Academy Rule Changes Guarantee Five Best Song Nominees

Governors Ball

"The Muppets'" Bret McKenzie with his Oscar for best original song, "Man or Muppet."

The Art Direction Award also is undergoing a name change and will be called the Production Design Award.

Under additional rules for the 85th Annual Academy Awards announced Thursday, the best original song category now will have five nominees.

In recent years, the Academy's music branch has used a scoring system to determine best song nominations. To secure a nom, a song had to receive an average vote of 8.25 or higher on a scale of 10. The rule got even more complicated, since if no song received an 8.25, then no songs were nominated; if only one song received an 8.25, then only it and the next highest scoring song was nominated. 

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This past year, the category yielded only two nominees: "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets, which won the Oscar, and "Real in Rio" from Rio. But the shutouts for songsmiths including Elton John, Madonna and Pink, among others, led to a lot of complaints.

The new voting procedure in the category, approved by the Academy's board of governors, is much more straightforward. Branch members will receive a reminder list of submitted works and a DVD copy of song clips. After watching the clips, members will vote in the order of their preference for not more than five choices. The five songs receiving the highest number of votes will become the nominees for final voting on the award.

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Actually, there is one caveat in the Academy rule book: If there are 25 or fewer qualified songs submitted, the branch's executive committee can recommend to the board that nominations be limited to three. And if there are nine or fewer qualifying works, the committee can recommend that no award be given that year. Last year, though, 39 songs were submitted in the category, so barring a dramatic decline in the number of songs under consideration, the category should be able to field five nominees.

The Academy also said Thursday that the Designers Branch, formerly as the Art Directors Branch, has recommended that the art direction Oscar be known as the production design award going forward.