Rookies and Vets Among Best Original Score Oscar Nominees

Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 04:00 PM

An Oscar Award statuette. An Oscar Award statuette. (Getty Images)

This year's Academy Award nominees for Best Original Score are an odd assortment of obvious choices, reasonable contenders, and surprises.

One big surprise is that Alexander Ebert's Golden Globe-winning score for "All is Lost" isn't even nominated for an Oscar. Maybe the Hollywood foreign press were swayed by Ebert's rock star status (he leads the band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros). Ebert is a rookie composer of film scores who's off to a promising start with "All is Lost."

There are rookies among the Oscar contenders, too. Like Ebert, William Butler and Owen Pallett are more experienced in the rock world – Butler with the band Arcade Fire, and Pallett as a contributor to that band as well as projects under his own name and that of Final Fantasy – but their score for "Her" is nominated for an Oscar.

Steven Price, nominated for "Gravity," is slightly more experienced as a composer of film music, though most of his soundtrack credits are as music editor and guitarist. His music for "Gravity" is a very contemporary mix of electronic and symphonic sounds, shifting from anthemic moments to passages that merge the functions of music and sound design.

Film music's grand old man John Williams is nominated for the 49th time, this year for "The Book Thief." His previous 48 nominations yielded five wins, the last of them 21 years ago for "Schindler's List." Williams will turn 82 on February 8, and while another Oscar might be a nice birthday gift, the Academy may choose to wait for Williams's score for "Star Wars: Episode VII," due in 2015.

The two other composers nominated this year, Thomas Newman and Alexandre Desplat, have each contributed impressively and distinctly to the field of film scores. Both men have managed to establish a personal sound and style in an arena that sometimes seems to prefer chameleon-like adaptability.

Newman has been nominated this year for "Saving Mr. Banks," following 11 previous noms, for "The Shawshank Redemption," "American Beauty," and "WALL-E," among others. Although he hasn't yet won an Oscar, it's hopefully consoling for him to know that his father Alfred Newman's nine Oscar wins made Newman senior still the most honored composer in Hollywood history.

Frenchman Desplat is nominated for "Philomena," to which he brought his characteristic buoyancy, sensitivity and intelligence. His five previous nominations include "Argo," "The King's Speech," and "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Desplat seems bound to win an Oscar at some point, if not this year.

My guess for this year's winner is Steven Price, for "Gravity." I suspect that that film will win several awards, and Price may ride those coattails to a win in the Best Score category. Had it been nominated, I'd be rooting for Johann Johannsson's darkly sumptuous music for the film "Prisoners." It's always exciting when a composer adds a new dimension to what a film score can sound like, so I'm looking forward to Johannsson's further work in the field.

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Comments [2]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

The Oscar winners I believe from what I have heard all were deserving of their great honor.
BUT, the performers and the "music" they "indicated" were either crude, incomprehensible
word-wise, throaty, nasal or underpowered and thin-voiced. With all the talent on the world market, not only the Oscars, the Super Bowl, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the World Series Baseball games rarely eever have REAL talented singers or instrumentalists performing. The dumbing down of the American public by the commercial interests that favor the widest possible potential buyers has made our country less cultivated in the arts, the sciences, history and geography. If you ask a youngster if he likes Beethoven, he might say I love that dog in the movie. I am a Wagnerian romantischer heldentenor. I will sing the four song cycles that are most often performed in their orchestral garb:the complete Wagner's "Wesendonck Lieder," the complete Mahler's "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen," the tenor's music in Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" and Waldemar's music in Schoenberg's "Gurre-Lieder" at the New Life Expo at the Hotel Pennsylvania in NYC on Saturday March 22nd at 6 PM in the Gold Room on the second floor. I have sung four three-hour-long solo concerts, the last two ALL-WAGNER concerts, in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall including programming the Wagner and the first named Mahler song cycle. One may hear my singing LIVE from the main hall, the Isaac Stern Auditorium of CARNEGIE HALL, from my four three-hour-long solo concerts by downloading, FREE, 37 out of the nearly 100 selections that I have sung there by going to RECORDED SELECTIONS on my websites www.WagnerOpera.com, www.ShakespeareOpera.com and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com Roles represented from live performances are Otello, Siegfried, Goetterdaemmerung Siegfried, Florestan, Tristan, Parsifal, Siegmund, Walther von Stolzing, Rienzi, Lohengrin,Orfeo, Federico and, in oratorio, Judas Maccabaeu

Mar. 03 2014 08:57 AM
eileen Tomarchio

So glad you noted Johannsson's score for "Prisoners". His music for "The Miners' Hymns" was just as astoundingly beautiful. Love how he straddles the worlds of modern classical and film music, as Max Richter does.

Jan. 16 2014 08:33 PM

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