Oscar Guide 2011: Best Music (Original Song)

Posted by · 11:34 am · February 21st, 2012

(The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)

So, 39 songs were qualified for eligibility in this year’s Best Original Song race. 39. That’s one short of 40. But apparently 37 of them just weren’t good enough for the music branch, as the category turned up two — yes, two — nominees. One of them, at least to my mind, is dubious at best, while the other would at least appear to be in a cakewalk for the win (judging by consensus).

Is it not just patently obvious that the music branch can’t be bothered with this category anymore? Just get rid of it if that’s the case. I happen to like the category (many would like to see it die a quick death), but seeing something like this go down, after countless screw-ups in better fields over the last few years, it’s just painful to watch.

The nominees are…

“Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” (Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie)

“Real in Rio” from “Rio” (Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown; Lyric by Siedah Garrett)

The big snub here, surely, is “Star Spangled Man” from “Captain America: The First Avenger.” If something like that isn’t good enough, when it’s so clearly what the category is supposed to be about, then, again, just hang it up.

In any case, barring something unexpected happening, Bret McKenzie might want to go ahead and dust off a space on his mantle for his new Oscar, because “Man or Muppet” is kind of the no-brainer choice here. (Then again, “no brain” is the operative language here.) It’s bitter-sweet, though, because I actually thought “Pictures in My Head” was the best track from “The Muppets,” certainly the most emotional. And I’ve never been quite as taken with this one as everyone else has. Additionally, it was too bad the music branch shot the Oscarcast production in the foot by nominating the ONE song that isn’t performed by the classic Muppets, but now Jasen Segel and Walter can’t even carry the torch for Kermit and the rest, as the performances of this year’s nominees have been nixed altogether. Sigh…

Meanwhile, “Real in Rio” from 20th Century Fox’s animated effort “Rio” was the WTF nomination of the field. It’s a great little song with all the energy you’d expect of Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown‘s music. It’s used in the context of the narrative as a big number (just like the snubbed “Life’s a Happy Song” from “The Muppets,” actually) with perfunctory lyrics from Siedah Garrett. I’m listening to the song while I write this and I’m still running out of things to say about it, but I guess that big show-stopping moment was enough to sway opinion when they screened the various clips, because I don’t think there’s anything inherently award-worthy about the track itself. I guess it’s cool Mendes is an Oscar nominee now, though. Nevertheless, watch out. Seriously. While we’re all expecting “The Muppets” to prevail, this one could easily slide in for the gotcha moment of the evening as the Academy isn’t exactly the most pro-Muppet group of people on the planet. Indeed, I may change this prediction before long.

Will win: “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets”

Could win: “Real in Rio” from “Rio”

Should win: “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets”

Should have been here: “Star Spangled Man” from “Captain America: The First Avenger

A scene from The Muppets

Keep track of our current rankings in the Best Music (Original Song) category via its Contenders page here.

What do you think should be taking home this gold in this category? Who got robbed? Speak up in the comments section below!

(Read previous installments of the Oscar Guide here.)

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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