Monday, February 26, 2007

Enough With The Oskar Krapp, Already! (but first...)

...I feel compelled to drag you through 16 years of disgraceful, atonal Oscar bilge. Close your eyes and imagine lithe, unitarded interpretive dancers striking avant-gardalicious poses on a stage full of fog and pyrotechnics...

1990: 'Sooner Or Later (I Always Get My Man)' (Dick Tracy). Technically a smart, vaguely campy torch song in the classic tradition. I love the brassy arrangement, the lyrics are spot-on...but I do wish someone like Cassandra Wilson, Sade, Tracey Thorne or John Legend would reinterpret it because, coming out of Madonna's superficial yap Stephen Sondheim's depression-era vernacular sounds like hollow pastiche. Monkeys will fly out of my butt the day I concede that Madonna is anything more than a pop song stylist on a par with Ronnie Ronnette or Mary Shangri-la, which is high praise because Ronnie Spector and Mary Weiss are The Real Thing(s). Jazz is simply beyond Madonna's ken. 'Beautiful Stranger' from Austin Powers (not nominated) is an all-time-great pop single but 'Sooner Or Later' is a diamond in the rough, still wallowing in obscurity, just waiting to be discovered by its true chanteuse. Other long-forgotten poop nominated this year: 'Blaze Of Glory' (Young Guns II), music and lyrics by Jon Bon Jovi. P.U.! Um...Dwight Yoakum? Randy Travis? Clint Black? WILLIE NELSON?! 'Cuz Bon Jovi doesn't exactly evoke the wild, wild west, yo. 'I'm Checking Out' (Postcards From The Edge)Songwriter Shel Silverstein should have been plastered all over the cover of Rolling Stone years ago for writing 'A Boy Named Sue' and I'll admit this nomination was a fairly progressive pick for the geriatric music branch of AMPAS but these days it's sounding a little retro/ it should have been a Broadway showstopper circa 1968. The Simpsons goofed on it at some point while hazing rehab staple Liza Minnelli and that's recognition enough for this "I'm Still Here!" fecalheap.

The other two nominations are not worth getting into. Seriously.

1991: 'Beauty And The Beast' (Beauty And The Beast). Just as I ignore anime because I don't quite "get" it and thus I fear it, I don't think I'm qualified to discuss the colonialism-boosting, weirdly sexualized Disney fetish that unfortunately swept the nation last decade so I won't even try. I'm sure it's a pretty song but it gives me diarrhea every time I hear it so I just don't hear it. My apologies to sweat-suited tourists everywhere. Losers this year: Bryan Adams and 'Be My Vest' by Monty Burns.

1992: 'A Whole New World' (Aladdin) Horrid Jesus Camp/American Idol/entitled white-folk fodder. I hate this fake-ass, lazy, deathmarch to Heaven anthem with every fiber of my Christian-weary body. Go away whole new world! Give me Dr. Doolittle and 'Talk To The Animals' any day: At least that was pagan and earthbound. 'Beautiful Maria Of My Soul' (Mambo Kings) was lovely but live action brown people sang it so naturally pre-Ellen AMPAS adjudged it as pornography.

1993: 'Streets Of Philadelphia' (Philadelphia) AMPAS likes its fags dead or sociopathic so the music branch threw a trophy at Bruce Springsteen's Dead Fag Love Theme. The thing is, this is an extraordinary, transcendent olive branch to the afflicted. Obviously I'm conflicted per the music branch of The Academy. Neil Young lost this year but his song (also from Philadelphia) is so one-note and trebly that it's practically unsingable. Celine Dion would shatter the Sears Building attempting to sustain that note at that octave so thank goddess it lost. Also nominated: 'The Day I Fell In Love' (Beethoven's 2nd). Evidently, dog movies inspire Oscar-nominated love themes (see: The Magic Of Lassie (1978)). Why is that?

1994: 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight' (The Lion King). Horatio Sanz has forever tainted my appreciation (or lack thereof) of late-phase Sir Elton so I can't take this piece of doody very seriously at all. Besides the fact that it's straight-up, phone-it-in hackwork, what the hell does this song have to do with African wildlife anyway? You could plop this pungent turd in any movie, any movie at all, and it would suit it just as well. Imagine: 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight (Love Theme from Midnight Cowboy), 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight' (Love Theme from Orca), 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight (Love Theme from Jesus Camp)'s the most generic calcified corpse of a song ever! No one could resurrect this stinker from the dead...not Charo, not Peter Allen, not Klaus Nomi, not P-Funk...nobody. If I had energy enough to recall a single verse of 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight', I'd hate it. But as it stands, it's a black hole of anti-music for anti-people. But consider the alternatives: 'Hakuna Matata', 'Circle Of Life'...and people pay $100+ to see the stage play?!

1995: 'Colors Of The Wind' (Pocahontas). You can take comfort in the fact that it doesn't get any worse than this:

Everything else from here on out is cake-walk compared to this ghastly death rattle.
'Kumbaya' is a Disco Inferno compared to this Calvinist hymn to No Fun Whatsoever.
Aphex Twin should remix this room-clearing eggfart a thousand times just to be a bitch.
Rush Limbaugh rogers himself with a cucumber and moos like a beefalo at Limosine Liberal Hypocricy while basking in the whore's bath that is all the ersatz, multi-culti cheerleading as expressed by 'Colors Of The Wind'

So there you have it: My dada word-collage ode to 'Colors Of The Wind'.

