Although both categories have to do with music, audience favor in these two Oscar categories are going in opposite directions. With more and more noteworthy musicians, artists and composers trying their hand at film scores, Best Score is becoming a category of intrigue, whereas Academy rules have completely butchered the Best Original Song category over the years. Original songs in movies used to be big cultural hits, but restrictions of all kinds have not only stripped the category of some exciting nominees, but limited them altogether. There are just two this year.
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
- “The Adventures of Tintin” – John Williams
- “The Artist” – Ludovic Bource
- “Hugo” – Howard Shore
- “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” – Alberto Iglesias
- “War Horse” – John Williams
Here’s another category in which the Academy tends to favor heavy hitters in the nominations, which would explain John Williams’ two nominations. But they key word is nominations, as the winner tends to be one of the more unique entries. The names you know, Hans Zimmer (1-of-9), James Newton Howard (0-of-8), Danny Elfman (0-of-4), Alexandre Desplat (0-of-4) have few wins to their name. Even Williams, who has been nominated for 42 original scores (when you add these two), has only won five of them, so less than 12 percent. He hasn’t won since “Schindler’s List” in 1993.
Howard Shore, on the other hand, could go 3-for-3 if he wins for Hugo. The composer has never lost an Oscar, with wins for his “The Fellowship of the Ring” and “The Return of the King” scores and one Best Original Song for “Into the West” featuring Annie Lennox. His work is much less pronounced in “Hugo,” however. It’s highly thematic with almost every track utilizing equal parts piano, strings and accordion. If you listen to “The Thief,” that pretty much sums up his work on the film. At the same time, it’s very effective.
If Williams were to win, however, would it before The Adventures of Tintin or for War Horse? “Tintin” has that classic cartoon feel. You can hear bits of Williams’ “Harry Potter” score throughout and there’s lots of that “Cantina Band” feel in some of the film’s main themes like “The Adventures of Tintin” and “Snowy’s Theme.” Meanwhile, “War Horse” is the more complex of the two. You have some fiddle-heavy UK sounds and some generally more complex work like on “Dartmoor, 1912,” but then the classic soaring themes that no one does better on tracks “The Reunion” and “The Homecoming.”
Three-time nominee Alberto Iglesias offers the most unique of all the scores. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a masterwork of tone, much of which is set by the music. There’s the time-period appropriate jazzy sound of the “George Smiley” theme, but then some rigorous string work in tracks such as “Esterhase” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” It’s quite good.
Then there’s The Artist. In no genre of film is music more important that silent film. That kind of goes without saying, but considering how beloved “The Artist” is, it should tell you how successful first-time nominee Ludovic Bource was with his work on the film. Of all the nominees, these tunes are the catchiest and most crowd-pleasing while still demonstrating the sophistication the Academy looks for. Character themes stand out the most: certainly listen to “George Valentin” and “Waltz for Peppy.”
Prediction: The Artist
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
- “Muppet or Man” by Bret McKenzie from “The Muppets”
- “Real in Rio” by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Siedah Garrett from “Rio”
I have heard both songs in the context of their films, and in that case the clear favorite is “Muppet or Man.” It has the humor going for it and it was featured in the more popular movie. It came a key point in the characters’ development as well, whereas “Real in Rio” was features as an opening overture of sorts and a concluding theme. There’s no denying it’s a cool song from a Brazilian/world music standpoint, but lyrically it has nothing on Bret McKenzie’s track.
Prediction: ”Muppet or Man” by Bret McKenzie (“The Muppets”)