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Soundtrack Saturday Special Edition! Best Original Song, 1997

Here we are again with another Best Original Song special edition of Soundtrack Saturday.

Those of you who actually read last week’s column didn’t seem to disagree with the 1981 winner, “Fame,” so I’m curious to see how you feel about the winner from the next year I’ve chosen: 1997.

I almost wrote about a different year from the ’90s this week, but I decided on 1997 because two actors nominated for Best Actor in 2010 costarred in two of the films containing 1997 Best Original Song nominees: George Clooney, who’s nominated for Up in the Air this year, in One Fine Day, and Jeff Bridges, a nominee for Crazy Heart, in The Mirror Has Two Faces.

Also,  my Oscar obsession really began with the ’97 awards ceremony. I had watched the telecast almost every year previously, but this was the first time I was truly interested in how things would play out. And I find this year fascinating because so many of the nominated films were independent — in fact, there were so many independent films nominated that the media had dubbed it the “year of the independents.” Yet, if you look at the films from which we get the Best Original Song nominees, most are pretty mainstream — and so are the songs.

Let’s do a quick stat rundown:

The 69th Academy Awards
Date of telecast: March 24, 1997
Host: Billy Crystal

(Per Academy rules, all nominated films were released between January 1 and December 31, 1996, in Los Angeles County, California.)

Best Picture: The English Patient
Best Actor: Geoffrey Rush, Shine
Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Fargo
Best Supporting Actor: Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire
Best Supporting Actress: Juliette Binoche, The English Patient
Best Director: Anthony Minghella, The English Patient

On to our category …

The Oscar went to:
Madonna – You Must Love Me (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; lyrics by Tim Rice), from Evita

Other nominees:
Kenny Loggins – For the First Time (music and lyrics by James Newton Howard, Jud Friedman, and Allan Dennis Rich), from One Fine Day;
Celine Dion – Because You Loved Me (music and lyrics by Diane Warren), from Up Close & Personal;
Barbra Streisand and Bryan Adams – I Finally Found Someone (music and lyrics by Barbra Streisand, Marvin Hamlisch, Robert John Lange, and Bryan Adams), from The Mirror Has Two Faces;
The Wonders – That Thing You Do! (music and lyrics by Adam Schlesinger), from That Thing You Do!

Here are some trailers to help familiarize you with the films, in case you aren’t already:


One Fine Day:

Up Close & Personal (this is actually a “making of” short and not a traditional trailer):

The Mirror Has Two Faces:

That Thing You Do!:

Most of this crop of nominees kind of makes me want to puke. I don’t mind the winner because I do enjoy Lloyd Webber/Rice musicals. “You Must Love Me” is a nice new addition to the film version of Evita — it was written at the request of director Alan Parker — and its composition marked the first time Lloyd Webber and Rice had worked together on new material in almost 15 years. I think Madonna’s voice is at its best here — the vocal training she went through in preparation for filming really paid off.

Here she is performing the song at the Academy Awards ceremony:

In addition to winning the Oscar, “You Must Love Me” also won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. It eventually went on to be included in the London stage revival of Evita in 2006.

Our next two nominated films — One Fine Day and Up Close & Personal — both star Michelle Pfeiffer and both feature nominated songs I hate with a passion, particularly “Because You Loved Me.” In fact, as I was downloading it to use in this post, my iTunes flashed an error message that said “WHAT THE WHAT?” and shut down.

Both songs have the hallmark of a movie theme song ballad — and were written or cowritten by people who are pros at writing songs for films. And as we all know, Mr. Loggins and Ms. Dion are no strangers to performing songs for movie soundtracks, some of which were nominated for or won Oscars — Loggins has also performed original songs in Caddyshack, Footloose, Over the Top, Top Gun, Caddyshack II, and The Tigger Movie, and Dion also performed original songs in Beauty and the Beast, Titanic, Quest for Camelot, and Bicentennial Man.

Next we have the Barbra Streisand/Bryan Adams duet. When I first heard this song, I was a little perplexed by the pairing, but it kind of works. I don’t loathe this song like I do the Dion song, but I will probably never listen to again. Interestingly, rather than Streisand and Adams performing “I Finally Found Someone” at the Academy Awards ceremony, Dion did. Originally, Natalie Cole was supposed to perform, but pulled out two days before the ceremony because of illness, and Dion was asked to replace her. Streisand was so impressed by Dion’s performance that she contacted Dion about recording a song together.

I don’t know, I kind of think she ruins it:

Finally, we have my personal favorite of the bunch. “That Thing You Do!,” from the film of the same name, was written by Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger. Credited to the fictional band from the movie, the Wonders, the song features Mike Viola on lead vocals, with Schlesinger performing backup vocals. It’s a fun, Beatles-esque pop song that also manages to sound a little modern — well, modern for the mid-’90s. I would’ve loved to have seen this one win because it was so different from the rest of the pack.

Here it is, as performed in the movie:

So, what are your thoughts on the Best Original Song nominees for the 69th Academy Awards? Do you agree with the winner? What would you have liked to have seen nominated instead? Let’s talk about it!

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