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After last year’s Best Original Song debacle when only two songs were nominated, the Oscars got their footing back this year with five solid, if somewhat surprising, nominees.
To be sure, Adele’s “Skyfall” was the one song that seemed a foregone conclusion after it was deemed eligible (there was some initial doubt since it pays such a healthy homage to the original Bond theme). But its frontrunner status was due just as much, if not more, to Adele than to 007‘s revived franchise. And don’t presume she’s the frontrunner now: No James Bond theme has ever won an Oscar. Still, the song—written by Adele and Paul Epworth is lush and dramatic and a worthy entry.
The other sure bet was “Suddenly” from “Les Miserables,” the new song, written for the film by the stage musical’s original composers, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boubil, and performed by Hugh Jackman. It fills a role similar to previous Oscar winner “You Must Love Me” from “Evita” or nominee “I Move On” from “Chicago,” both of which were added into the movie versions of the plays to give them potential Oscar contenders (and it worked).
The Academy Awards deemed a staggering 75 songs eligible for contention this year The remaining three slots, quite frankly, could have been filled by any number of contenders, but went to “Chasing Ice’s” “Before My Time,” written by J. Ralph and performed by Scarlett Johansson and violinist Joshua Bell, “Life of Pi’s” “Pi’s Lullaby,” written my Mychael Danna and Bombay Jayashri,” and “Everybody Needs A Best Friend,” written by Walter Murphy and Oscar host Seth McFarlane” and performed by Norah Jones.
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” is a sweet throwback to the big band era with a toe-tapping feel and a sweeping arrangement. The song also appears during a fun montage smack-dab in the film.
“Before My Time” runs over the end credits for “Chasing Ice,” a documentary about photographer James Balog’s effort to tell the story of climate change by placing time-lapse cameras across the Arctic. It’s an appropriately morose, spare, low-key ballad led by Johansson’s more than serviceable vocals, Bell’s always-haunting beautiful playing and the composer himself on piano. While Ralph is no doubt hoping for a repeat of Melissa Etheridge’s win for “I Need To Wake Up” from the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” he’s not likely to win, especially given that the doc didn’t make the cut for best original documentary.
Not to be flippant at all, but I didn’t realize that “Life Of Pi” even had a song in it when I saw it. Maybe I was still too consumed by the meerkat island. It turns out it is a lilting, magical tune by film composer Danna with lyrics by Jayashri, performed by Jaysahri. Given how enamored the Academy is with “Life Of Pi,” it could pull off a big surprise here. It could be this year’s “Jai Ho.”
Though only five songs can be nominated, there were some surprising snubs that I would have expected to fill the slots that went to “Best Friends” and “Before My Time.” Notable omissions include “Learn Me Right” from Best Animated Feature nominee Brave,” as well as any songs from “Django Unchained,” and “Song of the Lonely Mountain” from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
Both "Skyfall" and "Suddenly" are up for Golden Globes on Sunday. Fellow Golden Globe nominees "For You" from "Act of Valor" and "Not Running Anymore" from "Stand Up Guys." “Safe & Sound,” from “The Hunger Games,” wasn’t eligible for an Oscar.