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Always Unusual Face for Best Original Song Features Lady Gaga, Eminem as Contenders

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“Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” “Moon River.” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” “Lose Yourself.” There’s no question that original songs that began in movies have become iconic pieces of both composing and filmmaking.

And yet the Academy Award for Best Original Song is frequently one of Oscar’s most derided categories. To some extent, this is because songwriting is not exactly cinematic in the sense of the other crafts recognized by the Academy. There’s also the fact that the Oscar race frequently goes slightly haywire. The music branch never ceases to amaze in terms of the types of films that earn the moniker “Oscar nominee” due to this category, primarily because the films are obscure (for example, “Chasing Ice,” “Paris 36”).

Various interventions have been proposed over the years, from having less than five nominees to having voters give ratings to (and this, arguably, “vote against”) some contenders to clarifying how the song must be used in the film to be eligible. Some of these remain. Others don’t. In any event, we can be rest assured that this is an Oscar race like no other.

Anywho, turning to this year’s contenders, let’s begin by going all the way back to the beginning of the year with “Love Me Like You Do” from “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The sort of song that frequently gets nominated in this category, the tune has earned BFCA and Golden Globe nominations. My only hesitation? Will they really want to make this film an “Oscar nominee”?

Also going back to the beginning of the year is “Furious 7.” “See You Again” seems an appropriate way to finally cite this series. The song isn’t earth-shattering but given the respect it has received to date (BFCA and Globe nods), it’s sitting pretty.

Sticking with action for a moment, Bond songs have had a mixed track record in this category. Adele’s “Skyfall” was the first such song to win this category, and just the fourth to be nominated (after classics “Live and Let Die,” “Nobody Does It Better” and “For Your Eyes Only”). Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre” has earned BFCA and Golden Globe nominations, so it’s probably a solid contender. It’s possible that Adele has begun a new golden era for Bond music at the Oscars. But is this song really on the same pedestal as previous Bond songs that have been nominated?

“Youth” is trying to make an Oscar run for Michael Caine and Jane Fonda. It’s having mixed success. But “Simple Song #3” has earned Globe and BFCA nominations. In this film about music, perhaps David Lang will get his due here.

The lack of eligible songs from “Love & Mercy” means the Globes and Oscars won’t match five-for-five this year. The BFCA cited Lady Gaga’s “Until it Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground.” After her big “Sound of Music” performance last year, one would think the Oscars might jump at the chance to have her return to the show.

In the realm of big stars, Eminem is also in the running for “Phenomenal” from “Southpaw” as he seeks to prove that his “Lose Yourself” triumph was not a fluke.
“Hey Baby Doll” from “Danny Collins” clearly channels Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Al Pacino managed a Golden Globe nomination for this film, so it hasn’t been forgotten. Maybe that will lead to a run here?

The songs from “Creed” don’t have big stars (apart from those of the film) behind them but I wouldn’t be surprised if Stallone’s Best Supporting Actor run led to a berth here.

One should also look to songs that play an important role in their films. “I’ll See You in My Dreams” from “I’ll See You in My Dreams” immediately jumps to mind as an example of such a title, even if nominating it won’t lead to musical superstars attending the ceremony.

Similarly, “Feels Like Summer” from “Shaun the Sheep: The Movie” is an addictive ditty that ultimately saves the day for its film’s characters in a roundabout fashion. The film is one of my favorites this year and I can only begin to describe how much I’d love to see it find a home here.

“Flashlight” from “Pitch Perfect 2” is another example of a tune that saved the characters in a moment of crisis. Though it may ultimately prove too sappy, a big song from a big hit is not to be ruled out.

I’ll end by mentioning “Ricki & The Flash,” which underwhelmed to some extent this summer. Perhaps most remarkably, Meryl Streep wasn’t nominated for a Golden Globe. It’s been a long time since that happened in a year when she was eligible. I suspect that could be a death knell for “Cold One”’s chances in this category. But I did begin by mentioning just how unpredictable this category is…

Those are the top dozen contenders in my view. And if I had to place bets on the nominees, I’d go with “Love Me Like You Do,” See You Again,” “Until It Happens to You,” “Writing’s On the Wall,” and “Simple Song #3”. But this category is isn’t just unusual – it’s also notoriously unpredictable. So I’d likely lose said money. We’ll find out in just four weeks

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