Monday, February 19, 2007

Reason To Take Morphine And Live #1: Oscar Winning Songs (Part One)

It's bound to happen:

Celine Dion, pushing eighty-something and playing Atlantic City yet again, singing an "Oscar's Favorite Jams" medley featuring Three 6 Mafia's 'It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp' and her own paint-peeling caterwaul 'My Heart Will Go On' from Titanic.

I just hope my personal caregiver is kind enough to wheel me up front and center so I can shake my fist at the heavens and curse that hog-calling, chest-thumping catwoman to the fiery bowels of a holy-roller hell.

I can get with most music I hear but some crap just sticks in my craw and, because I'm a glass-half-empty kind of guy, I become obsessive about tuneage that makes my ears bleed...like Britney Spears' 'Toxic' or Lionel Richie's 'Say You, Say Me'. So I get a little irritable. It's a Scorpio thing, I think.

Did you know 'Say You, Say Me' won an Oscar for Best Song, 1985? No joke. Now imagine Celine Dion screeching that little nugget to the cheap seats.

The Academy Awards are famously schizophrenic when it comes to blessing movie songs with Oscars. Throughout the nineties The Academy was all Hollie Hobbie and unicorns and all crushed out on Disney poop but now they're mistaking themselves for The Grammys as they show love to Dylan and Enimem and Beyonce'. I'm predicting Beyonce's boring 'Listen' will win this year over Melissa Etheridge's typically earnest 'I Need To Wake Up' which is a damn shame because the only song from Dreamgirls worth the price of an iTunes download is 'And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going' but alas, it was written for the stageplay, not the film itself, so it's ineligible.


The first song to win an Oscar (1934, btw) was a Rogers/Astaire dance number called 'The Continental' from The Gay Divorcee, It entailed "dangerous rhythm" and kissing while dancing 'The Continental'. I've never actually danced 'The Continental' but I imagine it's something like The Lambada ("The Forbidden Dance") so I'll give Oscar his propers for recognizing The Sexy. I'm downloading Artie Shaw & Tommy Dorsey's swing version of 'The Continental' right now. Maybe I can turn the lesbians on to Continentalling later in the week, we'll see.

1935: 'Lullaby Of Broadway' (Golddiggas of '35)...fairly iconic selection, can't argue with that.

1936: 'The Way You Look Tonight' (Swing Time)...another Rogers/Astaire ditty. Tough year because it triumphed over Cole Porter's 'I've Got You Under My Skin', but an unimpeachable choice overall.

1937: 'Sweet Leilani' (Waikiki Wedding) Timeless steel-guitar classic! Bing Crosby sang it first and Chris Isaak covered it to great effect. Brave choice, music branch of The Academy!

1938: 'Thanks For The Memory' (Big Broadcast Of 1938) Bob Hope's theme song. It's okay, but better than 'Jeepers Creepers' (Going Places)? I doubt it.

1939: 'Over The Rainbow' (The Wizard Of Oz). A song so loaded with childhood baggage that even straight guys grow braids and get misty-eyed whenever OTR strokes their earholes. The other nominated songs apparently slunk off with their tails between their legs because I haven't heard of any of them.

1940: 'When You Wish Upon A Star' (Pinocchio) . I'd have to be a complete asshole to hate on this one although I'm pretty fond of 'Down Argentine Way'. Leon Redbone's growly re-interpretation of Jiminy Cricket's octave-climbing croon drives me to smoke opium and dream of blue fairies.

1941: 'The Last Time I Saw Paris' (Lady Be Good) Major Oscar boner. This steaming pile of treacle bested 'Chattanooga Choo Choo" (Sun Valley Serenade), 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Of Company C' (Buck Privates) and "Blues In The Night"...Dinah Shore bumping and grinding "my momma done told me/when I was in kneesocks"...think of it! Where is the justice? I ask you!

1942: 'White Christmas' (Holiday Inn). How this Christmas carol eeked out a victory over 'Pig Foot Pete' (Hellzapoppin') and 'I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo' (Orchestra Wives) is anybody's guess.

1943: 'You'll Never Know' (Hello, Frisco, Hello). Gramma Muggs loved this song so I guess I have to get behind it but it's kind of a drag, really. 'That Old Black Magic' (Star Spangled Rhythm) has more ummph, if you ask me.

