Why The Oscars Should Have A Category For Best Use Of An Old Song
Face it, the most memorable songs in movies are usually the ones we already know, not the original tunes.
Music is a huge and vital part of contemporary movies, but you'd never know that going by Oscar nominations for Best Original Song and score. This year's crop of nominations is a particularly dull bunch: Adele's hit "Skyfall" is pretty much a lock since she's only up against a blah new song written for Tom Hooper's Les Misérables remake and numbers composed for Ted, Life of Pi, and Chasing Ice that have had little to no cultural resonance.
Best Original Song was once a vital category, and honored many tunes that have had an enduring presence in pop culture, from "Moon River" and "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" on through "Take My Breath Away" and "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" in the '80s and Disney's stranglehold on the category through the '90s. Not anymore. You have to go all the way back to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" in 2002 to find a Best Original Song winner that has had a major impact and lasting presence.
Original music written for motion pictures may be on the wane, but it's been a very good year for filmmakers using pre-existing songs in their movies. But really, when it has it not been? Many of the most memorable movie scenes over the past several decades have been centered on an inspired use of familiar music, from Tom Cruise dancing to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" in Risky Business and the group sing along to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" in Almost Famous to, well, pretty much everything Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, and David Lynch have ever done. And yet, the art of repurposing an oldie for a movie has never been honored by the Academy. This should change!
Let's say this category existed for this awards season. It'd hopefully look something like this: