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Songs That Didn't Get a Fair Hearing

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Best Original Score wasn't the only category with its share of snubs this year. The category for Best Song is just as vexed with problematic rules and procedures.

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Not that this year's nominees aren't terrific: The list is dominated by the cheerfully subversive ditties from "Enchanted," and includes the haunting love theme from "Once." But lots of worthy titles are conspicuously missing, including songs composed for the movie "Hairspray," the ones Eddie Vedder wrote for "Into the Wild" and, most scandalously, the by turns hilarious and surprisingly sophisticated pop-country spoofs of "Walk Hard" (whose satirical ditties were written by no less than Van Dyke Parks and Marshall Crenshaw, thank you very much).

Part of the problem may have been that the Academy decided this year not to send CDs to members, opting instead to have them attend special screenings (commonly known as "bake-offs") of the scenes in which the music figured. "A lot of people feel the music should never be judged for an Oscar outside the context of the film," says Charles Bernstein, who chairs the Academy music branch's executive committee. "Another point of view is that it's sort of a valuable refresher of the memory to be able to go back and hear it." He adds that the group meets each year and revisits the process.

The current system is a decidedly mixed blessing: The "Hairspray" song "Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)," for example, plays over the end credits, which doesn't exactly pull the heartstrings. Surely the music branch can come up with a better way to make the listening easier.

-- Ann Hornaday


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