Oscar History

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39 Original Songs Aim To Have Oscar Singing Along...

If you've ever read Inside Oscar, you'll know that the Best Original Song category at the Oscars has been infuriating people since time immemorial. They regularly snub instant classics and even when a great movie song is nominated it will usually lose. The music branch gets far less flak from the media than other controversial Academy subcategories like the Documentary group or the Foreign Language Film nominating committee but that's only because everyone knows that songwriting has very little to do with the actual art of cinema ... unless you're writing an original musical. Brett McKenzie's work on The Muppets aside, that really only happens once a decade or so.

Four other quirks to know. 

  1. The music branch HATES Madonna as a songwriter (the list of classic songs snubbed is alarming and her W.E. song "Masterpiece" has already been jettisoned) but likes her as a singer (both times she has sung other people's material -- Evita and Dick Tracy -- wins followed).
  2. They actually have an average point system to determine nominations rather than a  hierarchal ballot like most categories so you can theoretically torpedo someone you don't like by giving them a bad score.
  3. Three, a maximum of two songs from any movie can be nominated so if you are the only person who wrote an original musical that year, you can't hog the category even though you did more work than anyone else.
  4. They can't even be trusted to let the original performers perform them on the ceremony (Hi Beyoncé!) so don't get too excited about seeing Robbie Williams, Elton John, Zooey Deschanel, Lady Gaga, Jordin Sparks, Melissa Manchester, or any of the other celebs who sang this year's eligible tunes.


I'm rooting for Captain America's "Star Spangled Man" because it's a) awesome and b) actually used for narrative purpose rather than end credit pleasantries. Both are so rare in this category! So watch it get shut out.

Here's the eligibility list with as many music videos as I could find after the jump...


African Cats "The World I Knew" (Jordin Sparks sings it)

Albert Nobbs "Lay Your Head Down" (Sinead & Glenn Close)
Captain America: The First Avenger "Star Spangled Man" 
Cars 2 "Collision of Worlds"

Dam999 "Dakkanaga Dugu Dugu"
Dam999 "Dam999 Theme Song" 
Dam999 "Mujhe Chod Ke"

Dirty Girl "Rainbird" (Melissa Manchester and Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen!)


• The First Grader "Keep on Walking"
• Footloose "Where the River Goes

• Gnomeo & Juliet "Hello Hello" (Elton John & Lady Gaga sing it)
• Gnomeo & Juliet "Love Builds a Garden" (Elton John)

Happy Feet Two "Bridge of Light" (P¡NK !)
Happy Feet Two "The Mighty Sven"

Happythankyoumoreplease "Never Be Daunted" 

Hell and Back Again "Hell and Back"
The Help "The Living Proof"
Hugo "Coeur Volant"
I Don't Know How She Does It "It's How We Play"

In the Land of Blood and Honey "When the Heart Dies"
Jose & Pilar "Ja Nao Estar"
Machine Gun Preacher "The Keeper"

The Muppets "Life's a Happy Song"
The Muppets "Pictures in My Head"
The Muppets  "Pictures in My Head"

The Music Never Stopped "Summer Song"
Olive "Imaginary Friends"
One Day "Sparkling Day"  (Elvis Costello)
Our Idiot Brother "Taking You With Me" (Mindy Smith and Daniel Tashian)
POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold "The Greatest Song I Ever Heard" (OK GO)

Rio "Let Me Take You There" (Justin Beiber) 
Rio "Rea in Rio"
Rio "Hot Wings"

Take Shelter "Shelter"
We Bought a Zoo "Gathering Stories" (Jónsi)

White Irish Drinkers "Pop" (The Shillaly Brothers)
Win Win "Think You Can Wait"

Winnie the Pooh "The Backson Song"
Winnie the Pooh "So Long


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Reader Comments (25)

this category has no respect from me since they shut out the wrestler, an education, & scott pilgrim vs the world in recent years... i would loved to see the songs from Submarine & the theme from Drive in this list ... but anyways I expect a miracle so I can see Win Win getting a nomination in this category

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChecko

I guess my favorites are The Muppets songs and Captain America song on principle. They are all used to advance the plot and I actually remember them. I'm rooting for "Star-Spangled Man" for being such a great period-inspired song.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Já Não Estar, 'José and Pilar': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yb6GpygKxVo&feature=share

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

My favorites of the bunch are also Star-Spangled Man and the Muppets songs. But I'm also very fond of the songs from 'Rio'. If anything they make me dance.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

Weren't any of the Drive songs original?

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

John T -- no, those are old synthpop songs.

December 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

NATHANIEL - 'A Real Hero' by College is original... and I think it really captures the feeling of the film, is about the main character, it plays constantly through the movie without distract and its quite memorable once you finish to watch the movie, to me that's an example of best original song

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChecko

Zooey Deschanel's song for Winnie the Pooh is absolutely delightful and should seriously considered by the music branch.
I'm really afraid they don't take her song seriously because she's an actress.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVictor S

Checko, iTunes says that A Real Hero was released on a January 2010 EP.

I'm rooting for "Shelter" from Take Shelter, one of the few songs I actually took note of in this year's films, and am rooting against the anachronistic "Lay Your Head Down" from Albert Nobbs.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

'Shelter' gets my vote, although I think 'Living Proof' could be the winner. Unless the Academy really wants to turn Glenn Close into 'Academy Award Winner Glenn Close'. (We all know that Best Song is really Best Consolation Prize for a Movie we Liked... cough, cough, 'The Motorcycle Diaries'.)

