Fade Out

I am not much interested in movies anymore. I actually have trouble telling one from another—aren’t Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, and Kevin James doing three buddy/slob comedies a year with Jennifer Aniston now?—and all the one- and two-word titles don’t help.

So The Mrs. and I skipped the Oscars last night, yeah.

It wasn’t always like this. Our first date was a movie (And Justice for All, starring Al Pacino). When we were first married, we used to go to the movies almost every weekend. For a brief time in the late 80s, I worked an evening shift, and on Fridays, we’d hit the midnight show at the multiplex, not getting home until 2:30 or 3AM, the sort of thing you do when the movies matter to you (and when you’re in your 20s). And we watched the Oscars, even the shows that ran for four hours.

But at some point in the 1990s, when it started to seem like every movie was based either on a comic book or a video game, we decided that since Hollywood was leaving us anyway, we’d let it go. I can’t remember the last time we went to a movie theater, and I don’t miss it. I’d rather wait six months for Netflix than endure two hours in one of the airplane hangars that pass for theaters today, where the quality of the picture isn’t as good as I get on my TV, the seats aren’t as comfortable as my couch, and there’s no pause or rewind button.

Back when I cared more about the movies, however, Best Original Song was a category I always paid attention to. So here’s an off-the-cuff list of five great Original Song winners, with the year in which each was awarded. I’m not including anything after the mid 90s in this, because I can’t recall having heard any of the winners since then.

“I’m Easy” (1976). From Nashville, and on the radio in the summer of 1976, which explains a lot. Sung by Keith Carradine.

“The Way We Were” (1974). Big and splashy and Hollywoody, yeah, but when Barbra Streisand gets to “Can it be that it was all so simple then/Or has time rewritten every line,” you’re right there with her, remembering the way you were.

“The Shadow of Your Smile” (1966). Cool and romantic, and most famously recorded by Tony Bennett.

“Mona Lisa” (1951). From a movie everybody had forgotten by Oscar Night 1951, I am guessing (Captain Carey, USA), unforgettably sung by Nat King Cole.

“You’ll Never Know” (1944). Recorded by Dick Haymes and the young Frank Sinatra, simple and lovely without being clichéd.

And now, five stiffs.

“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (1995). When I first heard Elton John sing this on the radio, I thought two things: “Christ, this is awful” and “This is going to win every award there is.”

“Beauty and the Beast” (1992)/”A Whole New World” (1993). This looks like it’s two songs, but it’s actually the same song with two different titles. It’s gotta be. Listen for yourself, here and here.

“You Light Up My Life” (1978). Come on, you were expecting this one, another artifact of Oscar’s mid-70s-to-mid-90s embrace of paint-by-numbers musical product.

“High Hopes” (1960). Only “Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah,” the 1948 winner, has aged worse than this.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” (1949). In which a guy slips his girl a roofie in hopes of committing date rape. Seriously. Listen to it.

Last night’s winner of Best Original Song was Randy Newman, whose “We Belong Together” appeared in Toy Story 3. Newman had been nominated 19 times before with only one win. There’s a good review of the nominees and the winner here. If you care.


2 responses

  1. “The Windmills of Your Mind,” from 1968, was another really good one.

    I don’t understand why anyone thinks “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is any good. The lyrics are spectacularly bad, with the wrong syllables consistently being stressed and too many words being jampacked into certain lines. And the way the lyricist thinks he’s making a transition back to the chorus by throwing an “And” in front of it drives me crazy.

  2. Yeah, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is kinda creepy, if only for all the breathy, baby-doll vocals by the women in the duets. Check out the video of the Tom Jones/Cerys Matthews version. Nightmare fuel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PceqPkTdYgA

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