The Academy Awards may be all about the year's best movies, but the actual broadcast is one of television's showiest nights. The Oscars are more revue than straightforward awards show, featuring comedy bits, talking head tributes, and innovative musical numbers. There's even a category that plays directly to the theatrics of the night: Best Original Song. Normally, vocalists take the spotlight to perform a handful of film-inspired singles. But earlier this year, at the 84th Academy Awards, the tradition was cut from the agenda, an attempt to cut down the length of the show. Many thought the move was a sign; a holdover category from the glory days of movie musicals was finally on the outs.
Or not? In an official press release from the Academy of Arts & Sciences announced that this year's ceremony would include five Best Song nominations — no more, no less. Per the release:
"During the nominations process, all voting members of the Music Branch will receive a Reminder List of works submitted in the category and a DVD copy of the song clips. Members will be asked to watch the clips and then vote in the order of their preference for not more than five achievements in the category. The five achievements receiving the highest number of votes will become the nominations for final voting for the award."
Last year's meager selection of nominees clearly invigorated the Awards Rules Committee. 2011 offered 39 possible tunes for Oscar consideration. Thanks to the previous voting system, where the number of nominees was variable, only two songs were selected as potential winners: "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets and "Real in Rio" from Rio (Flight of the Conchords Bret Mackenzie took home the award for Muppets). The slashing of the performances was just another instance of the category being mishandled. The rule change should prove a step in the right direction.
2012 should follow in 2011's footsteps with a hefty selection of eligible songs: Brave's Scottish yarn "Song of Mor'du," a new Les Miserables performed by Hugh Jackman, Florence and the Machine's "Breath of Life" from Snow White and the Huntsman, Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars' "Safe & Sound" from The Hunger Games, Dolly Parton's tunes from Joyful Noise and plenty more to come as Oscar-friendly movies roll out over the next few months. Whether the Academy Awards will once again welcome the musicians back to the stage to belt their nominated songs is another question — but there's reason to be optimistic. Recently-hired producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are veterans of Broadway and musical TV and film (Chicago, Hairspray, and Smash). If there's anything they know, it's how to concoct a great musical number.
Is the Best Song category an essential staple of the Oscars and the broadcast show? Raise your jazz hand if you think they deserve a place alongside Hollywood's best of the best!
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Big Machine Records]