BEST SONG OSCAR SURPRISE? – The movie song I predict will be this year’s stealth surprise Oscar Best Original Song nominee

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A few days ago the Academy, aka the people who hand out the Oscars, revealed the list of songs from this year’s movies that are eligible to be nominated as best original song in a motion picture.  There are 74 eligible songs.  I have maybe heard 12 of them so far, and even fewer in the context of the movie they play in (and that is an important factor, as I will explain later), so I really don’t have much of a leg to stand on when making guesses about the eventual nominees, but…

For fun, and because I have a hunch that won’t leave me, I have what I think is a pretty good idea which song may end up being the stealth surprise nominee nobody or hardly anybody saw coming.  If I am right, it would be pretty cool.  It I am wrong, who cares, right?  This is just a blog, not a national newspaper, or trades magazine, or anything like that.  I will give you my guess at the end of this little write up, and for the sake of completion, include the full list of 74 songs thereafter.

Oscar 2But really, how to guess which songs will eventually be nominated?  Oscar prognosticating is a fun sport in certain corners of the internet, but this is one of the most notoriously difficult categories to predict.  Every year there seem to be strange left field choices (two years ago one of those left field choices got disqualified in a bit of a scandal) or the inexplicable lack of nomination for a song everyone had expected would win.

This year a song everyone thought was the front runner didn’t even end up on the list of 74: Brian Wilson’s “One Kind of Love” from the excellent music biopic “Love and Mercy”.  To understand why it was left off the list, let me quote Variety’s Kris Tapley’s rundown of the eligibility rules for Best Song candidates:

To be eligible, a song must consist of words and music, both of which are original and written specifically for the film.   A clearly audible, intelligible, substantive rendition of both lyric and melody must be used in the body of the film or as the first music cue in the end credits.

paul dano

Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in “Love and Mercy”

It appears that “One Kind of Love” may have been deemed the second cue in the end credits, although, if that is the reasoning, one could argue whether that really is the case, because what may have been deemed the first cue is live footage of the real Brian Wilson singing “Love and Mercy”, and perhaps more of an epilog to the movie rather than an end credit song.  But I am speculating here on the reasons for disqualification, not quoting anyone else (and I may be remembering the end credits incorrectly).  The only other reason the song might be considered ineligible is if the Academy decided the song wasn’t originally written for the movie.  Many popular movie songs people point to when decrying their lack of a Best Song nomination in the past were deemed ineligible for that reason, like “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret or “Come What May” from Moulin Rouge.

I wouldn’t be surprised though if “One Kind of Love” ends up winning the Golden Globe in January.  It is one of their 5 nominees for best song.  The Globes song nominee list always differs somewhat from the Academy Award list, but it is a good place to start speculation on the Academy choices.

The Golden Globe nominees are:

Fifty Shades of Grey – “Love Me Like You Do”

Love & Mercy – “One Kind of Love”

Furious 7 – “See You Again”

Youth – “Simple Song #3”

Spectre – “Writing’s on the Wall”

Before we speculate, let’s look at the process of how the Academy members choose their nominees.  Again I quote Kris Tapley:

During the nominations process, all voting members of the Music Branch will receive a Reminder List of works submitted in the category and a DVD copy of the song clips.  Members will be asked to watch the clips and then vote in the order of their preference for not more than five achievements in the category.  The five achievements receiving the highest number of votes will become the nominations for final voting for the award.  A maximum of two songs may be nominated from any one film.


Jake Gyllenhaal listening to “A Love That Will Never Grow Old” in Brokeback Mountain.  Unluckily for Oscar eligibility the scene and song excerpt didn’t run long enough for the Academy.

A very important aspect of this process is that Academy members are not merely voting on the song and its music and lyrics, but also on how it is placed in the movie, how it supports and enhances the drama of the film and/or how prominently or effectively the film showcases the song.  Some great songs, like Emmylou Harris’ Golden Globe winning “A Love That Will Never Grow Old” from Brokeback Mountain for example, were ruled ineligible in the past because of the limited way they were featured in the film itself.

It is particularly because of the way the unnamed song I am thinking of is used dramatically in its movie that I believe it will stealthily slide into a nomination slot.  But we shall see if I’m right after I reveal my hunch further down this post …

Back to the Golden Globe nominees.

50Look, there’s a song from 50 Shades of Grey!  “Love Me Like Your Do” is a big hit, but perhaps the Academy may be more hands off than the Hollywood Foreign Press when it comes to that movie.  Or possibly they will go for “Earned It”, which is a more intricately written song from the same movie, and as big a hit if not even bigger than “Love Me Like You Do”.  From a composer’s viewpoint, I find “Earned It” more compelling.   Having not seen the film, I can’t speak to how either song is used in the movie.  Yes, I swear, I didn’t see “50 Shades of Grey”!  But I did buy the soundtrack, I’ll admit that.  Beyoncé’s slowed down moaning version of “Crazy In Love” made me do it!  I had to own that track!

