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Feb 20 2019

Soundtracking: A "Titanic"melody and Oscar memory

byChris Feil

Aren't we all happy now that the Best Original Song nominees are staying on the ceremony?Now that the uproar is settling,perhaps it's a safe time to reflect on why removing them from the telecast never should have been up for debate.What better example of music's inextricability from the movies and their intertwined cultural impact thanTitanic?

"My Heart Will Go On"was its own inescapable beast in 1997 aside fromTitanicitself,the dominance of the film and song fueling each other's fire in tandem...

Céline Dion was the queen of the mid-90s love song,but this became her magnum opus,a ballad to match the massive emotions in James Cameron's spectacle.Like the film,it suffused melodrama with enough mortality to snatch right for our tearducts.

You can't think ofTitanicwithout summoning its melody.Imagine suggesting that it isn't essential to the film,that its Oscar ceremony could be complete without it.

The now-reversed decision to gut the ceremony was met with vitriol,particularly the first confirmation of the categories to be jettisoned to commercial breaks.But not including the nominated songs was just as much a slap to the ceremony's history of celebrating the breadth of the moviegoing experience.If not as fundamental to cinema as cinematography and editing (like filmmakers such as Cuarón decried),music is still as essential to our experience.It's the tears we cry,the joy we feel,and especially inTitanic's case,it was a song to carry with us so we could stay under the film's timeless romantic spell.

Could you consider this song a behemoth of its year to match this year's "Shallow"?Frankly,"Shallow"wishes.But it's not difficult to imagine Céline Dion having the kind of clout in 1997 to give the producer an ultimatum that if her co-nominees couldn't perform,then neither would she - exactly as Lady Gaga reportedly did this year.Elliott Smith could have been that year's Gillian Welch.

Titanicremains a formative "Oscar film",one that introduced an entire generation to and invested them in the Oscars.亚博主页"My Heart Will Go On"belongs as much to the film's Oscar narrative as anything else in its dazzlements.For everyone that tuned in to the Oscars to see the film that so captured their hearts get its due,亚博主页each of them did so eagerly awaiting seeing Céline rip into that key change that kept us listening over and over and over again.This song is a piece of so many people's first Oscar memories.

Certainly,Oscar songs like "My Heart Will Go On"are once in a lifetime,a high bar that seldom is met for their indelibility.A hit song could never imaginably be excluded from the ceremony,but that isn't the lesson here.Here "My Heart Will Go On"represents the potential for a nominee to play an integral part of our moviegoing lives,to help make the film that houses it live forever.To not honor that possibility is to eliminate part of the dialogue that we have with a film long after we've left the theatre.And how that invests us in the Oscars themselves by honoring that.亚博主页Don't kill future Oscar memories by killing the performances!

All Soundtracking installments can be foundhere!

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Reader Comments (16)

You really hit the nail on the head with this one,Chris.This should be required reading for all future AMPAS Governors and Oscar telecast producers.BRAVO!

February 20,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

Another reminder that this is my very least favorite category.

February 20,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

This song STILL gives me chills.Bow!

February 20,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

But it's not difficult to imagine Céline Dion having the kind of clout in 1997 to give the producer an ultimatum that if her co-nominees couldn't perform,then neither would she - exactly as Lady Gaga reportedly did this year.Elliott Smith could have been that year's Gillian Welch.

Wait.DID the 1997-1998 ceremony include performances of all 5 nominated songs?I don't remember if the HERCULES and ANASTASIA songs got performed.And I believe they strung together the three songs from live action movies back-to-back-to-back,which is why you see Trisha Yearwood and Elliott Smith join Celine Dion on stage.

I do remember that Elliott Smith's performance felt abbreviated.It was like a 3-minute song cut into a 2-minute performance.

February 20,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

Preach,Chris!I've never understood the ass-backwards logic that the songs should not be performed.There's no better way to create drama on stage than to feature live music from the movies.When the artists deliver,the memories are forever.

February 20,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

defeat this and get rid of the fry by pass

February 20,2019 | Unregistered CommenterKelior

@Brevity: Yep --

"My Heart Will Go On"remains a great song and an epic moment in film / music history.I feel like the only songs that came close to its peak since were "Lose Yourself"and "Let It Go."

And maybe "Shallow"?But songs / the music industry is so different today.

February 20,2019 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

Celine Dion and that song are an indelible memory for me.
Thanks Chris,for this tribute to the power of song.A show stopping number can improve the Oscar telecast.I'm still incredulous that the Oscars ever thought they just eliminate a few singers this year.亚博主页
You don't have to go all the way back to Celine Dion's great performance for examples either.
Adele absolutely killed it with a great performance of "Skyfall"earning a standing ovation.
Aslo Pharrell Williams with "Happy"as he danced with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams made that show better.
Those are just 2 of my favourites from the last decade.I'm sure people have other great singer/great song moments they could name.

February 20,2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

"Glory"is probably the major stand-out performance from this decade.

February 20,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -- Oh,so true.That moment on the broadcast was incredible.

Chris -- this is a great piece.I never even loved the song but you're totally right about its place in the Titanic mythology.

February 20,2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I absolutely love this song.It it so not my type of and yet,every time I hear it,I end up hitting my chest harder than Céline at the Oscars.亚博主页

February 20,2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

@George: thanks for the correction.It looks like they paired the songs from animated films (Aaliyah/Michael Bolton) and later made a set of three from live action films (Trisha Yearwood/Elliott Smith/Celine Dion).So,presumably to save time,the ceremony had 2 musical interludes instead of 5.

Interesting that Aaliyah had a history with the Oscar ceremony.That may have contributed to her inclusion in the 2001-2002 In Memoriam,which I recall being a bit controversial due to her brief movie career.(Wasn't there an Oscar winner who was left out?Not that it had to be one person or the other,but...)

That particular In Memoriam is also noteworthy for (1) its moment of silence for 9/11 in the beginning and (2) its presenter,Kevin Spacey.

February 20,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

One of the best songs ever!

February 21,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoh

And yet Kendrick Lamar and SZA will *not* perform All the Stars at this year's Oscars after all.亚博主页

February 21,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I still love that Trisha Yearwood song,too.Diane Warren ballads in action movies was a great thing about the late '90s!


February 21,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

This was my first complete Oscar ceremony.The first one that I watched from beginning to end,the first one where I actually had favorites and predicted things.Having this song and this Titanic phenomenon there was a huge part of this experience.

February 22,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBD (the real one)

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