Monday, February 24, 2014
Riske Business: A Deep Dive Into This Year's Best Original Song Oscar Race
First, let’s address the elephant in the room: “Alone Yet Not Alone.” Sure, it was disqualified, but I don’t care. We don’t stop talking about Barry Bonds because he cheated. F This Movie! is all about justice and morality. Sweeping it under a rug is blindness and lady liberty is anything but hard of sight.
Mark: I feel bad not liking a song that was written by someone who doesn't have arms, but this sort of sentimentality is not what I gravitate toward. It's inspiring for the right person, but my years of working at a Christian magazine have dulled me to the merits of music similar to this.
Adam: I appreciate that you started your write-up, Mark, with "I feel bad.." because this is the type of song that turns good men into assholes. I am sympathetic to the intent of this song but I can't convince myself that people in need (or in this case, quadriplegic) don't deserve a song better than this one. They deserve a song that kicks that much more ass, such as "November Rain." If this was a song about asthma and someone said “This is for you, dawg,” I would say "NOPE!”
Erich: As a person "of faith," I've heard a lot of songs resembling this over the years. “Alone Yet Not Alone” sounds similar to a greatest hits mash-up of them all. I hear snippets of several popular hymns; especially "In Christ Alone" (that one guy reading this knows what I'm talking about). Forget whether this should have been up for an Oscar, I question calling it an "original song" at all. Personal beliefs aside, I'm not a fan.
Mark: Yes, it's repetitive. Yes, it's probably more for kids. But I find it irresistibly catchy and Pharrell is pretty decent at coming up with a poppy beat.
Adam: This song makes me feel well, happy, much more than some of its fellow nominees make me feel "ordinary love" or “alone yet not alone” so I give it props for achieving its goal. I am a big fan of Pharrell (he worked on “Rumpshaker” when he was still a teenager for crying out loud) and honestly the only thing that keeps me from falling head over heels for "Happy" is that it's from Despicable Me 2 and thus associated with kids music. This song makes me want to dance RIGHT NOW, but I feel that’s one step removed from getting down to a Kidz Bop album at Target.
Erich: "Happy" is better than most of the music associated with kids movies not warbled by Randy Newman. A bit repetitive perhaps, but catchy and how many songs from movies are as great from beginning to end as edited in the context of the movie itself? A lot, probably, but not on this list.
Mark: I think this one is the most beautifully performed? It sounds very Broadway, but it's the type of show tune that makes me shut down even though I appreciate how well it's done.
Adam: Bold move by Adam Green to play this song when Kevin Zegers jumps off the ski lift. Seriously though, “Let It Go” is probably one of the best songs from a Disney movie in a while. Very Broadway, I agree, but in a good way. I love that the song is about a girl deciding not to give a shit about what other people think of her anymore. It's sort of similar to when Babe wanted to be a sheepdog. I don't mean that as a knock. Those are great "F-Yeah!" moments.
Erich: The music of Frozen is more show tune-y than I usually prefer, but there’s no denying the power and emotional catharsis of a character rejecting societal expectations and embracing her true self. Plus, it's super catchy. I had it in my head for days after seeing the movie, even though I didn't know the lyrics -- which was actually kind of annoying, so never mind. This song sucks.
Mark: I generally appreciated the movie, and I think I enjoyed the small moment that this song corresponds with, but I've found myself sort of forgetting it. It's not evoking that moment from the film when I listen to it again and I'm not sure if it's because of my sketchy memory or because the song is a little too thin. I still think it works in the movie, however.
Adam: I think this song is pretty and it certainly worked in the movie. The only drawback is it's the most Potbellies-ready song of the five. I barely care, though, because the lyrics are evocative and I want to give this song a hug.
Erich: Where “Alone Yet Not Alone” is an atypical nominee in a bad way, "The Moon Song" is atypical in the best way. It evokes atmosphere the way good movies do. No idea if it evokes Her because I still haven't seen it, but I love that something this fragile and small exists in a world where nervous studio types overstuff every movie in an effort to appeal to absolutely everybody. Don't know about everyone else, but this appeals to me.
Mark: U2 is the band I like the most out of these singers, so it sort of makes sense that I am a fan of this one. It has all the things that I love (and hate) about U2: a politically oriented message, the Edge's shimmery guitars, Bono's penchant for heroic couplets.
