Even more than Foreign Language Film, the category of Original Song is Oscar’s most fickle, rewarding Three 6 Mafia over Dolly Parton one year (2005), crowning a track from a documentary the next (2006), and, just two years ago, screwing over songs from every film save Rio and The Muppets. Last year, Adele’s titular, crossover ballad from Skyfall scored a somewhat sanity-restoring win, becoming the first James Bond theme to ever claim the trophy, and standing as the most popular victor in the field since Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from 2002’s 8 Mile. While no one will ever be able to explain away the stupidity of 2011’s two-tune lineup, one of the things that makes this category so tricky, particularly in the guessing-game stages, are the many stringent nuances of song eligibility. Does the track start early enough during its movie’s closing credits? Does it have a sliver of previously released material that might taint its “originality?” So layered are these oft-excessive provisos that many Oscar pundits won’t even bother making their predictions until the Academy announces its official list of potential candidates (you’ll notice Original Song is one of the few categories not yet accounted for over at tracker site Gold Derby). But if there’s a single song that stands out with anything close to the in-the-bag ubiquity of Adele’s triumph, it’s Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful,” the wistful love theme from Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.
Co-penned by Del Rey and track producer Rick Nowels, “Young and Beautiful” might be the very best thing to have emerged from Luhrmann’s epic undertaking. The song captures the swoony melancholy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tale more effectively than any of the director’s visual choices, and imbues the film with more aching, poetic feeling than anything in Luhrmann and Craig Pearce’s Adapted Screenplay. One of the better aspects of Luhrmann’s technique is his consistent use of the song in varying iterations, letting it serve as an aural compass to guide us, not just through Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan’s star-crossed affair, but through Jay’s deteriorating, grandiloquent delusions. Assuming there are no stipulations standing in its way, “Young and Beautiful” looks like this year’s Original Song front-runner, despite facing probable competition from such forthcoming musicals as Black Nativity and Disney’s Frozen. What’s more, Del Rey’s song may not be the only one from Gatsby landing on the shortlist. Also on the soundtrack, which proved as popular as the film itself, are Florence + the Machine’s “Over the Love” and Nero’s “Into the Past” (the albums cache of covers, of course, can’t make the cut).
Since 2013 is the rare year in which we haven’t been given a heap of historical costume dramas (Ralph Fiennes’s Dickens tale The Invisible Woman probably comes closest), The Great Gatsby is also the current front-runner for Best Costume Design, thanks to Catherine Martin’s emboldened, fringe-and-feather visualization of Jazz Age duds. No characters wore showier clothes this year than Leonardo Dicaprio’s Jay, Carey Mulligan’s Daisy, and their surrounding horde of revelers. Even items from Jay’s luxe wardrobe factor into an indelible scene, showered upon Daisy with pastel-tinted abandon. A multitalent, Martin, who’s also Luhrmann’s wife, is behind Gatsby’s Art Direction, a field in which she’s all but certain to be likewise nominated (she shares credit with set decorator Beverley Dunn). If Martin wins both trophies, which she very well could, it will mark the second time she’s done so for one of her husband’s films, having previously walked away double-fisted for her work on 2001’s Moulin Rouge.
While some are proposing that Luhrmann’s frenetic, 3-D rendering of 1920s New York could land Gatsby alongside Gravity in the Visual Effects race, the movie’s lukewarm reception and overly busy palette will probably leave voters seeking greener eye-popping pastures. What they shouldn’t count out, though, is the film’s bevy of exceedingly strong performances, from newcomers and veterans alike. Regardless of Luhrmann’s failures of execution, his Gatsby still boasts one of the year’s strongest casts, with DiCaprio, Mulligan, and burgeoning Aussies Joel Edgerton and Elizabeth Debicki all licking their respective roles. This movie doesn’t seem to have a prayer beyond Oscar’s craft categories, but here’s hoping SAG has a little love to share.
Surest bets: Best Original Song, “Young and Beautiful”; Best Costume Design; Best Art Direction.
Possibilities: Best Original Song, “Over the Love”; Best Original Song, “Into the Past”; Best Visual Effects; Best Cinematography.
Shouldn’t be Overlooked: Best Actor, Leonardo DiCaprio; Best Supporting Actress, Carey Mulligan; Best Supporting Actress, Elizabeth Debicki; Best Supporting Actor, Joel Edgerton.