Film scoring represents a unique place in the world of film-making.
Creating a movie score has artistic limitations in terms of the outlying vision of the director compared to the composer. Trying to make business-like rules for an art-form is nearly impossible, which is why evaluating something like the Oscar category for Best Original Score can be so difficult.
A score must adhere to two distinct functions:
- The score must perform well within the landscape of the story of the movie.
The score must act as an independent, wholly original artform.
What does this mean? It means that this award is flawed.
The Academy advises voters to evaluate a score’s worth based on its “effectiveness, craftsmanship, creative substance and relevance to the dramatic whole, and only as presented within the motion picture.”
This year, the award for Best Original Score will be as convoluted as ever.
The agony began when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences informed Antonio Sanchez that his score for Birdman had been declared ineligible for Oscar consideration because the soundtrack used too much music by other composers, including Mahler and Tchaikovsky.
Sanchez will be watching the Oscars at home Sunday night like the rest of us.
Alexandre Desplat is up for two Oscars this year in the same Best Original Score category. One is for The Imitation Game and the other is for The Grand Budapest Hotel. According to NPR, in creating the score for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Desplat researched Gregorian chants to conceptualize the score.
Which is probably why I didn’t enjoy the score.
The Grand Budapest Hotel represents the third collaboration between composer Desplat and director Wes Anderson. The duo also worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom.
In The Imitation Game, Desplat recorded with the London Symphony, using a series of descending, rippling keyboard notes that reappear throughout the film.
It was a tall order, considering he only had three weeks to craft his score.
In an interview with Deadline last fall, Desplat talked about the best original score category:
“It’s not about what’s a good or bad score at the Oscars, rather what’s exposed to the ears more. There aren’t that many understated scores that have won in the last 10 years. It’s not easy to write an understated score over a loud one.”
The following composers have been nominated for a Best Original Score Oscar more than once but have yet to garner one. The number of nominations is listed in parentheses.
• Thomas Newman (11)
• Randy Newman (8)
• Alexandre Desplat (8)
• James Newton Howard (8)
Whenever a double nominee scenario arises in an Oscar category, people begin to assume a cross-cancellation will occur where the voters tie on two movies – essentially canceling out both of their chances of winning.
Here’s how Vegas sees the night playing out:
Johann Johannsson for “The Theory of Everything” at 4 to 5
Alexandre Desplat for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” at 6 to 5
Alexandre Desplat for “The Imitation Game” at 18 to 1
Hans Zimmer for “Interstellar” at 25 to 1
Gary Yershon for “Mr. Turner” at 75 to 1
With eight nominations under his belt and a double nod from the bookmakers, Desplat may finally take home a statue in 2015.
If not for one man from Iceland: Johann Johannsonn.