Oscar trims best songs

Awards show season reaches its peak Sunday night with the 81st Academy Awards ceremony.

Awards show season reaches its peak Sunday night with the 81st Academy Awards ceremony where Oscars aplenty will be handed out by and to some of the most self-important pieces of puffery on the planet. The Oscars lost me years ago when host Whoopi Goldberg smugly told the audience, “Don’t we do good work?”

Naturally, the telecast is scheduled to run three-and-a-half hours (Optimistic? Or delusional?), but will most likely stretch much longer, which means diehards on eastern time won’t get to bed until it’s way too late.

This, despite the producers’ annual vow to shorten things up. Winners are given the hook after 45 seconds. The gawdawful interpretive dance numbers that no one liked were cut. The second hour is no longer about categories that only industry wonks care about. And they’ve cut the time given to the performances by nominees for best original song.

Normally, this wouldn’t be just a bad thing — but not this year. I’ll get back to that in a second.

Best original song is one of the oldest awards, dating back to 1934 when The Continental scooped a trophy for its appearance in The Gay Divorcee. From that moment, the Academy has had a (mostly) tin ear for picking good songs. There’s been a bias towards Disney ditties and syrupy love songs — think My Heart Will Go On from Titanic (1997). Occasionally they got it right. Think Eminem and Lose Yourself in 2002, and Bruce Springsteen for Streets of Philadelphia in 1993.

The rest of the list consists of song that are, in my opinion, twee, lightweight, dated and otherwise ignominious. (Last Dance from Thank God It’s Friday, anyone? Look it up!)
This year, there are just three best original song nominees. But in the interests of saving time, they’re going to be condensed into a medley with each getting just 65 seconds. Peter Gabriel, the co-writer of Down to Earth from Wall-E will have none of this, so he’s refusing to perform. Meanwhile, the other two songs are from Slumdog Millionaire, one of which is co-written by rapper M.I.A. She probably won’t be there, either, because she became a mother last week, just a couple of days after performing at the Grammys. Apparently, organizers are so desperate for her to perform that they’ve offered her a bed so she can sing lying down. Even I’d stay up for that.

– The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on stations across Canada. Read more at www.ongoinghistory.com and www.exploremusic.com

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