Close scrutinizers of the Academy Award nominations may have noticed two interesting details about this year’s nominees for best original song.
The first: The song “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets”(written by Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords) is nominated, ensuring that Muppets will show up at the Oscar broadcast this year. Naturally, this is cause for international celebration.
And the second, more curious, detail: It’s competing against only one other song: “Real in Rio” from the animated film “Rio.” Only two nominees? That’s a first, right?
It is. But it isn’t the first time that the number of original song contenders has skewed toward the minimal side.
On more than one occasion, only three selections have been nominated for best original song. In fact, it’s happened twice in the past decade: first in 2005, when winner “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from “Hustle & Flow” faced “In the Deep” from “Crash” and “Travelin’ Thru” from “Transamerica”; and again in 2008, when the “Slumdog Millionaire” anthem “Jai Ho” was declared the Oscar victor over “O ... Saya” (also from “Slumdog”) and “Down to Earth” from “WALL-E.”
So how come only two songs got nominated this year? Not enough options?
Not at all. There were 39 tunes eligible for best original song, any of which also could have been nominated.
What about all of the songs that were nominated for Golden Globes in this category? Were they on that list of 39?
Yes, with the exception of the one that claimed the Globe: “Masterpiece,” from the Madonna movie “W.E.” It was deemed ineligible for Oscar consideration because, in order to qualify for a nomination, a song must be used within the film or as the first cue in the closing credits. Apparently “Masterpiece” begins 90 seconds into the credits, thereby ruling it out. Yes, the rules in this category are more than a little absurd.
What else was on the short list that should have been nominated?
Two She and Him songs from “Winnie the Pooh” were worthy of consideration. The Jonsi song “Gathering Stories” from “We Bought a Zoo” also could have been included. And there were two additional “Muppets” songs — “Life’s a Happy Song” and “Pictures in My Head” — on the list. Since two songs from the same film can be nominated, the Oscar original song deck really should have been stacked even more heavily in Kermit the Frog’s favor.
Speaking of “Muppets,” is this the first time a song from a Muppet movie has been nominated?
It is not. It’s the third time. “Rainbow Connection” was nominated in 1979 (it tragically lost to “It Goes Like It Goes” from “Norma Rae”), and “The First Time It Happens” from “The Great Muppet Caper” got a nod in 1981 (it also lost, to “Arthur’s Theme”). So “Man or Muppet” — in addition to being a soaring exploration of the ultimate postmodern identity crisis — is also the best shot at a Muppets song win in the history of the Oscars.
So, basically, if it loses, there will be a mass protest outside the Kodak Theatre?
Probably. I fully expect Jason Segel and good ‘ol Walter — the Muppet who is, in my view, also most decidedly a man — to lead the charge.