‘Rouge’ redlined for Oscar race

Armstrong, Baerwald left out of noms due to eligibility rules

“Moulin Rouge,” the year’s most acclaimed musical film, won’t be nominated in any of Oscar’s tune categories this year. And some observers are asking — in view of its wins at the American Film Institute Awards and Golden Globes for Craig Armstrong’s score (as well as a Globe bid for David Baerwald’s song “Come What May”) — why not?

The reasons lie in the strict, precisely worded eligibility rules laid down by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

“Come What May” is a focal point of “Moulin Rouge,” as the characters played by Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman confess their love, and it recurs as their love theme. Unfortunately, as Fox officials acknowledge, it was not written for the film. It was penned for an earlier work by director Baz Luhrmann, 1996’s “Romeo + Juliet.”

Luhrmann resurrected the tune for “Rouge,” but Academy rules state that in order to be eligible for original song, the tune must be “written specifically for the film.”

Fox music officials even met with Acad reps to discuss the eligibility of the song, but it did not meet the criteria and as a result was not formally entered for the Oscars.

Says Fox Music president Robert Kraft, a songwriter nominated for 1992’s “The Mambo Kings,” “I understood the Academy’s point of view. It’s an award given for the craft of creating a song specifically for the needs of a film. The disappointment is, here’s Fox Music spending three years intensely focused on a movie musical, and with 40 popular songs throughout ‘Moulin Rouge,’ there’s one original song that has never been recorded, exploited or heard by the world, and it’s ineligible.

“It’s as if we came to the party in our most beautiful dress and they said, ‘Sorry, please wait at the door.’ Even though it might be the most beautiful dress to come to the party this year.”

Armstrong’s dramatic underscore was entered but ruled ineligible because, based on a reading of the cue-by-cue breakdown by music branch executive committee members, is not “a substantial body of music” as required by the original score rules and also fails under a rule that disallows “scores diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs.”

Academy spokesman John Pavlik confirms that the rarely used third Oscar music category, “original musical,” will not be activated this year because only one film was submitted for consideration (which he declined to specify).

“Moulin Rouge” would not qualify under that category either because Academy rules state: “An original musical consists of not fewer than five original songs by the same writer or team of writers,” again written specifically for the film.

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