Whether we like it or not Hollywood is in full-fledged awards season mode which, in addition to soon being inundated with "For Your Consideration" print ads and billboards, means that it's never too early for us to start making our own predictions about certain categories.
Hot on the heels of this week's buzzworthy first listen of Neil Flinn's original song for "The Hobbit," I'm dedicating my first prognosticating to one of my favorite and under-appreciated movie-related subjects: Best Original Song. Yes, more people should care about this category! Here are the tracks I hope get the attention they deserve in the next few months:
Neil Finn, "Song Of The Lonely Mountain"
Sure, the excitement for everything "Hobbit" is a little overwhelming and might seem excessive to some, but Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth IS cause for celebration for film score and song nerds like me because it means more Howard Shore brilliance AND this expertly-crafted, fitting new song from Finn. It has an old school, period piece sound with a few whimsical elements thrown in that remind me of the instruments featured in Shore's previous scores for "The Lord of the Rings."
Paul Williams, "Still Alive"
Speaking of nostalgia, Stephen Kessler's documentary "Paul Williams Still Alive" is probably the most blatantly nostalgic film of the year since it revolves around the director's lifelong obsession with Williams, but also reintroduces an entirely new generation to a '70s pop culture icon (writer of hits like "Rainbow Connection" and "Evergreen") who was a superstar way before MTV was born. Williams' original contribution to the film, "Still Alive," should tug on voters' heartstrings and muster a lot of nostalgic support. (For those curious about the movie, check out what Williams had to say about offering "hope for the hopeless" below)
This song should be a slam-dunk nominee, but because the Academy's rules for original song are extra complicated, Adele and co-writer Paul Epworth's wonderful addition to the canon of Bond songs might not get the recognition it deserves. Kristopher Tapley over at HitFix has done a great job of analyzing exactly how and why this could happen, but I'm going to think happy thoughts and keep pulling for the big, sweeping and timeless track to continue to be included in the conversation.
Mumford & Sons and Birdy, "Learn Me Right"
Original songs from animated movies have a strong track record of getting nominated and winning this category, particularly if the movie in question is a Disney or Pixar production, or a joint effort. Case in point, the soundtrack for "Brave." Although there are more than one nominee-worthy tracks here, "Learn Me Right" has enough originality, sentiment and folksy-ness to stay in the conversation. And the continued and increasing popularity of Mumford & Sons doesn't hurt either.
Toss-up: Willie Nelson, "Midnight Run" or one of Dolly Parton's "Joyful Noise" songs
Remember that point made earlier about nostalgia and how Academy voters love subtle walks down memory lane? Well, they also love when legendary and award-winning musicians lend their songwriting skills to Hollywood. I would like to give this fifth spot to my wild card choice below, but I'm pretty sure that Nelson and Parton will garner enough attention to earn themselves nominations here; I just don't know which artist they prefer at this point.
Wild card: Diane Warren, "Silver Lining (Crazy 'Bout You)"
Just because I like this fun collaboration between songwriting guru Diane Warren and UK pop phenom Jessie J. It's the most pop-y of the group, but there's enough buzz for "The Silver Linings Playbook" to maybe get folks interested in this catchy, upbeat tune (the video links for which have all been pulled down at the moment, due to copyright infringement).