1996 Best Original Song - Space Jam on the Sidelines

WON: "You Must Love Me," Evita

SHOULD'VE WON: "That Thing You Do," That Thing You Do

Among children of the '90s, of which I consider myself a proud member, it seems just about everyone holds at least a little bit of nostalgia for Space Jam, the Who Framed Roger Rabbit-wannabe that managed to pair NBA legend Michael Jordan with cartoon legend Bugs Bunny (and Bill Murray, Wayne Knight, Daffy Duck and a whole host of other characters) on the big screen.

While I got a kick out of Space Jam as a young lad, it hasn't quite held up for me on subsequent viewings. The animation is fun and Jordan is charming and surprisingly at-ease in his film debut (far more so than Shaquille O'Neal, for instance, who seemed lost in William Friedkin's Blue Chips and was simply laughable in everything to follow) but the story isn't terribly engaging, the laughs are light at best and there's no excitement to be found until the final half hour or so.

What has, however, very much continued to impress is the picture's soundtrack, a marvelous assortment of R&B, hip-hop and pop from the likes of Monica, All-4-One (debuting "I Turn to You," a record later covered to much greater success by Christina Aguilera) and Quad City DJs. Most memorable, of course, is the iconic and immensely moving "I Believe I Can Fly," performed by R. Kelly at his very prime.

Yet, even though "I Believe I Can Fly" went on to score three Grammy Awards and Oscar-favorite Diane Warren composed two of the eligible tracks (the Monica and All-4-One tunes), Space Jam failed to garner a single nomination in Best Original Song. Was there some vote-splitting at play? Perhaps a tad but more likely, the Academy simply was not (yet) ready to embrace anything hip-hop in nature. Not until Eminem's victory in 2002 would this genre have a real breakthrough at the Oscars.

Indeed, in '96, Best Original Song could not have possibly been more vanilla, with tunes performed by Madonna, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Kenny Loggins and the dudes from That Thing You Do. That isn't to say this line-up is a rotten one - I'm at least mildly fond of all of the nominees and think one of them is absolutely fantastic - but it is a tad on the...white side.

The thing with this category is I consider four of the nominees, including the winner, almost interchangeable - the non-That Thing You Do tracks. They're all agreeable, nicely performed adult contemporary, including the Evita track, which rings more of soft rock than it does an epic ballad like "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." Madonna, Dion, Streisand and Loggins are all in commendable form here but it's tough to rank one above the other, as none of them really pops in any significant way. I guess the Streisand tune, which paired her with Bryan Adams and was composed by the great Marvin Hamlisch, would be my slight favorite. Dion would go on to do better things, like the following year. No doubt, the Academy wanted to use this as an opportunity to get Andrew Lloyd Webber, then still the hottest name on Broadway, his Oscar, even if the "You Must Love Me" wasn't all that remarkable.

Indeed, my favorite nominee here, by a healthy margin, is the title track to That Thing You Do, Tom Hanks' forgotten but awfully charming directorial debut. Composed by Adam Schlesinger, later of Fountains of Wayne fame, it's an irresistible throwback to '60s pop-rock, all but impossible to dislike. In fact, I probably wouldn't hesitate to rank "That Thing You Do" among my very favorite nominees to ever grace Best Original Song.

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. "Streets of Philadelphia," Philadelphia (1993)
  5. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
  6. "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
  7. "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
  8. "(I've Had) the Time of My Life," Dirty Dancing (1987)
  9. "The Windmills of Your Mind," The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
  10. "The Way We Were," The Way We Were (1973)
  11. "Let the River Run," Working Girl (1988)
  12. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  13. "Under the Sea," The Little Mermaid (1989)
  14. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
  15. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," The Lion King (1994)
  16. "Beauty and the Beast," Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  17. "I'm Easy," Nashville (1975)
  18. "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
  19. "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
  20. "Fame," Fame (1980)
  21. "Theme from Shaft," Shaft (1971)
  22. "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
  23. "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
  24. "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
  25. "Take My Breath Away," Top Gun (1986)
  26. "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
  27. "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
  28. "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
  29. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
  30. "A Whole New World," Aladdin (1992)
  31. "Flashdance...What a Feeling," Flashdance (1983)
  32. "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," Arthur (1981)
  33. "Last Dance," Thank God It's Friday (1978)
  34. "Colors of the Wind," Pocahontas (1995)
  35. "You Must Love Me," Evita (1996)
  36. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)," Dick Tracy (1990)
  37. "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
  38. "For All We Know," Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
  39. "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
  40. "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
  41. "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
  42. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  43. "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
  44. "It Goes Like It Goes," Norma Rae (1979)
  45. "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
  46. "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
  47. "I Just Called to Say I Love You," The Woman in Red (1984)
  48. "Up Where We Belong," An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
  49. "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
  50. "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
  51. "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
  52. "Evergreen (Theme from A Star Is Born)," A Star Is Born (1976)
  53. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  54. "You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life (1977)
  55. "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
  56. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  57. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  58. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
  59. "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
  60. "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
  61. "Say You, Say Me," White Nights (1985)
  62. "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  63. "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)