Nominations for the 86th Academy Awards were announced Thursday — delivered by Thor himself from sunny L.A. — and there were enough nods to contemporary musicians to keep the music press busy for the rest of the news day. Owen Pallett and Win’s brother Will Butler of Arcade Fire were nom’d for their score in the sci-fi romance Her. Karen O‘s breathy “Moon Song,” also from the Spike Jonze flick, entered into the shortlist for Best Song, as did Pharrell’s “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 along with some Disney ballad and a total phone-it-in from U2.
And then there was “Alone Yet Not Alone” from the film of the same name. Where’d this thing come from? Where’d they show this film? One snuff theatre in Anchorage? Stereogum reported that Bruce Broughton, the guy who wrote the tune, happens to be a former governor of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. Nepotism in Hollywood? Well, I never! (Update: Broughton’s been ousted. Unfortunately, nothing was nominated in its place.)
With all of the top shelf talent — from punk matriarch Patti Smith to born-to-score post-rockers Explosions in the Sky — pitching in to write music for the silver screen, we couldn’t help but wonder: in an alternate, slightly hipper, and perhaps more just world, who would’ve been nominated for an Academy Award for songwriting in a motion picture? Here are our alternative (and slightly looser defined) Oscar nominations for best song/score:
Lana Del Rey, “Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby
This was the biggest snub of all snubs. Now that everybody’s over the authenticity thing, we get that when it comes to sultry, next-generation-Nancy Sinatra torch songs, Lana Del Rey‘s about the only game in town. She gave us one of the songs of the summer with “Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby OST. Even if Luhrman crumpled Gatsby into a series of CG car chases through New York City, her effort struck the complicated wilting pose owed the melancholy turn in the final act of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic. Not only was this her best shot at an Oscar nom, this was the year she deserved the hardware.
Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac, “Fare Thee Well” from Inside Llewyn Davis
So the Academy has rules to follow regarding what may contend for Best Song — one such rule being that the work must be an original written for the production. Since this is already a pretty hypothetical exercise, we’re going to go ahead and sidestep that rule. “Fare Thee Well” is a very, very old folk song — like almost 300-years-old old. So old they call it a “standard.” It was never new and it never gets old.
Now I’m not much of a folkie, and surprise, surprise those Mumfords don’t do much to get me off, but Marcus Mumford and lead man Oscar Isaac‘s performance here really stuck with me. It’s the kind of tune I found myself whistling over the pisspot a full week after seeing Inside Llewyn Davis. “Fare thee well” — even the sentiment manages to intone Llewyn’s desperate struggle to escape his own fate.
All that being said, it also would have been pretty funny to watch Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, and Adam Driver perform “Please Mr. Kennedy” at the award show.
Mike Patton, “The Snow Angel” from The Place Beyond The Pines
A few more sidesteps: Mike Patton already used “The Snow Angel” in The Solitude of Prime Numbers a few years back. But never mind that. This icy piano piece was the theme at the centre of Derek Cianfrance’s twisty crime drama The Place Beyond The Pines. Though incredibly simple, the riff has two faces, one haunting and one quite redemptive — the same tone Cianfrance aims for but misses when The Place gets a little bit too wacky in the final third. (SPOILER: Come on, their kids meet?!)
Mayssa Karaa, “White Rabbit” from American Hustle
Now it’s not like this quirky David O. Russell romp is starved for recognition, but I’m going to throw a little more on the pile, because, it seems to me, there are very few instances when an Arabic cover of the Jefferson Airplane classic would work so well. Set behind the Abscam scandal, the hedonistic ’70s, and the underlying message that America was built on a hustle, “feed your head” takes on a totally new, totally egoistic meaning.
Daniel Lopatin and Brian Reitzell, “Bling Ring Suite” from The Bling Ring
Sofia Coppola landed two Kanye tracks for her flick that waxes on celebrity and consumerism and mischief. Makes sense. But we’re going to use this podium to commend the original work of Oneohtrix Point Never and Brian Reitzell who contributed the above sound-piece that manages to hit me right in the going-out-on-a-Friday-in-high-school-to-drink-in-a-park feels. It’s sparkly and exciting, but it hints at deviousness. Breezy choral pads turn to dark, toothier sections and return again. Sure, ONP is always cinematic, but this could have been track 11 on R Plus Seven.
Philip Glass, “Duet” from Stoker
The story goes director Park Chan-wook rewrote a section of the script when contemporary master Philip Glass said he had a four-hand piece that would simulate the rhythms of sex between the two players. Sounds erotic, but when it turns up in the film it’s tense and creepy and super incestuous.
James Franco, “Everytime” from Spring Breakers
This scene from enfant terrible Harmony Korine’s Disney-debasing, bro-indicting Spring Breakers is easily one of the most memorable music moments in recent cinema. Sure, it’s a cover. Sure, James Franco and the girls only get through one verse and the first chorus. But, please, the Academy, the American Film Institute, the Office of the President, somebody present this subversive little nugget with some golden token for its greatness.