Soundtrack Saturday Special Edition! Best Original Song, 1988

Written by Film, Soundtrack Saturday

Kelly Stitzel returns us to 1988 in her latest look at the Best Original Song nominees of Oscars past.

Welcome back to another week of exploring the Academy Awards Best Original Song nominees. This week’s column is dedicated to our own Jason Hare. Keep reading to find out why.

I almost wrote about the 60th Academy Awards last week, but I didn’t want to do two posts in a row dedicated to the ’80s, lest you think I’m biased toward that decade for some strange reason. Next week will be the last of these Oscar-related columns, so I’ll either be covering a year from the ’70s or one from the first decade of this century.

When I look at the nominees and winners from the ’88 ceremony (as a reminder, I’m going by the year the awards were given out, not the year the movies came out) I’m actually quite impressed —  I don’t think there’s a single nominee in the major categories that I disagree with.

You know how this goes by now. Some stats …

The 60th Academy Awards
Date of telecast: April 11, 1988
Host: Chevy Chase

(Per Academy rules, all nominated films were released between January 1 and December 31, 1987, in Los Angeles County, California.)

Best Picture: The Last Emperor
Best Actor: Michael Douglas, Wall Street
Best Actress; Cher, Moonstruck
Best Supporting Actor: Sean Connery, The Untouchables
Best Supporting Actress: Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck
Best Director: Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor

As for our category …

The Oscar went to:
Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes – (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life (music by Franke Previte, John DeNicola, and Donald Markowitz; lyrics by Previte), from Dirty Dancing

Other nominees:
Bob Seger – Shakedown (music by Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey; lyrics by Faltermeyer, Forsey, and Bob Seger), from Beverly Hills Cop II;
George Fenton and Jonas Gwangwa – Cry Freedom (music and lyrics by George Fenton and Jonas Gwanga), from Cry Freedom;
Starship – Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now (music and lyrics by Diane Warren and Albert Hammond), from Mannequin;
Willy DeVille – Storybook Love (music and lyrics by Willy DeVille), from The Princess Bride

And now, trailer time:

Dirty Dancing:
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Beverly Hills Cop II:
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Cry Freedom:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/iq4VjE0_AVQ" width="600" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]

Mannequin:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ns6N2lAC2xo" width="600" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]

The Princess Bride:
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What an interesting group of nominees we have here! If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this category, it’s that it can be the most unpredictable of them all — unless an animated musical is nominated, that is, in which case it can be entirely too predictable. In a year in which films like The Last Emperor, Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, and Moonstruck were nominated, we also saw films like Mannequin and Dirty Dancing get some attention because of the Best Original Song category.

The winning song, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” is performed by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, the latter of whom is no stranger to nominated songs in this category. In fact, between 1979 and 1987 she surpassed Frank Sinatra as the vocalist who performed the most songs nominated — and that won — in this category. I’m not sure how the pairing of Medley and Warnes came about, but I would hope she was first on the Dirty Dancing producers’ wish list because of her Best Original Song mojo.

In addition to winning the Oscar, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (by the way, I hate the damned parentheses in the song’s title) won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song as well as the Grammy for Duo or Group With Vocal. It also reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and spent four consecutive weeks at the top of the Adult Contemporary chart. I like the song — I played the hell out of it back in the day — but I don’t think it deserved the Oscar. Here’s the famous scene in Dirty Dancing in which it appears:

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When I told the lovely Robert Cass that I planned to write about the ’88 Best Original Song nominees, his reply was “Holy crap, I had no idea ‘Shakedown’ got nominated.” Neither did I. (She’s calling me “lovely” in lieu of payment. —Ed.)

According to ye old Wikipedia, “Shakedown” was originally intended for Glenn Frey, who you may remember scored big with “The Heat Is On,” from the first Beverly Hills Cop. However, he was either sick or unavailable, so Seger got the gig. Harold Faltermeyer, who wrote the score for Beverly Hills Cop II (and Kevin Smith’s Cop Out, which opens this weekend) and had a big hit with “Axel F” from the first Beverly Hills Cop, cowrote “Shakedown” with Seger and Keith Forsey, a drummer and longtime collaborator of Giorgio Moroder’s. The song went all the way to #1 on the Hot 100 in the summer of ’87; it was the first — and last — of Seger’s singles to do so.

The cowriters of the song “Cry Freedom” were also nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score, and rightly so — it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never seen the Richard Attenborough-directed movie, but that’s a wrong I plan to right very soon. With vocals performed by legendary South African jazz musician Jonas Gwanga, “Cry Freedom” is the only song nominated in ’88 that contains non-English lyrics. Its mix of jazz, orchestral, and South African beats makes it the most unique of this group of nominees. I really wish I could’ve found a video of it being performed at the Oscar ceremony, because I’ll bet it’s pretty special.

Now, if you’ve listened to the January Popdose podcast, you’ll know that Jason Hare was a little bit confused about which of the Mannequin films “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” came from. While it did appear in both Mannequin and 1991’s Mannequin Two: On the Move, it was only an “original” song in the first film.

I’m not going to lie to you — I fucking love Mannequin. I saw it in the theater with my best friend at the time. I even own it on DVD, and I could probably recite every line of dialogue if I tried. And the theme song is definitely a guilty pleasure.

I know Starship, and in particular Mickey Thomas, aren’t very popular around these parts, but whatever. I’ve been known to sing “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” at the top of my lungs while driving in the car. But do I think it deserved to get nominated for an Oscar? Fuck no!

Just because Diane Warren’s name is attached to something doesn’t mean it should get nominated for an award. I’m sure there were plenty of other worthy original songs that could’ve taken its place 22 years ago. Hell, I wouldn’t have minded if Patrick Swayze had gotten nominated for “She’s Like the Wind” instead of Warren/Hammond for this song.

OK, maybe that’s taking it too far. But you get my point.

Last, but certainly not least, we have “Storybook Love,” my other favorite song from this group of nominees. Written and performed by the late Willy DeVille, it’s a gorgeous love song that perfectly captures the romance between Westley and Buttercup, the lead characters from The Princess Bride.

When the song was being written, DeVille was working on his 1987 album Miracle with Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler, who composed The Princess Bride‘s score. As DeVille tells it in an interview he did for a fan site, Knopfler heard “Storybook Love” and asked if DeVille knew about the Rob Reiner film he was working on “about a princess and a prince.” DeVille said that “the song was about the same subject matter as the film,” so he and Knopfler submitted it to Reiner, who loved it.

I love it too, and would’ve been thrilled to see DeVille walk away with the Oscar. I couldn’t find a video of him performing “Storybook Love” at the Oscars, but here’s a live performance from 2002, which is preceded by a few comments about the nomination and a gibe or two at Knopfler:

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What say you, dear readers? Do you agree with the nominees and winner? What would you like to have seen nominated instead? DISQUS!