One of the keys to “La La Land” matching the Oscar record of 14 nominations was its two noms in the Best Original Song field, a category that will be equally important in determining whether or not the film can also match or best the record of most wins with 11. Below, see my analysis of whether having two songs in the running — in this case “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” — helps or hurts a film’s Oscar chances, and then have your own say by voting in our poll.
Many awards pundits believe that “La La Land” could have even set a new record at 15 nominations if rules allowed its third eligible song, John Legend‘s “Start a Fire,” to also be nominated. That, however, was not an option. In 2008, the academy changed its rules to limit nominations in the song category to no more than two per film. This came after back-to-back years of three nominations apiece for “Dreamgirls” (2006) and “Enchanted” (2007). Neither of those films won Best Song, a sign that perhaps the availability of more nominations slots for one film left the result too vulnerable to vote-splitting.
There are, however, many examples of vote-splitting not being a factor in a song’s chances at the Oscar, including most recently “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) which won for “Jai Ho” despite also having “O Saya” nominated. In 1994, “The Lion King” was nominated for three of its songs and Tim Rice and Elton John‘s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” still managed to win. In fact, that year marked the fourth in a row that a film won Best Song despite multiple nominations — “Philadelphia” won with two (1993), “Aladdin” won with two (1992) and “Beauty and the Beast” won with three (1991).
“Cold Mountain” (2003) was the first film following that four-year pattern to have the chance, but both nominated songs lost to “Into the West” from the awards sweeper “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” After that came the “Dreamgirls” and “Enchanted” triple nominations that also came up short. And then another Disney film, “The Princess and the Frog” (2009) lost both of its nominated songs to “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart.”
That puts “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and “City of Stars” in position to achieve yet another milestone for “La La Land.” If either song wins it will be the first time a film has won the category despite multiple nominations since “Slumdog Millionaire.” As for which of the two songs has the edge, the likely bet is “City of Stars” which is already the winner of the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes award in the category. Gold Derby’s Oscar experts from major media outlets agree, giving “City of Stars” leading 2/5 odds.
In the event that vote-splitting does lead to a “La La Land” loss here, the likeliest beneficiary is “How Far I’ll Go” (“Moana”) by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a nominee throughout the awards season. With a victory, Miranda would achieve an incredible milestone of his own, capping off a quick ascension to EGOT status having won his first Tony in 2008 and Grammy in 2009 for “In the Heights” and his Emmy in 2014 for his original music contribution to the 67th Tony Awards.
Voters could also flock to the celebrity of Justin Timberlake who is nominated with pop producers Max Martin and Shellback for their “Trolls” track “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Timberlake would become the third mainstream pop artist in a row to win the award following the wins by Common and John Legend (“Glory,” 2014) and Sam Smith (“Writing’s on the Wall,” 2015).
The academy’s fifth option is J. Ralph and Sting’s “The Empty Chair” from the documentary “Jim: The James Foley Story.” J. Ralph is a three-time nominee in the category and composed the music for five other Oscar-nominated documentaries, including the 2008 winner “Man on Wire.” Watch our recent interview with J. Ralph and Sting.
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