As Oscar time rolls around, my thoughts invariably go to all the movies I absolutely adore which never got the time of day from The Academy. But being that this blog is in itself already something of a chronicle of what a personal "Best Picture" nominees roster would look like if I were to hand out my own film awards (I'd call them The ANDYs, but that's already taken); I decided instead to list the Top 20 Songs from motion pictures I'd nominate in my own personal "Best Song" category. In this instance, not songs that didn't win, but songs that weren't even nominated.
I'm intentionally leaving out more well-known omissions like Kander & Ebb's "New York, New York" (New York, New York), "Pure Imagination" (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory), "Staying Alive" (Saturday Night Fever), and "To Sir, With Love" (To Sir, With Love), choosing, as is my wont, to concentrate on oddities and obscurities I've loved since the first time I heard them. All personal, wholly subjective, all-time favorites currently on my iPod.
Songs are not listed in order of preference.
Click on song title captions to listen on YouTube.
|Film: Such Good Friends (1971) Song: "Suddenly It's All Tomorrow"|
Words & music - Thomas Z. Shephard and Robert Brittan. Sung by O.C. Smith
Played over the end credits of Otto Preminger’s overstated comedy-drama about a Manhattan wife who discovers her dying husband has had numerous extramarital affairs; this lovely, wistful song succinctly captures the feeling of dark clouds parting and the contemplation of a brighter future.
|Film: Ziegfeld Follies (1945) Song: "This Heart of Mine"|
Words & music - Harry Warren & Arthur Freed. Sung by Fred Astaire
This song wins out due to a confluence of reasons. It’s an entrancingly beautiful melody, Fred Astaire’s vocals are flawless, and it contains a lyric line which turns the waterworks on for me unfailingly (“As long as life endures, it yours this heart of mine”). They really don't write 'em like this anymore. The song begins at the four minute point on this video, but check out the 8-minute point to see what I call the “goosebump moment” wherein Vincente Minnelli’s eye for baroque romanticism and the heavenly dancing of Astaire and Lucille Bremer confirm just why dreams are what Le Cinema is for.
|Film: Xanadu (1980) Song: "Xanadu"|
Words & music - Jeff Lynne. Sung by Olivia Newton-John & Electric Light Orchestra
Olivia Newton-John and ELO is the most inspired musical pairing since The Pet Shop Boys recruited and retooled Liza Minnelli. Livvy’s heavenly vocals are a perfect blend with Jeff Lynne’s soaring orchestrations, the result: a pulsatingly infectious, smile-inducing title tune that ranks among my favorite songs of all time.
|Film: Raintree County (1957) Song: "The Song of Raintree County"|
Words & music - Johnny Green & Paul Francis Webster. Sung by Nat King Cole
I think I would like the melody of this touching, old-fashioned love song anyway, but Nat King Cole’s stirring vocals (that voice!) really make this delicate tune such a dreamy delight.
|Film: Freaky Friday (1976) Song: "I'd Like To Be You For a Day"|
Words & music - Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn. Sung by NOT Barbara Harris & Jodie Foster
Nominated for a Golden Globe but ignored by Oscar, this cute mother-daughter duet combines the catchy rhythms of classic TV sitcom theme songs with the lyric playfulness of nursery rhymes. A thoroughly charming arrangement and appealing harmonizing mystery vocals (they’re too smooth for Barbara Harris, too high-pitched for Jodie Foster) work in concert with clever cut-out title animation of the sort that was at one time a Disney trademark.
|Film: Emmanuelle IV (1984) Song; "Oh, Ma Belle Emmanuelle"|
Words & music - David Rose / Sergio Renucci / Marie Claude Calvet. Sung by The Performers Band
OK, this one is a bit of a cheat. On two counts. First, Emmanuelle IV is a French film and would never be considered for a Best Song Oscar nomination, but I’m including it here because …well, the ANDYs are just like Emmanuelle herself: capricious, easy, and a little tacky. Which brings me to point number two; I love the this title tune, sung over the film’s opening credits (which also serves up a Penthouse magazine-worthy montage of actress Sylvia Kristel) because it is a sensational slice of French cheese. It’s actually rather sublime, really. Romantically lush orchestrations blend with an '80's Kenny G-like saxophone accompaniment, all in service of a vaguely Euro vocalist crooning an anthem of love to “new” Emmanuelle (don’t ask). Like a Serge Gainsbourg composition, it manages to be sexy, sleazy and romantic all at the same time!
