Between indie pop singer Aimee Mann's "Save Me" and the raunchy "Blame Canada," from the soundtrack to "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut," the Oscars had at least two chances to break with tradition. In the end, though, Phil Collins' ballad "You'll Be in My Heart," from the Disney film "Tarzan," took home the Academy Award for Best Original Song on Sunday night in Los Angeles.
Collins, a successful solo artist during and since his tenure in the art-rock band Genesis, accepted the award for the song (RealAudio excerpt) with a mixture of irreverence and respect. "Now my life can go on," he said sarcastically. "It's been hell, I tell you."
But, he said before thanking his family, "I didn't think it would be this hard. You don't know what this means to my kids." Collins was nominated previously in the Best Original Song category for "Two Hearts" (1988, from the film "Buster") and "Against All Odds" (1984, from the film of the same name).
Cher (born Cherilyn LaPier), whose song "Believe" was a 1999 radio hit, wore a long, black garment that she tripped over on the way to the microphone to announce the Best Song winner. "As you can see, I'm dressed like a grownup tonight," she said, in reference to her usual flamboyant and revealing dresses. "I apologize to the academy and promise I'll never do it again."
Unlike previous years, when songs were performed throughout the course of the awards show, this year's nominees sang the songs in a medley introduced by R&B singer/actress Vanessa Williams and rapper/actor LL Cool J (born James Todd Smith).
Musical Variety Show
The segment began with Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan singing "When She Loved Me," from the "Toy Story 2" soundtrack. Wearing a midnight-blue, textured taffeta gown, McLachlan delivered her breathy vocals accompanied by the song's writer, Randy Newman, on grand piano. The Oscar nomination was Newman's 13th.
Wearing a white silk cowboy shirt and a Native American-influenced beaded choker, Mann followed with a five-piece band accompanying her on "Save Me" (RealAudio excerpt), from the Paul Thomas Anderson film "Magnolia."
Dressed in a gray suit and black shirt, Collins sang "You'll Be in My Heart" backed by piano, acoustic guitar and strings from the orchestra pit. Songwriter Burt Bacharach and bassist/producer Don Was led the orchestra and were the evening's music directors.
Sitting on steps, 'N Sync began singing "Music of My Heart," from the Meryl Streep film of the same name. After the ballad's first verse, the steps split in two, revealing pop singer Gloria Estefan wearing a white strapless evening gown.
The medley's finale featured the much-anticipated "Blame Canada" (RealAudio excerpt), an obscenity-laden number that gave the Academy fits trying to determine how to present it on national television. Actor Robin Williams began with black duct tape over his mouth, which he then pulled off and shouted, "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!" a recurring line in the "South Park" movie and television series.
Williams sang lines that included the words "fart" and "that bitch Anne Murray" (a reference to the Canadian-born singer of the 1970s hits "Snowbird," "Danny's Song" and "You Needed Me"), but he left out some of the song's more offensive lyrics. The medley ended with a cast of dancers dressed in costumes similar to those of the animated "South Park" characters, and a Rockettes-style chorus line on which the dancers wore outfits that resembled Canadian Royal Mountie uniforms, if only those uniforms included hot pants and sheer black tights.
Many film aficionados were uninterested in the best song award, according to Duane Dudek, film critic for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I haven't given it (the Best Song category) much thought," Dudek said before the program began.
Revisiting The Past
The awards show also featured a medley of 10 previous Oscar-winning songs, which Bacharach introduced by saying "here are some songs to remind you of the best movies you've ever seen and heard." The medley included "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," from the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz," sung by country singer Faith Hill, and the Cole Porter-penned "I've Got You Under My Skin," from the 1936 film "Born to Dance," sung by R&B legend Ray Charles.
Hip-hop diva and syndicated talk-show host Queen Latifah surprised the crowd by singing "The Man That Got Away," from the 1954 movie "A Star is Born." Latifah (born Dana Owens), who usually raps, belted out a powerful vocal performance and later provided harmony on Hill's rendition of "The Way We Were," the Barbra Streisand hit from the 1973 film of the same name.
Two music-related nominees for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar were passed over. Both "Genghis Blues," which documented blues singer Paul Pena's travels to study the Tuvan art of throat-singing, and "Buena Vista Social Club," which documented guitarist Ry Cooder's discovery and promotion of some aging Cuban musicians, lost out to "One Day in September," which focused on the tragedy of the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.
In other music-related Oscar news, R&B singer Erykah Badu presented the award for Best Makeup with actor Tobey Maguire, her co-star in the film "The Cider House Rules," which was nominated for Best Picture. (The film lost to "American Beauty.")
Badu wore a green gown and headdress, with an African-influenced spiral necklace and bracelets. After the Best Makeup award, show host Billy Crystal quipped, "They just searched Erykah Badu's hat and found one of the missing Oscars," a reference to the 55 Oscar statuettes that were declared missing and later found last week.
Badu spoke with model Tyra Banks on ABC's pre-awards show. She compared singing and being the focal point of an audience's attention to working on a movie with a cast of actors. "It's wonderful and humbling," she said. "It feels good to be part of an ensemble that's getting a lot of attention."