Adam: This song is a little above average, and I am a fan of U2, but it could honestly be for any movie. Not even one of its generic lyrics even mentions Mandela or South Africa. Honestly, I think U2 just has a basket of soundtrack songs and studios reach their hand in and pull one out.
Erich: Unlike most of the Internet, I'm a big U2 fan. "Ordinary Love" is musically in line with their recent albums -- a mix of stripped down and arena-big. I appreciate it, but it isn't one of their best. It's not even as good as their best movie song: "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" from The Million Dollar Hotel. That song still gives me chills. I like "Ordinary Love" more each time I hear it. It's catchy, but it's missing something. Soul? Depth? Bono's a passionate guy, but he's pitched so high all the time sometimes it feels as if they're just going through the motions.
Mark: I love "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" also; I wish The Million Dollar Hotel was better for such a good song. Actually, the more I listen to “Ordinary Love”, the more Arcade Fire-y it sounds. It's that repeating piano.
Adam: I’m changing the U2 soundtrack bucket idea to the U2 soundtrack garage sale. Bono and The Edge have a box of cassette tapes with unused songs and directors stop by the U2 garage (they all live in the same house) and Bono says "'The Hands That Built America'...that's $3, Mr. Scorsese." I also picture old people picking up some laundry detergent they found in the garage, which is not for sale, and asking "How much?" Also, even though the U2 garage sale clearly states that it begins at 8am, Cameron Crowe is knocking on the garage door at 6:30am asking if they're open.
Mark: There are old pictures of Naomi Campbell, a giant lemon, an assortment of The Edge's hats and Jim Sheridan poking around motorcycle parts. Adam Clayton is in a bathrobe with a martini. Larry Mullen Jr. keeps cracking his knuckles. Bono is playing footsie with Samantha Morton's cat. The Edge is grimly listening to Danny Boyle.
Adam: The Edge went on a French bread pizza lunch break and is nowhere to be found. Hardly anyone is showing up to the garage sale because it is on a street that has no name.
Erich: Adam Clayton's on the phone with the yard sale promoter complaining they put the wrong date on the ad, "I said it was Sunday! Bloody SUNDAY!" Meanwhile, Bono's sunglasses are too dark and he asks a lamp if it needs help finding anything.
Adam: I just looked online and U2 has had songs in close to 75 movies since 1982.
Mark: Even though it's nonsense, "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" (from Batman Forever) is a concert favorite.
Erich: Man, I forgot about "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me." Maybe it's distance, but that song feels more comparable to an album B-side than their other movie songs, which feel as if they were written for someone else.
Adam: I love “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” I also like how “In God's Country” is used in Three Kings, “Wild Honey” in Vanilla Sky and “Vertigo” from Vertigo, of course.
Erich: I'm looking at that list of U2 songs from movies. It’s weird that I know few of these movies well enough to pick favorites. If I know the songs, it's from albums, singles, or soundtracks. For example, I enjoy the Tomb Raider mix of "Elevation" but I've never seen that movie.
Mark: "Faraway, So Close" is great, although I've only seen the trailer for the movie with the same name. Going through the list, I don't remember U2's songs in many of these movies. I did like Jack White's cover of "Love Is Blindness" in The Great Gatsby; that song is criminally underrated.
Mark, if you could have any one of these songs play out over an action scene from The Raid 2 what would it be?
Mark: To be realistic just for a second, these songs could only work on an ironic level for The Raid 2, and each of the songs would be deliciously satirical for a fight scene. I think my favorite song for that would be “Alone Yet Not Alone,” because that would sort of be perfect in the middle of a melee of knives, guns, and baseball bats. It's the existential moment of being surrounded by people who want to mash you to pulp and being connected with them that way, but since you're trying to kill them, the only bond you have is that you want to destroy each other. Station.
Adam: And that’s exactly what that song is about. Good answer, Mark. Erich, if you could pick one of the nominated songs to play as an instrumental baby lullaby, what would it be?
Erich: I've got to pick "Let It Go." Its original form might soar a bit too much for bedtime, but I bet a quieter, instrumental version would be sweet. I could easily see adding it to my lullaby repertoire.
Adam: Which song would you pick to dance with your mom to at a wedding?
Mark: “Alone Yet Not Alone”
Erich: “Let It Go”
Adam: That’s symbolic, I’m sure (“Let It go, mom, love is an open door!”). Ok, I’ll take “Alone Yet Not Alone.” What about for an exotic dance?
