Oscar tweaks best song standards

Academy aims to 'improve quality' of music in movies

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If none of the candidates for best song consideration rate an 8.25 on a 10-point scale this year, then the Academy of Arts and Sciences won't hand out an Oscar for best song at its March 7 telecast.

The music branch's executive committee announced the rule change Friday as part of an ongoing effort on the part of the branch "to raise the quality of the songs," according to the branch's chairman Bruce Broughton.

Actually, the latest revision of the best song rules -- although it sounds dramatic -- actually answers a question that the branch hadn't previously addressed.

The rules in place for the past few years require that a song earn an 8.25 or higher score during the nominating phase of the voting by members of the 233-member branch. A minimum of three and a maximum of five songs could be nominated each year. The rules didn't specifically stipulate what would happen if fewer than three songs rated 8.25.

For the recent 80th Academy Awards, that almost happened since only three songs qualified -- "Down to Earth" from "WALL-E" and two tunes from "Slumdog Millionaire," including the eventual winner "Jai Ho." Bruce Springsteen fans complained that his title tune from "The Wrestler" failed to make the cut.

That led to considerable discussion within the branch. "We considered lowering the standard of the point system," Broughton said, but the committee ultimately decided "to bite the bullet" and maintain the bar at 8.25.

But what would happen if fewer than three songs make the grade?

Under the new revision, two to five songs can be nominated. If only one song rates an 8.25, then the next highest scoring song will be nominated to compete against it -- and only the accountants at PriceWaterhouseCoopers will know which is which. If no song merits an 8.25, then no Oscar will be presented in the category.
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