Monday, August 14, 2023

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1984: Best Original Song, Best Original Score

A week ago today, we discussed the three nominees for Best Song Score. Today, we look at two categories: Best Original Song and Best Original Score. That's nine movies nominated - and only one of them, A Passage to India, was up for Best Picture. The others?
  • Against All Odds, a remake of the 1947 noir classic Out of the Past, with Jeff Bridges as a football player on the way out who picks up an odd job finding the runaway daughter of a millionaire...and winds up in over his head (I liked it - more than I did the original, as a matter of fact, and you better believe Jeff Bridges' whole look in this movie is a big reason why...);
  • Footloose, the story of a city boy who moves to a small town where dancing is illegal; its "cheesy 80s dance-ical" reputation belies the fact that much of it is made up of intimate conversations about values, faith, and fear - miniature chamber pieces stitched together by a great soundtrack (and, full disclosure, as a teen I did the stage version twice - once as the reverend, once as Kevin Bacon);
  • Ghostbusters, the lightning-in-a-bottle filmmakers keep trying to recapture about professional ghost hunters - goofy, uneven, fun;
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark with game performers and incredible production values brought together in a surprisingly uninteresting package, just a deadweight, nonsense script;
  • The Natural, a fantasy sports drama about a natural ballplayer given a second chance at the big time - if he can resist the temptations put before him. Lightweight, interesting, serene;
  • The River, which is also up for Best Actress, about a farm family faced with economic crises;
  • Under the Volcano, a Best Actor nominee, about the last day in the life of an alcoholic diplomat in Mexico;
  • And The Woman in Red, a remake of a French film about a man tempted into adultery by a sexy model and the mishaps he encounters along the way - bad movie, great Gilda Radner.
These are the films hosting the best music in 1984 cinema - according to the Academy, at least. Let's listen to Song first:

"Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" from Against All Odds
music and lyrics by Phil Collins
first of three nominations; Golden Globe nominee for Best Original Song

End credits song. Perfect punctuation to the end of this movie, our lovers having used and been used and double-crossed, only able to stare at each other from across the room, the conspirators against their love separating them. "To wait for you is all I can do and it's what I got to face." Goddam that's the perfect way to describe their final moment. It's basically one last monologue from our hero.

"Footloose" from Footloose
music and lyrics by Kenny Loggins & Dean Pitchford
only nomination for Loggins, second of four nominations for past winner Pitchford; Golden Globe nominee for Best Original Song

Opening credits and final dance song. The film's anthem! The very first verse tells us why people need the catharsis of dance: "Been working so hard...I'll hit the ceiling or else I'll tear up this town....I gotta cut loose!" As it opens with this appeal, so, too, must the film end with it, as the kids finally get to "put [their] feet on the ground, now take a hold of [their] soul[s]." Also, play it anywhere in real life and watch the room go nuts.

"Let's Hear It for the Boy" from Footloose
music and lyrics by Tom Snow & Dean Pitchford
first of two nominations for Snow, third of four nominations for Pitchford

Montage song. Really nice that this supportive song is set over a montage where Chris Penn's Wilbur learns how to dance. I love how very Rusty it is, too: you know that's Sarah Jessica Parker's inner monologue, snapping her fingers while watching her noncommittal boyfriend learn some moves just to be a better date. "He's my lovin' one-man show," is a nice sentiment!

"Ghostbusters" from Ghostbusters
music and lyrics by Ray Parker, Jr.
only nomination; BAFTA Award winner for Best Original Song; Golden Globe nominee for Best Original Song

Montage and end credits song. It's catchy, it's fun, it works as their jingle, and there's enough eerieness in the orchestration to give it that spoo-ooo-ooky feeling. Its afterlife (heh) as a perennial Halloween playlist mainstay speaks to its worthiness here. Bonus points for inspiring a catchy jingle for a Florida-based car dealership, Maroone, whose ads I grew up seeing on television and whose reworked lyrics are my go-to, even when watching Ghostbusters.

"I Just Called to Say I Love You" from The Woman in Red
music and lyrics by Stevie Wonder
only nomination; Golden Globe winner for Best Original Song; BAFTA Award nominee for Best Original Song

Montage and end credits song. We first hear bits and pieces of it while Gene Wilder is trying to arrange his business trip so that he can carry out an assignation with the model he's fallen in lust with. It plays somewhere in the middle of the closing credits as part of a medley whose main intention seems to be selling copies of the soundtrack. It's never heard in its entirety in the film itself, and it doesn't go with the plot - but how is it as a song? Eh, never been my favorite, kind of snoozy.


Naturally, my least favorite was the winner:

But my personal vote goes to:


And now for the nominees for Best Original Score:

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
John Williams

Besides the art directors and set builders, Williams' contributions are probably the most vital to this film. Doesn't just repeat old themes, but infuses the new adventure with new music, continuing the throwback to old 1930s adventure flicks with winks at stylized scores in the vein of, say, The General Died at Dawn.

The Natural
Randy Newman
second of nine scoring nominations

Newman weaves together the sounds of Americana (trumpets and xylophone, for some reason, but there you go), period elements, supernatural electronic (very subtly), and brings it all home for a rousing, epic,  triumphant theme - I love how, from 2:14 on, it sounds like little elements coming together to form something great. His most accomplished musical work?

A Passage to India
Maurice Jarre
past two-time winner, fifth of eight scoring nominations; Golden Globe winner for Best Original Score; BAFTA Award nominee for Best Original Score

This is interesting because I really love the score as a piece of music, and I get the idea of the overture getting us into the headspace of the Englishpeople getting ready for a grand adventure, while the music for the Malabar Caves is more ethereal, and the oddness of the music against the narrative being purposeful. But I don't really think about the music when I think about this movie? It's good, but does it fit - is it successful in what it's setting out to accomplish?

The River
John Williams
past four-time winner, nineteenth of forty-eight scoring nominations; Golden Globe nominee for Best Original Score

What do you want from the master? It's a noble, beautiful score, if very similar to more famous works. But I'm a fan of Philip Glass and Woody Allen, who am I to admonish any artist for returning to themes that interest him, particularly when he uses them so well? I appreciate and applaud Williams for avoiding - or, at least, not over-using - "rural" signifiers; instead, he just tells the truth, through music.

Under the Volcano
Alex North

Forgive me, I do not remember any score after the opening credits. It's a fun one, though, very much in the head of Albert Finney's sodden, party-hopping pol.


Maurice Jarre won his third Oscar:

But my vote goes to:


Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay: Amadeus, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesThe Killing Fields, A Passage to India, and A Soldier's Story.

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