Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.
Although I haven’t the knowledge or viewing experience to comment on the films up for consideration this year at the Oscars, after Trent Reznor’s surprise victory last year, I had high expectations going into the award season this when it came to the music. Even though Best Original Score isn’t exactly the most talked-about category, film scores deserve a lot more attention than they are often given. Before I get started, I suggest checking out the entire oscar list here. Here are the nominees that I’m concerning myself with:
Best Original Score:
The Adventures of Tin Tin – John Williams
The Artist – Ludovic Bource
Hugo – Howard Shore
Tinker Tailer Sailor Spy – Alberto Iglesias
War Horse – John Williams
Before I complain about scores that got the big snub, I’ll give you my predictions and hopes for the category. To get right to the point, I’m really hoping for a win for Ludovic Bource for his work on the The Artist. I haven’t seen the film yet, but after listening to the score and reading a lot about the film, it is, without a doubt, the most creative and beautiful use of score out of the five. Here is a film who’s very existence depends on the score that the relatively unknown French composer Ludovic Bource has crafted and the whole thing just oozes with style and that classy 1920s sound. Bource already picked up the win from the Golden Globes, but if Hugo or War Horse end up gaining any momentum for bigger Oscar categories, I could easily see the Academy awarding Howard Shore or John Williams’ more traditional-sounding scores.
But don’t think that I haven’t got my list of Academy snubs. Personally, I absolutely adored Trent Reznor’s score for 2010’s The Social Network, but was not nearly as impacted by his more recent work on Girl With The Dragon Tattoo so I’m okay with that not having made the cut. The real scores that I missed on the list are the Drive soundtrack by Cliff Martinez, Alexandre Desplat’s Tree of Life score and both of Jonny Greenwood’s scores for We Need To Talk About Kevin and Norwegian Wood.Jonny Greenwood is one of the strongest composers alive right now, but has been constantly snubbed by the Academy — so not a lot of surprises there. Drive, however, is a different case. Because Drive was not even shortlisted for Best Original Score, I have a feeling it was disqualified for the few songs by other artists at the beginning of the soundtrack. To me, the fact that a technicality could keep Martinez’s score from being recognized alone shows to how much the Academy is living in the dark ages. Martinez’s work on Drive is powerful and borderline revolutionary — it’s what should have been the followup to Trent Reznor’s win last year.
My feeling is that there are these incredible artists out there who are finally making their way to scoring films and giving them brilliant musical touches that traditional composers have been thus far unable to do. So many of these “traditional” scores could easily be switched around to other films — whether its the big sweeping themes of John Williams or the intense action-sequence drones by the likes of Hans Zimmer — many times it’s just a composer switching from “epic mode” to “romance mode” to “intense mode” with very little thought going into what the film is actually trying to do. Don’t get me wrong, I like these composers just as much as anyone else. But with two nods to John Williams, I can’t help feel like the Academy is stagnating.
I’m of the persuasion that the way we recognize and receive a medium like music or film is as important a cultural product as the art itself — in other words, things like the Grammy’s and the Oscar’s tell us a lot about the culture we live in. As a music fan and film score nerd, I’d hate to see the Academy go in the way of the Grammy’s and become another self-congratulatory celebration of the safe and the predictable.