1944: 'Swingin' On A Star' (Going My Way). I have to cop to the fact that I'm a Sesame Street-schooled self-empowerment song aficianado from way back and quite frankly I wouldn't rather be a fish, a pig, or a mule so this song speaks to me...although is it better than 'The Trolley Song' from Meet Me In St. Louis? My Film Genres professor would think not.

1945: 'It Might As Well Be Spring' (State Fair). Fuck that. 'Accentuate The Positive' (Here Come The Waves) sets it off everytime.

1946: 'On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe' (The Harvey Girls). A rare 'scat moment' for The Academy. Well done.

1947: 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' (Song Of The South). Alright. So I had a childhood crush on Bobby Driscoll and when he got gored by a bull in Song Of The South I cried. Sue me. What I failed to notice throughout all of my pained distraction is the possibility that James Baskett as Uncle Remus singing 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' might be kinda racist. All I knew was that the guy seemed like a kind soul, the song was catchy as hell, and the Tar Baby sequence was a boot in the pants. Good choice.

1948: 'Buttons And Bows' (The Paleface). I can take or leave Bob Hope and any one of his Hit Parade golden oldies...all I know is this is the year 'The Woody Woodpecker Song' lost The Academy Award and that fucking stings!

1949: 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' (Neptune's Daughter). Yessssssss. The fact that a double entendre this slinky won an Oscar makes me almost want to forgive every Phil Collins song ever nominated.

1950: 'Mona Lisa' (Captain Carey, U.S.A.) 'Mona Lisa' is a slick piece of work and god knows I'm a 'King' Cole fan. A truly inspired choice. Especially since the sinister shadow of 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo' (Cinderella) looms large on the nominee list. What if it would have won? Imagine the Dion scat possibilities!

1951: 'In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening' (Here Comes The Groom). Finally, my man Hoagy Carmichael bags himself a trophy! A very inspired selection although I hope I never have to sit through this late-phase Capra-corn turd of a movie. Also nominated: 'A Kiss To Build A Dream On' (The Strip) which you may remember from the Sleepless In Seattle soundtrack. I don't remember it because there's no way in hell I'd sit through that dreck either.

1952: 'High Noon (Do Not Foresake Me My Darlin')' (High Noon). I can't comment one way or the other on this particular choice...although word on the street is that some sad, hapless actress sang another nominated song, 'Thumbelina' (Hans Christian Anderson) to her thumb on 1953's Oscar telecast. I can just picture my dad's 23 year old self scowling with woozy displeasure.

1953: 'Secret Love' (Calamity Jane) I'm pretty crazy about this song, in fact I used it as a soundtrack to a play I wrote for a grade-school talent show way back in the sixth grade. Nature vs. Nurture? Discuss.

1954: 'Three Coins In A Fountain' (Three Coins In A Fountain). This frat-house kegger singalong never grows old, does it? I kid of course, but how this obscurity won over 'The Man That Got Away' (A Star Is Born) is a riddle for the ages...download Jeff Buckley's rendition of the torchy Garland classic and discover for yourself if you don't believe me.

1955: 'Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing' (Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing). Oy. Obviously the Academy nominating committee skipped out on the Blackboard Jungle screening ('Rock Around The Clock').

1956: 'Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)' (The Man Who Knew Too Much). Sly Stone stole it from his girlfriend Doris Day and made it his own, which is cool, but really 'Written On The Wind' is probably the better choice.

1957: 'All The Way' (The Joker's Wild). Most people know it as the 'You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You' song. It's a classic late-nite lounge favorite so no argument here...although Bowie's version of 'Wild Is The Wind' throws light on the sheer epic scope of the piece (not to mention the fact that all that Bowie melodrama is clearly inspired by Nina Simone's take on the same song).

1958: 'Gigi' (Gigi). Why?

1959: 'High Hopes' (A Hole In The Head). Anyone who's ever watched 'Laverne And Shirley' knows this chestnut. I really loved that show. Why isn't it out on DVD?

1960: 'Never On A Sunday' (Never On A Sunday). Ever have a gyro after a long night of hitting the hooch? Then you've heard this peppy homage to whores everywhere. Trust me. You have.


1961: 'Moon River' (Breakfast At Tiffany's) Breakfast was far darker than I ever imagined it would be thus the song truly lends itself to the rueful tone of the pic. If ever there was a movie song married to its source, it's this one. Gotta love it, my huckleberry friend. Surprise nomination that year: 'Town Without Pity'. Great, great Gene Pitney song. I include it in my set every so often. Very high drama and Phil Spector-ish.


