By August Brown
Here's a new situation for the English singer Adele - up for a major award but with actual competition.
She swept the Grammys last year for her sales juggernaut "21" and snagged a Grammy for a live performance of "Set Fire to the Rain" this year. Now her theme to "Skyfall" is up for original song at the Academy Awards on Sunday. The brassy retro theme number is the front-runner but victory is far from assured.
For at-home Oscar swamies, here are some reasons we might see an upset.
* "Everybody Needs a Best Friend," from "Ted." Music by Walter Murphy; lyrics by Seth MacFarlane. Oscar loves this kind of twee jazz-standard vibe judging by Randy Newman's big nods for his songs in "Monsters Inc." and "Toy Story 3." "Ted" was a sleeper comedy hit, and not only did its mastermind, MacFarlane, cut a likable solo album of similar big-band material - he's also the host of the Oscars telecast. Who knew so many stars would align for a sailor-mouthed teddy bear?
* "Suddenly," from "Les Miserables." Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg; lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil. Pop and Broadway critics eviscerated the performances in this melodramatic weeper, and no stage adaptation has won in this category since "Evita." But the film drew moody teenagers en masse, and this tune came from the stage version's original writers. Hugh Jackman's take was one of the better technical performances in the film.
* "Before My Time," from "Chasing Ice." Music and lyrics by J. Ralph. Did you miss this documentary about how global warming is destroying glacial ecosystems? Then you also missed an unlikely collaboration between Scarlett Johansson and violin virtuoso Joshua Bell. That's some serious star power contributing to a political topic that Oscar has rewarded before - Melissa Etheridge's environmental call-to-arms "I Need to Wake Up" won an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth."
* "Pi's Lullaby" from "Life of Pi." Music by Mychael Danna; lyrics by Bombay Jayashri. Fox's indie division Fox Searchlight has owned this category in recent years, with tunes from "Crazy Heart," "Once" and "Slumdog Millionaire." Fox's major division is pushing this quiet theme, performed by the South Asian classical artist Jayashri. It could catch fire (the critically praised film just met expectations in the U.S. but it's an overseas hit) in the same way as "Slumdog's" crossover smash, "Jai Ho."