The Academy’s music branch has made history again, and not in a good way: Out of 39 eligible songs, only two were nominated, the smallest number since Oscar started rewarding songwriters in 1934.
Acad music-branch governor Bruce Broughton admitted he was surprised that only two songs made the cut while others expressed anger at the process.
According to Oscar rules, branch members rate songs numerically (on a scale of 6 to 10) and a tune must receive an average of 8.25 to be nominated — and if only one hits that benchmark, the next highest-ranking song will be added to the list. So one or both of this year’s song nominees hit that mark, but no others.
Nominated were “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets,” songwriter Bret McKenzie’s first nom; and “Real in Rio” from “Rio,” by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown (both Oscar first-timers) and lyricist Siedah Garrett (her second).
Among the omissions were Elton John (for “Gnomeo & Juliet”), Mary J. Blige (“The Help”), Alan Menken (“Captain America”), Chris Cornell (“Machine Gun Preacher”) and Zac Brown (“Footloose”).
Studio music executives were either angry or disappointed, with one of them telling Variety that the music branch’s “absurd rules have turned the criteria upside down and award-worthy songs can’t even get fair consideration.” The branch consists of about 240 composers, songwriters and music editors.
Diane Warren, a member of the branch and a six-time past nominee, added, “It’s crazy, and it needs to be re-thought.” Warren said she watched the DVD of all the eligible songs that was sent to members and had no trouble finding five worthy ones. (She had no tunes in the contention this year.)
Broughton said the numerical scoring system was established because “there was a feeling in the music branch that the nominations in past years had not been of a high standard. The quality of the songs is a real concern. Whether this is the right solution or not remains to be seen.”
On the score side, John Williams received his 46th and 47th bids, breaking Alfred Newman’s 42-year-old record of 45 music nods. Williams, who now boasts the most Oscar noms of any living person, is up for two Steven Spielberg films, “War Horse” and “The Adventures of Tintin.”
Joining Williams in the score category are first-timer Ludovic Bource for “The Artist”; Howard Shore (a previous three-time Oscar winner) for “Hugo”; and two-time past nominee Alberto Iglesias. It’s an international mix again: Bource is French, Shore Canadian and Iglesias Spanish.
Noted Bource: “Last week I came to Hollywood for the first time in my life. I started playing the accordion when I was 8 years old; I wish I could go back in time and tell myself about today.”