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Overlooked Nominees of Best Original Song at the Academy Awards

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published February 28th 2019
When the Oscars potentially got it wrong
I've already mentioned I'm not a huge fan of the Academy Awards. Not the concept, per se, but, in general, the winners. Too many films, actors, etc. I think were more deserving are overlooked by the judges. There are 8 categories I find myself interested in each year: Best Film (well, of course), Director, Actor, Actress, Feature Documentary, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay and Original Song. And, it's probably no surprise, but I disagree with the judges on most occasions.

While I recently looked at my favourite Oscar® songs in the wake of 'Shallow' winning the 2018 gong, there are too many times when I disagree. The problem is, I think too many things win because they are expected to win or because it is the right thing for them to win. Favours, political correctness, rewarding a lifetime of work, apology – these are all reasons why some frankly undeserving things win Oscars® each year.

In. My. Opinion.

Hey, there are even times when I disagree with the nominated songs. I mean, how could Springsteen's 'The Wrestler' not be nominated, and then not win? (For that matter, how could Mickey Rourke not win Best Actor for his role in that film? A travesty, says I.)

And so we come to this list. I should admit about here that since the 1980s, I have made a point of listening to all the nominated songs each year (because I am sad and have no life). And since the advent of the internet, I have listened to many of the songs of previous years as well.

That means I have my own opinion as to what should (or should not) have won, and this list is where I think the Academy got it wrong. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Oscar, Academy Awards, best song

1936 'I've Got You Under My Skin' performed by Virginia Bruce from Born To Dance
Winner: 'The Way You Look Tonight' performed by Fred Astaire from Swing Time)

First and foremost, I have to admit that I like Fred Astaire. I could watch his films for hours. But I find this song of his trite, while the heartfelt lyrics and delivery of 'I've Got You Under My Skin' makes it just so much more perfect. I do, in fact, find the whole film over-melodramatic, but this song is definitely one that should have been rewarded. Nowadays, Frank Sinatra's version is seen as definitive, but there is something about Virginia Bruce that I quite enjoy.

1937 'They Can't Take That Away from Me' performed by Fred Astaire from Shall We Dance
Winner: 'Sweet Leilani' performed by Bing Crosby from Waikiki Wedding)

And then, the next year, a more deserving Fred Astaire song was pipped by a Bing Crosby stereotypical piece. 'They Can't Take That Away from Me' has become one of Astaire's signature tunes, and rightfully so. In addition, if you ever get a chance to hear Billie Holliday's version, do so. It is also awesome.

1953 'That's Amore' performed by Dean Martin from The Caddy
Winner 'Secret Love' performed by Doris Day from Calamity Jane )

'Secret Love' is a saccharine sweet bit of pop fluff that wasn't even the best song in the film it came from (that would be 'Windy City'); 'That's Amore' is such a timeless piece that it's appeared in TV commercials and even featured on a compilation album of the best tracks from the best albums of 1999! It's become a cliché through over-use, but that does not take away from the joy that is the song. "When the moon hits your eye/Like a big pizza pie…" indeed.

1973 'Live And Let Die' performed by Wings from Live And Let Die
Winner: 'The Way We Were ' performed by Barbra Streisand from The Way We Were)

James Bond theme tunes are generally quite good (some quite better than others), and 'Live And Let Die' is one of the very best. The fact it was beaten out by a schlocky lament of lost love probably says more about the people voting than the quality of the music. When I saw Paul McCartney live in the 1990s, the whole crowd sang along to this song; it really is timeless. The fact it comes from one of the better James Bond films could help as well.

1982 'Eye Of The Tiger' performed by Survivor from Rocky III
(Winner: 'Up Where We Belong' performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes from An Officer And A Gentleman)

Rocky films probably got all the Oscars® they were going to get with the first one, and that could well have gone against 'Eye of the Tiger', which is still one of the best work-out tracks ever. It suits the sporting theme of the film brilliantly; I still love to lift weights while this is playing. But it was beaten out by another ballad in a string of them. Mind you, 'Up Where We Belong' is actually quite a good track, really, but Survivor does it for me.

1983 'Maniac' performed by Michael Sembello from Flashdance
(Winner: 'Flashdance... What a Feeling' performed by Irene Cara from Flashdance)

Probably a tough call, as 'Flashdance... What a Feeling' is not a bad track by any stretch of the imagination, but there is just something about 'Maniac' that tells the story of the film that little bit better and it sounds somehow darker. The title track is fine, 'Maniac' is great.

1984 'Footloose' performed by Kenny Loggins from Footloose
(Winner: 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' performed by Stevie Wonder from The Woman in Red)

I could also have plugged for 'Ghostbusters] by Ray Parker Jr, but I like this one better. Of course, it helps that I really, really like the film. But still, another saccharine sweet ballad against a track that still gets play and really does set your feet a-tappin'.

1987 'Shakedown' performed by Bob Seger from Beverly Hills Cop II
(Winner: '(I've Had) The Time Of My Life' performed by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes from Dirty Dancing )

Oh, look, another ballad beating out a good, rockin' tune! Quelle surprise! I don't mind both films, but 'Shakedown' is just a much better song. I think the only reason the Dirty Dancing songs are remembered is because the film became such a staple of "date nights" in the 80s and into the 90s (on VHS). But I really do prefer Bob Seger's song. By a long way. (If I had to plug for a song from Dirty Dancing, it would be Patrick Swayze's 'She's Like The Wind'; yes, a ballad, but one I really don't mind.)

1998 'I Don't Want To Miss A Thing' performed by Aerosmith from Armageddon
(Winner: 'When You Believe' performed by lots of different people from The Prince of Egypt)

Okay, sure, it's another ballad, but it's by Aerosmith, and they add something grittier to it than if it was done, by, say Mariah Carey (one of many people involved in the winning song of 1998). I think part of the issue was the subject matter of the two movies. A kid-friendly version of the Exodus story versus a whopping great asteroid sci-fi film. This was the only place they went head to head (I think), and guess what won?

2014 'Everything Is Awesome' performed by Jo Li (and also Tegan and Sara) from The Lego Movie
(Winner: 'Glory' performed by John Legend and Common from Selma)

Yes, Selma is the telling of important events and, despite getting some stuff wrong, probably should be seen by people to see what sorts of things happened in the 1960s. However, the song I did not like at all. On the other hand, The Lego Movie is fun, family-friendly, and 'Everything Is Awesome' is an ear-worm that will stick with you for weeks! It is fun, it is cool, and it is simple to scream along to.

And there we have it. I have corrected the mistakes as I saw them! I generally try not to be negative in these columns (I will not review a movie, book or album I don't like), and so I am sorry if this does go across into negativity. But the songs I have proposed in their place are all great.

As usual, any comments, suggestions and, especially, things I might have got wrong, feel free to write!

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Why? The Oscars don't always get it right
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