'Slumdog' music up for three Oscars

Golden Globe winner Bruce Springsteen shut out

"Slumdog Millionaire" leads the way in the Oscar music categories, with songs "Jai Ho" and "O Saya" nominated for best song and A.R. Rahman nominated for original score.

"It's been a dream to get an Oscar," Rahman said. "I thought maybe one nomination -- but three? It's really something. I was so excited."

The best song nominees are: "Down to Earth" from "WALL-E" (Walt Disney), music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, lyric by Peter Gabriel; "Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight), music by A.R. Rahman, lyric by Gulzar; and "O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight), music and lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam.

The best score nominees are: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Alexandre Desplat; "Defiance" (Paramount Vantage), James Newton Howard; "Milk" (Focus Features), Danny Elfman; "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman; and "WALL-E" (Walt Disney), Thomas Newman.

In the best song category, the Academy has the option of nominating anywhere between three to five songs; this year, only three made the cut. Not nominated? Bruce Springsteen, who won the Golden Globe for the title track from "The Wrestler."

It's the first Oscar nominations for Rahman, Guizar, M.I.A and Gabriel; with his two on the day, it's Newman's tenth nomination.

For score, it's Desplat's second nomination, Howard's eighth nomination and Elfman's fourth nomination. None of the nominees in either song or score have previously won a music Oscar.

Rahman was at home with his family in India, and received a call from his agent just before the nominations were aired on television. "For years of marriage, my wife has been saying that I need to get an Oscar--and I said 'How am I going to get an Oscar if I don't leave India?,'" he said. "She's the most excited. It's a proud moment."

Rahman said he's left messages with M.I.A., Guizar and his musicians, but in the chaos of the moment he hasn't been able to connect yet with any of them.

"I think I was snoring and drooling in my sleep," Howard said of receiving word of his nomination, which came via a 5:30 a.m. phone call from his agent, Sam Schwartz. "Randy Newman said it better than anybody -- being nominated is like having your birthday every day between here and the Oscars."

His work on "Defiance," a movie based on the true story of a Jewish rebellion during World War II, struck home for Howard, who found out he was Jewish in his late 30s. "My grandparents came from eastern Russia and I really felt the connection," he said. "The whole thing was just very, very special. I owe a great debt to (director) Ed Zwick and (violinist) Joshua Bell."

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" leads the nominations with 13; it's one short of the all-time Oscar nomination, 14, which is held by "All About Eve" and "Titanic."

Besides "Button," the other nominees for best picture are "Frost/Nixon," "Milk," "The Reader," and "Slumdog Millionaire."

The 81st Academy Awards ceremony will air live on ABC on Jan. 22 from the Kodak Theatre, and be hosted by Hugh Jackman.
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