1962: 'Days Of Wine And Roses' (Days Of Wine And Roses). Elevator music without peer. 'Walk On The Wild Side' was nominated that year but, alas, not the Lou Reed 'and the colored girls go doo-do-doo' song you're thinking of.

1963: 'Call Me Irresponsible' (Papa's Delicate Condition) Has anyone ever heard of this movie? The song is a finger-snapping delight, but I've never seen this alleged Jackie Gleason vehicle in any of my local indie film-snob rental shops. wtf? I'm assuming it entails a fat, sweaty dude experiencing morning sickness and who wouldn't want to see that?


1964: 'Chim-Chim-Cheree' (Mary Poppins). I'm sorry but Julie Andrews bores the snot out of me and there's no way you can convince me that 'My Kind Of Town'..."chicago is..." is a worse song than this garbage. I can understand romanticizing a shit job such as 'chimney sweep' but did I dance around singing 'Poo-Poo Pa-Doo' as an ass-wiping Certified Nursing Assistant? Nevermind.

1965: 'The Shadow Of Your Smile' (The Sandpiper)Now we're getting into some serious Ray Conniff Singers territory: Music everyone's chain-smoking great aunt can agree on. Is it a good song? Hard to say because everytime I hear it, I'm in a library checking my email and surfing porn, thus I remain oblivious.

1966: 'Born Free' (Born Free). Lionesses, blonde European bitches in khaki shorts...Andy Williams. It all basically sucks. How did 'Alfie' not win this year?

1967: 'Talk To The Animals' (Doctor Doolittle). Oscar's greatest shame. The worst song ever to win anything at anytime, anywhere. True dreck. Unbearable movie, craptacular song...and of course Hollywood had to go and remake it.

1968: 'Windmills Of Your Mind' (Thomas Crown Affair) Babysitter-friendly psychedelica. Dusty Springfield covered it and so thus It. Is. Good.

1969: 'Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head' (Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid) I don't quite understand what this sticky-sweet sunshine-pop song is doing in this period movie. Nor can I wrap my brain around the fact that 'Everybody's Talkin'' from Midnight Cowboy was not even nominated. But we move on...

1970: 'For All We Know' (Lovers And Other Strangers). Bread's David Gates wrote this 70's wedding march warhorse under an alias and I can see why. The Carpenters rose to fame with their rendition of the piece of shit and it de-sexed them forever. Yuck.


1971: 'Theme from 'Shaft' (Shaft). What?! My theory is that this is the year the entire music branch of The Academy dipped into some really good skunk weed and talked turkey with Angela Davis or I don't know what the frick was going on in L.A. in 1971 but...wow!...way to support the Black Moses!

1972: 'The Morning After' (The Poseiden Adventure). Not so bad, considering the only real competition this year was Michael Jackson's ode to a rat: 'Ben'. Something about Maureen McGovern's precise phrasing brings it home for me. Kind of chilling.

1973: 'The Way We Were' (The Way We Were). If anyone were to karaoke this Oscar-winning dirge in 2007, they'd be stoned to death. It's just that unacceptable.

1974: 'We May Never Love Like This Again' (The Towering Inferno). The Towering Inferno had to win something since it was backed by not one but two studios...'We May Never Love Like This Again' is 'The Morning After' but a little more succinct. It's heard on the soundtrack for less than a minute at most and you'd barely notice it because it's sung by a non-descript lounge act as an all-star cast mills around the bar greeting one another.

4 comments:

NATHANIEL R said...

Celine Dion "screeching to the cheap seats" --I love it. Or rather I don't. at all (someone shut that woman up) but funny nonetheless.

for all of their much storied bad taste in film it's clear that AMPAS voters have even worse taste in music.

Martin said...

Why did you stop at '74?

I would fuck David Gates, I love Bread so much. I blame impressionable K-Tel commercials.

daveylow said...

Thanks for making it me laugh out...many times. But why don't you continue?
There are a few good songs coming up, including the songs from Norma Rae and An Officer and a Gentleman but I wouldn't want Celine to ruin either. And I do hope Celine never sings Moon River or Over the Rainbow, it would just be too awful.

Joe Schraufnagel said...

David Gates is definitely the most fuckable Middle-Of-The-Road artist to have ever lived. 'Round about 'Goodbye Girl' I would have fucked him so hard and so fast that his tonsils would have torpedoed out his noseholes even though I was probably twelve at the time.