Thursday, February 23, 2012

Academy Awards Week 2011: Best Original Score-Time for a Change Again!

Picking my favorite technical category is a Sophie's Choice for me. I love the imagery captured by the cinematography, the way the editing cuts to capture things at the right moment or helps narrate the focus of the story, and then there is always the visual effects and how they can create a brand new world.  There is one more category I left out, and it may be my favorite, but it depends on the day, and that is the original score.

Throughout the years the music or score for a film tends to be the glue to that holds the film together, or launches memories of film experience.  There are many films scores that are infamous, and have not only left an indelible mark on my film experience, but even fans who are not fans of these films can recognize the scores from certain films.  Here are a few examples:

Gone with the Wind (1939)

The Godfather (1972)

Star Wars (1977)

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Lion King-Hans Zimmer (1994)

Titanic-James Horner (1997)

These are just 6 scores that come to mind as incredibly memorable by the masses.  The music in them can illicit fan boy gasps (Star Wars) or bring tears (Titanic).  Music has a powerful hold on people, thus explaining why a film's score can be one of the most important elements of a film.

Throughout the years this category has looked incredibly different at the Academy Awards, the name of this category has changed, the people who were nominated has changed, the category was broken between musicals and other films, and at one point between dramas and comedies.

When this category began in 1934 the music director not the composer was honored with the award for best music scoring (from 1934-1937).  From 1937 through 1945 every film that submitted in this category was considered a nominee.  There were years during this period where there were anywhere from 14 to 11 nominees.  From 1946 through 1961 the category was broken down into two categories, score of a dramatic or comedy picture and scoring for a musical picture.  From 1962 through 1967 the two categories were original music score, and scoring of a music adaptation or treatment. These little changes went back and forth incorporating adapted scores, musical scores etc until 1984.  In 1985 the category took on the title Best Original Score.  There was only one more short period of delineation from 1995-1998 when the category was broken down into best dramatic score and best score for a musical or comedy.  This changed back to the category that started in 1985 Best Original Score.

This award has evolved as music has evolved throughout film history.  When musicals and adapted scores were in high use this category changed to honor scores that represented the best in music.  During the 1960s and 1970s when musical films and adapted music was prominently used the Academy started to change the category around as they saw fit.  Recently they have done this with the Best Picture category, their adjustments for this have not worked, and they need to go back to the drawing board.  I think this category needs a good reboot or update as well.

 In recent years many scores have been ruled ineligible, partly because many scores rely heavily on pre-existing material in their score.  One example from this year is Drive, which is the best score of 2011.  Last year four films did not make the cut: Black Swan, The Fighter, The Kids are Alright, and True Grit.  The Black Swan and True Grit were both scores and should have been considered for this category.  2009 saw another one of the best score black balled.  Where the Wild Things Are was one of the best most unique scores of the decade and the Oscars ruling seems to raise a series of red flags.  I noticed this pattern start two happen when two more great scores were ruled ineligible in 2007.  Johnny Greenwood did the breathtaking score for There will be Blood and Eddie Vedder did the haunting score for Into the Wild. These snubs are unacceptable, and the Academy needs to take note of the scores that are being left behind by these rulings.  A lot of the rulings for ineligibility seemed to be associated with non traditional music composers.

Film scores are evolving. One of the trends happening here is that former successful musicians are breaking out from their traditional form of music and creating music for films that is not only creating an evolution for scoring, but for the emotional context of films.  Last year Trent Reznor won for scoring The Social Network with Atticus Ross.  This year the duo did the score for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and were snubbed.  I feel as though this branch is feeling a bit protective and becoming a bit snobby.

With several impressive score missing from this year, and in recent years this category has become boring.  Here are the nominees for Best Original Score this year:

The Adventures of Tinitin-John Williams
The Artist-Ludovic Bource
Hugo-Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-Alberto Iglesias
War Horse-John Williams

(The clip below is a compilation of all this years scores)

Honestly there is no much debate about this years best score winner.  This is one award in the technical categories that will easily go to The Artist, the only spoiler could be Howard Shore's Hugo.  While I do not want to take anything away from these men there were numerous scores snubbed because they do not fit within the norm.  I think it's time for the Academy to make a change and adapt this category.

Prediction: The Artist
Spoiler: Hugo

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