Oscar’s forgotten category: why has there never been a winner?

For 96 years, the Oscars have undergone changes to improve the way films and its production areas are awarded every year. Some categories appear, others disappear, but one thing is certain: there is no shortage of nominees.

However, this statement does not apply to one of the event’s categories, created in 2000: Best Original Musical, which has existed for 24 years, but has never had a group of nominees, much less a winner.

Best Original Musical

It is common for Oscar categories to be modified to suit the selection process. production cinematography, sometimes to consolidate different aspects of cinematographic creation.

For example, in 2021, the Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing categories were unified under the title Best Sound.

New categories also emerge and disappear over time. In 2000, the Oscars introduced the Best Animated Feature category to highlight features that traditionally did not receive as much attention in categories such as Best Picture.

Since then, films such as ‘Shrek’, ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Toy Story 3’ have won the award. The most recent film to win, in 2023, was ‘Pinocchio by Guillermo del Toro’.

The same happened with the Best Original Musical category, created especially for musicals, with the aim of highlighting these productions among other genres most traditional in the film industry. However, unlike the animation category, this one was not as successful as expected.

The introduction of the Best Original Musical category followed numerous changes to the Oscars’ musical categories.

Categories such as Best Original Score, Best Original Score, Best Musical Film Score, Best Dramatic Film Score and several others have been modified over the years.

Numerous changes were made due to a central problem: most productions had only one original song (i.e., composed especially for the film), while the rest were rearrangements of songs pre-existing classics.

Oscar has a category with no nominees or winners – Photo: Reproduction/Brasil Escola

Each of the categories ended up further fragmenting the nominees and generating more confusion. The Academy tried to divide the modalities between original compositions and rearrangements, but this only complicated things.

The event organizers went back on their decisions several times, which ended up frustrating many people.

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The Best Original Musical category was only created in the 2000s, with the initial intention of solving the Academy’s main problems related to musical compositions.

According to Oscar regulations, the rules for this category are simple:

  • The film must feature at least five original songs;
  • All of these compositions must be substantially reproduced, clearly audible and understandable, in addition to contributing to the development of the film’s plot;
  • A set of songs that is not considered essential to the plot is not eligible for the category.

From the beginning, there was controversy: some films, such as ‘Tarzan’, were excluded because their 45 minutes of music were not considered enough to be classified as a score original.

Additionally, the only other option that year was ‘South Park: Bigger, Better and Uncut’, which faced the same problem.

Another Oscar rule states that each category must have at least ten films qualified to be presented. Therefore, the category was not presented and there were no winners that year, nor in subsequent years.

The contradictions continue

If the initial intention was to enhance musicals, this has not materialized to this day. Mark Mancina, composer of ‘Tarzan’, told The New York Times at the time that the new category would discourage the production of new musicals, as they could not be nominated for the Oscar due to lack of competition.

This only partially happened: although the Best Original Musical category has not been presented to date due to the lack of ten eligible films, features such as ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘La La Land’, well-known musicals, managed to be nominated in the Best Film.