2001 Best Original Song - Randy Newman Catches a Break

WON: "If I Didn't Have You," Monsters, Inc.

SHOULD'VE WON: "There You'll Be," Pearl Harbor

Heading into Oscar night on March 24, 2002, composer Randy Newman was sitting on an eye-popping 0-for-14 record in wins vs. nominations. He was up for two Oscars this time around, in Best Original Song and Best Original Score, for Disney-Pixar's Monsters, Inc. Newman hadn't fared well in that year's precursors - he didn't even garner a Golden Globe nomination and Sting, whose "Until..." (from Kate & Leopold) won the Globe, was perceived in some circles to be nearly as due for an Oscar as Newman. Throwing the category for a bit of a loop was that Moulin Rouge!'s "Come What May" was deemed ineligible for consideration by the Academy, having initially been intended for Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet soundtrack.

While Newman lost in Best Original Score, to Howard Shore's work on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the Oscar mainstay did at last go home with a golden guy, triumphing in Best Original Song for "If I Didn't Have You."

Did he deserve it? I would argue Newman in fact should have prevailed a few years earlier, in 1998, for his sublime work on Pleasantville. He would have been a reasonably deserving winner in 1996 too, for James and the Giant Peach. I think "If I Didn't Have You" would be an entirely unremarkable tune, if not for the delightful vocals of John Goodman and Billy Crystal. Lyrically and instrumentally, it has the sound of something Newman could have hastily put together in five minutes time.

The thing is, the rest of 2001 Best Original Song isn't a whole lot to write home about either.

The Sting nomination, for instance, is even more lackluster than Newman's offering here, devoid of anything to grab on to. It's even weaker than his "Moonlight," which garnered a nod a few years earlier for the remake of Sabrina, and that wasn't anything too hot. Enya's "May It Be" is a wholly appropriate fit for The Lord of the Rings but I don't think quite works outside the context of the picture.

I am, however, at least modestly fond of the remaining two nominees. Paul McCartney's "Vanilla Sky" is certainly among the most notable pieces he's done in the past two decades, nicely produced and a good fit for the film, even if the picture isn't a very good one. But I think I have to give Diane Warren another win in this category - Pearl Harbor is complete junk but "There You'll Be" is a lovely tune and Faith Hill sounds flat-out heavenly on it.

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. "Things Have Changed," Wonder Boys (2000)
  55. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  56. "If I Didn't Have You," Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  57. "You'll Be in My Heart," Tarzan (1999)
  58. "You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life (1977)
  59. "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
  60. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  61. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  62. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
  63. "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
  64. "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
  65. "When You Believe," The Prince of Egypt (1998)
  66. "Say You, Say Me," White Nights (1985)
  67. "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  68. "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)