The Academy Award for Best Original Song has one strict rule, and one horribly flabby one. The song must be written specifically for the film, and it must be played somewhere within the film, end credits included. Think how much better life could be with those last three words removed.
You would figure that some of the great songwriters in history won a passel of Oscars, wouldn’t you? Especially those guys who wrote original songs for Astaire and Rogers, yes? Someone like Irving Berlin, whose Cheek to Cheek was nominated in 1935. But the winner that year was Warren and Dubin’s Lullaby of Broadway.
Cole Porter? I’ve Got You Under My Skin was nominated in 1936, but Cole Porter never won an Oscar. Never.
Neither, astonishingly, did either Gershwin – They Can’t That Away From Me was beaten by Sweet Leilani, and The Man That Got Away lost to Three Coins in the Fountain.
Pretend you’re an Academy member in 1941. Choose from:
It turns out none of them won, because of The Last Time I Saw Paris, a song not written for the film Lady Be Good, and already a hit by the time the film came out. They didn’t have the strict rule back then.
1974 – We May Never Love Like This Again – The Towering Inferno
1984 – I Just Called to Say I Love You – The Woman in Red
1987 – (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life – Dirty Dancing
1986 – Take My Breath Away – Top Gun
Meanwhile, no Oscar for Pennies From Heaven (1936), or The Trolley Song (1944), or My Foolish Heart (1949).
Oh, and Accentuate the Positive (1945) didn’t win either.
This year’s nominees are:
Randy Newman, the Susan Sarandon of Oscar-nominated songwriters, did some fine work (how did When Somebody Loved Me lose to You’ll Be in My Heart?), before winning with a song he could have written in his sleep, back in 2001. Otherwise I’d say he was an absolute lock.
Loin de Paname – Paris 36 (m: Reinhardt Wagner, l: Frank Thomas)
The Academy have been favouring writers in languages other than English lately (2004, 2008). I think they’re tossing the foreign markets a bone nobody else wants.
Take It All – Nine (m+l: Maury Yeston)
If Nine hadn’t been a flop, I’d rate Maury Yeston’s chances pretty highly: musicals tend to do well. But this? That would be the Academy celebrating the idea of Marion Cotillard getting her kit off.
The Weary Kind – Crazy Heart (m+l: Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett)
Dust off your shelf, Ryan and T-Bone. Reckin you’re abaht ter git a little yeller statchoo man.
Anyway, the songs won’t even be performed at this year’s telecast, so who cares? Now that Randy Newman has an Oscar – and before Sting gets one – it’s time to scrap the thing completely, and revive it only in exceptional years. It happened to the Oscar for Choreography.