I have written quite a bit about the music categories at the Academy Awards before. The inane rules for Best Original Song got so bad last year that even I, a devout musician and staunch defender of the role of song in film, suggested they might as well get rid of the entire category if they don’t plan on overhauling it. Even Randy Newman called them out for terrible decision making during the Oscars.
Guess what? Randy Newman predicted the future. The category is defaulting to five nominees.
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.
Sound familiar? It’s the preferential balloting system that virtually every other category uses. Members of the Music Branch will nominate their favorite eligible songs in preferential order. Top fives songs are nominated for the award. This is how it should have been for years.
So what was so destructive about the old system? Scoring.
Members of the Music Branch had to view all of the eligible songs in the context of the film (ie: as seen on screen). Then, they had to assign a numerical score on a scale of 10. If no films reached the minimum threshold of an 8.25 average, there would be no nominees. If one song reached the threshold, the next highest scoring song would also be nominated. If two nominees reached the threshold, those were the nominees. If three through five reached the threshold, those were the nominees. If more than five reached the threshold, only the top 5 could be nominated.
Hurts your head, doesn’t it? It gets worse. How easy is it, in a branch as small as the Music Branch, to tank a song you just don’t care for with a low score? A handful of people give an otherwise 8 to 9/10 song the lowest possible score and BAM!–denied a nomination. Music is also so subjective that finding a consensus based on a numerical quantity rather than an emotional or artistic response would be near impossible. This is why, in a year with 39 possible contenders, only two songs managed to save Best Original Song from being shelved for the 2011 film year.
Now? Five songs will be nominated. I would formally like to congratulate Karen O on her 2012 Academy Awards nomination for “Strange Love” from the feature film Frankenweenie. Were it not for these stupid rules, she would have already been nominated for “All Is Love” from Where the Wild Things Are. I’d say Arcade Fire is a sure bet, too, but even mandatory five song years only allowed one genuinely odd entry.
What do you think? Has the Academy patched this rotting hole or what? What songs released so far this year have a shot? Sound off below. Love to hear from you.