In the days leading up to the Academy Awards on Feb. 27th, a watercooler conversation on nominees beyond “Best Picture” will likely glaze the eyes of all but a small minority of movie nerds. Then, only a minority of that minority can resist napping through the slow, middle section of a notoriously long-winded telecast to hear the winners of lesser categories like “Best Original Song.”
And coming from someone that’s usually on board for any shenanigans the Oscars pull - the fashion, the acrobats and Angelina Jolie’s leg - the category’s nominees are far from memorable this year and worthy of a bit of head-scratching. Here’s a breakdown of the nominees, which can be streamed in their entirety here courtesy of Fuse.
1. “Skyfall” from Skyfall
I may be jumping on the bandwagon by picking the undisputed frontrunner, but put any of the other nominees’ voices up against Adele’s explosive vocals on this track and the disparity is pretty clear. I found the song to be the most triumphant part of a slow, melancholy installment (with the exception of the energetic and perverse Javier Bardem as Silva) once the credits rap, and in a year largely absent of the prolific British singer, she proved you can step out of the limelight and still be here to stay.
2. “Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi
If we lived in a parallel universe where the Academy Awards evolved into a celebrity meditation class (needless to say, Seth MacFarlane would need to step out), “Pi’s Lullaby” would blow this category out of the water. Written and performed by Indian singer Bombay Jayashri, the song features a building crescendo of tribal instruments and lilting vocals perfectly tailored to a lullaby. Is it pretty? Yes. Is it anything special? If you speak Tamil (“Pi’s Lullaby" is the first song in the language nominated for an Academy Award), just maybe.
3. "Before My Time" from Chasing Ice
This song doesn’t necessitate much commentary, besides that it’s performed by perfectly decent but still bizarre pairing of Scarlett Johansson and violinist Joshua Bell. Her voice is perfectly adequate enough to grace her acceptance into the Zooey Deschanel-inspired club of actresses dabbling in music, but the song’s a bit reminiscent of something you’d hear in the lounge of some tired nightclub at 4 a.m. when you’re six drinks deep and locked out of your hotel room. Still, a tired nightclub frequented by the likes of Scarlett Johansson, so it’s not all bad, people.
4. "Suddenly" from Les Misérables
I relegated Hugh Jackman to the fourth slot not because he has a bad voice (far from it) but just that I find it a shame that not any of the other, and much, much better, songs from the film could be eligible for the category. Because “Suddenly” was penned exclusively for the new film, it qualified as “original,” but that doesn’t mean Jackman’s excessive use of vibrato and melodramatic instrumentation make it worthy of a nod when it pales in comparison to the rest of the soundtrack. Boiled down, it’s speak-singing, and not Oscar-worthy in the slightest.
5. "Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from Ted
If a big band nostalgia group and the theme song of Family Guy could create a musical offspring, we’d have to look no further. The fact that this is the only nomination for Ted is the only redeeming quality of it appearing in this category. The childish lyrics play out like an extended limerick sung by Norah Jones on the rug of a kindergarten classroom, and it’s obvious they threw MacFarlane, the film’s director and coincidentally, this year’s host, a bone here.
Sound off in the comments below about what song you think should take home the award, and which you think were snubbed altogether (Django Unchained, anyone?).