Thursday, October 27, 2016

OVP: Original Song (2007)

OVP: Best Original Song (2007)

The Nominees Were...

"Falling Slowly," Music & Lyric by Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard, Once
"Happy Working Song," Music & Lyric by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, Enchanted
"Raise It Up," Music & Lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack, and Tevin Thomas, August Rush
"So Close," Music & Lyric by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, Enchanted
"That's How You Know," Music & Lyric by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, Enchanted

My Thoughts: The Academy Awards frequently finds itself in a position where it's "reacting" to some random criticism or heat that the public is giving it in recent years.  Some of these reactions are good (I think the move to make the AMPAS membership more diverse in the past year will yield, hopefully, a more diverse perspective on cinema), some of them are bad (what the hell is with the random number of Best Pictures thing?), and some are just odd.  One of these bizarre reactions was, after the Enchanted trio of nominations in 2007, the music branch declared no movie can have more than two nominations from their film.  This felt strange to me.  Admittedly you'd want to spread the wealth in the category, but it also took power away from that rarest of Hollywood creations-the original musical.  This stands out in particular to me this year, where Hollywood has rather wonderfully created three original musicals (Sing Street, La La Land, and Moana), but the Original Song branch has made it difficult for Oscar to say "yes, give me more original musicals" easily if one of them ends up being a success with AMPAS.  But I digress, and let's get into those Enchanted numbers.

This is our first actual interaction in the OVP with a film that has received a trio of nominations from the same film, so I'm a little at a loss to how I'm going to discuss this musical.  I think I'll begin with "Happy Working Song," in my opinion the most playful and "Disney" of the three.  Enchanted in a lot of ways is a Disney-animated film, even with animated sequences, but its use of parody is where it theoretically gets most of its comedy.  This works in the context of the film through song at its best in "Happy Working Song," but this is also, genuinely, just a good song.  Adams, giving one of my favorite of her performances (I like her when she does comedy and musicals), channels Julie Andrews and Snow White throughout, moving with exaggerated precision with her hands, but also is clear-throated and lands every single one of the songs jokes without sacrificing her character by winking too much to the camera about how silly this is.  If this were a song in a regular Disney animated-movie, it wouldn't be the one that would stand out during it as "the big heavy" that would win the Oscar, but it would be the one you'd be singing several days later while wandering around your house.

The other nominated song Adams croons in the picture "That's How You Know," isn't quite as in-tune with the Disney universe, if only because it's so rare to see the main love interest singing about how her eventual prince should fall in love with someone else.  It also relies largely upon visual cues, rather than just the lyrics, to get its point across.  The song is still wonderfully sung, but a little bit more choreographed and doesn't stand apart in the same way as a piece of music.  I normally wouldn't quibble over such a thing, as the most important thing is that it works in the picture when judging a film (otherwise, what's the point of this category-it should work within the atmosphere of the picture, which "That's How You Know" does), but since there are three songs from the same film here it has to be somewhat on a curve, and "Happy Working Song" is more successful in that regard.

The final song nominated from Enchanted is the one that is most in-line with the songs that typically win at the Oscars: the love ballad.  Borrowing in a lot of ways from the successful "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," in terms of two people finding themselves while a third party (in this case Jon McLaughlin, a ballroom singer in the film), croons toward them.  The movie gets points for actually having McLaughlin in the picture, rather than just a vocal serenade (stepping up from "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" in that regard), though the mood of the song doesn't jibe with the silliness of the rest of the picture.  Still, it's a lovely piece of music, one that plays well both in the movie and apart from it.

The film that I would have given three nominations for Best Original Song to, however, was Once, which only got cited a single time at the Oscars.  Though John Carney has now proven thrice that he can make a wonderful soundtrack, Once stands apart-it's my favorite song score in any movie from the past decade by a pretty wide margin.  The film is helped tremendously by hiring two singers that can honestly act in the center of the picture, and just letting their music do the talking.  This culminates in a beautiful central moment of "Falling Slowly," the film's central love ballad, and it's just glorious.  There's a reason this managed to win ardent fanships from everyone who saw it (and even a bushel of Tony Awards)-the music is at once ethereal and meaningful.  It stands on its own and gloriously intertwines with the film itself.  A home run, and considering the box office of the film initially, a citation AMPAS should be commended for recognizing.

After all of this pleasantness, it feels like a bit of a letdown to end with the worst nomination, but I didn't plan well here, did I?  August Rush is a terrible movie, and while this isn't Best Picture, it's hard to utter it in the same breadth as the sparkly fun of Enchanted or the magic of Once.  The film was cited for music, but here I was also at odds with the Academy-"Raise It Up" is a generic piece of schlock, feeling like something that was plucked out of an early 90's catalog of songs to play over end credits, and is barely even in the movie.  It's hard to imagine the Academy noticing the film, much less bothering to realize that it was originally written for the picture.  In a field where Oscar cited four other worthy songs, it's a pity that they didn't complete the boxed set and pick a song that would have made this a 5/5 situation.

Other Precursor Contenders: The Golden Globes tendency to favor songs sung by big names continued in 2007, with them only including "That's How You Know" from Oscar's list, and instead picking Eddie Vedder's "Guaranteed," (Into the Wild), Shakira's "Despedida" (Love in the Time of Cholera), and Jamie Cullum's "Grace is Gone" (Grace is Gone), as well as (in a truly random moment) "Walk Hard" from that ridiculous country music spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story with John C. Reilly.  Vedder ended up winning, and continuing the long line of the Aughts where the Globe-winning song never actually made it with Oscar.
Songs I Would Have Nominated: Like I said, I surely would have gone with more songs from Once.  At the time, I would have cited "If You Want Me" and "The Hill," but honestly any song from this would have made Oscar look good.  Still, like I said, the fact that it was cited at all considering it had no headliners and relatively small box office domestically is an achievement for Oscar.  I also would have included Vedder for Into the Wild, but instead it would have been for "Society," which better captures the melancholy of that picture.
Oscar’s Choice: With Oscar favorite Alan Menken splitting the vote, Once came out on-top here and took the trophy.
My Choice: I didn't even try to hide that it was going to be Once, which makes this the first time in 2007 that I have agreed with Oscar.  Following that I'd go with "Happy Working Song," "So Close," "That's How You Know," and August Rush WAY in the back.

Those are my thoughts-how about yours?  Were you with Oscar/myself that Once deserved this in a landslide, or are you holding out hope for Enchanted?  Does anyone want to defend August Rush either as a picture or a song?  And does anyone even remember Walk Hard?  Share your thoughts below in the comments!

Past Best Original Song Contests: 20082009, 2010201120122013, 2014

No comments: