A song from the animated "Rio" was among the two nominated for… (20th Century Fox / Blue Sky…)
Film and music industry watchers were shocked on Tuesday to find that only two songs got Oscar nominations in the song category, "Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets" and "Real in Rio" from "Rio," both films aimed at family audiences.
"I was surprised to see that there were only two," said Bruce Broughton, one of three governors and chair of the music branch that oversees the song category. "I thought there were several songs that could have made it."
Veteran Latin pop musician and bandleader Sergio Mendes was one of the two who did make it, for his song in the animated hit "Rio."
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"The movie is about Rio, which is my hometown," said Mendes, who now lives in Woodland Hills. "The song symbolized exactly the colors, the happiness, the joy, the sun, the beach and the spirit of Rio, which is why it's called 'Real in Rio.'"
"Man or Muppet" was written by Bret McKenzie, who is one half (with Jemaine Clement) of the New Zealand pop-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords. He also wrote "Life's a Happy Song" for "The Muppets." Three songs from that movie were on the list of eligible songs, including "Pictures in My Head."
If there's any consolation for Elton John, Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige, Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Chris Cornell, Zooey Deschanel and other superstar pop, rock and country musicians who didn't find their songs nominated, it is that they're in pretty stellar company.
The list of also-rans includes a bounty of heavyweight performers and songwriters who nonetheless didn't score enough points with academy voters to make the final nomination list.
That scoring system kept the field small. Voters had 39 songs to sort through this year, and they were asked to assign each a score on a scale of 6 to 10 points, after viewing clips from each film that included the eligible song. Only songs that received an average of 8.25 points or more could be nominated.
"Last year there were four; we've never had a situation where there were none," Broughton said.
Among the songs that fell short of that qualifying score were two Elton John songs from "Gnomeo and Juliet": "Love Builds a Garden" and his duet with Lady Gaga, "Hello Hello." Mary J. Blige's "Living Proof" from "The Help" and Elvis Costello's "Sparkling Day"" from "One Day" were under consideration, along with Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell's "The Keeper" from "Machine Gun Preacher," Deschanel's "So Long" from "Winnie the Pooh" and Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am's "Hot Wings," also from "Rio."
Even being an Academy Award veteran was no guarantee of a nomination this year: eight-time Oscar winner and 19-time nominee Alan Menken didn't make the cut with "Star Spangled Man" from "Captain America."
As others have noted, if this year's Oscar telecast runs late, it won't be because of a surfeit of nominated song performances.