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Music and the Oscars: 10 things you might not know

Tahiat Mahboob

In a year when quite a few Canadians have earned Academy Award nominations — best actor, best picture, best animated short — we delve into some of the trivia surrounding the music categories at the Oscars, past and present.

Here are 10 things you might not know.

1. No hand doubles for Gosling

Of La La Land's 14 nominations, one is for best original score and two are for best original song for the tracks "City of Stars" and "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)." For his role as a jazz musician in the movie, Canadian best actor nominee Ryan Gosling learned how to play the piano. No hand doubles were used in any of the scenes featuring him playing the piano.

2. Record-holder: 50 nominations

Composer John Williams holds the record for the most Oscar nominations of any living person. He has 50 nominations and won five times. You might know his music from movies like Fiddler on the Roof, Star Wars, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Schindler’s List, and more.

3. 1st Canadian to win best original song

In 1983, Buffy Sainte-Marie became the first Canadian to win an Oscar in the best original song category for co-writing the music of the song "Up Where we Belong" in the movie An Officer and a Gentleman.

4. West Side Story defeats heavyweights

In 1962, West Side Story won the Oscar for best scoring of a musical picture. It had some tough competition. Two of the other nominees were Khovanshchina (music by Dmitri Shostakovich) and Paris Blue (music by Duke Ellington).

5. 1st Canadian composer with 2 wins

The first Canadian to win two Oscars in the best score category was Howard Shore. In 2002 he won it for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. In 2004 he won it for the last installment of the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. That same year, for the same movie, Shore also won the best original song award for "Into the West." He shared the win with Annie Lennox and Fran Walsh.

6. 'Blame Canada' bleeped

When "Blame Canada" from the 1999 movie South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was nominated for best original song, it stirred up some controversy. All nominated songs are usually performed during the Oscar broadcast. But this song contained profanity, which the Federal Communications Commission prohibits in prime-time broadcasts. When Robin Williams performed the song during the 72nd Academy Awards, he turned toward the chorus when the profane lyric came up and didn’t actually sing the word. The chorus in turn immediately gasped and in doing so bleeped it out.

7. Oscar-winner dominates the Grammys

The 1998 Oscar winner for best original song — "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion — also dominated the 1999 Grammy Awards. Not only did it win song of the year, best female pop vocal performance, and best song written specifically for a motion picture or television, but it also won record of the year, marking the first Canadian victory in that category.

8. Youngest and fastest EGOT honoree

Barring special or honorary awards, there are 12 people who have won all four prestigious awards that make up an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony). Of these winners, only three have won solely for music: Marvin Hamlisch, Jonathan Tunick, and Robert Lopez. Lopez has added bragging rights. At 39, when he won the Oscar for "Let it Go" from the movie Frozen, Lopez became the youngest member of the EGOT club and the fastest to achieve the honour. It took him only 10 years.

9. 3 wins in the same year

EGOT honoree Marvin Hamlisch is also the only composer to win three music Oscars in the same year. In 1974, Hamlisch won best original dramatic score for The Way We Were, best score adaptation for The Sting, and best original song for "The Way We Were," performed by Barbra Streisand.

10. The Oscar who won an Oscar

A search of the Academy Awards database revelas that the only Oscar to win an Oscar was Oscar Hammerstein II. He won twice in the best original song category: in 1942 for "The Last Time I Saw Paris" in the movie Lady Be Good, and in 1946 for "It Might as Well be Spring" in State Fair.

Follow Tahiat Mahboob on Twitter: @TahiatMahboob

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