Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’s Husavik should have won an Oscar

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: The Story of Fire Saga - Rachel McAdams as Sigrit Ericksdottir, Will Ferrell as Lars Erickssong.
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: The Story of Fire Saga - Rachel McAdams as Sigrit Ericksdottir, Will Ferrell as Lars Erickssong. Credit: Aidan Monaghan/NETFLIX

The history of the Oscars is littered with egregious snubs. Forrest Gump won over Pulp Fiction, Citizen Kane picked up only a screenplay gong and questions were raised over why Green Book won at all.

When you have those headline whoppers capturing all the attention, some of the less flashy categories get overlooked. There have been plenty of bizarre choices in categories such as sound, visual effects or editing (ahem, Bohemian Rhapsody?!) but the everyday punter is not as invested.

But one of the lower-profile gongs that attracts plenty of opinions is Best Original Song, a category that has given out Oscars to karaoke favourites such as Frozen’s Let It Go, 8 Mile’s Lose Yourself and An Officer and a Gentleman’s Up Where We Belong.

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The winners here are, often, iconic. Some are better remembered than the film it was recorded for. Can you name the movie Lionel Richie’s Say You Say Me won for? Others might be surprised to learn Doris Day singing Que Sera, Sera is from an Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Yet, one of the best original song nominees, at least of this century, was blanked on awards night. It wasn’t a natural choice, because the movie for which it was written and performed was, in a word, terrible.

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: The Story of Fire Saga - Rachel McAdams as Sigrit Ericksdottir, Will Ferrell as Lars Erickssong. Credit Aidan Monaghan/NETFLIX  2020
Eurovision Song Contest is such a bad movie. Credit: Aidan Monaghan/Netflix

But the song was an absolute banger and, more importantly, intrinsic to the film. It wasn’t just some ditty from a popular artist playing over the closing credits. Sorry, Lady Gaga, but Hold My Hand from Top Gun: Maverick correctly didn’t win.

We’re talking about Husavik from the Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. The movie was bad (so, so bad) and goofy in a not-good way. It was going for camp and gauche (like the real-life Eurovision) but landed in a movie bog where cohesive tone, pacing and scriptwriting are sucked down, never to be seen again.

But Husavik made you almost care about the screen silliness. A little backstory if you will. Eurovision Song Contest stars Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams are two Icelandic singers from a small town. Lars (Ferrell) has big dreams, he wants to win Eurovision, but Sigrit (McAdams), a believer in elves, goes along because she secretly loves Lars.

All through the movie, Lars and Sigrit struggle to be on the same page. At the competition, Lars wants to dazzle the audience but Sigrit wants to perform something more authentic. She starts to write a song and after more conflict between the two, she sings it during the final.

It’s a triumphant moment. Everything stops and you forget how much you hate this movie. The soaring ballad is an ode to her hometown, Husavik, and the life she and Lars could have together.

But it’s not an earnest love song, it’s also a huge character moment, speaking to Sigrit’s desires and talent. When she hits the “speorg note”, which the film has already said you can only do when you’re at your truest self, you’re crying.

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: The Story of Fire Saga - Rachel McAdams as Sigrit Ericksdottir, Will Ferrell as Lars Erickssong. Credit Aidan Monaghan/NETFLIX  2020
Rachel McAdams didn’t sing the actual song, she was dubbed by Swedish artist Molly Sanden. Credit: Aidan Monaghan/Netflix

That’s what the best Oscars original songs should be, one that doesn’t just capture the spirit of the film, or, in Eurovision’s case, what its spirit should be, but also plays a crucial part in the actual narrative.

Here, the final act hangs on Husavik and drives all the story and character beats. The song is better than the film.

Husavik was beaten at the Oscars by Fight for You by H.E.R. for Judas and the Black Messiah, the historical drama about the betrayal and death of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. By every measure, Judas is a better film than Eurovision, but Fight for You is not a better song for a movie than Husavik.

Fight for You is a rousing anthem about the oppression of black communities in the US and it is, as a standalone song, a great one. But it plays over Judas’ closing credits, it’s not integrated into the film. And the movie would not suffer if it wasn’t there.

That’s not a hard and fast rule. John Legend and Common’s Glory was technically played out over the closing credits of Selma, but it was laid over images from the movie about the civil rights voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr, and it met the moment of the film.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in "A Star is Born." (Neal Preston/Warner Brothers/TNS)
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born. Credit: Neal Preston/Warner Bros

Sampling some of the other original song winners this century and you see works such as Shallow from A Star is Born. That song is crucial to the film. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s characters sing the piece during a moment when the two are coming together both romantically and creatively. It’s part of the storytelling.

There’s also the song Falling Slowly from Once, a small Irish film about buskers in Dublin. They fall in love while learning and performing the song. It’s tender and beautiful and, again, tied into the story.

And, of course, there’s Remember Me from Coco, a Pixar movie about a young Mexican boy who accidentally crosses over to the Land of the Dead and seeks help from his ancestors. Key to his journey is trying to connect his love of music with his family’s buried past.

Remember Me is a recurring motif throughout the film, which touches on themes of memory, legacy and everything we inherit from our family. It’s a heartwrenching song that is arranged and sung differently at different points, and if you didn’t cry when Grandma Coco starts to sing her father’s song, then you may actually be dead inside. For reals.

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