For me, definitely “Let It Go,” because when they hit the "I can't hold it back any more" part, that’s when the dancer is truly believing in herself. All exotic dances should tell a story.
Erich: The animated heart wants what it wants.
Mark: I love that you use the PC term for it. “The Moon Song” for me.
Erich: "The Moon Song." I've got a thing for tattoos.
Adam: Somehow my choice seems less weird now. How about to charge the field at the Super Bowl? This is where I’ll take “The Moon Song.” Get pumped to that, playas!
Mark: “Let It Go,” because I'm going to Disneyland.
Erich: “Alone Yet Not Alone” ('cause there's no "I" in "team" but there are two in "quadriplegic.")
Mark: I have sort of a tangential question. What movie (or type of movie) would you want U2 to make a soundtrack for?
Erich: U2 is such a huge band; they need to be paired with equally big movie icons. So, maybe a Star Wars movie starring Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg?
Adam: I think U2 would be interesting for a sci-fi action movie such as Edge of Tomorrow.
Mark: Same question, but Karen O.
Adam: For Karen O, I would say Veronica Mars or Divergent.
I would go with "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile or “Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (maybe I just love songs about moons). I’m going to go re-watch An American Werewolf in London. Be right back.
Mark: I love "Moon River," and especially love that movie.
Adam: Why can’t I look out of my apartment and see and American geisha in the form on Audrey “ARE YOU AN ANGEL?” Hepburn in the adjacent apartment? Damn you, George Peppard! You have all the luck.
Skyfall. I seem to like the older nominated songs, maybe because so many of them have reached classic status and I grew up with them. Modern songs sound too manufactured for a specific moment in their movies rather than being more thematic on a larger scale.
Erich: "Falling Slowly" from Once. I don't know how well Once holds up. I've only seen it, well ...once. But I still listen to the soundtrack. It's almost not fair for a song such as this to win an Oscar, since it doesn't have to support the film. It doesn't have to convey story or back a big musical number. It just has to be great.
Are there any nominated songs in past years that you thought got robbed and should have won? Or a song that you thought was actually bad that was nominated?
I think "Until" from Kate & Leopold should have won. Same with "Miss Misery" from Good Will Hunting, "That Thing You Do" from That Thing You Do!, "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" from Don Juan DeMarco, "Again" from Poetic Justice , "I Have Nothing" from The Bodyguard, "The Glory of Love" from The Karate Kid Part II, "The Power of Love" from Back to the Future, "Town Without Pity" from Town Without Pity, "Gonna Fly" from Rocky, and "Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie.
Hook got nominated. That song is awful. Same with "I Love to See You Smile" from Parenthood.
Mark: "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (from The Lion King) is great, but I think "Hakuna Matata" is more fun. Elton John truly kicked some butt for that soundtrack.
Erich: There are a ton of great songs that should have won. I'm with Adam on "Miss Misery" and "That Thing You Do!" (a song so good it never gets old no matter how many times it plays during the movie). Aimee Mann's "Save Me" is similar to the song from Once, it works just as well separate from Magnolia as in it. Perhaps the best song to lose the Oscar is "Rainbow Connection"—as part of a kids movie it never stood a chance, but I can't think of many better movie songs.
Adam: That’s a tough one. I would probably go with the song standing on its own over context. The best things an original song can do are to remind you immediately of that movie or make the movie better because of its inclusion. I can think of many examples where a movie reaches an emotional high point, it might not have otherwise, because it was paired with just the right song.
Mark: I would definitely prefer a song that can stand on its own, because if it's too tied to the movie, then it's sort of comparable to re-watching that movie, but just that one scene where that song is. Does that make sense?
Adam: Use your words, Mark.
Mark: I would want the song to be evocative of something more universal than just one moment of a film, even if that film is trying to evoke more than one thing. That got convoluted.
Adam: And now the big question: how would you rank the songs from your least favorite to the one you would want to win the ox-car?
Mark: 5. “Alone Yet Not Alone” 4. “Let It Go” 3. “Happy” 2. “The Moon Song” 1. “Ordinary Love”
Erich: 5. “Alone Yet Not Alone” 4. “Happy” 3. “Ordinary Love” 2. “The Moon Song” 1. “Let It Go”
Adam: And I’ll say 5. “Alone Yet Not Alone” 4. “Ordinary Love” 3. “Happy” 2. “Let It Go” 1. “The Moon Song”
Global network of F-Heads, which is your favorite? Do these songs sound just as good in Australian?