Normally, the Best Original Song category at the Academy Awards is the bane of our existence: an overloaded mess of badness that extends an already unending night into ass numbing proportions. No matter how the producers try to gussy up the presentation–"let’s have Beyonce sing all the songs!"–the performances invariably stink. Of course the exception to this happened last year when Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performed the ballad "Falling Slowly" from Once to beautiful perfection (and also deservedly went home with the hardware), but otherwise not a year goes by when we don’t think that the telecast would benefit greatly from a total exclusion of the Best Original Song category. That opinion might have to change after this year. Sure, the potential nominees include the usual (boring) suspects like a Miley Cyrus song from Bolt and Peter Gabriel’s number from Wall-E, but there are also original songs from Jenny Lewis (for Bolt as well), Bruce Springsteen’s title track for The Wrestler and the team-up of A.R. Rahman and M.I.A. for Slumdog Millionaire. Cool! However! The most bananas song of all might be a little duet performed by British singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum and… Clint Eastwood. Yep. That Clint Eastwood.
While precious little is known about Mr. Eastwood’s Gran Torino, the score is available online over at the Warner Brothers awards site–a site with which we’ve become mildly obsessed. Buried at the bottom of that page is a song called "Gran Torino", written by Mr. Eastwood, Mr. Cullum, Kyle Eastwood (Clint’s son, who also co-wrote the entire score) and Michael Stevens (the other co-writer of the score). It’s a slow and meditative number at first; all lilting piano notes and cymbal brushes. So far, so good. But then Mr. Eastwood begins singing with a voice that reminds us of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Christian Bale-as-Batman in The Dark Knight. (We assure you, it’s not as awesome as that sounds.) Hearing Mr. Eastwood growl his way through rudimentary lyrics like "gentle now, the tender breeze blows, whispers through my Gran Torino" is just about as terrible as you’d imagine.
Thankfully for Clint’s sake, he only sings the first verse. When Mr. Cullum starts in verse two, the song actually starts to sound like a real song and not some spoof. So here’s hoping for a Best Original Song nomination for Mr. Eastwood and a subsequent performance at the Academy Awards. At the very least, hearing "Gran Torino" performed live will be more exciting than watching Peter Gabriel.