Five respectable, if not especially revelatory, nominees; no controversy. It’s a recipe for irrelevance, which would probably suit some in the music branch just fine this year. They famously shot themselves in the foot last year when they nominated (and then un-nominated) a tuneless dirge from a barely seen red state-baiting exploitation film simply because its composer used his position on the branch’s executive committee to e-blast his colleagues, imploring them not to ignore his work. So does this year’s slate represent an apologia on the music wing’s part? Much more than that, and given the contextual status of the category’s two highest-profile contenders, the best original song race could end up being the entire Academy’s chance to collectively say it’s sorry on a scale that far outpaces the category’s typical stature.
That will mean that Begin Again’s lovely “Lost Stars” (which, in its varying incarnations throughout the movie’s narrative, is practically a fully fledged character of its own) will almost certainly end up passed over without a second listen alongside “Grateful,” a tepid Rita Ora ballad from the under-screened but passionately advocated Beyond the Lights. (It also means the latter’s songwriter, Diane Warren, will be staying seated for the seventh time. Better luck to her whenever the Con Air sequel gets the green light.) The Academy’s failure to nominate The Lego Movie for best animated feature shocked many (and pleased a few, but we digress). In other years, that might have been enough to boost the chances of its unabashed piss-take “Everything Is Awesome” at least beyond those of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’s “Blame Canada.”
But there’s no question that the far bigger sin the AMPAS is in a position to atone for this year will lift every voter’s voice in praise of Selma’s song. While we could expound for thousands of words upon the gruesome irony of Oscar capitalizing on John Legend and Common’s Ferguson-checking protest anthem as the head-patting solution to the industry’s ongoing problems with proper representation, but instead we’ll just light a candle in honor of Glen Campbell, whose simple but gutsy tone poem has in its spare three minutes as much to say about the tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease as the entirety of Still Alice.
Will Win: “Glory,” Selma
Could Win: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me
Should Win: “Lost Stars,” Begin Again