WON AND SHOULD'VE WON: "Lose Yourself," 8 Mile
The first Oscar ceremony I can recall watching live was the 2000 ceremony, in which Gladiator and Traffic split the winnings. I admittedly wasn't terribly engaged in the proceedings, as I'd never really done any sort of awards analysis, nor had I seen many of the films up for nomination (sans the likes of Cast Away and Shadow of the Vampire). It didn't mean anything to me that Marcia Gay Harden apparently staged a massive upset in Best Supporting Actress.
I was, after all, 10 years old.
No, my first true jaw-dropper at the Oscars came in 2002, when Barbra Streisand graced the stage to present in the category of Best Original Song. Surely, I figured, Streisand was selected to award a fellow superstar of the '70s like Paul Simon (up for "Father and Daughter") or the duo of John Kander and Fred Ebb (here for "I Move On"). If not them, it had to be U2, who picked up the Golden Globe for their "The Hands That Built America" from Gangs of New York.
Alas, none of that was to be. Streisand herself seemed a bit stunned upon opening the envelope to reveal the victor was none other than the King of Hip-Hop (according to Rolling Stone, at least) himself, Eminem, for 8 Mile's "Lose Yourself." And what a richly deserving win it was.
At the time, Eminem's victory was perceived a significant upset. In hindsight, however, pundits probably should not have been so awe-struck.
For one, let's face it - three of the nominees here didn't have a prayer.
Frida's "Burn It Blue" is quite strong, filled with Elliot Goldenthal's sumptuous music from the film, but no way was Goldenthal picking up two Oscars for the film. Simon's "Father and Daughter" is another fine selection and there's no doubt the Academy would love to honor this rock legend at some point...but for The Wild Thornberrys Movie? That just wasn't going to happen.
The third also-ran, Chicago's "I Move On," joins the likes of "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space" and "Surprise, Surprise," among others, as stage-to-screen adaptations' original songs that were decidedly inferior to everything originally composed for the stage. Zeta-Jones in particular sounds great on it but the instrumentals are basically a rehash of the musical's overture and there's nothing juicy or remarkable about the lyrics.
In terms of the vote, there's little doubt U2 was runner-up to Eminem (though I'd personally rank "Burn It Blue" second). "The Hands That Built America" is a solid piece, albeit not quite top-tier U2, and would've been a worthy winner in many years. The thing is, the Academy wasn't the least bit fond of Gangs of New York, beyond showering it in nominations. If Martin Scorsese and Daniel Day-Lewis couldn't triumph, it's hard to see how U2 could have prevailed.
"Lose Yourself" is not only among the all-time greatest hip-hop/rap records and best songs of the decade but also one of the most accessible tunes in its genre - you didn't have to own The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP, or even consider yourself a fan of Eminem's or rap, to appreciate it. Then, of course, there's the Academy, which had never before even nominated a song of the genre. Eminem shattered that glass ceiling, paving the way for other non-Randy Newman artists to also garner recognition in the category.
Hard to see how something like "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" could have been nominated, yet alone win, without Eminem first shaking up Best Original Song.
The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...
- "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
- "High Hopes," A Hole in the Head (1959)
- "Streets of Philadelphia," Philadelphia (1993)
- "Lose Yourself," 8 Mile (2002)
- "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
- "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
- "(I've Had) the Time of My Life," Dirty Dancing (1987)
- "The Windmills of Your Mind," The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
- "The Way We Were," The Way We Were (1973)
- "Let the River Run," Working Girl (1988)
- "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- "Under the Sea," The Little Mermaid (1989)
- "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
- "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," The Lion King (1994)
- "Beauty and the Beast," Beauty and the Beast (1991)
- "I'm Easy," Nashville (1975)
- "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
- "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
- "Fame," Fame (1980)
- "Theme from Shaft," Shaft (1971)
- "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
- "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
- "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
- "Take My Breath Away," Top Gun (1986)
- "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
- "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
- "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
- "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
- "A Whole New World," Aladdin (1992)
- "My Heart Will Go On," Titanic (1997)
- "Flashdance...What a Feeling," Flashdance (1983)
- "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," Arthur (1981)
- "Last Dance," Thank God It's Friday (1978)
- "Colors of the Wind," Pocahontas (1995)
- "You Must Love Me," Evita (1996)
- "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)," Dick Tracy (1990)
- "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
- "For All We Know," Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
- "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
- "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
- "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
- "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
- "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
- "It Goes Like It Goes," Norma Rae (1979)
- "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
- "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
- "I Just Called to Say I Love You," The Woman in Red (1984)
- "Up Where We Belong," An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
- "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
- "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
- "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
- "Evergreen (Theme from A Star Is Born)," A Star Is Born (1976)
- "Things Have Changed," Wonder Boys (2000)
- "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
- "If I Didn't Have You," Monsters, Inc. (2001)
- "You'll Be in My Heart," Tarzan (1999)
- "You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life (1977)
- "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
- "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
- "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
- "When You Believe," The Prince of Egypt (1998)
- "Say You, Say Me," White Nights (1985)
- "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
- "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)