And the Academy Award Goes To… Not the Muppets

Published: February 24, 2014
Categories: Commentary, Feature

320px-AcademyAwards2012bIt’s hard to believe that the Muppets (and the people who write for them) have been nominated for six Academy Awards, but didn’t take one home until The Muppets‘ “Man or Muppet” in 2011.  It begs the questions: Do the Oscars truly have any long-term impact?  Do the Academy voters know what will stand the test of time?  Does an Oscar mean that a film or soundtrack will be elevated as an instant classic?  But most importantly: Who are the chumps that gypped the Muppets out of the Academy Awards they deserved??

In just a moment, we’ll be taking a look at each of the Muppets’ Oscar nominations and who had the gall to beat them.  Now that a few decades have passed, which one is more highly regarded and remembered?  To find out, let’s start at the very beginning.

Category: Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects

The Muppet-related nominee: Time Piece

The Winner: Le Poulet, by Claude Berri

Jim Henson’s very first Oscar nomination was for Time Piece, which is more impressive every time I watch it.  The impeccable timing, the elaborately set up shots, the journey of the bearded man, and one very patient elephant.  It’s a little odd for sure, but unarguably brilliant.

The winner in this category was Le Poulet (French for “The Chicken”) by Claude Berri, who Wikipedia tells me went on to gain a large amount of fame with his 1986 film Jean de Floret, starring Gerard Depardieu.  The 15-minute film (which you can watch above) is about a small family who buy a chicken, but the son loves it like a pet, so he hides eggs in its cage so his parents will reconsider eating it in favor of free eggs.  The film is cute, with a decent punchline at the end, but it drags, the performances are mediocre, and the end result is pretty bland.  Basically, the opposite of Time Piece, which is anything but.

Category: Best Music, Original Song

The Muppet-related nominee: The Muppet Movie‘s “Rainbow Connection”

The Winner: Norma Rae‘s “It Goes Like It Goes”

“It Goes Like It Goes” should’ve won the Academy Award for Most Redundant Song Title.  Instead, it beat out “Rainbow Connection”, which is ridiculous.  It’s worth noting that the three other nominated songs don’t even have their own Wikipedia pages, so I’m going to go ahead and assume this was a two candidate race from the get-go.

Compare these lyrics, if you will:

So it goes like it goes
Like the river flows
And time it rolls right on
And maybe what’s good gets a little bit better
And maybe what’s bad gets gone

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
and what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they’re wrong, wait and see.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

One of those makes a point of not saying very much at all.  The other raises questions about hopes and dreams and expectations and fears.  I’ll leave it to you to deduce which is which.  Both movies tell stories about fighting for what you believe in, but only one has a song that mirrors that sentiment.

Category: Best Music, Original Song Score

The Muppet-related nominee: The Muppet Movie

The Winner: All That Jazz

There were only three nominees in this category (the third being the score to Breaking Away), so I imagine that Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher might’ve thought they had a good chance at winning this one.  I only saw All That Jazz for the first time recently, and I was honestly surprised as to how much I enjoyed it.  I was expecting “Glee”, but I ended up with “Mad Men”.  Obviously, as a movie about musical theater, the score was pretty important.  So it’s hard to make an argument against either All That Jazz or The Muppet Movie.  But we can all agree, we’re glad that Breaking Away didn’t win.

Category: Best Music, Original Song

The Muppet-related nominee: The Great Muppet Caper‘s “The First Time it Happens”

The Winner: Arthur‘s “Arthur’s Theme”

To be fair, “Arthur’s Theme” does get a lot more radio play than “The First Time It Happens”.  And it does teach a valuable lesson about what to do and what not to do if you suddenly find yourself between the moon and New York City. (Step 1: Find the nearest source of oxygen.  Step 2: Fall in love.)

Both songs are about unexpectedly falling in love, but “Arthur’s Theme” treats it like something you do when you’re not busy getting drunk and wasting your inheritance.  “The First Time It Happens” is about the moment love sparks, which is both epic and subtle.  That’s a beautiful image, and it just so happens to also feature a tap dancing pig, which should be a trump card for Academy Award winners.

Category: Best Music, Original Song Score

The Muppet-related nominee: The Muppets Take Manhattan

The Winner: Purple Rain

Dammit, Prince.  Why did you have to make a movie that would define the highlight of your career during the same year as The Muppets Take Manhattan??  I also feel bad for Kris Kristofferson, whose Songwriter was the third nominee that year, and never really had a chance.  But hey, if the Muppets can’t win, at least it was a guarantee that one of their guest stars would.

Category: Best Music, Original Song

The Muppet-related nominee: The Muppets‘ “Man or Muppet”

The Loser: Rio‘s “Real in Rio”

The Powers That Be finally fixed what had been made wrong five times before by awarding an Oscar to Bret McKenzie for “Man or Muppet”.  The strange thing is, McKenzie hardly had to earn it.  The song from Rio is pretty bad.  It sounds like it’s mixing four different music genres, hoping one of them will stick.  Meanwhile, the Muppet song is solid, funny, well performed, and it has Muppets in it.  That last one should have been the only criteria needed to cinch a statuette all along.

While the Muppet don’t have an Oscar nomination this year, I’m sure they will next year for Muppets Most Wanted (most likely for Best Song, but I’ll settle for Best Picture).  And when they are, I hope that Academy voters will reference this article and realize that there’s really no other option than to vote Muppet.


Click here to find yourself between the moon and New York City on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes –

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