Categories One By One: Original Song

For the films of 2015
The Original BJ
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Re: Categories One By One: Original Song

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Jan 16, 2016 11:49 pm

This is an interesting category to start with, for so many reasons: 1) I have no idea which way this will go, 2) it involves movies we haven't much discussed around here, and 3) I think there's a pretty good chance that many Academy members will be voting on this category without having seen ANY of the nominated films. None of the nominated songs come from movies voters will be watching for other categories (the way nearly everyone heard Selma's song in context last year). And even though Fifty Shades of Grey and Spectre were big hits -- the Bond movie is in the year's top 10, and Fifty Shades is actually the year's highest grossing drama -- the lousy reviews for both meant neither of them were the kind of must-see cultural event that something like Frozen was.

So, with that in mind, some thoughts:

"Manta Ray" represents one of my favorite Oscar quirks -- the Best Song nominee from a movie you've never heard of before. And what a strange song -- the lyrics aren't ABOUT manta rays, but are sung from the point of view OF manta rays, although there's literally nothing about manta rays in the song. It's essentially a warning call to humans to stop destroying the environment. It's a very low-key, waltzing ballad, (with lyrics like "Without biodiversity...I'm nothing"), and truly, it's very difficult to imagine how voters plucked this from the roster for a nomination. I rate this probably the least likely to win on Oscar night.

The nomination for "Earned It" strikes me as mostly a coattails nomination from The Weeknd's Grammy success. It's one of the tracks on his Album of the Year nominee, and the song itself is also up for Best R&B Song and Best Song Written for Visual Media. The past decade has shown that the Academy is willing embrace a wider range of musical styles than many thought, but R&B has still never really been their thing, and I don't know that this song -- with its mundane lyrics and repetitive melody -- from a movie that's essentially a punchline is going to do the trick. Still, in a lineup without "See You Again," this has the advantage of being by far the biggest radio hit.

"Til It Happens to You" is WAY more a Diane Warren song than a Lady Gaga song, which is to say, it's pretty schmaltzy stuff. I guess its advantages would be that Warren is on her eighth nomination and in a dismal field maybe enough will decide it's her turn, and Lady Gaga is the kind of pop star/songwriter (like Adele) who plenty would probably be happy to see on stage, especially after her emotional Globe speech. And a vote here could also be a vote to highlight the serious issue the song addresses, which was surely a factor that helped "Glory" last year.

Depending on how many voters watched their Youth screeners, Spectre is probably the nominated film they're most likely to have seen. And a big advantage "Writing's on the Wall" has is that it gets the traditional Bond opening titles sequence, which is basically a music video for the song. I understand there was a lot of griping that this song wasn't as strong as Radiohead's unused song for the film -- and I don't think it's as strong as Adele's Bond theme was -- but it's got probably the catchiest hook of the bunch, the newly Grammy-minted Sam Smith is pretty popular right now, and he has the Globe in tow. He seems like one of the better possibilities to win this.

I know a lot of people love "Simple Song #3," but I'm a bit more muted in my reaction. Musically, it has some beautiful classical elements and gorgeous singing...but this is also a lyric prize, and sorry, but those lyrics are about on the level of an over-dramatic third grader's diary. (Not that the competition offers much in that department either). It actually works in context of the movie, but that context is that it's the hit song Michael Caine feels like an artistic sell-out for writing. It could benefit from being attached to the most serious movie of the bunch -- though whether it's a movie voters will like (if they see it) is a legitimate question. (I think it has interesting elements, but a lot that's extremely on the nose, and certain scenes -- like a climactic one that's very similar to one in an Oscar-winning movie from last year -- come off as utterly artificial.) And I can't recall anything like this having won a Best Song Oscar before -- I imagine audiences who haven't seen Youth will find this Oscar night performance completely baffling.

I'm not really sure what I was heading toward with this post -- I'll probably end up throwing a dart at a board to make a prediction -- but those are some thoughts.

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Categories One By One: Original Song

Postby Greg » Sat Jan 16, 2016 5:20 pm

I am evaluating the nominees from listening to them on YouTube, as I have not seen any of their movies:

1: "Simple Song #3" from Youth:
It has spectacular vocals and, except for the purely instrumental part going on a second or two too long at the beginning, is just outstanding.

2: "Till It Happens To You" form The Hunting:
It is very moving with the lyric playing more universal than just the subject of campus rape.

3: "Earned It" from Fifty Shades Of Grey:
This is a decent song from a supposedly lousy movie.

4: "Writing's On The Wall" from Spectre:
I am surprised a song this slow and funereal is from a Bond film.

5: "Manta Ray" from Racing Extinction:
This is even more slow and funereal than "Writing's On The Wall."

I have no idea what will win, but, the performance of "Simple Song #3" should be one of the highlights of the Oscar show.

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