Oscar’s Best Original Song category is a waste of time

It seemed like another Sunday night at the Oracle when my editor, Will Albritton, approached me with an idea for a column about the relevance of the Academy Awards having a Best Original Song category. “Come on Pablo, it’d be fabulous, and fit right in with our Oscar coverage,” he said.

But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed that maybe the Oscars have no place honoring a song that is used only as part of the closing credits of a movie.

Unlike films from the 1930s and ’40s, when music drove the stories and created the atmosphere, songs nowadays are nothing more than clever marketing tools. A perfect example comes from Oscar-nominee Eminem, whose single (“Lose Yourself”) from 8 Mile, which received heavy rotation on MTV, MTV2 and BET, served as nothing more than a four-minute advertisement for the film. In fact, soundtrack albums have become a collection of one- or no-hit wonders, and are a quick way for artists, record labels and studios to cash in on a movie’s success.

In 1998, Phil Collin’s “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Tarzan racked up three awards (an Oscar, a Golden Globe and an AMA) and an extra nomination from the Grammys. Renee Zellweger didn’t even get that much love for her stunning performance in Chicago.

How can a song from a motion picture overshadow an actor’s performance? The song may draw the audience in, but without at least one good performance the film will fall flat. On the other hand, a film with no hit songs or a prepackaged soundtrack can still earn tons of accolades thanks in part to a talented cast and a creative vision (i.e. The Pianist or The Hours).

There are three major reasons why the Academy won’t leave the task of honoring the Best Original Song in a film to the Grammys:

The blunder in 1999, when “You’ll Be In My Heart” and “When You Believe” (Prince Of Egypt) were nominated for Best Song From a Motion Picture, (both Oscar winners, by the way) only to lose to Madonna’s dance-pop hit “Beautiful Stranger.”

The Grammys always seem to be behind the Oscars when it comes to awarding the songs from motion pictures. “I Wouldn’t Have Nothing” from 2001’s Monster’s Inc. was awarded an Oscar last year, only to win a Grammy just a couple of weeks ago.

Without nominating the artists who wrote these songs, the Academy would be left without musical performances, which have long since been a staple of the award show. Think about it, four solid hours of “I would like to thank God, my family and the Academy,” with some tears here and there, and some unexpected outbursts, and you’re left with what could be an extremely boring waste of time, or maybe an award show that comes off genuinely uncalculated.

But if the Academy is going to reward the work of a musician, it should also acknowledge the clever marketing team or the graphics guys who put together those oh-so fancy posters and flyers.

The Grammys didn’t award Catherine Zeta-Jones for her performance in Chicago, and Nicole Kidman/Ewan McGregor weren’t handed an AMA for their rendition of “Your Name.” You know, my editor may have been on to something, the Best Original Song category is pointless in an award ceremony that supposedly celebrates the year’s best in film.

Contact Pablo Saldana at oraclepablo@yahoo.com