Another year, another round of awards that feel arbitrary and meaningless. When I was a young man, I used to care a lot about the Oscars and their nominations. I was always incredibly interested in what films would be considered the best of the year, the essential viewings according to the esteemed film world. Now, as a good-for-nothing film critic, I just shake my head and laugh at anyone who does care about the Oscars. They’re ripe for ridicule and mockery, though a part of me is always fascinated at the major stories surrounding it.
Last year you had to colossal flub of Chadwick Boseman losing Best Actor despite the Academy shifting the format of its ceremony just to honor him. It was a bullish attempt at being culturally relevant, so seeing Anthony Hopkins accept the award over pre-recorded video was just perfectly pathetic for the Academy. Their grasp for relevancy is akin to being promised an ice cream sundae, only to realize that your ice cream is actually globs of mayonnaise. It looked appetizing, but it just makes you mad and is so hilariously not what it was supposed to be. But there was one story I genuinely was interested in this year, and that was the tale of good ol’ Lin Manuel Miranda.
LMM has been on the cusp of EGOT fame for years. An EGOT is winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony — a feat only 16 people have accomplished. Since 2018, the man only needed an Oscar to secure EGOT glory, already acquiring an Emmy in 2014 for the 64th Tony Awards, a Grammy in 2009 for In the Heights, and a Tony in 2008 also for In the Heights. And you could tell he wanted it bad. In 2021, four movies came out that had LMM involved in them, mostly by contributing songs to them. You don’t do four projects simultaneously unless you want an Oscar, and he really, REALLY wants it.
But I’m sorry, I don’t think he’s gonna get it this time.
I’m aware that I have a terrible track record when it comes to these predictions. I can do a pretty solid job at guessing the weather, but I have an embarrassingly low batting average for film predictions and quality opinions. I said that Shang-Chi would bomb at the box office (it didn’t). I claimed that Whedon’s Justice League would be better than Snyder’s (I retract that statement). Basically, I’m prepared to eat crow on this one and this may inadvertently ensure that Miranda gets an Oscar this year solely because I’m saying he won’t, but I have my reasons for making such a bold prediction.
Considering that LMM was involved in four movies this year, it’s surprising to see that only one movie, Encanto, gave a nomination to Miranda. The other films he was involved in, Vivo, Tick, tick… Boom!, and In the Heights, were all snubbed despite arguably having better scores. I can understand In The Heights not getting a nomination as its only original song that could receive a nomination, “Home All Summer,” was fairly underwhelming. Also, by technicality, Tick, Tick… Boom! would only net him an Oscar if he was nominated for Best Director as Jonathan Larson wrote all of the songs present. And then there’s Vivo, which y’all forgot about and should be ashamed of yourselves since the music there is super cute and charming.
So inevitably, it all falls onto Encanto, which was probably the safest bet to get him that Oscar. It’s a Disney movie and you can always place a safe bet on Disney getting at least one original song nomination each year. The question would then fall to which original song would get the nomination. And while you may be thinking it’s obvious which song from Encanto would receive a Best Original Song nomination, it isn’t the one you think it is. Instead, it’s “Dos Oruguitas.”
You remember “Dos Oruguitas,” right? No…? I mean, it’s a nice song. The lyrics are solid, it has a calming vibe to it, feels like that kind of song you listen to while watching a sunset… but it isn’t “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” So yes, despite the Academy not wanting to, we’re gonna talk about Bruno.
After Encanto was released onto Disney+, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” exploded in popularity. The song arguably has reached the same peeks that “Let It Go” did and hasn’t soured on the public (yet). It’s been #1 on the pop charts longer than “A Whole New World,” which was Disney’s longest-reigning #1 song from one of their films. The song is technically impressive, weaving together multiple singers and culminating in a masterful final verse that is, frankly, the best thing about that movie. And yet it didn’t get a nomination. Why did “Dos Oruguitas” get one and not “We Don’t Talk About Bruno?” Was it the Academy’s fault? In reality, the fault lies in Disney.
To put it in the simplest terms, the application for nominees was set on for November 15th, a little over a week before Encanto was released. By that point, Disney knew they wanted to nominate a song for Best Original Song, but they had no idea which one. This was before “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” exploded in popularity, so Disney had no idea that song would be THE song of the film. They decided to go with “Dos Oruguitas” I suppose since it is a prettier song and one that’s easy listening to a variety of audiences. Granted, there is no limit to how many songs can be nominated for a category, only that no more than two songs per movie can receive a nomination. So in theory, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” COULD have been nominated, but Disney ultimately decided against it. And that may end up biting them in the ass.
No matter how good of a song “Dos Oruguitas” is, it’s not “Bruno.” It will never be “Bruno.” The discourse surrounding the conversation isn’t about how a song from Encanto was nominated, it’s that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” wasn’t nominated. “Dos Oruguitas” is now going to be seen as an inferior song simply because of what it isn’t. It isn’t a #1 pop song. It’s merely a soft, quiet ballad on a soundtrack that has a #1 pop song in it. The comparisons will always be unfavorable, and for voters, that’s going to be on their mind come voting. “Bruno” is going to hurt Miranda’s chances at getting an Oscar.
But that’s before we even get to his competition! Throughout the awards season, the competition for Best Original Song has been tight. Of the five nominees at the Oscars, four of them have been sighted at virtually every award ceremony. You have Miranda’s “Dos Orguitas” of course, but you also have DIXSON and Beyonce’s “Be Alive,” Van Morrison’s “Down To Joy,”, and Billie Eilish’s “No Time To Die.”
Now normally, this would be a pretty tight crowd of competitors, with no one song dominating the field. But this is not a normal situation because one of these songs is sweeping every category. Like, it’s not even close. And no, it’s not the song by Queen B. “No Time To Die” has been simply unstoppable in this category. Every time it’s been nominated for Best Original Song, it won, and it’s been nominated in that category a lot. In fact, this entire crew, with the exception of Diane Warren’s “Somehow You Do” were nominated for a Golden Globe and Eilish took the gold easily.
And it makes sense why. Historically, James Bond songs have almost always been crowd-pleasers, receiving nominations left and right. It wasn’t until 2012’s Skyfall that a Bond theme won an Oscar for Best Original Song, followed immediately by Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” for 2015’s Spectre. Considering that this is another incredibly popular artist making a song for a culmination to an era of one of the most prolific characters in cinema, it seems like a given the 007 is going to get a hat trick and leave Miranda in the dust. I mean, there’s also the fact that “No Time To Die” is just a better song, but when did quality and taste ever affect the Academy’s judgment (yes I’m still pissed about Green Book).
Now, I could be wrong about all of this. Maybe Eilish and Bond will be defeated by LLM as he ascends to EGOT glory. He’s been trying so hard this year to get into that acclaimed crew, but based on the offerings and the competition, it’s just not likely to happen. But hey, I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong many more times. But I think this is one of those times where I just may be right after all.
And now, here’s someone impersonating Lin Manuel Miranda singing every part in “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” Because I love you all very much.