Academy Awards 2012: A Breakdown of the Two Animal Race for Best Original Song

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Jason Segel is a giant. And he might play a big role in making Muppet history on Sunday.
  • Jason Segel is a giant. And he might play a big role in making Muppet history on Sunday.

Most people wouldn't care to know who prevails in a fight between puppets and animated birds -- unless they've taken some sort of hallucinogen.

But that's precisely the battle set to be resolved Sunday during the latest iteration of the Academy Awards. The Best Original Song award this year is a two-tune race between "Real in Rio" from Rio and "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets.

The Oscars are known for throwing some Best Original Song curveballs. After all, what other accolade could be claimed by both Randy Newman and Three Six Mafia? But using a completely unscientific measurement scale, RFT Music will valiantly attempt to predict the winner of this auspicious honor.

Star Power: (Rio: Jesse Eisenberg, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, George Lopez, will.i.am and The Rio Singers vs. Muppets Jason Segel, Peter Linz, Jim Parsons and Bill Barretta)

Not withstanding grousing over will.i.am or George Lopez, it's hard to argue against the star power of Eisenberg, Foxx or Hathaway. And that's saying something, since Segel and Parsons are damn hot right not in the television world.

But with an Oscar winner - Foxx - and two prior nominees - Eisenberg and Hathaway - in the mix, this is one area where the birds win.

Advantage: Rio

Songwriters: (Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett vs. Bret McKenzie)

As a point of information, the Oscar for this category goes to the folks that write the song, not the performers. That's why, for example, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston didn't pick up golden statutes when "When You Believe" from the Prince of Egypt grabbed an Oscar in 1999.

Mendes, Brown and Garrett seem like extensively talented musicians. But as a member of Flight of the Conchords, McKenzie contributed to classic tunes about David Bowie, robots and warnings about the dangers of fashion.

McKenzie hoisting an Oscar would be a triumph for off-beat musical humor the Conchords popularized.

Advantage: Muppets Tone: This category's outcome depends on somebody's disposition. Those who are feeling rather happy will love "Real in Rio," which is in line with the film's Carnaval theme. But folks that are down in the dumps may relate more with "Man or Muppet." After all, the song plays while the main characters experience crushing self-actualizations.

This one is tough. Despite its downbeat subject matter, "Man or Muppet" feels humorous and somewhat beautiful. But "Real in Rio" makes for an excellent exercise song. Let's split the difference and call this a draw.

Advantage: Draw

Lyrics: Here's "Real in Rio:"

And here's "Man or Muppet:"

This doesn't need a whole lot of exposition. "Real in Rio" is a literal explanation of the film's settling. "Man or Muppet" is about the struggle between being a Muppet of a man or a very manly Muppet. Not even close -- the puppets prevail.

Advantage: Muppets

Overall: Now let's be fair here: Rio and The Muppets were created for two very distinct audiences. Rio is a general, family-friendly animation vehicle. The Muppets attempted -- fairly successfully -- to appeal to new fans and old adherents afflicted with nostalgia.

Still, "Man or Muppet" is just a better overall song. It's funny, well-written, creative and memorable. And it could be historic. Two other tunes from Muppet movies nominated for Best Original Song -- "Rainbow Connection" and "The First Time It Happens" -- failed to win. In a few short days, a New Zealand native may responsible for breaking the losing streak.

Predicted Winner: Muppets

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