Furious 7I haven’t seen a single Fast and Furious film.  Not my cup of gasoline.  But just looking on YouTube how “See You Again” is incorporated into a shamelessly heartfelt memorial to Paul Walker, who died in a tragic car crash before completing Furious 7, I can see how it would be hard to resist nominating it.  I was blubbering by the end.

I believe “Simple Song #3” from Youth may duplicate its nomination come Oscar nominations time, based simply on the many places I’ve seen it mentioned as a potential candidate on line.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I don’t know how the song features on screen, but the fact that it may be one of the only classical art songs in the running may help it stand out and win passionate support.

writing“Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre got a lot of negative criticism when it was first unveiled to the public.  Its predecessor, Adele’s wonderful “Skyfall”, the first Bond song to win the Oscar, probably raised expectations too high for the Sam Smith follow up.  Then again, “Skyfall’s” afterglow may have helped ”Writing’s on the Wall” receive its Golden Globe nomination and may prove helpful with the Academy too.  I think “Writing’s…” is a perfectly fine Bond song, not a classic but also not deserving of some of the initial internet hate.  Its minor fault may be that it concerns itself more with exploiting Sam Smith’s vocal range and expressivity, rather than crafting an incisive, powerful melody.


Conchita Wurst

Which raises the question, might the Melissa McCarthy thriller spoof “Spy” steal “Spectre’s” song thunder with their knowingly crafted faux-Bond song “Who Can You Trust”?  If only it were more than a perfect ersatz Bond theme, by which I mean if only it were also by itself funny like the movie it is in.  When the best Bond song since “Skyfall”, faux or otherwise, is the insouciantly grand “Rise like a Phoenix” by the Eurovision Song Contest winning Conchita Wurst, it may not look good for spy thriller song themes this year at the Academy.

What else may get nominated?  Like I said, I haven’t heard most of the songs, much less seen them in the movies for which they are nominated.  So keep your salt shakers handy for those requisite grains of salt (and a bit of a fun rhythm section).  But let’s listen to the internet chatter, or precedent: lots of people on line are lobbying for “Feels like Summer” from Shaun the Sheep.  Animated films tend to do well in this category.  That may very well help Meghan Trainor’s “Better when I’m Dancing” from the Peanuts Movie.

Spike Lee’s musical update on Lysistrata “Chi-Raq” has three songs on the list.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but early enthusiasm for the film, and the fact that it is a musical speaks to the potential for a nomination or two.  Musicals with original songs tend to do well in this category (three songs each from Dreamgirls and Enchanted got in, for example, but this year the rules allow only for a maximum of two songs per movie).  And while we are speaking of musicals, I would be remiss not to include “Flashlight” from Pitch Perfect 2 as a possible choice.  A catchy tune performed with winning a cappella intricacies at the climax of the hit sequel, its biggest hurdle with the Academy may be a general (but not absolute) disinclination to nominate sequels.

Til“Til It Happens to You” is from a documentary, which may seem unusual for a song nominee.  However, songs from documentaries have been nominated for the Oscars at least twice before, and Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need to Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth even won the Golden Guy.  The subject matter of the “Til It Happens to You” and its movie The Hunting Ground, date rape on college campuses, has real heft, as does the fact that the song is sung and co-written by Lady Gaga, who impressed at last year’s ceremony with her Sound of Music medley.  Even more important is the fact that the song’s co-writer is Diane Warren, a multiple Oscar song nominee and favorite of the Academy who somehow has not yet won.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the year they give the award to Diane Warren.  Which would make Lady Gaga an Oscar winner too.  Sometimes an Oscar win is not just about the song, but also about the nominee’s narrative.  Since the compelling Brian Wilson narrative has been ruled out, the compelling Diane Warren plus Lady Gaga narrative may prove enticing.  Provided they also like the song.

cold one“Cold One” from Ricki and the Flash should stand a good chance for a nomination.  It is a solid song that relates dramatically in potent ways to the character of Ricki, and is sung by Meryl Streep to her character’s ex-husband and daughter in a vulnerable moment of the story.  Potent song in a strong dramatic context with the movie; that is a combination that seems to work best with this branch of the Academy.  (You can find the clip of Meryl singing “Cold One” in this older article on Notes from a Composer.)

Which brings me to my stealth nominee candidate.  Drumroll please……

“I’ll See You in My Dreams” from I’ll See You in My Dreams.

Ill see

This little movie starring Blythe Danner as a widow dealing with unlikely friendship and romance was an under the radar hit this year, especially with the “senior crowd”.  And let’s face it, much of the Academy is the “senior crowd”.  This indie film has done so well in limited release that there was even talk of Blythe Danner being nominated for Best Actress.  Those hopes have dimmed somewhat in light of an extremely competitive Best Actress candidate roster this year.  So the one spot this likable little movie could find itself nominated is in Best Song.

