While there were 63 songs contending for a place at this year's Oscars, only five made the final cut. Last year it was Oscar champ Bruce Springsteen who was snubbed for his Golden Globe-winning title track to "The Wrestler." This year U2 and Paul McCartney got slapped down by the music branch of the academy for tunes written specifically for films. U2 wrote and performed "Winter" for "Brothers," while McCartney did the same for "(I Want to) Come Home" from "Everybody’s Fine."
Both of these musical powerhouses have a connection to the Academy Awards. U2 lost a best song bid at the 2002 Oscars for "The Hands That Built America" from "Gangs of New York" to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" from "8 Mile."
This year, the Irish rockers and Sir Paul both lost the best song race at the Golden Globes to "The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart." That track — written by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett — is in contention at the Oscars, as are two tunes from "The Princess and the Frog" by Oscar champ Randy Newman, "Take It All" from "Nine" by two-time Tony winner Maury Yeston and "Loin de Paname" from "Paris 36" by Reinhardt Wagner and Frank Thomas.
Newman, who was not a Globe nominee this year, won his only Oscar out of 17 nominations in 2001 for the song "If I Didn't Have You" from "Monsters, Inc." Among those he edged out was Paul McCartney, who was nominated for the title track of "Vanilla Sky." In 1973, McCartney and his wife Linda had landed in the best song race for the theme to "Live and Let Die" — they lost to "The Way We Were." McCartney had shared in an Oscar win with the rest of the Beatles in 1970 for their original song score to "Let It Be."
With such musical pedigrees, how did U2 and McCartney not make it into the final five this year? Oscars' Rule 16 sets out the criteria for winnowing the list of eligible songs down to the final nominees. There was no need for the executive committee of the music branch to recommend that there be only three nominees, as the number of songs far exceeded the threshold of 25 that might have triggered such action.
Unlike other branches — such as acting, which uses a preferential ballot — the music makers screen clips of all the eligible entries and then score them on a sliding scale from 6 to 10, with half-point increments in between. If a member has a song in contention, they are ineligible to vote.
As per the rulebook, "If no song receives an average score of 8.25 or more, there will be no nominees in the category. If only one song achieves that score, it and the song receiving the next highest score shall be the two nominees. If two or more songs (up to five) achieve that score, they shall be the nominees."
With five nominees this year, we know they all scored at least 8.25. Perhaps the tunes by U2 and McCartney broke that barrier as well but fell short of the even higher scores registered by the nominees.