Thursday, June 09, 2011

Oscars of the '80s: The Best Original Song Project (1982)

A co-production celebrating the movies' pop-music dominance in the 1980s, with The Critical Condition.

Previously: 1980, 1981


"Up Where We Belong" -- An Officer and a Gentleman [Music: Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie; Lyrics: Will Jennings] WINNER

Joe: We're back to Jennifer Warnes, queen of '80s movie music. Here, her essential sweetness is met by Joe Cocker's gravel-voiced weariness for a song that tells a story slightly different than the one Richard Gere and Debra Winger play out. And even though the lyrics -- eagles and mountains and whatnot -- are the stuff that parodies of cheesy '80s power ballads are made of, Warnes and Cocker hold a conviction that sells it.

Mark: Apparently, film producer Don Simpson tried to get this song cut from the movie, which just proves that having dollars doesn't always mean having sense. (ZING!) I've got a low tolerance for gooey ballads of the 80s, but thanks to the vocals that Joe rightfully praises, this ode to romance has got a hold on my heart.

"How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" -- Best Friends [Music: Michel Legrand; Lyrics: Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman]

Joe: Some background, because you need it: Best Friends was a romantic dramedy starring Burt Reynolds and (Golden Globe nominee!) Goldie Hawn, and the song was performed by James Ingram and Patti Austin. And while there's an attempt to throw some power into the 19th iteration of the chorus, don't be fooled. This is adult-contemporary/easy-listening at its snooziest

Mark: This song arrived just one year after Ingram and Austin topped the charts with the quiet storm of "Baby, Come To Me," a panty-dropping classic for the ages. By comparison, "How Do You Keep The Music Playing" is... a coma? Sonic Ambien? Let me think about that for a zzzzz.

"Eye of the Tiger" -- Rocky III [Music and lyrics: Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan]

Joe: That's right, people. We had to wait until the THIRD Rocky movie before Survivor bestowed upon us this most defining of training anthems. Mickey had to DIE in order that we could hear it! You know, I bet in 1982 there were people advocating for classier songs by more established musical talents to get the Oscar nomination, but kudos to the voters for recognizing a song that still has value today. At least if you frequent sporting events.

Mark: Every time I think the training montage industry has ruined this song forever, I hear it in a bar and start pumping my fist all over again. It just never, ever gets old.

"It Might Be You" -- Tootsie [Music: Dave Grusin; Lyrics: Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman]

Joe: Holy crap, Alan and Marilyn Bergman really dominated this category in 1982, huh? It almost feels like a pro wrestling event, where weaker competitors are used to make the champion look better. Because anybody who wants to knock "Up Where We Belong" for '80s cheese is going to have to grab a sleeve of saltines and work their way through the Bergmans' three-headed gouda.

Mark: Jesus, Bergmans! Enough! This song not only sucks, but also comes from the suckiest part of Tootsie, where the comedy gets replaced by the weird romance at the cabin. Why did so many 80s movies insist on adding those pace-killing "tenderness" segments?

"If We Were In Love" -- Yes, Giorgio [Music: John Williams; Lyrics: Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman]

Joe: So Yes, Giorgio was a starring vehicle for Luciano Pavarotti (!), and "If We Were in Love" is the soaring love ballad that plays while Pavarotti takes his beloved on a romantic hot-air balloon ride out to the countryside. You guys, if you couldn't get a movie made in the '80s, you must've been a fucking LOSER. Anyway, it's actually my favorite of the three Bergman-penned songs simply because it has some feeling behind it, and whether or not that's all Pavarotti, it counts.

Mark: The world MUST NOT FORGET that Pavarotti starred in a movie. A movie! Go watch clips of this movie on YouTube. They will change you. And as for the song? Yeah, Pavarotti's voice does add some beauty, but that's like whipping black truffle oil into rancid mayonnaise. Why waste something some precious on something so fetid?

Final Assessment

Joe: Yikes. I mean, again, it's pretty awesome that something like "Eye of the Tiger" got recognized, I guess under the "Theme from Shaft" Academy bylaws. But I think I'm going to agree with the Academy's choice to honor songwriter Will Jennings, who would repeat his win fifteen years later for some song about boats sinking and hearts going on.

Mark: I'd like to believe that it wasn't just vote splitting that kept the Bergmans out of the winner's circle. Surely, the Academy realized that "Eye of the Tiger" and "Up Where We Belong" are the only viable candidates here. As for me, it's a close race, but I'm giving it to Survivor's ass-kickery over Joe and Jennifer's raspy balladry.


Guy Lodge said...

I might be misremembering the exact wording, but 'Yes, Giorgio' should be treasured as the film that made Pavarotti say this line:

"You are like a dying plant. I can water you."

It's that good.

Agree completely with your assessment, including the one non-awesome thing about 'Tootsie', but join Mark in narrowly handing the win to Survivor.

katy said...

"You guys, if you couldn't get a movie made in the '80s, you must've been a fucking LOSER."

Laughed hard at this.

These nominees really suck. You guys correctly narrowed it down to the two only plausible candidates. And hey, as cheesy ballads go, "Up Where We Belong" is a pretty good one. At least it has some sense of drama and forward momentum. The Bergmans could have taken some notes.

Plus, "Up Where We Belong" has acquired two other virtues in the years since: (A) it is one of the all-time great karaoke duets and for reals ought to be in everyone's karaoke repertoire; and (B) it was sampled prominently in Moulin Rouge's delightful Elephant Love Medley, making it impossible now for me to listen to and not remember Ewan and Nicole going to town on it.

All that said, I think Mark's right. Eye of the Tiger is just a slightly better song. It has the edge. But just barely.

Chaz said...

Just found this project, guys, and I find it awesome.

The Bergmans, I think, are generally very good lyricists, but here, well...far from their best work.

NicksFlickPicks said...

I actually like the Tootsie song. Throw your rancid mayonnaise at me.

I want to give an honorary prize to that one loose tress on Patti Austin's forehead that always seems to be there just to protect her from looking totally butched out. God forbid her look violate the terms of the song by achieving some kind of edge.