We should all be ashamed of ourselves. It is the year 2023, and Amy Adams—ginger goddess, acting extraordinaire—still has no Oscars. I don’t know what the general public could’ve done to prevent this. (Show up at every Academy member’s door to persuade them? Not a bad idea) But after almost 25 years of killing it in her field, the lack of recognition Adams has earned from the Academy is reprehensible, foolish, and a downright assault on humankind.
Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. Still, as The Daily Beast’s Obsessed pens a series of beautiful tributes to past Academy Award ceremonies, we’ve been writing about our favorite Oscars winners and favorite Oscars moments—two very different concepts. It pains me to write an ode to Adams in the latter category. I should be writing about her win for Arrival, or Junebug, or, my favorite, Enchanted.
Nevertheless, the Oscars did tease us when Adams took the stage in 2008, showing us what could’ve been had the actress been standing there after hearing her name read from an envelope. Alas, no, she didn’t win an Oscar. Her Enchanted tune “Happy Working Song” was nominated for Best Original Song, so she was invited to perform at the Kodak Theatre.
Inviting Adams to perform after neglecting to nominate her for portraying the goofy, magical, wonderful Giselle in Enchanted? The Oscars had quite the audacity, 15 years ago. At that point, though, Adams had only been nominated for one other film (Junebug), and hadn’t been wronged yet by the snubs for Doubt, The Fighter, The Master, American Hustle, Vice and Arrival (which she, sinfully, wasn’t even nominated for).
Two songs from Enchanted were nominated for Best Original Song; neither of them won. First, there was “That’s How You Know,” the song plucky Giselle sings in Central Park while sporting a brand new floral dress cut from curtains to convince the world how to fall in love correctly. Then, “Happy Working Song”—the selection Adams made to sing at the Oscars—which sees Giselle cleaning a New York apartment with the help of some animal pals (rats, roaches, and pigeons).
Unlike other Disney princess musicals, “Happy Working Song” isn’t set with lush forestry backgrounds or towering castles, and doesn’t feature the colorful hues of a fantastical fairytale. Quite the opposite: This song takes place in a dirty shoebox apartment in Manhattan. The harmonious beauty of Adams’ sing-songy princess voice is juxtaposed perfectly with roaches ripping a hairball out of a shower drain, her poofy wedding dress spattered with dirt from the garbage disposal.
Which is why Adams’ performance makes a departure from the usual grand production of a Disney song at the Oscars. Last year, Encanto went huge at the Oscars, bringing out Megan Thee Stallionfor a performance of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” Idina Menzel (aka Adele Dazeem, per John Travolta) had glittering trees behind her when she sang “Let it Go” from Frozen. But back when Adams performed “Happy Working Song,” all she had was a gorgeous little black dress and her good humor.
This simplistic performance suited Adams, who was able to pull off the chipper song without any frou-frou Oscars add-ons. In fact, the minimalist performance actually fit Adams better, putting all the emphasis on her melodious princess voice and her emotive acting style. When Adams sang about “hosing down the garbage drains and scrubbing up the toilet,” she squealed with delight, a minor (yet priceless) detail that could’ve been lost in a frillier production.
With no decorations, no big ball gown, and no props, Adams proved her ability to captivate an audience with just a small smirk and a song. There was no dancing; instead, the actress made slight moves with her arms—showing her muscles off at the line “big and strong,” or clasping her hands together under her chin while singing about her one true love. It only took two minutes for Adams to enchant us all—no splashy production needed.
Now, looking back at her performance 15 years later, it’s clear that this was foreshadowing a career full of subtle acts of brilliance from the star. Adams has brought such grace and gentleness to every role starred in after that, from Her and Julie & Julia to Sharp Objects and Big Eyes. Even Disenchanted, the nightmarish sequel to Enchanted, was a wonderful spotlight on one of the greatest actresses of our time.
Read more of our picks for “My Favorite Oscars Win”
Three 6 Mafia winning Best Original Song
Marisa Tomei winning Best Supporting Actress
Days of Heaven winning Best Cinematography
Read more of our picks for “The Oscars Moment I’ll Never Forget”
The emotional 2009 acting tributes
John Travolta’s ‘Adele Dazeem’ gaffe
Anne Hathaway and James Franco’s hosting disaster
The time High School Musical infiltrated the Oscars
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