the three (yep, we're still in the "arbitrary number of songs" years at the Oscars) songs the Academy deemed worthy of their stamp in 2008.

The first song is the now iconic "Jai Ho," a song from the end credits of Slumdog Millionaire.  I will admit right now that if you haven't already picked up on the fact that Slumdog Millionaire isn't one of my favorite movies, I thoroughly suggest you check out the "also in 2008" section below, as you have some recommended reading ahead of you.  Still, this song is extremely catchy and is actually in my iMusic library.  The song itself is jumpy, and instantly recalls the movie, which is a sign of a solid theme.  However, I also judge the original song category on how they use the song in the movie as well as its actual quality.  The song itself is used appropriately over the traditional Bollywood dance number at the end of the film, but the credits sort of ruin the dance number for me, as they are constantly over-cutting the dance number so it seems less like impressive choreography and more like Dev Patel hand-chopping the air a dozen times in a row.  As a result, the song itself plays well, but is poorly used in the film.

The other nominated song from Slumdog Millionaire is actually used during the meat of the movie, during a chase sequence when the principle children are younger.  "O Saya," though, suffers in many ways in comparison to another nominated AR Rahman song two years later, "If I Rise," which is that it's hard to decipher it from the actual score, and part of me wonders if the Academy wouldn't have been able to tell if they had not seen the nominated song on the eligibility list, as during the movie it plays far more like it's just part of a sung score than an actual song.  The scene also borders onto the tedium (it's one of those chase scenes that doesn't have enough escalation and as a result feels like poor editing), and the actual song is nowhere as good as "Jai Ho."

The final nominated song, and the only one not in Slumdog Millionaire would be "Down to Earth," from WALL-E, which like "Jai Ho," takes place over the end credits, though again not in a traditional way.  While most end credit songs recall Diane Warren power ballads over a black screen with elegant white calligraphy, Pixar isn't really about that, particularly with their magnum opus, and instead we get a beautiful but also pop-catchy Peter Gabriel song that comes against an end credits that shows an evolution of art history, from cave paintings to da Vinci-style drawings to Renoir-flowing landscapes.  The credits match what the people who come back to earth must do to save the planet, but it also adds an extra depth of loveliness to the movie, and the song is cute without ever becoming saccharine.

Other Precursor Contenders: This year is probably one of the most harped-about years I've seen at the Oscars for this category, quite frankly.  Coming a year after they changed the rule to only two songs per film (a rule I still think is idiotic, as it punishes original musicals which are the life-blood of this category), the Academy went with a pretty banal series of three songs, while the Golden Globes (who generally like pop stars a bit more and as a result always feel a little bit more relevant in this category) went with only Peter Gabriel amongst its five, substituting in "I Thought I Lost You" from Bolt (by Miley Cyrus), "Gran Torino," from Gran Torino (by Clint Eastwood), "Once in a Lifetime" from Cadillac Records (by Beyonce), and the ultimate winner "The Wrestler" from The Wrestler (by Bruce Springsteen).  I have to assume that "The Wrestler" was in fourth place, but who knows considering it felt like a slam dunk nomination heading into the Oscars-honestly, this is perhaps the most puzzling miss for a nomination in the Aughts-everything pointed to this song not only being nominated but winning the category.
Songs I Would Have Nominated: "The Wrestler" is an outstanding song, and would have easily topped my list of nominated music.  I also would have found room for "Gran Torino," as I am a lover of all things Jamie Cullum (I'm still stumped by that miss as well-even if it's the music branch, AMPAS is still wild about Eastwood!).  My final nominations would probably go, and I know I am going to get a couple of snickers here, to the Twilight soundtrack, which like it or not was one of the best soundtracks of 2008.  Songs like "Decode" and "Supermath" perfectly fit the mold of this film, and while we're not talking great cinema here, we are talking about a pretty significant film series of the past decade-it wouldn't have been the worst thing if it had scored one nomination for arguably its best attribute.
Oscar’s Choice: Without Springsteen in the mix, this was an easy win for "Jai Ho," as it was the obvious choice against vote-splitting and Slumdog was cleaning up.
My Choice: I honestly thought when I initially approached this category that this would be the one place where I would honor Slumdog, but the way the song is used in the film turned me off enough to go with "Down to Earth," with "Jai Ho" and "O Saya" behind.  As a result, longtime Oscar bridesmaid Thomas Newman gets his first OVP trophy!

Those are my thoughts-how about yours?  Were you with me on giving WALL-E a trophy, or are you more on the side of "Jai Ho?"  Are you still perplexed by "The Wrestler" missing in this category almost a decade ago?  And what is your favorite song on the Twilight soundtrack?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

Past Best Original Song Contests: 2009, 201020112012, 2013

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