Not just because “I’ll See You in My Dreams” is a well written song, with a timeless, sturdy songwriting appeal that should go over well with the musician’s branch of the Academy, but also because of the crucial way it is used in the movie.  It is performed by one of the male leads to Blythe Danner at the end of the story, and at that moment is not merely the title song, and the theme song, but also the emotional apex in their relationship.  It is highlighted in a way few songs are in movies, and contributes mightily to the emotional satisfaction the audience feels at the story’s end.  It is also a sweet song that may appeal to the same voters who nominated Karen O’s similarly light and sincere “The Moon Song” from Her, although “I’ll See You in My Dreams” may be more wistful and “The Moon Song” more whimsical by comparison.  The actor Martin Starr’s warbling of the song does leave a little to be desired, but luckily the composer Keegan DeWitt can be heard hitting all the right notes during the end credits:

I’ll See You in My Dreams – Keegan DeWitt

After I saw the movie I felt certain “I’ll See You in My Dreams” would appeal to the song nominating branch of the Academy.  And it’s inclusion in the nominations would be a (hopefully happy) surprise to most.  But we’ll see.  I may be very wrong.  Which would make me look maybe a little foolish to the few who read this blog.  But if I am right: Hah!  Bragging Rights!  To the few who actually read this blog…

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Complete list of Songs Eligible for Academy Award Nominations are below.  Probably quite a few more songs in there I didn’t mention that are also considered strong candidates for nominations by others who play this guessing game.  You can let me know in the comments section:

“Happy” from “Altered Minds”
“Home” from “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip”
“None Of Them Are You” from “Anomalisa”
“Stem To The Rose” from “Becoming Bulletproof”
“The Mystery Of Your Gift” from “Boychoir”
“I Run” from “Chi-Raq”
“Pray 4 My City” from “Chi-Raq”
“Sit Down For This” from “Chi-Raq”
“Strong” from “Cinderella”
“So Long” from “ntender-trancussion”
“Fighting Stronger” from “Creed”
“Grip” from “Creed”
“Waiting For My Moment” from “Creed”
“Don’t Look Down” from “Danny Collins”
“Hey Baby Doll” from “Danny Collins”
“Dreamsong” from “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
“It’s My Turn Now” from “Dope”
“Ya Rahem, Maula Maula” from “Dukhtar”
“Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”
“Love Me Like You Do” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”
“Salted Wound” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”
“Hands Of Love” from “Freeheld”
“See You Again” from “Furious Seven”
“Brother” from “Godspeed: The Story of Page Jones”
“As Real As You And Me” from “Home”
“Dancing In The Dark” from “Home”
“Feel The Light” from “Home”
“Red Balloon” from “Home”
“Two Of A Crime” from “Hot Pursuit”
“Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground”
“I’ll See You In My Dreams” from “I’ll See You in My Dreams”
“The Movie About Us” from “Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words”
“Bhoomiyilenghanumundo” from “Jalam”
“Koodu Vaykkan” from “Jalam”
“Pakalppaathi Chaari” from “Jalam”
“Yaathra Manoradhamerum” from “Jalam”
“Lost In Love” from “Jenny’s Wedding”
“True Love Avenue” from “Jenny’s Wedding”
“Hypnosis” from “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet”
“Juntos (Together)” from “McFarland, USA”
“The Light That Never Fails” from “Meru”
“The Crazy Ones” from “Miss You Already”
“There’s A Place” from “Miss You Already”
“Johanna” from “Mortdecai”
“Little Soldier” from “Pan”
“Something’s Not Right” from “Pan”
“Paranoid Girl” from “Paranoid Girls”
“Better When I’m Dancin’” from “The Peanuts Movie”
“Pink & Blue” from “Pink & Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer”
“Flashlight” from “Pitch Perfect 2”
“Birds Of A Feather” from “Poached”
“Still Breathing” from “Point Break”
“Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction”
“Cold One” from “Ricki and the Flash”
“Torch” from “Rock the Kasbah”
“Someone Like You” from “The Rumperbutts”
“Aankhon Me Samaye Dil” from “Salt Bridge”
“Bachpana Thaa” from “Salt Bridge”
“Kanpne Lage Tum” from “Salt Bridge”
“Kyaa Bataaun Tujhe” from “Salt Bridge”
“Le Jaaye Jo Door Tumse” from “Salt Bridge”
“Na Jaane Kitni Door” from “Salt Bridge”
“Sookha Hi Rang Daalo” from “Salt Bridge”
“Feels Like Summer” from “Shaun the Sheep Movie”
“Phenomenal” from “Southpaw”
“Writing’s On The Wall” from “Spectre”
“Squeeze Me” from “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water”
“Teamwork” from “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water”
“Who Can You Trust” from “Spy”
“Came To Win” from “Sweet Micky for President”
“Mean Ol’ Moon” from “Ted 2”
“Love Was My Alibi” from “The Water Diviner”
“Fine On The Outside” from “When Marnie Was There”
“Simple Song #3” from “Youth”

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About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 40 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
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