As what promises to be the most tediously predictable Oscar night in years approaches, we must cling to whatever small surprises we may alight upon. For example, when the nominations were announced a few weeks ago, the most significant surprise was that only two works had been nominated in the category of Best Original Song: “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, and some song that no one even remembered from Rio.
So how did this happen?
Well, the oddities of the category’s nomination process made it so. Allow me to preface any snide remarks by saying that there is one aspect of the process that I greatly admire: Academy voters are required to experience the songs in context. I love this, because it means that a film cannot simply scoop up a cheap Oscar simply by hiring a name pop star to play over the credits. Integration of music and drama is rewarded and thereby encouraged.
However, that brings me to what is wrong with the process and how we ended up with two lonely nominees. Every voter rates each eligible song on a scale of 1 to 10, but only songs that score an average of 8.25 or higher will receive a nomination. So if only two songs happened to meet the minimum requirement, then only those two songs will be nominated.
However, I’m not convinced that’s what occurred here. You see, if only one song meets the minimum requirement of 8.25 out of 10, then it and its closest runner-up will be nominated, even if the runner-up did not meet the minimum score. I suspect that “Man or Muppet” was the only one to qualify, but inadvertently took its more dubious competitor along for the ride. Certainly, “Man or Muppet” is going to win the award, there can be no doubt of that.
But what this all comes down to is that the Academy has two choices: change the rules, or eliminate the category altogether. Thus far, they seem to have been moving towards the first. Next year we’ll see if it was enough.