WON AND SHOULD'VE WON: "The Way We Were," The Way We Were
One of my earliest film recollections growing up is the sight of Sydney Pollack's 1973 romance The Way We Were - my mom completely wore out her VHS copy of the picture in the early '90s. I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the film (I was probably four or five) but I can clearly recall watching certain scenes, including that of Barbra Streisand and an inebriated Robert Redford in bed.
What's interesting is, despite my admiration for Pollack, Streisand and Redford, when I finally got around to sitting down and watching The Way We Were a number of years later, I didn't much care for it. Streisand and Redford are separately pitch-perfect in their roles but I don't much buy them as a couple. Their pairing, seen as unforgettable and downright heart-wrenching by the likes of my mom and, of course, Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, strikes me as more awkward and stilted than captivating. I love the actors but I for one don't see the much-celebrated chemistry and Pollack's clunky direction, among his least interesting work, doesn't help matters - is there really anything notable in the film beyond its star power?
Well, yes, there is at least one other memorable aspect - the picture's music, which, regardless of my lukewarm feeling toward the film itself, is something I would concede is unimpeachably fantastic.
The title song from The Way We Were, composed by the brilliant, EGOT-winning Marvin Hamlisch, alongside Alan and Marilyn Bergman (both operating at the very top of their game), is a dreamy, haunting, immensely moving piece, performed splendidly by Streisand. The film's leading lady strikes just the right notes here, with a vocal turn that is downright breathtaking without ever oversinging. While no "Over the Rainbow" or "The Way You Look Tonight," I have no doubt "The Way We Were" will ultimately rank quite high when my work on Best Original Song is complete.
As for the rest of '73 Best Original Song, it is actually quite a fine category, a significant step-up from the horrors of the '72 line-up.
If I had to select a (distant) runner-up of the four competitors, I suppose I would go with "Love," the underappreciated tune from the comparably underrated Disney picture Robin Hood - again, very heartrending and subtle music here. I'm also quite fond of Paul McCartney and Wings' fierce "Live and Let Die," which marked the first Bond theme to land an Oscar nomination in this category. The tune's spunky orchestrations are especially memorable.
The remaining two nominees are perfectly listenable, if unremarkable adult contemporary fare - Paul Williams' "(You're So) Nice to Be Around," from the Marsha Mason-James Caan romance Cinderella Liberty, and "All That Love Went to Waste," a late Sammy Cahn piece, featured rather briefly in the Glenda Jackson-George Segal romcom A Touch of Class. Unlike "The Way We Were," which marks a true tour-de-force by all involved, these two songs seem kind of phoned-in. Still, they're both superior to everything nominated in '72.
The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...
- "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
- "High Hopes," A Hole in the Head (1959)
- "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
- "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
- "The Windmills of Your Mind," The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
- "The Way We Were," The Way We Were (1973)
- "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
- "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
- "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
- "Theme from Shaft," Shaft (1971)
- "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
- "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
- "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
- "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
- "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
- "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
- "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
- "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
- "For All We Know," Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
- "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
- "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
- "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
- "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
- "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
- "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
- "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
- "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
- "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
- "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
- "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
- "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
- "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
- "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
- "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)