Numlock Awards: The Bops That Defined the Movies
We Don't Talk About Diane Warren.
Numlock Awards is your one-stop awards season newsletter. Every week, join Walt Hickey and Michael Domanico as they break down the math behind the Oscars and the best narratives going into film’s biggest night. Today’s edition comes from Michael.
Thanks for writing in with suggestions on which below-the-line categories to cover! Let’s start with a suggestion from Katharine — Best Original Song.
The category has a long and tortured past, rife with battles over eligibility and some of the most iconic songs in cinema — like “New York, New York,” “Goldfinger,” and “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” — being overlooked. When a song gets submitted by a movie studio, they also must submit “a digital video clip of no more than three minutes of each song, showing how the song is used in the motion picture,” according to the Academy’s rules. So if a song is over three minutes long, tough luck. The Music Branch members view the clips, decide on the shortlist, and from there choose the five nominees.
There aren’t too many precursors — the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards both give out Best Song awards, and in the last 10 years, the Globes are 6 for 10 and the Critics’ Choice 7 for 10. This year, the Globes went for “No Time to Die,” and in a few weeks we’ll know if the Critics’ Choice agrees.
Here are our five nominees:
“Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
This is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s second Oscar nomination, and if he wins, he will officially have his EGOT. For those of you within the radius of anyone under the age of 12, you might be wondering why “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” — which is the No. 1 song in the country for the fourth week in a row — isn’t nominated. Disney didn’t submit the song, which Miranda recently defended, saying he felt “Dos Oruguitas” “best [exemplified] the spirit of the movie.” It’s also the first song he wrote “from beginning to end in Spanish.”
Here’s where the rules matter again. You can submit up to five songs per movie, but you have to make those submissions by November 1, weeks before Encanto’s theatrical release and months before “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” made “Let It Go” look like “When Will My Life Begin.” As for why Disney didn’t submit five songs from Encanto like back in the good old days when three songs from Enchanted were nominated, well, there’s your answer. In 2007, three songs from Enchanted were nominated, and they all lost to “Falling Slowly” from Once. You don’t want to split your own vote, lest a folk duo steal your Oscar gold.
Still, the entire Encanto soundtrack is lighting up the charts, with every single song landing on the Hot 100. Even if “Dos Oruguitas” isn’t the same level of hit, I think that momentum — plus the fact that Miranda directed the Oscar-nominated tick, tick… BOOM! — makes him the frontrunner.
“No Time to Die” from No Time to Die, music and lyrics by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell
This song was recorded in 2019 and released in February 2020, debuting at the top of the UK Singles Chart two years ago and breaking “Skyfall’s” record for the highest chart sales for a Bond song in its first week of release. People have really had time to ruminate on this song.
Eilish worked on “No Time to Die” with her brother, Finneas, and the two have won a slew of awards for the theme. Before writing the song, Billie and Finneas only got the part of the script leading up to the song — if you’ve somehow never seen a Bond movie, every Bond movie has 5-8 minutes of action before smash cutting to an opening credits scene and, more often than not, a Shirley Bassey bop. After writing the song, they went to London, where they saw the whole movie, meaning they saw the ending to Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond two years before the film was released.
Like I’ve mentioned, this is probably a two-way race between “No Time to Die” and “Dos Oruguitas.” The Critics’ Choice Awards have no membership overlap with the Academy, so I’m not sure how important a win there will be, but it never hurts going into Oscar night with some awards momentum.
“Down to Joy” from Belfast, music and lyrics by Van Morrison
Unfortunately for Van Morrison, the Oscars are quite literally a popularity contest, and dude has some weird views on a range of subjects. When The New York Times asked director Kenneth Branagh about his decision to include so much Van Morrison in the movie, he basically equivocated and said, “With such passion also comes, inevitably, strong opinions and a very particular and in his case ever-changing personality.”
Sure. It’s a fine, if slight, song, but I don’t think 2022 Van Morrison is going to be walking away with an Oscar in a few weeks.
“Be Alive” from King Richard, music and lyrics by DIXSON and Beyoncé
Let’s just call a spade a spade — this isn’t Beyoncé’s best work. She’s been angling for a long time to get an Oscar nomination, having previously secured three Golden Globe nominations for other original songs, and the one that finally made it across the finish line is… just okay. Her cowriter is producer Dixson, who’s part of the Roc Nation label, founded by Jay-Z.
This is very much an End Credits song — inspiring and fine in the moment, but forgettable in the long run. We’ll see if this finally lands Beyoncé an Oscar, meaning she’d have the O and G of an EGOT, or if she’ll have to keep writing for the end credits.
“Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days, music and lyrics by Diane Warren
This is Diane Warren’s 13th Oscar nomination and, so far, she’s yet to win.
If you don’t know who Diane Warren is, she’s a songwriter who’s worked with everyone from Cher to Mary J. Blige to Celine Dion. Her Oscar nominations are a bit tragic though. Her first half dozen or so are absolute bangers from the ’80s and ’90s, like “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and “Because You Loved Me” and “How Do I Live” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
Her more recent nominations are for things like “I’ll Fight” from RBG (?) and “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough (??) and “Io sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead (???).
And it’s a bummer! Because Diane Warren has continued to write good movie songs, including the ass-in-jeans song from A Star Is Born (you know the one) and the aforementioned “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.” It turns out, according to Steve Pond at The Wrap, you only need 64 votes to get a nomination in this category, so it looks like Warren has a pretty ardent fan base of approximately five dozen and change music branch members.
As seen above, Diane did NOT looked pleased when she lost to Judas and the Black Messiah last year. I doubt this year will turn out any differently — Four Good Days stars Glenn Close, who might as well sell Oscar repellent at this point, and the song and movie both barely exist to begin with. But I’m holding out hope that some rockin’ power ballad for some crummy music biopic gets Warren an Oscar someday. I also do recommend, if you’re interested, reading Diane’s take on each of her first 12 Oscar nominations.
I leave you with Diane Warren’s most enduring and lasting legacy: the Mary J. Blige theme song to The View that was tragically replaced for the most recent season. Please note that one of the most awarded women in entertainment happens to be the moderator of The View and she clearly skipped filming the Diane Warren music video with the group in what was obviously a metaphor for Warren’s Sisyphean struggle to get the attention of Academy voters.