Mount St. Joseph University

The Oscars 2019: A History Professor Selects “The Place Where Lost Things Go” for Best Original Song

Campus News, School of Arts & Humanities, Department of History, Department of Liberal Arts

By: London Bishop

File Under: faculty, liberal arts, oscars

graphic image of oscar statue

‘"The Place Where Lost Things Go" from Mary Poppins Returns for Best Original Song

By Jennifer Morris, Ph.D., Professor

The original “Mary Poppins” film was released a year after I was born. I grew up watching it, and I still love Jane and Michael’s advert for a nanny, and can sing along with every song word for word. It was, then, with some trepidation that I ventured to see “Mary Poppins Returns,” despite the fact that the two lead roles had been filled by Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, artists I admire.

I hadn’t read any of the advance publicity about the film, and I had no idea it would pick up the previous story of Jane and Michael Banks, now adults still living in London, or that the indomitable magical nanny would appear as she had before, from the sky, to care for Michael’s three children in the wake of the death of their mother. 

This film did not disappoint on any count. The story was rich and fun, and took the Banks children to new magical places as well as to yet unknown corners of London. The cast provided seamless performances, and the overall look of the film was a neat combination of dirty city streets and Technicolor fantasy lands. I have for many years enjoyed watching Emily Blunt’s career unfold, and now, taking up the mantle of the role of Mary Poppins, she has not only added to her list of vibrant and disparate characters played, she has, as noted in the Hollywood Reporter, proved herself a most worthy successor to Julie Andrews. 

Who knew Emily Blunt could sing like that?

She’s wonderful when goofing with Miranda during their big number, “A Cover is Not the Book,” but it is her rendition of “The Place Where Lost Things Go” that establishes Blunt as a songstress to be reckoned with. The song, meant to comfort the Banks children who are struggling with the absence of their mother and the grief of their father, is one of those Disney movie masterpieces that wraps you up like a warm blanket and lets you have your cry if you need to. Written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who scored the Broadway musical “Hairspray,” the song gently addresses the void that has been left in their lives. They have gone to bed, but are beset by so many worries about their father and their situation, that all of Mary Poppins’ crisp demands for them to go to sleep go unheeded. 

Like “Stay Awake” in the original, “The Place Where Lost Things Go” is a lullaby. The song cleverly weaves in references to the original story by P.L. Travers as well as to the acute heartache the children are experiencing as they look “for the place where the lost things go.” It ends with the hope that, just as the spring brings forth all the things that hide “far beneath the snow,” the children, too, will one day find the place “where the lost things go.” 

The song’s competitors for the Oscar are indeed worthy, and are all very different one from the other. This might make the choice difficult for the Academy judges. I hope, however, they will listen carefully to this little lullaby that tunefully opens a space in a London nursery for heartache and hope, and place it in that most magical canon of songs.