Monday, October 23, 2023

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1998: Best Original Song

Was Best Original Song the most competitive category at the 71st Academy Awards? It feels that way. Of the five nominees, only two were also nominated for the Golden Globe: The Prince of Egypt's "When You Believe" and Quest for Camelot's "The Prayer" which won. The other songs nominated were "Uninvited" from City of Angels, "The Mighty" from The Mighty, "Reflection" from Mulan, and "The Flame Still Burns" from Still Crazy.

Too, only two were nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Film or TV - in separate years, due to the Grammys' weird eligibility calendar. Armageddon's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" lost to Titanic's "My Heart Will Go On," in a lineup that also included, from 1997, Tomorrow Never Dies' "Tomorrow Never Dies", and from 1998, the aforementioned "Uninvited" and Mulan's "True to Your Heart." A year later, The Prince of Egypt's "When You Believe" lost to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me's "Beautiful Stranger," in a lineup that also included, from 1998, A Bug's Life's "The Time of Your Life" and, from 1999, Music of the Heart's "Music of My Heart" and Tarzan's "You'll Be in My Heart."

And what actually charted? Looking solely at the Top 40, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" was the #3 song of the whole year, while "When You Believe" charted at #16. Any other movie songs? Unsurprisingly, two from the Spice Girls film Spice World make it: "Too Much" at #37 and "Viva Forever" at #27. Another City of Angels track, The Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" hit #8 - how many people remember that that song is from City of Angels? Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page's collab for Godzilla, "Come with Me," was #35, though the fact that it's basically Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" with Puff Daddy lyrics would have made it ineligible for any Original Song categories. And"Ghetto Superstar (That is What You Are)" was #15 for the year - the single made its debut in the Warren Beatty political satire Bulworth, of all things. Also, while Faith Hill's "This Kiss" was not written for Practical Magic - indeed, it came out a full eight months before the movie - once you see Practical Magic, the song forever becomes part of Practical Magic. And yes, it falls just outside the Top 40 at #41, but who doesn't want to see this?:

So what actually was at the Oscars? Here:

"I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" from Armageddon
music and lyrics by Diane Warren
fourth of fourteen nominations

My favorite Diane Warren cinema power ballad, possibly due to me being at just the right age when it was a hit. I do get emotional when I hear the "I just want to hold you close, I feel your heart so close to mine." What does it have to do with asteroids killing Earth? Eff off, it's simultaneously a message of romantic love between Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck and of fatherly devotion and self-sacrifice from Bruce Willis! I think that's poignant and beautiful.

"That'll Do" from Babe: Pig in the City
music and lyrics by Randy Newman
fifth of thirteen song nominations

They cannot be serious.

"A Soft Place to Fall" from The Horse Whisperer
music and lyrics by Allison Moorer and Gwil Owen
first and only nominations

I get my watchlists for these retrospectives from And The Oscar Goes To, which helpfully highlights the Oscar nominees in orange. Sometimes that's all the context I have for a nominee, so when I watch, I try to guess what it was up for - with this movie, I thought, "Naturally, the cinematography," but also thought, "Oh, gosh, I hope the song that plays during the slow-dance between Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas was nominated, too, but I'm sure it wasn't, and that's a shame." Well, here it is! I love it!

"When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt
music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
past winner, second of five song nominations; Golden Globe nominee for Best Original Song

Are there other songs I like more from this movie? Yes, I would dare say all of them. But besides "Through Heaven's Eyes," there's not one that you can really pluck out from the narrative and make stand on its own, which helps a little in this category. Of all the nominees, it's the most perfectly in conversation with its film while able to exist outside of it. 

"The Prayer" from Quest for Camelot
music and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster
Italian lyrics by Tony Renis and Alberto Testa
sixth of six nominations for past winner Sager, third of three nominations for Foster, first and only nomination for Renis and Testa; Golden Globe winner for Best Original Song

I have to imagine this nomination is part of the Titanic afterglow, since Celine Dion performed it in the movie (and Andrea Bocelli did the end credits). Was this popular? I seem to remember Bocelli's version getting some airplay, but that might just be a false memory. It's the best song in the film, very pretty. It also happens to be in a bad movie, but should that count against it?


The Oscar went to "When You Believe":

My pick:


Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth), Fernanda Montenegro (Central Station), Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love), Meryl Streep (One True Thing), and Emily Watson (Hilary and Jackie).

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