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Music is an incredibly important part of film. Even if your movie isn't about music, a great score or a well-placed use of a song can help elevate a movie to greatness. Some of film's most popular themes are some of the most popular pieces of music ever written. How many of your favorite songs were originally written for a movie? Probably a few. So why do the Oscars seem to hate movie music and the people who make it?
Five songs were nominated in the Best Original Song category for next month's Oscars, but apparently the people who actually do tune in to the show may only hear two of them. Variety is reporting that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is planning to have Lady Gaga's "Shallow" from A Star is Born and Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s "All the Stars" from Black Panther performed on the Oscar stage, but the other three nominees will not be given that same honor.
The Academy doesn't have an official comment on this report, saying that no decision has yet been made on this. But if past is prologue, then this certainly sounds like something the Academy would do. It fits a pattern of behavior which has seen numerous songs and performers get the shaft when it comes to the Oscars telecast.
Generally speaking, the artist who performs the Best Original Song in the film gets a chance to do so at the Oscars ceremony. However, it feels like it's becoming increasingly common for this not to be the case. In recent years we've seen situations like this, where only some songs get performed while others get ignored. That is, of course, if the songs don't get chopped down to only a few seconds of performance or cut entirely, both of which have happened.
As recently as 2017, both Oscar-nominated songs from La La Land were performed at the ceremony by John Legend, who was in the movie, but didn't sing either song in the film. Not only did Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling not get to do the performance themselves, the songs didn't even get their proper due, as they were done as a medley, even though the other three songs got to stand alone.
Maybe Emma Stone didn't want to sing "Audition" on the Oscar stage, it's certainly her right if she didn't, but the fact is that the song wasn't nominated for an Oscar because John Legend sang it well. It's Emma Stone's song.
There certainly have been cases where performers have been clearly passed over for one reason or another. In 2005, "Learn to be Lonely" from The Phantom of the Opera was nominated for Best Original Song. It was performed in the film by Minnie Driver, it was performed at the Oscars by Beyonce, as was every Oscar-nominated song that had female vocals in it. Driver has a music career of her own as well as her acting career, so it seems unlikely she would have been against performing, yet she was not able to do so. Josh Groban got to sing his Oscar-nominated song that night (with Beyonce, of course), but not Minnie Driver.
Phil Collins got to sit in the audience and watch somebody else sing his Oscar-nominated song in 1985 because the producers of the show apparently weren't familiar with his work. His work was good enough to get nominated for an Oscar, but not to perform there.
Peter Gabriel was originally planning to perform his song, "Down to Earth" from Wall-E at the Oscars, but he decided against it because he was only going to be allowed to sing 65 seconds of it. This is another trick the Oscars likes to pull; turning the nominated songs into a medley or otherwise cutting them down. In 2013, Adele got to sing "Skyfall" in its entirety, Two of the other songs had to make due with being a medley. The other two just got ignored.
In 2015, Anohni boycotted the ceremony after learning that her song would not be part of the ceremony, while other songs would be.
The reason why the Academy is apparently looking at only have two songs performed is something we've certainly heard before: the show is too long and needs to be cut down. So the plan is to put the songs that have the biggest names on the stage, thus potentially helping the show's ratings, and screw everybody else.
The Oscars telecast is too long, that's not in dispute, but it's also a television show that needs to be entertaining as well as provide the awards to the winners. The performances of songs that actually are nominated for awards should be the very last thing cut from the show.
Let's not pretend that the show won't contain some sort of "entertainment" during the broadcast. There will be an opening segment. Without a set host, it probably won't be a comedy monologue. It might be a musical number, it might be something pre-taped, but it will happen. There will absolutely be parts of the show that exist solely to entertain. So here's an idea: cut those things, keep the songs.
The songs can be used to break up the awards and add some entertainment to the show, but in a way that still keeps the show about the movies.
Then, once we've agreed to keep the songs, let the performers who made the songs worthy of nomination get their due on the Oscars stage. Not only should "The Place Where Lost Things Go" be performed at the Oscars, Emily Blunt should sing it. Nobody else will do it justice. And nobody should be singing "When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings" except Tim Blake Nelson and Willie Watson. The fact that they don't sell out arenas shouldn't matter. That's not what this show is about.
The Academy Awards is supposed to be a celebration of film and all the hard work that goes into them. That includes the people who make the music for those movies. If the Best Original Songs are going to be performed at the ceremony at all, and they should be, then every song should be so honored, along with the people who made them.