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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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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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