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Why do the Oscar voters hate songs so much? Once again, the music branch has shown utter contempt for contemporary songwriters as they nominated only two tunes in the best original song category out of the 39 deemed eligible. What an insult.
A few years ago the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences changed the way it nominated songs, making it much harder for a tune to qualify. The Academy now holds a session to screen movie clips featuring the eligible songs. The members of the music branch then assign the songs a score. Those scores are then averaged; to be eligible a song must receive an average score of 8.25 or more (if only one song achieves that criteria, the second highest score is also selected). If two or more songs achieve the 8.25 benchmark, they will be the nominees up to a total of five.
To be eligible, both the words and music must have been written specifically for the film and the song must appear either in the film body or as the first cue in the end credits (Madonna’s Golden Globe-winning “Masterpiece” from “W.E.” was deemed ineligible because it was the second cue in the end credits).
Since the new rules have been in place, songs that seemed like shoo-ins, such as Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wrestler” from the movie of the same name, have not made the grade.
We can’t for the life of us figure out how five songs from this year’s eligible batch didn’t make the cut. We’d like to see a little transparency from the music branch and have its members explain exactly what they’re looking for since it seems incredulous that they couldn’t come up with more than two tunes.
In recent years, AMPAS also altered the rules so that no more than two songs from any one film can be nominated. If the committee is having such a godawful time finding five songs its members deem good enough for consideration, maybe the Academy should consider rescinding the two-song limit.
Here are songs that should have made the cut (in addition to the fine two choices of “Rio’s” “Real in Rio,” a heretofore overlooked track that beautifully sets the mood for the animated flick, and “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets”). For a look at other Oscar winners and losers, go here.
*“Star Spangled Man” from “Captain America: The First Avenger.” The song, written by Oscar fave Alan Menken (and David Zippel) has everything a voter could possible want in a nominee: it’s placed right in a pivotal scene in the movie, as opposed to the end title; it propels the plot, it’s catchy as can be, and, did we mention it was written by Alan Menken, for Christ’s sake.
*”Love Builds a Garden” from “Gnomeo & Juliet.” To be sure, “Hello, Hello” a duet between Elton John and Lady Gaga garnered more attention (and the Golden Globe nod), but this classic John/Bernie Taupin tune captures the beautiful love story between the two flamingos in the best wordless montage since “Up.”
*”The Living Proof” from “The Help.” Considered an absolute lock for a nomination, this beautiful tune, co-written and performed by Mary J. Blige, was an end title song, but it perfectly wrapped up the spirit of the movie. Blige wrote it as she watched footage: you can't adhere to the rules more than that.
*”Life’s a Happy Song” from “The Muppets.” I prefer this to “Man or Muppet,” which seems a little forced with the “manly muppet” line, where as “Life’s A Happy Song” is pure joy. It does everything you want a song in a movie to do and it stands alone as its own song outside of the film. The catchiest song among the 39 eligible tunes.
*”Where The River Goes” from “Footloose.” I know this one never really stood a chance because the music branch voters probably have no idea who Zac Brown is or look down on country music, but if you look at the criteria and how the song is used, it’s a worthy choice. The song plays as Ren McCormack is coming into town and its dark undertones foreshadow the trouble coming his way. Hey, it was good enough for a Grammy nod...
While we’re primarily dismayed at the best original song, we’d also like to discuss our disappointment that Jonsi’s absolutely magical score for Cameron Crowe's “We Built A Zoo” didn’t receive a best original score nomination.
What do you think about this year's Best Original Song race?
Follow Melinda Newman on Twitter @HitFixMelinda