Welcome to the final installment of Soundtrack Saturday Special Edition! Best Original Song. I hope you’ve enjoyed these past few weeks as we’ve explored various Oscar nominees for Best Original Song. And if you haven’t … well, I guess you can’t please everyone.
I considered writing about a group of nominees from the ’70s this week to close out the series, but I ultimately chose the 2000 Academy Awards (for those of you just tuning in, I go by the year the Oscars were handed out, not the year the films were released) because, to be honest, it was the year Aimee Mann was nominated, and I love Aimee Mann.
The first Academy Awards of the 21st century (cue someone telling me that, technically, 2001 was the first year of this century) were dominated by the Alan Ball-penned, Sam Mendes-directed American Beauty, which was nominated for eight awards and won five. The 2000 telecast was the first to receive a TV-14 rating, allegedly because of “risque” clips from American Beauty that were shown.
It was also the year that shit getting lost made headlines. First, more than 4,000 Oscar ballots got lost in the mail, which forced the Academy to send out a new batch and extend the voting deadline by two days. Then 55 Oscar statuettes disappeared on their way to Los Angeles from the manufacturer in Chicago, R.S. Owens. The weekend before the ceremony, all but three of the statuettes were found by a salvage worker near a trash bin in L.A.’s Koreatown neighborhood. He was given a reward by the trucking company that shipped the Oscars and was invited by the Academy to attend the ceremony.
A few stats:
The 72nd Academy Awards
Date of telecast: March 26, 2000
Host: Billy Crystal
(Per Academy rules, all nominated films were released between January 1 and December 31, 1999, in Los Angeles County, California.)
Best Picture: American Beauty
Best Actor: Kevin Spacey, American Beauty
Best Actress: Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules
Best Supporting Actress: Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted
Best Director: Sam Mendes, American Beauty
And now, for the fourth and final time, a look at our category …
The Oscar went to:
Phil Collins – You’ll Be in My Heart (music and lyrics by Phil Collins), from Tarzan
Aimee Mann – Save Me (music and lyrics by Aimee Mann), from Magnolia;
Sarah McLachlan – When She Loved Me (music and lyrics by Randy Newman), from Toy Story 2;
Gloria Estefan and *NSYNC – Music of My Heart (music and lyrics by Diane Warren), from Music of the Heart;
Sheila Broflovski, Sharon Marsh, Liane Cartman, and Ms. McCormick – Blame Canada (music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Trey Parker), from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
Stop! Trailer time …
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Toy Story 2:
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Music of the Heart:
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South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut:
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I’m supposed to “throw some love Phil Collins’s way,” per Robert Cass’s instructions, so I’m not going to say anything mean about him or “You’ll Be in My Heart,” unless you think saying I don’t think he should’ve won is “mean.” Yeah, his song is pretty, but it’s exactly the kind of song the Academy loves. (Fine. Stick with your Prozac rock. See if I care. —Ed.) I just think it’s kind of boring, and it’s yet another song from a Disney animated film that got nominated for, and won, the Best Original Song Oscar — which is a phenomenon I also find boring. I really don’t have much to say about “You’ll Be in My Heart” other than the fact that I think it sounds a teeny bit Auto-Tuned, though that’s probably not the case (or is it?).
As I said, the sole reason I chose to write about the 2000 nominees is Aimee Mann and her song from the brilliant Paul Thomas Anderson flick Magnolia. I’m a huge fan of Ms. Mann and was thrilled when I found out she’d been nominated for “Save Me,” one of my favorite songs of hers. The film was inspired by Mann’s music: Anderson was listening to early cuts of songs she was working on for her Bachelor No. 2 album as he wrote the script.
Her songs are brilliantly woven into the movie, such as a line from “Deathly” being used as dialogue (“Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?”) and a wonderful scene in which the characters sing along to “Wise Up” (which first appeared in Jerry Maguire three years earlier) — that scene could have turned into a complete cheesefest, but Anderson makes it work so well. I think it’s a shame Magnolia got passed over for most of the major categories, like Best Picture.
In various and sundry interviews, Mann has joked about losing the Oscar to Phil Collins and his “cartoon monkey love song,” and she’s been known to dedicate “Save Me” to him when she plays it live. Recently, she appeared as a guest on Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Death Ray Radio show and told some pretty funny stories about the nomination and performing at the Oscar ceremony. (Incidentally, you should listen to that entire episode, because Kumail Nanjiani tells a hilarious story about witnessing John Mayer doing stand-up.) In addition to being nominated for the Oscar, “Save Me” also nabbed Mann a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Female Vocal, which she lost to Macy Gray.
