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Ten Oscar-winning Songs That Actually Hold Up

Ten Oscar-winning Songs That Actually Hold Up (photo)

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Music has accompanied film almost since film’s invention, whether performed live, cued off rudimentary wax cylinders or digitally recorded. When thoughtfully employed, a song can lift a scene from the boundaries of entertainment into the realm of art. “The Jazz Singer” featured synched songs back in 1927, but it wasn’t until 1934 and the 7th Academy Awards that Oscars were given out for them.

The greatest of these songs take on a life of their own, and, though they may always recall the film for which they were conceived, stand on their own merit. But plenty of other prizewinners don’t, particularly once you get past the golden age of the movie musical — quick, hum 2006 champ “I Need to Wake Up,” from “An Inconvenient Truth.”

With the 81st ceremony approaching and two Bollywood-inflected tunes from “Slumdog Millionaire” going up against Peter Gabriel’s Grammy-anointed “Down to Earth” from “WALL-E,” it seems a good time to look through the Academy annals to see how meaningful this award actually is in the cultural big picture. Here are the ten I’ve chosen for demonstrating the best staying power, influence and legacy. The more recent years seem to be at a disadvantage.

“The Way You Look Tonight” (1936)
From “Swing Time”
Music by Jerome Kern; Lyrics by Dorothy Fields.

Since Fred Astaire sat at a piano and sang this ditty in to Ginger Rogers in 1936, it’s been sung by every crooner from Frank Sinatra to Rod Stewart — Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald recorded their takes, too. One version or another plays at every wedding, and it’s easily the most reproduced song in film on this list, appearing in at least 20 major films, from “Chinatown” to “Hannah and Her Sisters” to “Father of the Bride” to “Catch Me If You Can,” ensuring it keeps that breathless charm seven decades on.

“Over the Rainbow” (1939)
From “The Wizard of Oz”
Music by Harold Arlen; Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg

“The Wizard of Oz” was released on August 25, 1939, and delighted Depression-era American audiences with a dreamy iconic ballad of longing and escape. Exactly one week later, Hitler had decided he was over Poland and Europe entered World War II in earnest — imagine the cross-cutting montage between those two realities set to “Over the Rainbow.” It wasn’t long before America entered the war and, intentionally or not, the song would take on greater meaning to those same audiences. It was a tune for the times, then and now.

“When You Wish upon a Star” (1940)
From “Pinocchio”
Music by Leigh Harline; Lyrics by Ned Washington

This song has become synonymous with the vast Disney empire and, inescapably, the childhood of any American (makes no difference who you are). There was a dismal stretch through the ’90s of cheesy best original song Oscar-winners from animated films, and just maybe a few will stand the test of time, but this one will always be the first.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.