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Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 Oscar Preview: Best Song and Best Soundtrack



- "Everything Is Awesome" by Tegan & Sara f/ The Lonely Island (The Lego Movie)

- "Lost Stars" by Kiera Knightly (Begin Again)

- "Glory" by John Lennon & Common (Selma)

- "Grateful" by Rita Ora (Beyond The Lights)

- "I'm Not Going To Miss You" by Glen Campbell (Glen Campbell... I'll Be Me)


EVERYTHING IS AWESOME: Tegan and Sara is awesome! The Lonely Island is awesome! The Lego Movie is awesome! (Well The Academy didn't think so, but almost everyone else liked it). While in production, The Lego Movie seemed like a terrible idea because it was just going to be a two hour dumb product placement. The movie ended up being a really smart flick about the dangers of conformity and how you should just be yourself. Nothing represented that theme like this catchy tune. While it wasn't as great at everyone made it out to be, "Everything Is Awesome" absolutely deserved a nomination- just like the film it came from. 

LOST STARS: As you'll soon see below, I really enjoyed Begin Again. On its face this is a really cliche flick, but I loved it because of the music. Kiera Knightly's voice is just so soft and soulful that it makes all the songs great. Gun to my head I thought "Like A Fool" was the best original song on the soundtrack, but I won't complain as long as any Begin Again tune gets its due props here. If I had an Oscar vote, "Lost Stars" easily gets it.

GLORY: I find it ironic that in 2007, Common released a song called "I Have A Dream" that was released on the Freedom Writers soundtrack. The song actually sampled Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. That song is both catchier than "Glory" and is a much better song than "Glory", and if that song was used in Selma it would have actually deserved the win Common will eventually get. I can't hear "Glory" without thinking to myself that I'd rather be listening to "I Have A Dream". I understand that "I Have A Dream" is too poppy to be played over the closing credits of Selma and that "Glory" fits the tone perfectly, but in terms of which song is actually good, there's no comparison. 

GRATEFUL: I am actually looking forward to seeing Beyond The Lights. From everything I've heard it's one of those movies that sneaks up on you and is brilliant. Hitfix's Kristopher Tapley named the film his 10th best of last year calling it "The most important film of 2014" because it's a rare "female character study with serious meat on its bones". The movie is all about a female Rihanna-esque pop singer and the consequences of fame in a male driven world. A film like this should also have great music to go along with it and I can imagine within the context of the movie it does. However, listening to "Grateful" on its own does not do it justice and is neither good nor powerful. That doesn't surprise me considering it was written by an artist who was second billed on Iggy Azelea's crappy follow up single

I'M NOT GOING TO MISS YOU: I'll be honest with you, I had never heard of the great Country music singer Glen Campbell, I hadn't heard that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, I hadn't heard that he was going on one long farewell tour, and I hadn't heard they were making a documentary about said farewell tour until this Best Song nomination was announced. Thanks to this song, I watched the trailer for the film and it looks really good and entertaining. If it ever comes to Netflix I'll be sure to put it on my queue. I then listened to "I'm Not Going To Miss You" and it's a really, really good song. I imagine it's even better within the context of the film as a man struggles to deal with Alzheimer's Disease while going on tour. But even on its own, it's a fantastic listen. It reminds me a lot of Johnny Cash's farewell song "Hurt"- a beautiful anthem to leave this world on.

WHAT SHOULD BE HERE: "Yellow Flicker Beat" by Lorde (Mockingjay Part I)

Most people would chose Jennifer Lawrence's "The Hanging Tree" as the best song from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I. Most people would be wrong. Those people would be even more wrong if they chose that stupid techno dance beat version of "The Hanging Tree". I don't even know if "The Hanging Tree" is even eligible in this category as the lyrics were first used in the books, but no matter, Lorde's "Yellow Flicker Beat" is the best song on the newest Hunger Games soundtrack. "Yellow Flicker Beat" is so darn good that it almost made My Top 10 Singles of 2014. I think the best part of this song is Lorde in the music video. She does this white-person epileptic dance-esque movement that you can't help but naturally emulate when you hear this song. This beat, I mean this yellow flicker beat, is so catchy that it forces you to dance- or at least do Lorde's version of dancing. 

