TECH SUPPORT: Best Original Score — Volume II

Posted by · 7:12 pm · November 19th, 2009

(from left) Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal in BrothersSome categories haven’t had that much renewal since I last reviewed them. Best Original Score is an exception. Principally, this is because the category is very difficult to judge before hearing the scores, not to mention last minute personnel changes (as composers always seem to be the most disposable members of film crews).

As I said last time, the music branch, though it has opened up to newbies slightly in recent years, is notoriously one of AMPAS’s most insular branches. Best Picture nominees tend to do reasonably well, but the category also tends to award “loud” music, and as of late, world music has been a favorite.

One thing that has not changed, in my opinion, is that Michael Giacchino continues to lead this category for his score for Pixar’s “Up.” Giacchino was nominated two years ago for “Ratatouille” and again composed a soundtrack which was sad, joyous and suspenseful. The film is likely headed towards a Best Picture nomination and I expect Giacchino to show up as well.

At the same time, I also can’t help but wonder if Giacchino maybe, just maybe, could pull off a double nomination this year for his compositions on J. J. Abrams’s “Star Trek.” The music was quite original and bombastic.  And, of course, the film a huge hit. I don’t see a lot of surefire nominees in this category, so this could be a place where it finds a home.

Several films are, of course, still unseen, and the film still pending that I think could be a formidable competitor here is James Cameron’s “Avatar.” Scored by Cameron’s usual composer, James Horner, the film should be a ripe opportunity for the nine-time nominee and two-time winner.  (Horner could also grab a second nod should the original song “I See You” make it into play.)

Another score still unheard is Brian Eno’s work on Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones.” Every so often, a composer known for his work outside of films is given a magnificent cinematic opportunity and the Academy responds. Tan Dun and John Corigliano are excellent examples, not to mention Danny Elfman’s eventual career trajectory. Jackson’s films often present great musical opportunities. Let’s see what this one has in store.

The Princess and the FrogDisney’s “The Princess and the Frog” could prove, with it’s vast music ensemble, to be a competitor here for Randy Newman. It could be a nice nod of nostalgia in some sense.  And certainly in the years of the comedy/musical score category, he’d have found room.

Newman’s cousin Thomas has been a perennial favorite with the Oscars any time he has a pony in the race.  This year, however, he offers a somewhat unconventional, modern score for Jim Sheridan’s “Brothers.” Perhaps it’ll be just the right dose of novelty to squeeze in.

Alexandre Desplat is arguably the most prolific, quality composer working today. What I felt was his best chance this year, Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life,” moved on to 2010.  However, “Coco Before Chanel,” bringing him back to his French roots, could find him in the race.

More likely for Desplat, however, is Wes Anderson’s well-reviewed and catchy “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” He is hardly a sure thing, but certainly a contender. Desplat has a very busy year, also composing “Cheri,” “Julie & Julia” and “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”

Despite having managed two nominations in recent years, Alberto Iglesias has yet to score (no pun intended) with for collaborations with Pedro Almodovar. As good as his work in “Broken Embraces” was, however, I don’t think it will manage to break his lack of success on Spanish entries.

Similarly, I don’t think the compositions on “A Christmas Carol” were memorable enough to bring Alan Silvestri his long overdue second nomination in this category. But I maintain he’ll score again with Zemeckis eventually.

There are some titles that I forgot to mention last time and would be remiss to exclude. Mark Bradshaw’s melodies for Jane Campion’s “Bright Star” come to mind. I expect the film to score several nominations. This could be one of them.

James McAvoy in The Last StationI also can’t help but wonder if I underestimated the chances of Elliot Goldenthal for Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies” back in August. The film seems forgotten but Goldenthal is quite respected and his mellow 1930s-esque tunes could yet draw attention.

Completely out of the running, in my opinion, is Oscar winner Gabriel Yared. “Amelia” is not going to be much of a player this season.  I think that’s safely assumed.

I’ll end with two composers in very different situations – one would be a true newcomer while the other would be a triumphant return.