|Film: Shanghai Surprise (1986) Song: "Shanghai Surprise"|
Words & music - George Harrison. Sung by George Harrison & Vicki Brown
Nothing even remotely associated with this film got any love back in 1986 when Madonna and then-husband Sean Penn were successors to Barbra Streisand and Jon Peters as Hollywood’s most obnoxious couple. Too bad, for while I couldn’t stand the film myself, I’ve always been crazy about this title song: a cleverly rhyme-happy duet that's the equivalent of a musical flirtation.
|Film: Macon County Line (1974) Song: "Another Day, Another Time"|
Words & music - Bobbi Gentry. Sung by Bobbi Gentry
A lyrical, rather haunting melody distinguished by Bobbi Gentry’s easygoing way with lyrics that paint vivid pictures and tell a story. Considerably more graceful and affecting than the redneck exploitation film it was written for, I’m particularly fond of Gentry’s melancholy vocals.
|Film: Sparkle (1976) Song: "Hooked on Your Love"|
Words & music - Curtis Mayfield. Sung by Lonette McKee, Irene Cara & Dwan Smith
It’s doubtful the old coots representing the music branch of the Motion Picture Academy even knew who Curtis Mayfield was, let alone receptive to the outstanding R & B score he composed for the low-budget musical, Sparkle. The Motown-influenced score is pure 70s soul (it takes place in the ‘60s) and of the many songs I like, my favorite is this silky- smooth number with a pulsing backbeat. Aretha Franklin sang all the film’s songs on the soundtrack album, but check out the YouTube video - not only to hear the smoking-hot, girl-group vocals of Irene Cara, Lonette McKee, and Dwan Smith, but to check out the slinky choreography.
|Film: The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970) Song: "Sweet Gingerbread Man"|
Words & music - Michel Legrand, Marilyn & Alan Bergman. Sung by The Mike Curb Congregation
The late-‘60s sound no one ever talks about is the easy-listening, inoffensive pop of The Ray Coniff Singers, The Jerry Ross Symposium, The Bob Crew Generation, and, the folks behind this sunshine pop ditty, The Mike Curb Congregation. While a whole lot of hard rock and rollin’ was going on, bands like these (often just studio singers) gently introduced older folks (and clean-cut young ones) to the New Sound.
Michel LeGrand was all over the place in the 60s, and this sugary pop gm was covered by Sarah Vaughn, Jack Jones, Bobby Sherman, and many others.
Almost unbearably cutesy and bubblegummy for most tastes, it practically screams “Sixties!” to me, and I have a decided soft spot in my heart (and most likely, my head) for this song.
|Film: From Noon Till Three (1976) Song: "Hello and Goodbye"|
Words & music - Elmer Bernstein / Marilyn & Alan Bergman. Sung by Jill Ireland
An elegant, lilting music box love song whose sentimental lyrics are simple but very touching to an old softie like me. Although just a little over 90 seconds long, it too, never fails to get the waterworks flowing. An instrumental version plays under the opening credits, the song itself is later sung by a character in the film.
|Film: There's A Girl In My Soup (1970) Song: "Miss Me in The Morning"|
Words & music - Mike D'Abo & Nicolas Chinn. Sung by Mike D'Abo
This perfectly irresistible and utterly groovy bit of ‘60s fluff crosses Burt Bacharach with Herb Alpert and delivers a bouncy tune that feels as stylishly mod and British as a walk down Carnaby Street.
|Film: Across 110th Street (1972) Song: "Across 110th Street"|
Words & music - Bobby Womack & J.J. Johnson. Sung by Bobby Womack
1970’s sophisticated soul doesn’t get much better than this. Womack’s hard-edged vocals work in discordant concert with the sweeping orchestral arrangement and funky downbeats reminiscent of the Philadelphia soul sound. A criminally infectious title song with a memorable musical hook.