The music video for “Save Me” is, in my opinion, one of the best ever produced for a song from a movie; it was directed by Anderson and shot during the filming of Magnolia. It uses most of the main members of the film’s cast and, without the use of digital effects, inserts Mann into various scenes from the film as she performs the song.
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If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve been writing these Best Original Song columns, it’s that there are two people you can’t escape from when discussing the nominations for this category over the past 20-plus years: Randy Newman and Diane Warren.
Newman is the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards. Prior to his win for the song “If I Didn’t Have You,” from 2001’s Monsters Inc., he’d received 15 nominations without a win. While animated films aren’t the only ones he’s scored or provided songs for, they’re probably the genre he’s most associated with these days. In fact this year he’s been nominated twice more for songs he wrote for another Disney animated film, The Princess and the Frog.
The song he was nominated for ten years ago comes from the Disney-Pixar flick Toy Story 2 and is performed by Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan. It’s another one of those pretty ballads the Academy loves. I think I like this one slightly better than Collins’s winning song, and I’m kind of glad someone other than Newman sings it — though I’m not a fan of McLachlan’s, I think she does a lovely job here. I just hope no one ever uses it to guilt me into donating to the ASPCA.
I’m beginning to think Diane Warren is my nemesis. So many of the songs from movies that tend to drive me insane were written or cowritten by her. The song she was nominated for in 2000 is no exception.
Now, I’m not ashamed to admit that I adore the film Music of the Heart. I played violin for six years, so this movie — and the true story of violin teacher Roberta Guaspari, on which it’s based — really got to me. Incidentally, this wasn’t the first time her story had appeared on film: Small Wonders (1995) was nominated for Best Documentary at the ’96 Oscars. If you haven’t seen that film, I highly recommend it.
A few interesting bits of trivia about Music of the Heart: it was director Wes Craven’s first foray outside of the horror genre; it was Gloria Estefan’s first acting role; and Madonna was originally cast to play Guaspari but left during preproduction, citing the familiar “creative differences” with the director. I imagine that if Madge had stuck around she might have contributed a song to the soundtrack that could’ve been nominated for Best Original Song. But she didn’t, and instead we got a brilliant Oscar-nominated performance by Meryl Streep, who’s nominated for the eleventy-billionth time this year for her portrayal of Julia Child in Julie & Julia.
As much as I love Music of the Heart, I’m not a fan of its signature song. I like Gloria Estefan, and I think that if this was a solo performance I might like it more, but throwing *NSYNC in there totally ruins it for me.
I understand why these artists were paired up: the late ’90s/early ’00s were the height of the boy-band/pop-tart era that brought us *NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the like. Having Estefan perform “Music of My Heart” with Justin Timblerlake and his pals ensured that the song would be a hit. And it definitely was — it climbed to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and snagged a Grammy nomination for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture. But I’ll repeat what I said last week: just because Diane Warren wrote a song doesn’t mean it should get nominated for awards. Clearly, the Academy doesn’t agree with me.
And now, what is probably one of the more controversial Best Original Song nominees in recent years (possibly ever): “Blame Canada,” from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. I don’t remember a song that contains the word “fuck” being nominated in this category before, and I’m not sure if the Academy was trying to score cool points by nominating it.
I remember that there was a lot of speculation about how the song would be performed during the telecast due to the fact that it contained the F word. In the end, Robin Williams, who was chosen as a replacement for the song’s original performers, Trey Parker and Mary Kay Bergman (who committed suicide a few months before the ceremony), didn’t end up saying the offending word, so no bleeping was necessary.
Fun fact: Anne Murray, who’s mocked in “Blame Canada,” was asked before Williams to perform it at the ceremony, but she turned it down due to prior commitments, not because she was offended by the lyrics.
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I think we all agree that “Blame Canada” had no chance of winning the Oscar, but wouldn’t it have been hilarious if it had? I mean, the winners would’ve accepted the award looking like this (Parker’s the one wearing Jennifer Lopez’s famous green gown from the 2000 Grammy Awards and Marc Shaiman’s in the blue pimp suit, while South Park cocreator Matt Stone looks lovely in Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1999 Oscar dress):
And that concludes our look at the 2000 Best Original Song nominees. As a reminder, the 82nd Academy Awards telecast is tomorrow night, March 7, on ABC. I plan to obnoxiously live-tweet the entire ceremony, so my apologies ahead of time to anyone who follows me and lives on the west coast.