Oscar voters this season have taken it on the chin, getting called everything from out-of-touch to racist. But there’s one particular omission from the nominee list that’s especially unforgivable.
For me, the snub this year that hit hardest was when “See You Again,” the track by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, was denied a Best Original Song nod, despite serving as the emotional climax to Furious 7, one of the most popular movies of the year. (And one that also won over the critics: It sits at a very respectable 81 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, or exactly one point behind Best Picture favorite The Revenant’s 82 percent.) The song set the perfect tone for Furious 7’s tribute to costar Paul Walker, who was killed during production in an off-set car crash in November 2013.
The song plays over the film’s final few minutes, when Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, drives off into a happy retirement. For loyalists and casual fans alike, it’s a genuinely beautiful expression of grief, culminating with the pre-credits dedication “For Paul.” (Watch it below.)
It’s hard to overstate how listeners embraced “See You Again.” It‘s topped 1.4 billion views on YouTube. (That’s not a typo — billion with a “b.”) It hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 25 and stayed there until the middle of July, tying the record for a rap single with 12 weeks atop the chart. The mark was set by Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” which, you might recall, was featured in 8 Mile, and won the Best Original Song Oscar in 2002. Throw in “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow in 2006, and “Glory” from Selma taking the gold last year, and you can’t say the “See You Again” snub was due to Oscar voters closing their ears to rap.
More perplexing, in the run-up to the nominations (and even now), nearly every prognosticator on the Oscar prediction site Gold Derby had “See You Again” as their first or second pick for Best Song. In addition, it was nominated for three Grammys and a Golden Globe.
The song’s omission feels like a missed opportunity. The Oscars are always looking for ways to lure a larger, younger audience. There’s no denying that target group loves the Fast and the Furious franchise. Furious 7 made $1.5 billion worldwide, and $353 million in the United States alone, making it the fifth highest grossing film of 2015. The chance to see Wiz Khalifa perform the song would’ve figured to be a strong motivator to tune into the ABC telecast on Feb. 28.
And really, the worst part of the snub is that it’s denying a group of people a moment to celebrate a loved one. Dom (Vin Diesel) delivers the line “I don’t have friends; I got family” in Furious 7, but it’s not just an action movie one-liner meant to set apart the good guys from the bad guys. Like the fans, the entire cast loved Walker, something you could see in moments big and small since his passing, from Tyrese getting emotional at the crash site to the various professions of love from Dwayne Johnson. In the sweetest tribute of all, in March 2015, Diesel named his newborn daughter Paulina. He also mourned his cinematic brother every chance he got on the press tour:
It wouldn’t be a shock if the telecast manages a ratings bump this year, between people tuning in to see host Chris Rock’s reaction to #OscarsSoWhite, the popularity of nominees like The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, and the fact that last February’s audience was at a six-year low. But it doesn’t mean the Academy didn’t whiff here.
Khalifa took the high road on all this, telling Billboard in January that he doesn’t “get into the political stuff. I know there’s a lot to do with who gets nominated and who doesn’t, and it’s not always just the music.” But when it’s time for the Best Original Song presentation, many of us may just take that time to talk among ourselves about family, because hey, family’s all that we got.
Watch a clip of Vin Diesel discussing Paul Walker’s death: