This year’s Oscars see the return of the nominees for Best Original Song having their tunes performed in front of millions on the night. 127 Hours, Disney’s Tangled, Toy Story 3 and the forthcoming Gwyneth Paltrow movie Country Strong (pictured) are the nominated films, and performers that have been confirmed for February 27th include Paltrow herself, Florence Welch and Mandy Moore.
The category is arguably an odd, outdated one, as it requires a song – as opposed to a lyric-less piece of music – to be written specifically for a film. This was a frequent occurrence in Hollywood’s golden age, but with the advent of more realistic forms of cinema it nearly disappeared altogether. Now, it still happens in musicals like Tangled of course, in films about musicians like Crazy Heart and 8 Mile, and also when songwriters offer to release a song through a soundtrack rather than one of their own albums; Counting Crows, Elliott Smith and Bob Dylan have all done this in recent years for films ridden with pop songs.
Most nominations and even many winners are, however, from films whose producers have decided they want to increase their awards chances by shoving a song in the end credits, regardless of how good it is or how much it ruins the film’s atmosphere. Who on earth remembers An Inconvenient Truth’s I Need to Wake Up, or a song called Into the West that’s apparently in Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King? (Is it that tune that Viggo Mortensen sings in Elvish?) Why, oh why did Martin Scorsese ask U2 to write a song for the ending of Gangs of New York?
Occasionally this method does pay off. Céline Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ may by now have caused more indignation than it has moved people to tears, but it sure is memorable, just like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ and heck, even Top Gun’s ‘Take My Breath Away,’ which nabbed the gong in 1987. It gave us ‘You’ve Got a Friend in me’ for Toy Story, which may have lost to a song from Pocahontas but provided Randy Newman with a new career writing tunes for kid’s movies. He now has a total of twenty Academy Award nominations, as does Disney maestro Alan Menken – whose eight wins are higher than any other recipient in the entire history of the awards.
Whereas last year the nominees were honoured with little ceremony, replaced by a dance sequence that used pieces of score from nominated films, performances are back for 2011, and Menken, Newman will be in attendance alongside 127 Hours’ A.R. Rahman. So, without any further ado, here are this year’s nominees.
“Coming Home” from Country Strong
(Music and Lyrics by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey)
“I See the Light” from Tangled
(Music and Lyrics by Alan Menken, with extra Lyrics by Glenn Slater)
“If I Rise” from 127 Hours
(Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyrics by Dido and Rollo Armstrong)
“We Belong Togther” from Toy Story 3
(Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman)
Lastly, just for fun, here’s a clip of Robin Williams performing a clean version of ‘Blame Canada’ (from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut) in 2000.