Bret McKenzie loves that he will now forever be known as ‘Academy Award nominee Bret McKenzie.’ “It’s very, very cool,” he admits with a smile. “It’s going to be great to put on posters, especially for local gigs at the local pub – ‘Academy Award nominee, tonight! Eight dollars!'”
McKenzie is nominated in the Best Original Song category as the composer of “Man or Muppet,” a showstopping tune from “The Muppets.” Leading man Jason Segel croons (with tongue in cheek) about whether he is “a man” or “a muppet of a man.”
When director James Bobin (who collaborated with McKenzie on the acclaimed cult hit series “Flight of the Conchords”) approached him to write some of the songs for the film, it might have seemed like a silly job. However, McKenzie says he, “took it very seriously” given the “history and the legacy” of Jim Henson‘s Muppets.
This year, the much-maligned Best Original Song category features only two nominees: McKenzie’s ditty and “Real in Rio” from the animated feature “Rio,” written by Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Seidah Garrett. That only two songs managed to make it through the Academy’s overwhelmingly difficult voting process has been roundly criticized by most commentators, as the likes of Elton John, Mary J. Blige and eight-time Oscar champ Alan Menken were deemed not good enough to even warrant a nomination.
However, this unusually short list doesn’t really faze McKenzie. “At first I thought there must have been a mistake because it didn’t really look like a proper list. But then I realized, that it was great for me, as I’m never going to have a better chance at winning an Oscar!”
Oscarcast producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer are doing away with the tradition of having each nominated song performed live on the ceremony. That decision has been met with a mixed response, given the generally upbeat nature of this year’s nominated songs, not to mention the comedic potential that both songs might have brought to the show.
“It’s a shame, because it would have been really fun to get a man or a muppet up on stage,” admits McKenzie. “I’m still very excited to go, so I don’t mind … I’m not complaining about going to the Oscars.”
As one half of the beloved “Flight of the Conchords” duo (with Jemaine Clement), McKenzie is no stranger to accolades and critical acclaim. The HBO show “Flight of the Conchords” garnered numerous Emmy nominations in 2008 and 2009, including a Best Comedy Series nod in for its second season. McKenzie and Clement won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for the Conchords’ EP “The Distant Future” in 2007.