1997 Best Original Song - Titanic Steamrolls the Oscars

WON: "My Heart Will Go On," Titanic

SHOULD'VE WON: "Miss Misery," Good Will Hunting

No iceberg of any size could have taken down the juggernaut that was James Cameron's Titanic in 1997.

Initially feared to be Cameron's Heaven's Gate, the $200 million picture went on to make a killing at the box office, netting more than $600 million in just domestic receipts and topping the gross charts for an unprecedented 15 consecutive weekends. The film tied All Above Eve's record for most Oscar nominations (14) and would match the record for most wins (11) previously set by Ben-Hur. The film's only losses were in Lead Actress (Kate Winslet), Supporting Actress (Gloria Stuart) and Makeup, which were taken by Helen Hunt, Kim Basinger and Men in Black, respectively. Odds are, Stuart came awfully close to beating Basinger (they famously tied at the SAG Awards), which would have given Titanic the oomph to set a new wins record.

Among Titanic's victories was Best Original Song, where "My Heart Will Go On," performed by Celine Dion at her peak in popularity and composed by James Horner and Will Jennings, sailed to triumph. The record, which sold more than 15 million copies worldwide and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks, is pretty much the epitome of '90s adult contemporary, a song that was all but impossible to avoid over the final years of the decade and which still garners heavy airplay on soft rock radio to this day.

In reviewing this category, I can't help but think back to the prior year of Best Original Song, 1996, in that there's a similarity among the nominees that makes it tough to really rank one above the other.

Take "My Heart Will Go On." It's a nice, glossy, well-produced, expertly performed ballad, if a tad generic (particularly when placed against the rest of the Dion catalogue) and more than just a tad oversaturated. The exact same can be said for Con Air's "How Do I Live," which too was a massive Billboard smash, setting a new record for most weeks (69) on the Billboard Hot 100. (Note it was the LeAnn Rimes cover, not the Trisha Yearwood original featured in the film, that set this record.) Composed by Oscar mainstay (though never winner) Diane Warren, it's a lovely, completely agreeable piece of country-soft rock, albeit nothing terribly exciting.

"My Heart Will Go On" and "How Do I Live" elicit such a similar, if not mirror response out of me that I find it an improbable task to give any preference to one over the other. Likewise, I reasonably enjoy both Anastasia's "Journey to the Past" and Hercules' "Go the Distance" but they're decidedly second-tier when it comes to music from animated features. We're not talking "Under the Sea" and "Beauty and the Beast" here.

Ultimately, the only song of the five that stands out in any meaningful way for me here is the late Elliott Smith's "Miss Misery," from Good Will Hunting, a picture I'm not even that crazy about. Despite its prominence on the airwaves through the '90s and beyond, the Academy just never gravitated to this sort of alternative rock (watch Alanis Morissette get snubbed the following year), with Smith one of the few exceptions. Lyrically and vocally, it's a very impressive record and is undoubtedly bolder and more compelling than its run-of-the-mill competition.

In terms of the snubbed in '97, it's too bad k.d. Lang's marvelous "Surrender," from Tomorrow Never Dies, was overlooked. Then again, not even the folks behind the Bond film had much investment in the song, bumping it to the picture's end credits in favor of Sheryl Crow's sleepy title 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. "My Heart Will Go On," Titanic (1997)
  32. "Flashdance...What a Feeling," Flashdance (1983)
  33. "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," Arthur (1981)
  34. "Last Dance," Thank God It's Friday (1978)
  35. "Colors of the Wind," Pocahontas (1995)
  36. "You Must Love Me," Evita (1996)
  37. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)," Dick Tracy (1990)
  38. "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
  39. "For All We Know," Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
  40. "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
  41. "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
  42. "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
  43. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  44. "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
  45. "It Goes Like It Goes," Norma Rae (1979)
  46. "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
  47. "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
  48. "I Just Called to Say I Love You," The Woman in Red (1984)
  49. "Up Where We Belong," An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
  50. "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
  51. "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
  52. "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
  53. "Evergreen (Theme from A Star Is Born)," A Star Is Born (1976)
  54. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  55. "You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life (1977)
  56. "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
  57. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  58. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  59. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
  60. "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
  61. "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
  62. "Say You, Say Me," White Nights (1985)
  63. "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  64. "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)