“The Muppets” is a frontrunner in the Oscar race for Best Song. “Life’s a Happy Song” and “Man or Muppet” by Grammy winner Bret McKenzie — half of the band Flight of the Conchords — are cheerful, memorable ditties while the more somber “Pictures in My Head” could also resonate.
What makes these three tunes from “The Muppets” such serious contenders is that they did not simply play over the end credits. Music branch members view a DVD clip of each song to see how it is used in the context of the film before rating it on a scale from 6 to 10 in half-point increments. Those with an average of 8.25 or higher can become nominees. However, only two songs can be nominated per film.
Songs that play over the end credits don’t tend to contend. While “We Belong Together” which ran at the end of “Toy Story 3‘ did win last year, a very funny montage was rolling alongside the credits. Among the static end credit songs this year are: “Lay Your Head Down” from “Albert Nobbs” with lyrics by star Glenn Close and sung by Sinead O’Connor; “The Living Proof” from “The Help” sung by Mary J. Blige and co-written by ten-time Oscar nominee Thomas Newman; and Madonna‘s original track for “W.E.” “Hugo” has the French language ditty “Coeur Volant,” but that too plays over the end titles. And Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have “So Long” which plays at the end of “Winnie the Pooh.”
Pink‘s “Bridge of Light” from “Happy Feet 2” and “The Backson Song” from “Winnie the Pooh” are songs sung within the context of the movie. They could join the long list of tunes from animated films that contended for Original Song include recent nominees from “The Princess and the Frog” (2009), “WALL-E” (2008), “Cars” (2006), and “Shrek 2” (2004). “The Backson Song” was written by two-time Tony winner Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who recently spoke to Gold Derby about their love of this assigment.
Eight-time Oscar champ Alan Menken was nominated last year for a tune from the animated film “Tangled.” He and Tony-winning lyricist David Zippel could find themselves contending this year for — of all things — “Captain America.” They wrote a WWII propaganda song titled “Star Spangled Man” that gets prominent use in the film. Menken and Zippel were nominated together for “Go the Distance” from “Hercules” in 1997.
Other possibilities include the original songs “Where the River Goes” and “Fake I.D.” from the remake of “Footloose.” The title track for the original film was a nominee back in 1984. 1994 champ Elton John (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King”) and Bernie Taupin wrote two melodies for “Gnomeo and Juliet” including “Hello, Hello” on which John duets with Lady Gaga. And country superstar Brad Paisley and British singer Robbie Williams collaborated on “Collision of Worlds” from “Cars 2.”