brent johnson digs up a lost Oscar-nominated treasure in an open letter to the Academy’s music branch …
Dear Music Branch of The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences:
You know the Oscar for Best Original Song? The one you give each year to the best tune written specifically for a movie? It used to be great.
Over the years, you’ve awarded pop stars, recognized underrated tracks and treated us to lovely surprises. You’ve given trophies to Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Isaac Hayes, Barbra Streisand, Burt Bacharach, Stevie Wonder, Stephen Sondheim, Bob Dylan, Bjork, Randy Newman, and Eminem. You’ve nominated Elvis Costello, Sting, and Aimee Mann.
Remember 14 years ago when you won the love of indie rockers by shockingly nominating Elliott Smith’s haunting ‘Miss Misery’ from Good Will Hunting? Yeah, that was cool.
But last few years, you’ve made me sad. You snubbed Prince, Paul McCartney, Jack White and Karen O. You ignored Bruce Springsteen’s fantastic title track to The Wrestler. And this year, you outdid yourself by nominating only two songs: ‘Man Or Muppet’ from The Muppets and ‘Real In Rio’ from Rio.
Granted, the former was written by Bret McKenzie, one half of the great Flight Of The Conchords. So kudos for that.
And I’m aware that a song needs to receive a significant number of votes to even be nominated — hence why in recent years the category has fallen short of a full five entries. But last I checked, Elton John & Bernie Taupin (Gnomeo & Juliet), Mary J. Blige (The Help) and Chris Cornell (Machine Gun Preacher) all wrote songs for movies this year. You’re telling me none of them were good enough?
Plus, there’s the ridiculous rule that kept Madonna’s ‘Masterpiece’ from W.E. — the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Song — out of the Oscar race. Apparently, a song must be written ‘specifically for the film and be used either in the body of the film, or as the first music cue in the closing credits.’ Madonna’s song played second in the credits. Thus, it isn’t eligible. What?
Let me remind you of the gems the Academy used to recognize. Thirty years ago, there was a song called ‘One More Hour.’ It was a pretty waltz from Ragtime — written with grace by Randy Newman and sung gorgeously by Jennifer Warnes. The melody keeps rising, flushed out with aching strings. It sounds like the lament of someone yearning to feel the grandeur of life in their dying moments.
I’m sure most people have never heard it. And Christopher Cross’ ‘Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do)’ ended up winning the Oscar that year. But at least ‘One More Hour’ was nominated. I doubt that would happen today.
So my dear Academy members, I implore you: Please, please, please end this recent streak of shunning the music that helps make these movies so marvelous.