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Author Archives: daffystardust

15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “When You Wish Upon a Star”


Yeah, you had to know this one was coming. Get over it.
If you’re looking for real substance you’ll want to visit my article about Jiminy Cricket and Cliff Edwards, the man who provided his voice. There isn’t much I could offer here that would rival that. So what you’ll get this time around is a series of cover versions – – some lovely and unique…others just unique.
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Best Picture Oscar Nominees (89th Academy Awards)


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As I covered during last year’s warm up to the Oscars ceremony, the change the Academy made in 2009 by expanding the list of nominations in the Best Picture category from the traditional five to as many as ten has significantly altered the conversation. This is what it was meant to do, but perhaps the conversation has not quite changed the way it was intended to. If you look at the list of Best Picture nominees from this year’s awards there are definitely a couple that we’re happy to see included which might not have been in previous years, even the sic-fi picture Arrival is not exactly a mainstream style popcorn flick, but represents the sort of focus on art which is the standard for Oscars material. For the most part it really appears that the voters have adapted to the new rules and have pretty much resumed with its promotion of “Oscar-bait” films. Despite some genre fans holding out hope that favorites like Deadpool or Zootopia could grab at the big prize, that didn’t happen. But we do have some pretty interesting nominees and how they interact when considered against one another gets the old brain hummin’ too.

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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Over the Rainbow”


Here we have it. Probably the most famous and loved Oscar-winning song of all time! But don’t just trust me, consider the honors “Over the Rainbow” has racked up over and above its Oscar win. In 2004 the American Film Institute proclaimed the song to be the number one greatest to come from any movie as a part of its “100 Years…100 Songs” promotion. Three years prior to that, a poll of professionals by the Recording Industry Association of America placed “Over the Rainbow” in the number one spot on their list of the “Songs of the Century.” The song has been honored on a stamp by the United States Post Office and has been the recipient of a wide range of cover versions. It’s kind of an undeniable pillar in the history of American pop culture.
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Best Actor Oscar Nominees (89th Academy Awards)


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In most years, the Best Actor category is one of the major flash points of Oscars evening. Last year’s win for Leonardo DiCaprio was seen by some as the rightful end to a long-standing wrong (I wasn’t one of those people, but we’re not talking about me here). Both 2009 and 2010 featured Jeff Bridges and Colin Firth as top nominees with each man eventually taking home one statuette. Longtime favorites, unexpected darkhorses, and actual movie stars have made the walk to the stage to be honored over the years and there’s usually a lot of suspense or anticipation over a tight race or a coronation. Despite some uncertainty over who the actual winner will be, I’m not quite getting the same sense of excitement over this race as I have in many other years. No matter who wins, that performance will be seen by most as deserving, but I’m not sure there are a ton of people outside of the productions themselves who are emotionally invested in the outcome. Join me below as i discuss each nominee and maybe offer some hints as to why people might feel this way. Then help us vote for our own favorite to take home Oscar gold in this category!
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Mona Lisa”


Sometimes one great song is the lone claim to fame for an otherwise forgotten movie, and we can only hope that the Academy will successfully identify these diamonds of musical inspiration which are hidden in arguably unlikely places. Of course public attention to a song can often do the job for them. This was certainly part of the case in 1950 when Nat “King” Cole’s recording of the Ray Evans/Jay Livingston tune “Mona Lisa” topped the charts throughout the month of August despite getting little to no promotional boost from the movie it appeared in. Captain Carey U.S.A. was an inconsequential film based on a written serial about an American played by Alan Ladd who returns to Italy to help bring a traitor to justice. It wasn’t one of the top ten box office hits of the year and “Mona Lisa” appears to have been the only awards attention it received. Classics such as All About Eve, Born Yesterday, Sunset Boulevard, Walt Disney’s Cinderella, The Third Man, and Father of the Bride dominated both the box office and the Oscars that year (the eventual divorce in tastes between the movie-going public and the Academy is a subject for another day perhaps). Either way, we can thank Captain Carey U.S.A. for getting this great song to the Oscars stage.
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Best Actress Oscar Nominees (89th Academy Awards)


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While there have definitely been years in which the Academy appeared to be having trouble filling out this category, this was definitely not one of them. Probably the most talked-about exclusion of the Oscar year was Amy Adams’ lead performance in Arrival, which managed to grab eight other nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and in several technical categories without likewise honoring Adams. It has been suggested that perhaps she split the vote with her equally fine work in Tom Ford’s entrancing Nocturnal Animals. Still more onlookers favored Annette Bening’s turn in 20th Century Women or Taraji P Henson as mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson in Hidden Figures. Clearly none of these women would have looked out of place on the final list of nominees. This is a good sign for actresses in general, but maybe not a great one for those hoping to take home an Oscar. The competition appears to be getting even more fierce.

That could also be demonstrated by how much trouble I had deciding on my own rankings in this category.
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Call Me Irresponsible”


Yeah, I know, you thought this was primarily a Frank Sinatra tune. Well that certainly is the most famous recording of “Call Me Irresponsible,” because face it, if you had your choice as a record company would you want to be selling a recording of Jackie Gleason singing drunk or something by Frank? Even if he was in a mild slump at the time. As it turns out, the song was actually only a charting hit for a singer named Jack Jones who most of us probably know best for singing the theme to the Love Boat television show (damn, I’ve got that stuck in my head now).
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah”


They run the risk of wearing out their welcome with that reprise don’t they? To my ears the Walt Disney Choir drops in about one chorus too late. Ah well, no matter. This is the sort of ear worm that can survive some mild over-reach.

