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Composer A.R. Rahman Leads Oscar Nominees in Music

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Long a megastar composer within India’s Bollywood film industry, A.R. Rahman has cemented his claim as a major Hollywood force, leading the Academy Award music category nominees, announced on Tuesday.

Rahman’s music for the Danny Boyle film “127 Hours” was nominated in both the Best Score and Best Original Song categories.

Going up against Rahman for Best Score is Hans Zimmer, for “Inception;” Alexandre Desplat, for “The King's Speech;” John Powell, for “How to Train Your Dragon;” and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for “The Social Network.” Reznor and Ross recently took home the Golden Globe for their score to the Facebook drama.

The score category illustrates some of the diversity within Hollywood’s music quarters, both in the aesthetic and the stature of the nominees.

Rahman previously won two Oscars for his music for Slumdog Millionaire. With “127 Hours,” he may have faced the toughest challenge from a scoring standpoint. Not only did he have to set the tone of a film in which the camera is largely static, focused on just one character, but he also had to tackle a cringe-inducing story about a trapped hiker who cuts off his own arm. At least one critic pointed out that Rahman could have made that scenario much worse, but his accompaniment was largely restrained.

Alexandre Desplat, a 49-year-old Frenchman, has built a growing international reputation through scores for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Girl With the Pearl Earring,” “Syriana,” and “The Painted Veil,” for which he won a Golden Globe in 2007. “The King’s Speech” features a jaunty and genteel, piano-driven score, which shares the soundtrack with pieces by Beethoven and Mozart.

By contrast, Trent Reznor is a newcomer to Hollywood, having scored his first movie for "The Social Network." Together with composer Atticus Ross, he crafted an atmospheric piano-draped electronic score, much in the same vein as his work with the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. One of the pivotal scenes includes an adaptation of Grieg’s In The Hall of the Mountain King.

Hans Zimmer is the Hollywood stalwart among the five nominees, a four-time Oscar winner and two-time Golden Globe winner who has scored numerous big-budget films over the past two decades. For the surreal thriller “Inception” he crafted a darkly hypnotic and at times clangorous score that garnered some Internet buzz last year after it was discovered that he built a key musical cue around the framework of the Édith Piaf song “Non, je ne regrette rien.”

The surprise nominee in the field is British composer John Powell for his colorful accompaniment to “How to Train Your Dragon,” a Dreamworks Animation film. That score edged out Golden Globe nominee Danny Elfman, who scored the animated feature "Alice in Wonderland."

The Best Song category includes “If I Rise” from “127 Hours,” Rahman’s aforementioned collaboration with Dido and Rollo Armstrong. Joining him in the category is Randy Newman for "We Belong Together" (from the Disney animated film "Tangled"); Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey for "Coming Home" (from "Country Strong"); and Alan Menken and Glenn Slater for "I See the Light" (performed by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, from "Tangled").

"The King's Speech" led all films with 12 Oscar nominations, while "True Grit" followed with 10, "The Social Network" and "True Grit" picked up eight each, and "The Fighter" earned seven.

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards will be broadcast live on ABC on Feb. 27 from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.