Best Song Oscar Shuffle: Academy May Revamp Nomination Process
If you thought the Academy's Best Original Song screening process -- which allowed only two nominees this year and excluded such usually Oscar-worthy composers as Elton John and Alan Menken -- has become too stringent, then you're not alone. Bruce Broughton, who heads the executive committee of the Academy's music branch, shares your concerns.
"Some people have said, 'Oh, you blew it this year.'" Broughton told The Wrap. "I don't know. Maybe we blew it. Maybe we didn't. As soon as the Oscars are over, we're going to look at it."
In a year when 39 songs were submitted for Academy consideration, only "Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets" and "Real in Rio" from "Rio" earned nominations; that's the fewest number since the category was created 76 years ago. Left out were songs by such top pop, rock, and country songwriters as Elvis Costello, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Lady Gaga, will.i.am, Pink, Sinead O'Connor, Robbie Williams, Chris Cornell, Brad Paisley and Zac Brown. (Also snubbed: songs by actresses Glenn Close and Zooey Deschanel. And Madonna's Golden Globe-winning "Masterpiece," from her movie "W.E.," was deemed ineligible because Academy rules say a song qualifies only if it's used during the movie or as the first song of the closing credits; "Masterpiece" was used too late in the credits to count.)
The reason for the paucity of nominees is a 2009 rule change that requires a song to score at least 8.25 (on a scale from 6 to 10) to earn a nomination, though if only one song gets that score, then the next highest finisher gets nominated as well. (Which means it's possible this year that only one song scored high enough to qualify.) If fewer than five songs meet the threshold, then there will be fewer than five nominees, as has happened in four of the last seven years. (If more than five songs make the cut, then the top five scorers earn nominations.) And if no song scores 8.25 or better, then the category will be eliminated that year.
"The intent of the rule, whether or not it worked out this way, is to raise the level of quality in the song nominations," Broughton told The Wrap. "We talked about it last year, and asked, do we want to keep that system, knowing that there could have been no nominations? And we voted to keep it this way."
Other Academy branches use a similar scoring system, but even in, say, Best Animated Feature, the eligibility limit is only 7.5.
Broughton has suggested that a score of 8 would be high enough, though it's not clear how many more songs, if any, would have been nominated this year under such a standard. "I can promise you that we're going to take a hard look at the point system," he told The Wrap. "We're going to try to see if we can get the rules to do what we hoped they would do: raise the quality of the nominated songs, so we can stand back proudly and look at our nominees." He added, "Maybe we need to overhaul the whole thing, but it hurts to think that we might have to lower our standards to bring more songs in."
Frequent nominee Diane Warren, snubbed last year for one of her "Burlesque" tunes during a year when there were only four selections, told The Wrap that the category can be fixed without lowering standards -- just pick the five best-loved songs every year. "I'd like to see it work the way it is for anything else," she said. "I hope they change it, because I'd like to get nominated again, and I don't think I will if they keep this shit up."
To add insult to injury, the producers of the Oscar telecast on Feb. 26 aren't scheduling a performance of either nominated song. Barely good enough to get nominated, and not even good enough to showcase before Oscar show viewers. Maybe the Academy would let the Muppets and the "Rio" birds perform if it had more enthusiasm for the category.