1990 Best Original Song - Sondheim Goes Home with Oscar

WON: "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)," Dick Tracy

SHOULD'VE WON: "Somewhere in My Memory," Home Alone

I whole-heartedly adore composer Stephen Sondheim. Gypsy, Company and Follies, just to name a handful of Sondheim works, are among my all-time favorite musicals. So, in theory, I love the idea of this incomparable artist having an Oscar under his belt. But, Sondheim winning his Oscar for 1990's Dick Tracy? That's not something I can easily get on board with.

I do very much admire Warren Beatty's colorful, pleasantly idiosyncratic take on the classic comic strip - the picture looks sublime and Beatty has rarely had a more commanding screen presence. But the film's score, composed by Danny Elfman, with original songs by Sondheim, doesn't much move me.

Perhaps part of it is Madonna. She's a performer who, time and time again, has been robbed of Oscar recognition but her turn as Breathless Mahoney just doesn't floor me. Also, the songs here, including "Sooner or Later," are just rather undistinguished and fleeting in comparison to the bulk of the Sondheim songbook. Unlike most of the Sondheim catalogue, I wouldn't immediately know who the composer was on first listen. It's not a bad soundtrack by any stretch but I don't think it's quite an Oscar-calibur one either.

What makes the Sondheim victory all the more difficult to swallow is at least two, arguably even three of his song's competitors in '90 Original Song are superior.

First off, the slightly rotten apple of the bunch here is "Promise Me You'll Remember," a Harry Connick, Jr.-performed tune which, much like The Godfather Part III itself, is nicely orchestrated but overlong and curiously hollow.

Young Guns II makes about as much sense as Mannequin and Beverly Hills Cop II as an Oscar nominee but its original song, Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory" is a tough-to-resist guilty pleasure rock record. I'm on-the-fence as to whether this or "Sooner or Later" is the third-best nominee of the line-up.

For me, '90 Original Song is really a close call between the remaining two contenders, Home Alone's "Somewhere in My Memory" and Postcards from the Edge's "I'm Checkin' Out." The former, composed by Oscar-winners John Williams and Leslie Bricusse, is, for my money, one of the best Christmas tunes of the past half-century or so (Williams' score for the film itself is terrific too). The latter, composed by the legendary Shel Silverstein of all people, is most memorable for its delightfully buoyant performance by Meryl Streep.

Because I'm not convinced another performer could sell "I'm Checkin' Out" in the same fashion Streep does, I lean toward "Somewhere in My Memory," but it's not an easy call.

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