Oscar Analysis: What Happened to Best Original Song?

Oscar Analysis: What Happened to Best Original Song?

The convoluted system to select nominees for the Best Original Song Oscar, altered in 2009 when the Academy raised the number of best picture nominees to 10, came back to haunt the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on Tuesday (Jan. 24).

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Only two songs -- "Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets" and "Real in Rio" from "Rio" -- received nominations Tuesday morning, shutting out Elton John's work on "Gnomeo & Juliet," Pink's song in "Happy Feet 2" and Zooey Deschanel's track from "Winnie the Pooh." Madonna's song from "W.E." had already been ruled ineligible.

Unlike other categories, song nominees are determined by voting members of the music branch who watch sections of films where songs are played and nothing else. Since instituted, it has resulted in performance clips and animated songs being nominated but no end credit or background songs.

Voters assign each song a numerical score between 1 and 10, and if no song receives an average of less than 8.25, there are no nominees. If only one song tops the threshold, as clearly happened here, the next highest vote getter secures a nomination as well.

The music branch voters chose to honor Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords for his Jason Segel-sung "Man or Muppet" and the songwriting trio of Sergio Mendes, Brazil's Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett.

70-year-old Sergio Mendes told Billboard early last year, "Rio" was the first film for which he had specifically written music. Brown is a significant star back in Brazil whose music has been released in the U.S. by EMI.

The other music category had its surprises, too, specifically two nominations for composer John Williams, the seventh time he has been double-nominated in a category, most recently in 2005 for "Munich" and "Memoirs of a Geisha." When he has been double-nominated, he has only won once, for "Star Wars" in 1977.

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Williams, a five-time winner, was nominated for his music in "The Adventures of Tintin" and "War Horse," and will go up against Ludovic Bource ("The Artist"), Howard Shore ("Hugo") and Alberto Iglesias ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"). Shore has won three Oscars for his work on "Lord of the Rings" films; Iglesias has two previous noms and no wins; and Bource, whose score for "The Artist" won Best Score at last week's Golden Globes, is a first-time nominee.

The score nominees are all traditional, orchestral scores. Last year, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' electronic score for "The Social Network" shook up the Academy's traditional bent, but there was no second chapter, as their work on "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" did not make the cut. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and "Moneyball" are score-heavy films up for best picture that did not secure music noms.