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Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Oscar Preview: Best Song and Best Soundtrack


- "Happy" (Despicable Me 2)

- "Let It Go" (Frozen)

- "Ordinary Love" (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom)

- "The Moon Song" (Her)

- "Alone, Yet Not Alone" (Alone, Yet Not Alone) (OFFICIALLY DISQUALIFIED)

WHAT SHOULD BE HERE: "Please Mr. Kennedy" (Inside Llewyn Davis)

A lot of people will argue Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" from The Great Gatsby soundtrack should be here, but 1) It may not have been eligible if Del Rey wrote it before being asked to do the movie and 2) After listening to the song on YouTube, I'm not a fan. Maybe it's better within the context of the film, but definitely not on its own (and I don't remember it's context in the film, which is not a good sign for it).

While I refuse to see Inside Llewyn Davis, I really enjoy the song. I can tell myself that I enjoy it because it's a Justin Timberlake track, and anything J.T. touches is gold. However, the truth is this song is great because of Adam Driver's back up vocals. "Outer. Space!"


LET IT GO: I first heard "Let It Go" on YouTube, because it was getting so much Oscar buzz. I heard the song and saw the sequence that it was from and I was unimpressed to say the least. However, I ended up seeing Frozen yesterday, and now I can't get the song out of my head. Even after convincing myself that there were better songs in the film such as "For The First Time In Forever" and "Love Is An Open Door", I'm smitten with "Let It Go". Sung beautifully by Broadway veteran Idina Menzel, the song is clearly the highlight of the film and a deserved Oscar front runner.

HAPPY: Musically, 2013 was clearly the year of Pharrell Williams. He produced the actual song of the summer (Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines") and was the key part in the best song of the summer (Daft Punk's "Get Lucky"). His collaboration with Daft Punk earned him a Grammy win a few weeks back, and an Oscar win here mean's Williams is halfway to EGOT within the span of two months. I didn't (and refuse to) see Despicable Me 2, but I imagine "Happy" came over the closing credits. No matter, it's an incredible song to help cap off an incredible year for Pharrell.

ORDINARY LOVE: "Ordinary Love" is written and performed by U2, and it just so happens to be a part of a film. This song won the Golden Globe for Best Song, but The Hollywood Foreign Press are Star-Shtuppers and I imagine having U2 on their stage is a bigger deal than either Idina Menzel (or the ones who actually wrote the song) or Pharrell Williams. This is another song I only heard because of YouTube, and it's a pretty good one. It's a catchy, simple, classic U2 song that probably deserved to get nominated.

THE MOON SONG: The score to Her is pretty darn good, and fits perfectly with the mood of the film, and Karen O's "The Moon Song" feels right at home when you're watching the film. While the song plays at a critical point towards the end of the movie, it never really had that "Wow Factor" like what "Let It Go' has. It's a good song, and I'm glad it's nominated, but I feel like the nomination is the win here.


WHAT SHOULD WIN: "Happy" or "Let It Go"


Best Soundtrack is not actually a real Academy Award category; however, it should be. Grantland's Alex Pappademas wrote a great article last year about how Best Soundtrack should be an actual category. I agree with him wholeheartedly, and I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure it is one. Basically, that comes down to me writing about it. Can you imagine how excellent the debate would be of Forrest Gump going against Pulp Fiction in 1995? You have the soundtrack of a generation with CCR's "Fortunate Son" and Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth" versus the classic Tarantino edge with "Misirlou" by Dick Dale and "You Never Can Tell" by Chuck Berry (I can't hear either song now without thinking about Pulp Fiction).

The already recorded songs is really what makes movies nowadays, and helps to set the mood and enhance your viewing going experience. I think the best example of this is the montage scene in Goodfellas that uses the terrible second half of Eric Clapton's "Layla". That's such an incredible use of music in film, yet something so brilliant doesn't get recognized because these songs weren't recorded specifically for the film. Knowing when to put the right song (and the right part of the song) where in a film can make or break a movie. recently wrote a great article about 6 categories the Academy Awards should add (of course Best Soundtrack being one of them). I highly recommend you check out the article, and I especially agree with Best Stunt/Best Stunt work.

Anyways, here's my list of who should be nominated this year if this were a real category:


NOTABLE SONGS: Jay-Z & Kanye West "No Church In The Wild", Jack White "Love Is Blindness"

I enjoyed Baz Luhrmann's take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed the use of modern music in a tale about the 1920's. Nobody should have been surprised by this considering the first trailer for the movie was released in the summer of 2012 (back when everyone thought it would have a Christmas 2012 release date) with grandiose images juxtaposed with "No Church In The Wild" and 'Love Is Blindness". One of my favorite uses of music in the film was early on where Tom Buchanan takes Nick Carraway to his love nest, and everyone proceeds to get smashed while (I believe) 'Who Gon' Stop Me" plays over it. Unfortunately, I can't find the clip in YouTube, but I remember seeing the film in theaters and thinking how much I loved it.

NOTABLE SONGS: "Let It Go", "For The First Time In Forever", "Love Is An Open Door"

Because this is not a real category, I don't know if Frozen would be eligible or not. And it certainly does not fit the spirit of the list, considering it has an actual music related nomination already. However, I loved the music in this film, and the actual soundtrack of the film is a delight. Frozen would probably hold up better (or be perceived to hold up better) if it were released 15 years ago along with Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin, but really, only time will tell. I like to compare the songs of films like this and The Princess and the Frog to songs of older Disney movies, because I believe that's what Disney intended, and to me, Frozen compares very well.

NOTABLE SONGS: The Temptations "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", Wings "Live and Let Die"

If Best Soundtrack was actually a real category, there's no doubt in my mind that American Hustle would have earned another nomination. A lot of people have compared this film to Goodfellas and Russell uses music wonderfully- just like Martin Scorsese did. Love it or hate it (I fall more in the latter category), I don't think there's any denying how excellent (and probably expensive) the use of music in American Hustle was. Just like last year's Silver Linings Playbook (see: Pappadema's thoughts on the film from his article), Russell again creates a great soundtrack.

NOTABLE SONGS: 7Horse "Meth Lab Zoso Sticker", Eartha Kitt "C'est Si Bon",

While admittedly the two best songs related to The Wolf of Wall Street are Kanye West's "Black Skinheads" and The Dead Weathers' "Hang You From The Heavens", and both songs were used in the trailers only and not in the actual film itself, Scorsese again shows why he is the master of all things cinema. It's not a great movie without great music to match it.

NOTABLE SONGS: Backstreet Boys "Backstreet's Back", Psy "Gangham Style"

Maybe it's because I love this movie so damn much, but I specifically remember the songs in it, and the memorable musical sequences. Even though The Backstreet Boys make no damn sense, it just fit so perfectly as the passage of time that Jay and Seth smoke in the beginning of the film, and it 's used so damn well at the very end. I remember the scene where everybody used hard drugs to "Gangham Style", and I remember when the film used "Spirit In The Sky". To me, that's the sign of a great soundtrack.

What was your favorite movie musical moment of 2013?

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