Let’s address the seventy-year-old elephant in the room, shall we? Song of the South is a pretty complicated chapter in the history of the Disney company that has gone through an ebb and flow in critical and public estimation. Walt himself knew that he was treading on tricky ground with any film that was even adjacent to discussing race relations. He hired a Jewish “lefty” writer to try to balance out the tone and characterizations in the film. He hired the only African-American actress to ever win an Oscar. He hired a legendary cinematographer. He consulted with the marketing team of another racially sensitive film. He organized a meeting with the President of the NAACP for script revisions.

So what happened?
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Best Supporting Actor Nominees (89th Academy Awards)


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I consistently find the Best Supporting Actor category to be the most interesting and competitive group just about any Oscars night. Perhaps that’s because a high percentage of my own work in theatre has been done in supporting roles, but it’s also true that there are naturally more supporting roles available over the course of a year in film which tends to lead to more variety. This time we’ve got a couple of eccentric lawmen, an uncertain father figure, a son dealing with his father’s death, and another trying to find his way back home. Past winners in this category have included luminaries such as Karl Malden, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher Plummer. There have also been a bunch of guys you haven’t heard from since. Will this year’s winner fit into one of these categories? Join me below and we’ll discuss.
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “The Way We Were”


When you’re a music fan who was born in 1970 it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the period of time between the social unrest of the late sixties and the cynicism and despair which were expressed by punk was mostly made up of soft rock platitudes. Obviously that wasn’t completely true…but some people didn’t go out of their ways to disabuse us of the notion. The fact that I was a small child at the time definitely limited my access to any of the edgier popular culture that was out there. Not that these romanticized expressions of love, sadness, and nostalgia I’m talking about were all bad. They clearly weren’t. People like Barbra Streisand and Marvin Hamlisch don’t have to be your favorites. Believe me, I get it. But if you dismiss them and their ilk out of hand you might be in danger of favoring style over substance rather completely.
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Supporting Actress Oscar Nominees (89th Academy Awards)


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Oscar’s not so white this year, is he? In case you were wondering, that’s a good thing, culturally and business-wise. Also, we’ve got good performances from good movies. There are some familiar faces in this category this year and one which most of us might not know was already familiar. What we also have is the most hands-down favorite of the year. No other potential acting winner is as predictable as this one this Sunday night. A little issue that bit us in the butt last year is maybe rearing its ugly head again this time around, but maybe not to the same degree depending on where you come down on that particular performance. Let’s dive right in!
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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Take My Breath Away”


Today’s example of a great Oscar-winning song comes from the era when cross-promotional use of songs from popular artists was perhaps at its peak in the movie/music business. Just take a look at the nominees and winners of the Oscar for Best Original Song starting in 1977 and stretching until the Disney renaissance took hold in 1989. What you’ve got here are songs meant to market the movie and at the same time maybe piggy back on a successful film for added exposure. Sure, this still happens every now and then (last year’s Bond song seems to fit this description), but the sheer dependability of top chart success for so many of the songs throughout my childhood and into my first year of college points to shifts in how the songs have been voted on.

Just about as successful as any song to ever win the award was the recording of the Giorgio Moroder tune “Take My Breath Away” by pop band Berlin for the Tom Cruise blockbuster Top Gun.
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Best Original Song Nominees (89th Academy Awards)


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Does anything about that top image look slightly off to you? If so, it’s probably because there are only four films nominated in the Best Original Song category instead of five. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t five nominated songs. It’s just that one of these movies has two. No points for guessing which one.

This is actually not that uncommon. In fact, the Best Original Song category has a history of wonky nomination counts for a variety of reasons. Back in 2013 one of the songs had its nomination revoked. Prior to that, a series of rules changes designed to reduce any perception of the category being “filled out” with unworthy nominees sometimes resulted in fields of three or four. A nomination process that required voters to rate each song, with only those rated higher than a set target gaining a place on the Oscars stage produced a situation in 2011 in which only two songs were nominated (prompting one high-profile singer to accuse the Academy of being “mean”). Over the first eleven years of the category’s existence voters were permitted to nominated as many songs as they liked…and boy did they like! Throughout the early forties no less than nine songs were nominated every single year, topping off at a whopping FOURTEEN in 1945. Obviously that was an out of control situation. People love being honored and they certainly love seeing their projects get free promotion. With no television show to keep on time, why not pile up as many nominations as possible if you can?

For a good long time after that, the Academy put a cap of five nominations on the category and as far as I can tell that was working pretty well. There were a few times when there were a small number of songs which the Academy considered to be qualified, and they would automatically reduce the number of nominated songs to three. This happened in 1988 when Carl Simon’s song from Working Girl took home the gold over Phil Collins’ retro bit of fluff from his otherwise unknown starring vehicle Buster. Considering the well-publicized demographics of the Academy it’s a little hard to swallow when they proclaim that only two or three songs deserve nominations. I’m going to stop short of criticizing them for nominating more than one song from a single movie, though. I personally think it’s pretty great if a particular musical is really that good that they can shower it with praise. Disney’s Beauty & the Beast really is that good, and a lot of people felt the same way about The Lion King. Besides, if they were limited to one song per film, my favorite movie song of the year probably wouldn’t have been nominated this time around.
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