1986 Best Original Song - The Year That Took Our Breath Away

WON AND SHOULD'VE WON: "Take My Breath Away," Top Gun

Growing up, one of my very favorite films was Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors. To this day, I truly consider it one of the all-time great movie musicals, a deliriously entertaining and inventive horror-comedy with knockout leading turns from Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene and a devastatingly terrific score by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman. (Thank God for "Somewhere That's Green.") I consider it right up there with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, perhaps even a tad higher, given the big heart Little Shop has.

Like so many stage-to-screen adaptations, Menken and Ashman of course opted to compose a new track, for consideration in Best Original Song. And, as is the unfortunate case with so many of these add-ons, their new piece, "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space," simply was not up-to-par with the rest of the score, not even close. While "Skid Row (Downtown)," "Somewhere That's Green" and "Suddenly Seymour" are up there with the very best of showtunes, "Mean Green Mother" is just kind of loud and unpleasant, even with the commanding voice of the Four Tops' Levi Stubbs.

Even worse in 1986 Best Original Song, however, is "Somewhere Out There," the inexplicably Grammy-winning tune from the Steven Spielberg-produced An American Tail. While the picture itself is quite cute (who can resist a Russian-Jewish mouse immigrant), the song is pure nails-on-a-chalkboard, whether performed by the character of Fievel or in the closing credits, by the king and queen of muzak, James Ingram and Linda Ronstadt. It has the depth and sophistication of a 99-cent Hallmark card.

Beyond those two nominees, thankfully, '86 Original Song is actually a halfway decent affair.

In third place for me would be "Life in a Looking Glass," which I think rather unfairly garnered a Razzie nomination too this year (the first, though not last original song to garner nods at both ceremonies), on account of being featured in the mushy Blake Edwards dramedy That's Life. While the film was a misfire, its tune is a pleasant one, composed by Edwards' usual team of Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse and performed just splendidly by Tony Bennett. The lyrics are a bit on-the-nose for my tastes but Mancini's music is quite beautiful. This in fact marked the final Oscar nomination for Mancini.

For the win in '86, I have a bit of a head vs. heart conundrum.

My head says Top Gun's "Take My Breath Away," performed by Berlin and produced by the incomparable Giorgio Moroder, was a richly deserving winner this year. It's an enormously sexy, atmospheric record that adds quite a bit to its film and has proven a timeless record, in spite of the '80s production values. My heart says "Andrew, you've always secretly loved Peter Cetera's theme to The Karate Kid Part II, cheesy soft rock warts and all. You've been humming along to it like a madman over the past 24 hours."

Ultimately, I am going to go with my head on this one but I wouldn't have complained one bit if Cetera somehow scored the upset here.

As for the snubbed in '86, there are two biggies - Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD)'s "If You Leave," from Pretty in Pink (one of the decade's best songs, in my opinion), and Madonna's "Live to Tell," from At Close Range.

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. "Fame," Fame (1980)
  15. "Theme from Shaft," Shaft (1971)
  16. "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
  17. "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
  18. "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
  19. "Take My Breath Away," Top Gun (1986)
  20. "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
  21. "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
  22. "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
  23. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
  24. "Flashdance...What a Feeling," Flashdance (1983)
  25. "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," Arthur (1981)
  26. "Last Dance," Thank God It's Friday (1978)
  27. "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
  28. "For All We Know," Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
  29. "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
  30. "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
  31. "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
  32. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  33. "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
  34. "It Goes Like It Goes," Norma Rae (1979)
  35. "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
  36. "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
  37. "I Just Called to Say I Love You," The Woman in Red (1984)
  38. "Up Where We Belong," An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
  39. "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
  40. "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
  41. "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
  42. "Evergreen (Theme from A Star Is Born)," A Star Is Born (1976)
  43. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  44. "You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life (1977)
  45. "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
  46. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  47. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  48. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
  49. "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
  50. "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
  51. "Say You, Say Me," White Nights (1985)
  52. "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  53. "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)