Soundtrack Saturday Special Edition! Best Original Song, 2001

Written by Film, Soundtrack Saturday

In the last installment of her Best Original Song special series, Kelly Stitzel takes a look at the year in which Dylan won an Oscar and Björk brought the fashion crazy.

Alright, kids, here we are — the final installment of this year’s Soundtrack Saturday Best Original Song special series. For my final special edition post, I figured it would make the most sense to explore a year from the aughts, and there were two candidates that really stuck out to me as being interesting: 2001 and 2005. Ultimately, I chose 2001 because one of my favorite artists of all time was nominated — and caused a lot of controversy upon arriving at the Oscar ceremony.

This was an interesting year for the Oscar telecast, as it received the lowest ratings in four years and dropped to second place in the Nielsen ratings for the first time in broadcasting history. Why? Because so many numskulls were watching Survivor, that’s why. This happened again in 2003 when you people decided you’d rather watch American Idol (boo!). If only my Superbowl was as popular as the actual Superbowl.

A quick recap of the 2001 ceremony:

The 73rd Academy Awards
Date of telecast: March 25, 2001
Host: Steve Martin

(Per Academy rules, all nominated films were released between January 1 and December 31, 2000, in Los Angeles County, California.)

Best Picture: Gladiator
Best Actor: Russell Crowe, Gladiator
Best Actress: Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich
Best Supporting Actor: Benicio del Toro, Traffic
Best Supporting Actress: Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock
Best Director: Steven Soderbergh, Traffic

And now for our category.

The Oscar went to…

“Things Have Changed” (performed by Bob Dylan; music and lyrics by Bob Dylan) from Wonder Boys.

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Other nominees:

“I’ve Seen It All” (performed by Björk; music by Björk; lyrics by Lars von Trier, Sjón Sigurdsson) from Dancer in the Dark.

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“My Funny Friend and Me” (performed by Sting; music by Sting; lyrics by Sting, David Hartley) from The Emperor’s New Groove.

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“A Fool in Love” (performed by Randy Newman; music and lyrics by Randy Newman) from Meet the Parents.

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“A Love Before Time” (performed by CoCo Lee featuring Yo-Yo Ma; music by Jorge Calandrelli, Tan Dun; lyrics by James Schamus) from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

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When I read that his nomination for “Things Have Changed” was the first time (and, at present, the only time) Bob Dylan has gotten an Oscar nod, I couldn’t believe it. I thought that surely he had gotten a nomination for “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” which was written for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973). Nope. It wasn’t until the 21st century that one of Dylan’s soundtrack songs would be  recognized by the Academy as the best (it also won the Golden Globe).

Wonder Boys is among my favorite films of the last decade and I think Michael Douglas should have been nominated for an Oscar for his performance — he was far more deserving than Tom Hanks, who was nominated for Cast Away. But, whatever. The film was nominated for two additional awards besides Dylan’s — Best Editing and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, but lost in both categories to Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic.

As far as Dylan’s song goes, I like it, but I don’t love it. But that’s how I feel about a lot of Dylan’s music, most of the time. I appreciate him, I respect him, but sometimes, his music just makes me want to ram my head into a wall. Anyway, this is a perfectly lovely song and there was just no way the Academy wasn’t going to give Dylan an Oscar. Rumor has it that his Oscar, or at least a facsimile of it, goes on tour with him and sits on top of an amp during shows. Oh, Bob.

One thing I do love about this song is its video. Directed by Wonder Boys’s director, Curtis Hanson, the video melds  new footage of Dylan with footage from the film so that it looks like Dylan was in the movie. The first thing I thought of when I saw this video is that Hanson must have really liked Paul Thomas Anderson’s video for Aimee Mann’s “Save Me” from his film Magnolia (1999), which had been nominated for an Oscar the previous year.

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As much as I liked Dylan’s song, I was rooting for Björk’s “I’ve Seen It All” to take the trophy. Not just because her acceptance speech would’ve probably been adorable and a little crazy, but because she is one of my favorite artists and I genuinely love this song.

Dancer In the Dark is one of the most depressing films I’ve ever seen; after my second viewing, I decided I didn’t think I could ever watch it again. But the soundtrack is a different story — while it makes me think of the movie, and therefore makes me sad, I have listened to it many times and find it to be one of Björk’s most heartbreaking releases.

There are several variations of this song one might enjoy. In the film, it was performed by Björk and co-star Peter Stormare. In the version that appears on the official soundtrack album, Stormare’s vocals are replaced by those of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. And if you happen to catch Björk performing this live, you will get to hear only her lovely voice, as in her performance during the Oscars telecast (note how heavily the song was edited here, most likely due to time constraints of the show):

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I really don’t have much to say about Sting’s “My Funny Friend and Me.” I’ve never seen The Emperor’s New Groove and I’m really not a fan of Sting or his solo work.  It’s not a horrible song, but I think it’s terribly boring and kind of cheesy. I guess the Academy felt they had to nominate a song from an animated film, so this fit the bill.

And that brings us to the man we normally see getting Oscar nominations for songs he’s composed for animated films, but who, this time, got nominated for a live-action flick. I wonder what the Academy’s reaction is in years when no films are released with Randy Newman songs. Does it have a panic attack? Does it call him and ask him if he’s OK? Does it offer to wash his car if he writes a song for a movie next year because it’s just not the Oscars without Randy Newman?

I saw Meet the Parents once and I didn’t like it. Actually, I didn’t even watch the entire movie — I think I got bored with it about halfway through and gave up on it. With a few exceptions, I’m not really a fan of Ben Stiller and the types of comedy films he makes. I probably wouldn’t have even bothered with this one, but I came across it on cable and figured I’d give it a try. Since it had been such a big it, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I guess I must be missing something.

The original soundtrack for Meet the Parents is very Newman-heavy, featuring 14 of his songs. Though I didn’t like what I saw of the movie, I thought Newman’s soundtrack was a lot of fun and this song — possibly one of the shortest Best Original Song nominees ever — is actually pretty great. I particularly enjoy the first 45 seconds. While it wasn’t really much competition for Dylan, I can get behind its nomination. Newman is nominated again this year for the eleventy billionth time for a song from Toy Story 3 and there’s a very good chance he’ll win his second Oscar.

Confession time: I’ve never seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I have no excuses and as a fan of foreign film, I’m a little ashamed. Regardless of the mixed reviews I’ve read, some of which have said the film is highly overrated, I still should have seen it by now. And maybe I will soon — after I watch the 80 movies at the top of my Netflix queue.

“A Love Before Time” is a perfectly fine song with lyrics co-written by screenwriter James Schamus, who was also nominated for his part in writing the film’s screenplay, and music co-written by Tan Dun, who won the Oscar for his Crouching Tiger score. I’m not terribly fond of the vocals of CoCo Lee and without ever having seen the film, I can tell that this had to have played over the end credits because there’s no way it fits in the film anywhere else. Again, a nice song that is exactly the kind of thing the Academy loves, but that had no chance against Dylan.

So, do you think Bob Dylan deserved to be the Academy’s Wonder Boy, or should they have been a fool in love for Randy Newman? Or should they have said “I’ve Seen It All” and given the Oscar to that crazy lady in the swan dress? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

That brings our final Best Original Song Soundtrack Saturday to a close. I’ve had a lot of fun exploring past years’ nominees and I hope you have, too. I don’t know if this series will come back next year, but it’s been great while it’s lasted.

Don’t forget that the 83rd Academy Awards telecast is tomorrow night beginning at 8pm on ABC. I’ll be live-tweeting the ceremony, if you feel like following me.