Before 2011 came to an end, the Academy Awards released a thirty-nine-song shortlist of prospective nominees for Best Original Song. In the end, however, only two made the final cut: “Man or Muppet” by Brett McKenzie for The Muppets, and “Real in Rio” by Sergio Mendez, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett for the movie Rio.
Now, we here at OurStage understand that there are certain unspoken rules to being nominated for an Oscar; that no matter how good a song or how talented the composer, there will always be certain considerations that are out of the artist’s control. Because as different as this year’s contenders are, there must be something they have in common…right? So how were the songs chosen? We think we may have a few ideas…
A Song Must Star in an Animated Film
Although it is true that only one of the nominees is in an animated film, this does seem to be a trend throughout previous Oscar winners. Over the past twenty years, eight of the recipients for Best Original Song have been in animated movies, and out of the thirty-nine shortlisters, those chosen included songs from movies such as Winnie the Pooh, Happy Feet Two, Cars 2 and Gnomeo and Juliet.
A Song Must be Sung by Cute Characters
Once again, this ties in to the fact that many songs that have been nominated for Academy Awards have been in either musicals or animated movies. Alan Menken, who has received eight Academy Awards, won them all through his work with Disney classics. This year, “Real in Rio” featured an entire cast of adorable animated birds, including those voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, Ann Hathaway and Jamie Foxx. “Man or Muppet” also fell into this criterion by including both a man (Jason Segel) and a muppet (Walter) as lead voices.
A Song Must Be EPIC
Yes, we realize that this is kind of a broad term. But when it comes to the Academy Awards, “epic” seems to be the only appropriate word for this year’s nominees- and for very different reasons at that. On one hand, we have “Real in Rio,” with its gorgeous arrangement of vocal harmonies by two of the biggest names in Brazilian music. On the other, we have the humorous and surprisingly well-composed “Man or Muppet,” featuring Jason Segel… just being Jason Segel.
As for the ultimate winner? Only time will tell. For now, we’ll be finding excuses to watch yet another film starring talking cartoon animals.