Is it finally happening, is Diane Warren going to win an Oscar?
In the modern era of the Oscars we often focus on the actors who have multiple nominations and no wins: Glenn Close at 8, Amy Adams at 6. But below the line we have had several contenders in the double digits that have been waiting for Hollywood’s most elusive prize.
Just in the last few years we finally saw cinematographer Roger Deakins win on his 14th nomination (for 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 then again in 2019 for 1917) and sound designer Kevin O’Connell winning on his 21st (!!) nomination (for 2016’s Hacksaw Ridge). On the flip side there’s composer Thomas Newman, nominated 15 times with no wins. For Diane Warren, her nomination for the song “Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead follows a hallowed history of her being the sole nomination of her film. The music branch obviously adores her and if final voting was branch only, she would probably have three or four Oscars by now. But there’s always been a disconnect between the nomination and the win with the membership at large that’s been largely unexplainable. Even though we know that, other than acting and directing, people’s names do not appear on the final ballots. So unless you know what song was written by which artist, you’re voting, presumably, for the song you like best. Or the song you think represents the film best, or whatever criteria an individual may use.
One of the things that helps Warren this year is a truly open race. The songs nominated have almost all won at least one precursor but “Io Sì (Seen)” comes in with the Golden Globe, which matched up with Oscar six times in the last decade. Two of those years, the Golden Globe winner wasn’t Oscar-nominated, one of them being Warren herself (for “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from Burlesque). A win here would be the first for a non-English language song (it’s entirely in Italian) since “Jai Ho” 2008’s Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire. This is Warren’s fourth consecutive Oscar nomination in a row, which ties her with composer and songwriter Randy Newman as the only other person to achieve that feat. Fun fact: Newman finally won the Oscar on that fourth in a row nomination, for “If I Didn’t Have You” from 2001’s Monsters, Inc.
“Speak Now” from One Night in Miami… enjoyed a healthy boost of visibility with a live performance by nominee Leslie Odom, Jr. at the 2021 BAFTAs this weekend and comes in as the Critics Choice winner. Plus, nominee Leslie Odom, Jr. has been at nearly every single guild awards as a presenter right in the middle of Oscar voting. “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is the only song of the five nominees to actually be featured in the film, and as a crucial part of the story itself. The small Icelandic town it’s named after mounted a fantastic little campaign for itself and for the song. “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7 and “Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah are the only songs to come from Best Picture nominees and while there is some correlation to wins against non-BP nominees it’s usually from songs that have run the precursors to become inevitable winners. We don’t have that here.
This is going to be one of the night’s nail-biting categories because it can truly go three ways. If Warren can’t win I’m not sure what more she can do to prove her worth to the Academy. “Husavik” is the only song that isn’t just slapped onto the end credits. “Fight for You,” “Speak Now” and “Hear My Voice” all exist on the same theme and could potentially cancel themselves out in the muddle.
The 93rd Oscars will be held on April 25 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and the Union Station in Los Angeles.
Here are my ranked final Oscar predictions in Original Song.
1. “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami… (Amazon Studios) – BFCA, GG, HMMA
Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth
2. “Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se) (Netflix) – BFCA, HMMA, GG, SCL
Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
3. “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (Netflix) – BFCA, HMMA, SCL
Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson
4. “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix) – GG, GMS, HMMA
Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite
5. “Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros) – BFCA, HMMA
Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas