1978 Best Original Song - Disco Dominates the Oscars

WON: "Last Dance," Thank God It's Friday

SHOULD'VE WON: "Ready to Take a Chance Again," Foul Play

After the hohumness of 1976 and 1977, it's nice to come upon a Best Original Song line-up with not just one or two listenable nominees. In fact, 45 years of Original Song in, 1978 marks one of the stronger categories I've reviewed.

This year, the Academy chose to reward "Last Dance," the plenty enjoyable disco classic, heavenly performed by the late Donna Summer. Sure, the song debuted in a crummy picture, the silly Thank God It's Friday, which marked one of Motown Productions' lesser forays into the world of cinema. The tune is still unimpeachably great, composed by the brilliant Paul Jbara, who delivered this and "It's Raining Men," among other records, before tragically dying from AIDS complications in the early '90s.

It's a testament to this category's strength that I don't give the terrific "Last Dance" the win, though I can't really knock its victory too much.

My favorite here is "Ready to Take a Chance Again," the theme from the criminally underrated suspense-romcom Foul Play, which featured Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase (in a turn comparable to prime Cary Grant) at the very top of their game. Performed by Barry Manilow, whose tunes dominated the airwaves around this time, it's just about the best adult contemporary can be. One, of course, has to have a taste for the somewhat divisive Manilow to go for a tune like this. And while I'm not always head-over-heels for his songs, this one is definitely among his best. (The fellas from Family Guy were also quite fond of this one.)

I'm also awfully fond, however, of "Hopelessly Devoted to You," one of the small handful of original songs from the smash movie adaptation of Grease. Belted out by the irresistible Olivia Newton-John (one of my biggest childhood crushes), it's a real charmer, though I would argue "You're the One That I Want" and Frankie Valli's "Grease" were probably a bit more deserving of honor here (had "Grease" been nominated, it would be my pick for the win here). Still, this is classic stuff.

The remaining two nominees aren't quite in the same league as the aforementioned three, though they aren't half-bad either. "When You're Loved," from The Magic of Lassie, is a pleasant endeavor, striking many of the same notes as "I Feel Love," the theme from another dog flick, Benji, which I actually picked for the win in '74 (a much weaker year). "The Last Time I Felt Like This," from the great Ellen Burstyn-Alan Alda dramedy Same Time, Next Year, pairs the same composers from "The Way We Were" (Hamlisch and the Bergmans) with Johnny Mathis and Jane Olivor. Great artists all-around but they seem be kind of phoning it in here. Still, it's a decent tune.

The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...

  1. "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  2. "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
  3. "High Hopes," A Hole in the Head (1959)
  4. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
  5. "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
  6. "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
  7. "The Windmills of Your Mind," The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
  8. "The Way We Were," The Way We Were (1973)
  9. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  10. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
  11. "I'm Easy," Nashville (1975)
  12. "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
  13. "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
  14. "Theme from Shaft," Shaft (1971)
  15. "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
  16. "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
  17. "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
  18. "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
  19. "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
  20. "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
  21. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
  22. "Last Dance," Thank God It's Friday (1978)
  23. "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
  24. "For All We Know," Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
  25. "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
  26. "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
  27. "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
  28. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  29. "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
  30. "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
  31. "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
  32. "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
  33. "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
  34. "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
  35. "Evergreen (Theme from A Star Is Born)," A Star Is Born (1976)
  36. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  37. "You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life (1977)
  38. "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
  39. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  40. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  41. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
  42. "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
  43. "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
  44. "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  45. "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)