Sergei Yevtushenko hasn’t previously been a major player in Hollywood, but I think that “The Last Station” could get him firmly in the running. Appropriately foreign music can sometimes be a major plus in this category; “Frida,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Slumdog Millionaire” all serve as examples.  And the film looks like it will make some sort of splash this season.

Then there is a one-time favorite with a chance to return. Marvin Hamlisch has 12 nominations and 3 wins to his name, but hasn’t been cited at all in 13 years, and not in this category for 27. While “The Informant!” didn’t catch on like some were hoping, I consider his breezy score one of the most memorable aspects of the film. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name show up.

Of course, in the absence of having heard all the scores, there is still a long way to go in this category.  And even still, this category can be difficult to predict the day before the nominations are announced!  That tends to make it one of the more consistently exciting races.

What are your thoughts on the Best Original Score category?  Have your say in the comments section below!

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25 responses so far

  • 1 11-19-2009 at 7:20 pm

    Mr. F said...

    I’m hoping Bruno Coulais get a nom for his Coraline score, still one of the finest of the year. Then there’s Clint Mansell for Moon, he doesn’t have a chance but I do wish voters would see the movie and realize how good it is.

  • 2 11-19-2009 at 7:23 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    This is the most confusing category for me this year. I go back and forth on so many different contenders. Might be a good call on The Last Station, by the way.

  • 3 11-19-2009 at 7:48 pm

    Ryan Griffin said...

    Both Up and Star Trek had fantastic opening sequences that were very effective and highly emotional, and in both cases it was largely thanks to the fantastic soundtrack of Giacchino. I think he’ll be in for Up, but probably deserves it for Trek as well.

    The Informant! is another standout I think. The schmaltzy glee of the soundtrack is pretty darn infectious when listened to outside the movie.

  • 4 11-19-2009 at 7:48 pm

    Speaking English said...

    You can’t not mention Carter Burwell here and his gorgeous music on “Where the Wild Things Are.” Maybe a long shot, but more than worth bringing up as one of the year’s very best.

  • 5 11-19-2009 at 8:08 pm

    Marshall said...

    I hope Hamlisch gets a nod. I thought the music made “The Informant!”

  • 6 11-19-2009 at 8:41 pm

    Chase K. said...

    Goldenthal for the win. Best score of the year.

    Normally I would clamor for Clint Mansell for “Moon”, but there was one scene where I thought the score was too prominent, too mushy, so I hold that against it — plus if Mansell doesn’t get nominated for “The Fountain”, he better not get nominated here.

  • 7 11-19-2009 at 9:04 pm

    david said...

    I second what Speaking English said about Where the Wild Things Are.

  • 8 11-19-2009 at 9:39 pm

    Morgan said...

    Super extreme longshot, but “Drag Me to Hell”‘s score is remarkable. It deserves consideration.

  • 9 11-19-2009 at 10:02 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    Where the Wild Things Are deserves to be here absolutely, The Lovely Bones could take this cateogry, or Avatar, Up is a lock, and I have faith in Princess and the Frog but I would never rule pout desplat even though none of his work was button level this year

  • 10 11-19-2009 at 11:58 pm

    Silencio said...

    It’s a pipe dream, but Where the Wild Things Are would be worthy of a nod.

  • 11 11-20-2009 at 12:08 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    If you hear the little bits and pieces of Horner’s Avatar it’s stunning. I mean the track on the new score website is amazing. It’s a lock in my view.

  • 12 11-20-2009 at 2:06 am

    Andrew said...

    I think Fantastic Mr Fox should get Original Score AND Best Original Song nominations [for ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ by Petey aka Jarvis Cocker, a terrific song].

    I also think Sinead O’Connor will get one for The Young Victoria. But this is about scores, not songs. Anything written by Alexandre Desplat! Loved his scores of Julie & Julia, Coco Before Chanel [a dead horse], Chéri and Mr Fox.

