Oscars 2010: The Music: Original Score and Song


There’s probably some great quote about music in film, but I’m too lazy to Google it. Simply put, even the silent movie era films were accompanied by music. That tells you how essential a score is to a film. Silence is bad and awkward in a film. That’s why every movie has a score, soundtrack or both. Next time you watch a film, pay attention to what it uses and when there’s music versus when there isn’t and you’ll have a totally new understanding of the importance of music.

I’m not going to toot the horn of the original song. That’s just a perk category and apparently the producers have said this year that there will not be live performances. Since every original song nominee must appear in the film itself, I think they plan on showing the numbers straight from the movie so you get a sense of how they connect to the film, which is just as if not more important than the quality of the song itself.

To keep you abreast of some of the conflict with the Oscars, there’s a great deal of subjectivity when it comes to what constitutes original work that’s Oscar-eligible. For one thing, it must not be based on anything previously published and it must have been written for purposes of use in the film, not written beforehand and then chosen to be in the movie (even if the movie is the first time the song is heard). I’ll give some examples later on.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

  • Michael Giacchino for Up
  • James Horner for Avatar
  • Hans Zimmer for Sherlock Holmes
  • Alexandre Desplat for Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders for The Hurt Locker

Open up your iTunes right now or get YouTube ready. I’m going to be sampling these scores right off of there if it’s a film I haven’t seen. Even then, like I just mentioned with original song, more than half the score is the way it works with the images on screen.

Let’s start with Avatar. If you search online, you can find a video of excerpts of James Horner scores strung together. In it, you’ll hear his horn theme that he constantly uses is every film he works on. He might argue it’s his musical signature, but shouldn’t that make his score for Avatar ineligible? Either way, you can’t argue that his score doesn’t make the Avatar world more beautiful. His choices of using a lot more tribal instruments as the focal parts of the score is really what gets it done.

Golden Globe winner Michael Giacchino’s score for Up certainly has to be considered the favorite. Check out his track “Married Life,” the music that was set to the film’s heartbreaking flashback montage with Carl and his wife meeting all the way until she passes. He echoes this simple waltz theme throughout the soundtrack and that’s what makes it so moving. That’s not to say his suspenseful stuff isn’t great too – after all, he has been working on ABC’s LOST for six years and that’s nothing but suspense.

Then there’s the master – seven-time nominee Hans Zimmer. But it’s been awhile. Zimmer has only one once: 15 years ago for The Lion King. He was last nominated for Gladiator. Although his The Dark Knight score was deemed ineligible last year, there’s a good chance that would’ve won. Anyway, it’s good to see him back with Sherlock Holmes. All you have to do is find the main track “Discombobulate” and you get the essence of this fun score. I can’t tell if the stringed instrument is a sitar or not, but it’s a unique score to say the least.

Though not the favorite, Alexandre Desplat did a lot of great work this past year and Fantastic Mr. Fox is just some of it. Check out the quirky, playful and unique sounds of this very string and percussion-based (especially bells) soundtrack.

As for The Hurt Locker soundtrack, it’s cool, but it’s mostly just sounds getting louder. The music here is entirely to keep things suspenseful in the film and you definitely have to say it did it’s job. Just not Oscar-worthy in my ey…ears.

Prediction: Michael Giacchino for “Up”

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

  • “The Weary Kind” by T-Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham from Crazy Heart
  • “Down in New Orleans” by Randy Newman from The Princess and the Frog
  • “Almost There” by Randy Newman from The Princess and the Frog
  • “Loin de Paname” by Reinhardt Wagner and Frank Thomas from Paris 36
  • “Take it All” by Maury Yeston from Nine

We all knew Nine was going to get nominated here for something, but no one expected Take it All. I think this is more the academy’s obsession with Marion Cotillard. It’s a pretty good song, but traditional. Perhaps it’s the placement in the film.

Then there’s the Academy’s Randy Newman obsession. Two songs from Princess and the Frog got nominated. They’re not my favorite songs from the movie, but they’re two of the three that were eligible. “Almost There” is the better of the two, especially in the context of the film. It’s the most beautiful animation to any of the songs and it’s a classy melody.

“Loin De Paname,” if you check it out on YouTube is a very traditional lyrical waltz that you’d expect from the French. I suppose after listening to the Up soundtrack, this makes sense, but I don’t give it a shot.

Then there’s Golden Globe winner “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart. It’s performed by Ryan Bingham (not George Clooney’s character from Up in the Air, which is totally weird coincidence), whose smoky voice and traditional folk fingerpicking make it one of those songs you listen intently to. Not all quiet songs are good ones, but “The Weary Kind” draws you in. After “Falling Slowly” won from Once a couple years ago, this seems a favorite, though I don’t know the context in the film.

Prediction: “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart

Close second from “Almost There.”

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