Oscars 2012: Why Only Two Nominees for Best Original Song? (Analysis)

44 FEA Awards The Muppets H
Scott Garfield/Disney

Songwriter Bret McKenzie's first rule for "Muppetizing" a song: Add banjo.

"Man or Muppet" from The Muppets and "Real in Rio" from Rio were the only songs to receive nominations Tuesday morning, shutting out Elton John's work on "Gnomeo & Juliet," Pink's song in "Happy Feet 2" and Zooey Deschanel's track from "Winnie the Pooh."

The convoluted system to select nominees for the Best Original Song Oscar, which was altered in 2006 when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences raised the number of best picture nominees to 10, came back to haunt it on Tuesday.

Only two songs -- "Man or Muppets" from The Muppets and "Real in Rio" from Rio -- received nominations Tuesday morning, shutting out Elton John's work on Gnomeo & Juliet, Pink's song in Happy Feet 2 and Zooey Deschanel's track from Winnie the Pooh. "Masterpiece," Madonna's song from W.E. that won a Golden Globe earlier this month, had already been ruled ineligible.

Unlike other categories, song nominees are determined by voting members of the music branch who watch sections of films where songs are played -- and nothing else. Since instituted, it has resulted in performance clips and animated songs being nominated but no end credit or background songs.

NEWS: Oscars 2012 Nominations (Complete List)

Voters assign each song a numerical score between 1 and 10 and if no song receives an average of less than 8.25, there are no nominees. If only one song tops the threshold, as clearly happened here, the next-highest vote-getter secures a nomination as well.

The music branch voters chose to honor Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords for his Jason Segel-sung "Man or Muppet" and the songwriting trio of Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett.

All of the songwriters are first time nominees and, as 70-year-old Mendes told Billboard early last year, Rio was the first film for which he has specifically written music. Brown is a significant star back in Brazil whose music has been released in the U.S. by EMI.

PHOTOS: 2012 Academy Awards: The Nominees

The other music category had its surprises, too, specifically two nominations for composer John Williams, the seventh time he has been double nominated in a category, most recently in 2005 for Munich and Memoirs of a Geisha. When he has been double nominated, he has only won once, for Star Wars in 1977.

Williams, a five-time winner, was nominated for his music in The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse and will go up against Ludovic Bource (The Artist), Howard Shore (Hugo) and Alberto Iglesias (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Shore has won three Oscars for his work on Lord of the Rings films; Iglesias has two previous noms and no wins; and Bource is a first-time nominee.

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