But seriously, 'You've Got A Friend In Me' (Toy Story) may have been the more memorable choice but when all is said and done, 1995 was a godawful year for Oscar tuneage.

1996: 'You Must Love Me' (Evita). Pretty terrible in the Celine Dion sense of the word 'terrible' but Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice had to win an Oscar sooner or later and this is less offensive anything from Phantom Of The Opera so I guess we should thank our lucky stars that this reprise of 'Don't Cry For Me, Argentina' triumphed over the Streisand/Bryan Adams/Hamlisch/Robert 'Mutt' Lange ballad that no one remembers from The Mirror Has Two Faces.

How's that for a run-on sentence?

1997: 'My Heart Will Go On' (Titanic). You might think that I would stump for Elliot Smith's 'Miss Misery' (Good Will Hunting) this year, fact...'My Heart Will Go On' is a terrific song and it most definitely deserved to win. Ham-fisted Celine Dion had no business wringing the life out of it at all but if, say, Alison Krauss, Nanci Griffith or Emmylou Harris would have sung it in the first place you would hear this song, in all its elegant simplicity, pan-flute and all, for what it is: A gorgeous Celtic folk ballad. I hope it finds new life after the taint of Dion is long forgotten. In other 1997 music branch of The Academy news: LeeAnn Rhimes needs to work with Rick Rubin because Diane Warren destroyed her career with another Lite FM staple: 'How Do I Live' from ConAir.

1998: 'When You Believe' (The Prince Of Egypt). To be honest, I can't recall the song or the Disney film it soiled but Broadway's Stephen Schwartz wrote it so I'm sure it sucks as much as I suspect it does.

1999: 'You'll Be In My Heart' (Tarzan). Kenny Loggins, Usher, John Tesh and The Phantom Of The Opera all covered this testament to the artistry of Phil Collins...but Hey! Phil Collins wins an Oscar at long last! So fuck you Aimee Mann (Magnolia) and Randy Newman (Toy Story 2) who wrote far superior songs this year! He's Phil Collins, Bitch!

2000: 'Things Have Changed' (Wonder Boys) Whew, the nineties sure stank up the place didn't they? The music branch of The Academy had a lot to atone for and boy, did they...they turned right the fuck around and blessed gnarly Bobby D. with an Academy Award. The New Millenium. Things are gonna change, I can feel it...never mind that the other nominated songs were unlistenable tripe, including, and most especially, Bjork's bad-trip swan-dress anthem 'I've Seen It All' (Dancer In The Dark).

2001: 'If I Didn't Have You' (Monsters, Inc.). Adult-contemporary Pixar pap but some of that shit is quite comforting, actually. I'd love to have a bunch of Counting Crows rub me down with Lubriderm as they croon 'If I Didn't Have You' from Monsters, Inc. into my ear. Also nominated: Paul McCartney (Vanilla Sky), Sting (Kate & Leopold) and Enya (Lord Of The Rings). Zzzzzzz.

2002: 'Lose Yourself' (8 Mile). WHAT?!! HELLO!!! Holy shit, I'm up, I'm up. It's a new day for music branch of The Academy because they're listening to Hot 100 FM, they're Friendstererd and they'll call you every 10, text you every 5. No more Connie Stevens/Muppet musical extravaganzas for these thugs. No sir. A truly weird choice but does this mean we're gonna be subjected to Celine Dion freestyling it up at The Excalibur in Vegas come 2042? Also nominated: U2 (Gangs Of New York), Paul Simon (The Wild Thornberrys Movie), and the most skipped-through song on the Chicago soundtrack: 'I Move On' (Kander & Ebb).

2003: 'Into The West' (Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King). Annie Lennox certainly is bad-ass, god knows, but this joint is one dreary trudge through ambient poop. It sounds like an Oscarcast fanfare bumper as orchestrated by Howard Shore, which no doubt is the very reason it triumphed over much earthier, more deserving work by Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett (Cold Mountain). It's right up there with all that garbage-y 90's-era Disney Oscarbait, it's just that atrocious. But Annie rebounded with her masterwork 'Bare' a year later so she's pardoned for this embarrassing misstep.

2004: 'Al Otro Lado Del Rio' (The Motorcyle Diaries). Glorious choice. How much do I love this song? It's so catchy, melodious and deceptively simple that I predict it will become a standard along the lines of 'Besame Mucho' or 'Desafinado'. Sublime pick and wholly unexpected.

2005: 'It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp' (Hustle & Flow). Who the fuck can predict which way the music branch of The Academy is gonna swing these days? I thought Dolly Parton was a lock for her not-so-great 'Travelin' Thru' (Transamerica) but here we have it. 'Niggaz', 'shit', and 'fuck' in an Academy Award winning song...chanted like a mantra...first time ever. Is this progress? Hard to say, but it makes for a more interesting contest...

2006: 'I Need To Wake Up' (An Inconvenient Truth) A more interesting choice than any of the nominated 'Dreamgirls' songs but I suspect that this award is more of a political broadside than a blessing upon a truly good song. But then again Melissa Etheridge strikes me as more of a right-minded scold and less of a good-timing, party-pumping betch so I might be a tad prejudiced. I need to warm up to this song before I can make a fair judgement...I have yet to hear it all the way through so I plead ignorance.

Best Oscar Winning Song(s) Ever: 'Theme from 'Shaft' and 'In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening' (tie)

Worst Oscar Winning Song Ever: 'Colors Of The Wind'.

Take all that for what it's worth, y'all.

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