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Bob Dylan was all over this year's Oscar-nominated movies

Written by
Michael Smith

It's been a good month for Bob Dylan. His latest album, Shadows in the Night, was released on February 3 and he received the Grammys' MusiCares "Person of the Year" award on February 7 (where he stunned those present by giving a 35-minute acceptance speech, the longest he’s ever spoken in public). But an intriguing trend not much commented upon is that Dylan also figured prominently in this year’s Academy Award-nominated films.

Boyhood Richard Linklater’s masterpiece, which undeservedly lost the Best Picture Oscar, is the most Dylan-centric film of the bunch. Dylan’s longtime lead guitarist, Charlie Sexton, turns up in a supporting role, and among the songs on the superb soundtrack is “Beyond the Horizon” from Dylan’s 2006 Modern Times album. Linklater was astute in associating different pop songs with different characters in the film and “Beyond the Horizon,” with Dylan in romantic-crooner mode, is clearly meant to be a Mason Evans, Sr. (Ethan Hawke) jam.

Selma Several songs from Dylan’s early years (e.g., “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’”) served as unofficial anthems of the Civil Rights movement and so it’s fitting that one of the key scenes in Ava DuVernay’s Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic would feature Odetta’s haunting rendition of Dylan’s anti-war classic “Masters of War” from 1962. 

Foxcatcher Bennett Miller’s dramatization of the real-life tragedy concerning the murder of Olympic wrestling coach Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) by multimillionaire John DuPont (Steve Carrell) also functions as an essay on the dark side of the American dream. One memorable scene involves Dave’s younger brother, Mark (Channing Tatum), snorting cocaine with DuPont while Dylan’s cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” plays in the background. A majestic instrumental version of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” also plays during the film's final scene.

Bob Dylan himself won an Oscar for Best Original Song for “Things Have Changed” (Wonder Boys) in 2001. His spring tour kicks off on April 10, though there is no Chicago date.

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