  • 13 11-20-2009 at 2:11 am

    david said...

    Cheri it’s the best score of the year (a lot of better than Coco before Channel)

    Oscar for Cheri¡¡¡ And for Pffeifer¡¡

  • 14 11-20-2009 at 2:43 am

    Glenn said...

    My favourites of the year so far have been Coco Avant Chanel, Mao’s Last Dancer (if that movie ever gets a US release pay close attention to it in the original score category), Mary and Max, Moon and Star Trek (the best thing about that movie).

  • 15 11-20-2009 at 3:03 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    By far the best score I’ve heard all year was Abel Korzeniowski’s for “A Single Man.”

    He’s a Hollywood newcomer, but I wonder if he couldn’t be a wild-card contender if the film catches on at all.

  • 16 11-20-2009 at 5:00 am

    geha714 said...

    I agree than Giacchino is the front runner but I don’t see him double nominated. He’ll be recognized for Up. I want him to win for that score.

    My dark horse is Clint Mansell’s Moon. The main theme is so good and he has made to great scores this decade: Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain.

  • 17 11-20-2009 at 7:23 am

    KB said...

    I agree with Guy. “A Single Man” is a modern classic. The best score since “Atonement”!

  • 18 11-20-2009 at 8:47 am

    Benito Delicias said...

    sometimes I think everybody should give it a rest until the f-cking FOUR FILMS end up debuting…or reporters and bloggers get to see them…

    I can’t stand to read “four films remain to be seen” again on this or any other site…

  • 19 11-20-2009 at 9:02 am

    Benito Delicias said...

    and yes, I know I’m overreacting, but it’s a little frustrating that these people don’t release those movies already…or that time doesn’t go faster, whatever…

  • 20 11-20-2009 at 9:33 am

    Paul Outlaw said...

    I had no idea Randy Newman was part of that Newman family. That is one musical clan.

  • 21 11-20-2009 at 9:57 am

    p said...

    I know he’s been absent from this category (somewhat mysteriously so a few years really) since 2000 but if it really is shaping up to be lacking lots of sure things, couldn’t there be a chance that Hans Zimmer’s Sherlock Holmes score could prove big, loud and popular enough to muscle its way in?

    Unlikely I think, but a name like his, I was surprised not to see it at all.

  • 22 11-20-2009 at 11:18 am

    Noisy said...

    I agree that Abel Korzeniowski’s “A Single Man” could be a wild card this year. The main theme – “Stillness of the Mind” is just breathtaking (see the film’s website). There hasn’t been anything like it for years.

  • 23 11-20-2009 at 1:29 pm

    SHAAAARK said...

    Christopher Young’s Drag Me to Hell score is easily best of the year, but wil sadly receive no recognition. Probably ditto Where the Wild Things Are.
    With those probably out, I’m pulling for Marvin Hamlisch’s The Informant! score. Seldom are modern films scores used so effectively to develop and elaborate on a character.

  • 24 11-20-2009 at 2:21 pm

    John said...

    Looks like it’s Giacchino’s year. He’s got the two best scores of the year in two great movies that made tons of $ and got great reviews. UP will certainly get nominated, STAR TREK looks likely.

    Marvin Hamlisch… once big, now seen as kind of hokey novelty. And that’s just what that movie needed. He looks to have a pretty good shot.

    Mr. Desplat is doing lots of great work these days. CHERI boasted a lovely score, and I’m sure his other entries are fine, as well.

    Christopher Young has always been a name that meant to me a competent but hardly revelatory score would be gracing the movie I was watching. Well, damn, the man went for broke on DRAG ME TO HELL. This really should make the cut.

    I liked the score to MOON. Who knows if they’re gonna watch that movie, though.

  • 25 11-24-2009 at 5:34 pm

    Julia said...

    This is a no brainer. “Brothers” by Jim Sheridan will win at least a few Oscars. I mean with all these Alist Actors and Actresses? Why did nobody think of that? Or am I missing something