|Film: Something Big (1971) Song: "Something Big"|
Words & music - Hal David & Burt Bacharach. Sung by Mark Lindsay
As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to film composers, the 60s sun rose and set with Burt Bacharach (and the underappreciated but invaluable contributions of lyricist, Hal David). I am mad about all of his work, but this smooth title song to a perfectly terrible western swings with a bossa nova beat and Bacharach’s trademark syncopation and shifts in meter. Truly putting this song over for me are Mark Lindsay's (of Paul Revere and the Raiders) vocals, which really play up Bacharach’s amusing (and tres-groovy) habit of ending musical phrases on an “up” that sounds like a question being asked. A really good song.
|Film: Popeye (1980) Song: "See'Pea's Lullaby"|
Words & music - Harry Nilsson. Sung by Robin Williams
One of Robert Altman’s most financially successful films is also one of his most unwieldy, the copious amount of drugs ingested by cast and crew while filming no doubt contributing to the effect. Harry Nilsson contributed many witty, albeit repetitive tunes, the best, as far as I’m concerned, being this winsome, genuinely stirring lullaby. An oasis of quiet in a chaotic film.
|Film: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) Song: "In The Long Run"|
Words & music - Rob Stone & Stu Phillips. Sung by Lynn Carey
The very first time I saw BVD, even as I was sitting staring in open-mouthed amazement at what was unfolding before me, I seized upon this song as a standout. From those killer chords that precede the vocals to the overall MOR psychedelic vibe of the arrangement, this song is a winner. All-girl rock groups rule!
|Film: Carbon Copy (1981) Song" I'm Gonna Get Closer To You"|
Words & music - Paul Williams & Bill Conti. Sung by England Dan Seals
I place Paul Williams up there with Burt Bacharach and Charles Fox as one of my favorite composers for the movies. The song played over the closing credits of this largely forgotten comedy, notable only for being Denzel Washington's film debut, and it hooked me immediately. Hook being the operative word. Like a commercial jingle, the bouncy arrangement, cleverly-rhymed lyrics, and light-as-a-feather vocals single-handledly elevated a so-so film into one I never forgot. Primarily because I liked this song so much.
|Film: Star Spangled Girl (1971) Song: "Girl"|
Words & music - Charles Fox & Norman Gimbel. Sung by Davy Jones
Any fan of The Brady Bunch knows this song, but few know it as the theme to a flop Neil Simon comedy. Composed by fave-rave Charles Fox (Barbarella, Goodbye Columbus) to my ear it seemed exactly the kind of movie theme song that should have been a shoo-in had the 70s not been such an awkward transitional period for the Academy.
As it stands, Fox and Gimbel deliver a catchy confection of musical candy floss with this song, aided immeasurably by Jones' pronunciation of the oft-repeated central word, "girl."
Words & music - Richard O'Brien & Richard Hartley. Sung by Cast
This not-really sequel to the insanely successful The Rocky Horror Picture Show has grown on me a bit lately (especially in these reality TV times), but I thought it was a huge disappointment when I first saw it. I did however love much of the music, most favorably the title tune which rocks, harmonizes, is catchy as hell, and a great deal of fun. A rollicking ensemble song punctuated by the "Shock Treatment" lyric pause/hook.
|Film: The Touchables (1968) Song: "All of Us"|
Words & music - Alex Spyropoulous & Patrick Campbell-Lyons. Sung by Nirvana (not that Nirvana)
I end my list with a song from a film made in 1968, the first year I actually started to pay attention to movies. It's also the year when hippies, flower children, and psychedelia flooded pop culture, making this trippy British import of a theme song a stand-out favorite because it couldn't have been written at any other time. This dreamy, slightly hallucinatory song plays over the film's equally far-out, James-Bondian/Maurice Binder inspired title sequence. Fabulous British '60s sound.
|Everyone assumes the classic theme from Goldfinger (1964) was a Best Song nominee. |
It wasn't even nominated!
"Chim Chim Cher- ee" from Marry Poppins was the winner that year
Do you have a favorite song from a film? One which failed to win or even garner an Oscar nomination? Would love to hear about it!
Copyright © Ken Anderson