The man behind “Man or Muppet” in “The Muppets” now has an Oscar. Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie beat an uncrowded field of two nominees to earn the best original song trophy at the 84th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, and he made sure to thank one of the film’s marquee stars.
“He’s just a normal frog,” McKenzie said of Kermit the Frog. “And like many stars here, he’s a lot shorter in real life.”
The songwriter, who is half of comedy folk duo Flight of the Conchords, also thanked Jim Henson and his team for creating the “magical world” of the Muppets. “It’s a true honor to work in the shadows of such legends,” he beamed.
McKenzie’s charming ballad beat “Real in Rio” from “Rio,” with music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown and lyrics from Siedah Garret.
Ludovic Bource’s music for the silent film “The Artist” earned him the award for original score, besting a pair of entries for John Williams (The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse”) as well as Howard Shore’s “Hugo” and Alberto Iglesias’ “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”
The music awards were presented by a pair of Hollywood’s funniest funnymen, Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis, who entered from the orchestra pit playing cymbals. Loudly. They made a beeline for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, making sure to throw a few extra crashes in for good measure before climbing the stage.
“As serious musicians it is our pleasure to step out from our day jobs for a moment to present the Oscar for best original song,” Ferrell stated.
The “Hangover” actor added, “One of our nominees will join the ranks of previous winners, ‘When You Wish Upon a Star,’ ‘Moon River,’ ‘The Way We Were’ and ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” — a nod to the improbable win of the Three 6 Mafia song in 2005.
Esperanza Spalding provided the soundtrack to the in memoriam segment of the night, singing “What a Wonderful World” with the help of the Southern California Children’s Choir.
To open the show, host Billy Crystal performed his traditional medley of nominees for Best Picture. Before that, the Academy put together a video montage of Crystal floating between some of the top nominees — and getting a kiss from George Clooney. Randomly, Justin Bieber made a cameo for an awkward interaction with Crystal from inside a cab. “What are you doing here?” Crystal asked. “I’m here to get you the 18-24 demographic,” Bieber responded.