WHAT SHOULD WIN (ACTUAL NOMINEES): "Lost Stars" by Kiera Knightly
WHAT WILL WIN: "Glory" by John Legend and Common


While Best Soundtrack isn't actually an Oscar category, it should be. A few months ago I detailed why Guardians of the Galaxy proves that The Academy needs to add a Best Soundtrack category. Pre-recorded songs can help enhance the quality of a film and it's a true skill to use already existing songs to work with the tone of a scene. Last year when I did this column I included my list of the Best Soundtracks of the year, and I will continue to do it as a subtle fight to get The Academy to eventually create a new category. 


NOTABLE SONGS:"Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone, "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5

I mean, I did write a huge epic post about how amazing the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack was, so it's mandatory that I put it on this list. America seemed to agree with me as The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack was the #1 album in the country for a little while. After the movie came out, you couldn't get away from sites like UPROXX or Vulture commenting about the soundtrack. Each song used fit the tone of whatever scene it was accompanying perfectly. The genius part about James Gunn and crew's choices was how surprisingly well this mish-mosh of barely Top 40 songs came together so well. But then again, Guardians of the Galaxy also shouldn't have worked so well and it was one of the best films of 2014

NOTABLE SONGS: "Yellow" by Coldplay, "1901" by Phoenix, "Ryan's Song" by Ethan Hawke

Boyhood as a film works so well because it's just this little time capsule of what life was like growing up in the 2000's. Obviously director Richard Linklater was able to do that by filming the movie over 12 years, but it was his little subtle hints that he placed in the movie that deepened my experience and love for the film. One of the subtle hints Linklater used was his use of music. No real song comes to mind, not even the Golden Globe nominated "Ryan's Song", but it was his expansive use of songs that dominate my iTunes playlist that were used here and there to make Boyhood the great film that it is. You can't truly emulate real life without using the music that dominated the culture during that time frame.

NOTABLE SONGS: "Firework" by Katy Perry, "Conquest" by The White Stripes

Directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg really know their shit by now- I would hope so after both have spent this long cranking out funny scripts and being around great movies for as long as they have. These men just know funny. Part of what makes comedy work, at least their particular brand of man-child, stoner humor, is the entire theatrical experience, and part of that experience involves music. Whether it's Michael Cera attempting to sing "These Eyes" by The Guess Who in Superbad or M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" in Pineapple Express, Rogen/Goldberg movies need to have iconic musical moments in them. That couldn't have been more evident in their directorial debut This Is The End-which is why the film made my theoretical Best Soundtrack list last year. The comedy duo is back again on my theoretical list with their sophomore flick. While the the music wasn't as pronounced as it was in This Is The End (well, outside of "Firework"), what little you heard of these songs was the right amount necessary to make this list.

NOTABLE SONGS: "Lost Souls", "Step You Can't Take Back" and "Like A Fool" by Kiera Knightly

Obviously I need to tweak the rules for this Best Soundtrack category as many of the songs on the Begin Again album are original songs and therefore are eligible in the Best Song category. I understand that an album like this one sort of defeats the purpose of the creation of this category to begin with; however, at the end of the day I want to reward movies that not only have an incredible soundtrack attached to a film but that used those songs so god damn well. And for that, Begin Again fits the bill. Plus, I added the Frozen soundtrack to my list of "nominees" last year, so I need to have just one every year I guess! What makes a soundtrack like this one say from something like Into The Woods is that at least these songs were specifically created for the movie itself as opposed to being adapted from another medium,

Anyways, like I mentioned earlier, the main reason Begin Again works so well as a film is because of the music in it. The film is just Mark Ruffalo and Kiera Knightly trying to create one great album. and they succeeded! The songs are so damn good and are made even better when you hear them in the context of this story. I can't stop listening to this soundtrack on YouTube.

NOTABLE SONGS: "El Condor Pasa" by Simon & Garfunkel, "Walk Unafraid" First Aid Kit

Director Jean-Marc Vallee said this about using songs in his film, "I didn't want to give the audience this impression of 'film watching.' That's often how I feel with score music. I become aware of it, aware that I'm watching a film, that someone is playing music that the characters don't hear... What [Reese's character Cheryl] is listening to in her life is the music we hear during the film." Like Boyhood, Wild uses subtle music cues in the background to enhance your movie-going experience. Even though there's no Everclear in the Wild soundtrack despite Art Alexakis' cameo, I'll give it a pass for the rest of the good work it does. Plus, Wild gets a second free pass for having an excellent trailer with exceptional music.



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