Pete Hammond

A Best Song nod could be Tangled’s best shot at Oscar recognition this year after today’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science confirmation that just 15 movies have qualified for Best Animated Feature. That’s one short of the 16 needed to trigger five nominations instead of three. With Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon virtually assured of two of those slots, it will be a real dogfight now for the third position. Tangled composer Alan Menken tells me that, to regain some winning momentum (and maybe tie Alfred Newman for the most music victories in Academy history), he plans to let Disney only submit one song from Tangled: the love ballad, “I See The Light”, sung by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, which he thinks has a better shot than some of the more up tempo tunes in the toon. This way, Menken doesn’t risk cancelling himself out again like what happened when his three nominated Enchanted songs were bested by “Falling Slowly” from Once.

He’s adamant about entering just one song even though Academy rules would now allow two. He also bemoans the fact that his score is ineligible due to a rule imposed after music branch complaints when Menken won all those previous Oscars. He does admit though that “if I weren’t me, I would probably be complaining too”. Menken is an 8-time Oscar winner for Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Pochahantas, the film that was the last of his remarkable winning streak in 1996 just before his personal favorite, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, made him an Oscar “loser” for the first time in 1997. Had his Hunchback score not lost to the tuneless Emma, he would have tied 9-time Oscar winner and composer Alfred Newman (Randy’s uncle) for the most music victories in Academy history. But aren’t 8 straight Oscars enough? Apparently not for Menken. “It has been 15 years since the last one so it might be nice.”

Less than 24 hours after the Academy staged their Governors Awards at Hollywood and Highland’s Grand Ballroom, Rapunzel was letting down her hair there at the post-party for Disney’s Tangled world premiere at the El Capitan across the street. Drawing a considerably younger group than the Acad’s honorary awards, the studio catered to the kids with lots of games and prize opportunities in the same spot where 94-year-old Eli Wallach accepted a lifetime achievement award one night earlier.

Paramount says starting today their DVDs for Shutter Island are shipping and will be in “30,000 guild, critics and Academy” mailboxes before next week’s Thanksgiving holiday. This past weekend, the studio launched the pic’s awards campaign with a previously announced American Cinematheque tribute to the four film collaboration of director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio that also includes Gangs Of New York, The Aviator, and The Departed. The highlight of the two day event was a 1 PM “conversation” Sunday with the pair. But it barely avoided near-disaster. Since Scorsese is in London shooting his first ever 3D film, Hugo Cabret, Paramount arranged a satellite hookup so that he could participate with Leo who was to appear in person at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. But, in the kind of development that makes Oscar consultants want to hide under their beds and never come out, a plane snafu kept Leo stuck in Israel on personal business. After learning of this just 72 hours ahead of the planned appearance, Par decided that, rather than have to spend about $350,000 to get him back on a private jet, it would attempt a second satellite hookup which involved a lot of coordination and 2 AM phone calls, according to one of the organizers .

The Cinematheque asked me to moderate and so, with a packed house watching, there on split screen from the Middle East and London, I conducted an hourlong Q&A with Leo and Marty. In fact they could both see us, too, and at one point Leo even spotted his dad George and stepmom Peggy sitting right behind me. It all would have gone off without a hitch were it not for Scorsese’s audio being non-existent for the first ten minutes. “Marty is trapped in a Buster Keaton silent,” quipped DiCaprio. After throwing every question to Leo, I finally started playing a desperate game of  charades with Scorsese until, magically, we were finally able to hear him. The “charades” question by the way was which was Scorsese’s favorite DiCaprio collaboration, with the two word silent response, The Aviator. If anyone thinks Paramount is not spending to remind voters of this early 2010 release, this public event which included some Academy and guild members cost the studio about $60,000 in transmission costs alone and lord knows how much else in Valium for the frazzled studio publicists charged with bringing it off.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.