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat

Take a moment to check out the Shillaly Brothers' "Pop" from White Irish Drinkers. Great song that fits beautifully with a moving film...

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred S

I'm guessing two from The Muppets + Captain America, The Help and maybe one from Rio because all five are used in the film somehow. I love the song from "Take Shelter", but it's used solely in the credits so I doubt it will get nominated. I hate the stupid "Albert Nobbs" song and can't fathom why anyone would wanna nominate it, but then they did nominate those few minutes of humming from "127 Hours" last year, so...

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

"Masterpiece" is the second song used in the end credits to "W.E." The rules say that it has to be the first end credits song or used within the film itself. Then they go through that convoluted "8.25" threshold to be an actual nominee after seeing film clips, so end credits songs are automatically at a disadvantage. I think Madonna could have had a legitimate shot at getting a nod here if she knew or cared to understand the Academy's rules. I know it's a common talking point that the Academy hates Madonna, and maybe for good reason with her film output and reputation. But at least they've nominated songs that she's sung in the past, if not written. And even if she were nominated, there's no guarantee that the ultra-stingy and conservative music branch would induct her. But this time though, it's Madonna's own damn fault for being snubbed.

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLem

DAM999 theme song is awesome It is really captivating the ears and mind. A different song

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHarry

I liked that song Harry !!!!! Its interesting . I cudnt make the Indian song Muje chodke, but that gives a different feel

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

DAM999 theme song strongly fits into the movie. It is a awesome compostion

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWoh Chin

LEM -- yep, you're right on the rules. But i must nitpick this point: someone's reputation for being in bad movies should not give the academy a good reason to reject their awesome songwriting. different things. The list of movie songs madonna has been shunned for is long and telling

DIE ANOTHER DAY (of course they're not fond of James Bond songs in general)

i probably forgot something. and while a couple of those might have been ineligible but it's still quite a list to have received ZERO nominations from.

GLENN -- well, The Living Proof is an end credits song, too so who knows. They've snubbed the perceived frontrunner before.

December 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

how about...Jardinero..from "A better life" by Ozomatli great song.great movie...come on academy!!!

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhersonfermin

I'm on the Muppet bandwagon, but if there was any justice, The Backson Song from Winnie the Pooh would get nominated (as would the film in general for Best Animated Film). The whole flick really should be in the mix, but I think it's just a bit too simple to be appreciated for the wonderfully classic vibe it creates. The Backson Song is a perfect fit in the film itself and quite clever in the grand scheme of the flick, but watching it again in the clip above, it doesn't quite work on its own.

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

It's not Madonna but Weinstein who should have ensured the rules were met. I'm sure Weinstein was the entity that wanted her to do the damn song to begin with (it was not present in any of the test screenings and indeed seems to have barely made it into the film before press and Oscar-qualifying screenings), so they should have made sure about placement and any other rules.

Is there any way to get the Academy or this branch to specifically comment on why a song did not make it onto this list, to confirm that placement was considered as opposed to "it just didn't make it"?

As for Madonna's many, many, many Oscar snubs, her singing a song does not mean they like her as a singer. She sang songs by fucking Stephen Sondheim and Rice & Webber!

The most obnoxious exclusions have to be "Beautiful Stranger" and "This Used to Be My Playground" as both came well after she was acknowledged as being a musical icon (as opposed to "Live to Tell" or "Into the Groove," when she was such a "pop tart" it should not have been surprising she'd be overlooked), and I believe both of those songs were honored with Golden Globes noms and in some other honors.

"It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" won. Enough said.

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Rettenmund

Nathaniel, Madonna has been eligible in the best song category for these songs:

1985 Vision quest - Crazy for you
1987 Who's that girl? - Who's that girl? / The look of love / Causing a commotion ( Can't stop
1992 A leaguer of their own - This used to be my playground
1994 With honors - I'll remember
1999 Austin Powers. The spy who sagged me - Beautiful stranger
2002 Die another day - Die another day

Both Live to tell and Into the groove weren't eligible, at least that's what says www.oscars.org when you search Madonna.

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Star-Spangled Man is great and fits so well into the film, but my vote will always and forever be for Life's A Happy Song from The Muppets. It's the only song that I was humming for days on end after seeing the film, and it's such a perfect old-fashioned musical number.

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

It's the snobby music branch that hold Madonna's reputation against her. I'm not saying it's right, but that's the way it goes sometimes. And at least she's made the longlist a couple of times and gotten to sing at the Oscars with a few songs she performed. That's better than nothing. Not a lot of people get even that. But the major point I was trying to get at was that with "Masterpiece," you can't really call it a snub when she didn't bother to follow the rules. That's on her and no one else.

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLem

Madonna was the director of this film after all. She has more than a little culpability in all of this, more than just a siinger for hire.

December 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRex

Oscar-worthy songs should elicit emotion on their own, and enhance the emotion of a poignant movie scene. For this reason, I think Jonsi's song for We Bought a Zoo, and the National's song for \"Win Win\" would have been excellent choices for Oscars.

My tastes lean toward what some call \"alternative\" music and away from songs that are silly, anyway. But it is heartbreaking to see only two songs nominated, and worse to see a silly Muppets song take home the prize.

The Academy succeeded in giving this award to a song that parodies emotion in music, in the same way that they gave the lead actor award to an \"over-acted\" performance in the Voice. This should be the highest honors in the industry, but they are very insulting the artists they should be honoring. How tragic. Something is broken in Academy Award-land.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarc H
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