Finally, the Oscar Series is here. Basically, for the next two weeks, I'll be looking at some of the bigger categories a little closer. Maybe, I'll make some interesting points and will help people with their Oscar pools. This is obviously the first year doing this, so we'll see how well it goes.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
Atonement, Dario Marianelli
The Kite Runner, Alberto Iglesias
Michael Clayton, James Newton Howard
Ratatouille, Michael Giacchino
3:10 to Yuma, Marco Beltrami
Luckily for all the nominees, Gustavo Santaolalla is not nominated (won in 2005 and 2006). Seriously though, this race is usually determined by the score that remains in the audience's mind after the movie is over. This year that score is from Dario Marianelli with Atonement. Besides Jonny Greenwood's score for There Will Be Blood (disaqualified), I can't think of a better one this year. It's sweeping and epic. Marianelli was nominated for Pride and Prejudice a couple years ago, and I feel like he is in the best position to win. He also won the Golden Globe.
James Newton Howard has done some phenomenal scores in his career, but his work in Michael Clayton didn't blow me away. Still, this is his seventh nomination and he is winless in his last six attempts. Could the Academy play favorites and award the prolific composer. It's possible and it has to be taken seriously.
Alberto Iglesias has earned his second nomination (2005 with The Constant Gardener) with The Kite Runner. My big issue with his chance is whether people actually saw that film. Is it me or did that fall off the planet?
Michael Giacchino is a first time nominee. The animation factor worries me a little. People might not take the score as serious even though I found it to be enjoyable. With some big films coming up on his slate, I feel like his time will be in the future rather than this year.
Marc Beltrami is the other first time nominee. To me this has the best shot at pulling off the victory over Atonement. It captures the western feel effectively with the string arrangements. I feel like it really complements the film and that has to be taken into account.
One interesting look at this award is that the Golden Globe has only matched up twice in this decade (2002 and 2003) with the Oscar. So, does that mean Atonement is screwed? I wouldn't say so. All I know is every time I see a commercial for Atonement, the score just overtakes me. And, if Focus plays their cards right, then they should bank on that and drive it into voter's minds.
As a filmmaker myself, I feel like the score can be almost another character in a film if done effectively. It should dictate the mood of the scene, so if you close your eyes you know what is going on. And, if you can do that, then you have one hell of a score. With that said, you should use that mentality to choose what you think is the best of the year.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"Falling Slowly" from Once, Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova
"Happy Working Song" from Enchanted, Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"Raise It Up" from August Rush, Music and Lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas
"So Close" from Enchanted, Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"That's How You Know" from Enchanted, Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
Every year this category always has me scratching my head. To me, this is easily one of the hardest categories every year. Yet, I somehow do extremely well in it. I've actually predicted the Three 6 Mafia win in 2005 and Melissa Etheridge's win last year.
The first thing every average Oscar pool contestant says is that since Enchanted has three nominations, then something will win. Wrong. Ask Dreamgirls last year. The other thought process is that the Academy refuses to award "newer" genres such as rap. Wrong again. Eminem is actually an Oscar winner as well as Three 6 Mafia.
How do I look at this category? I really take it year by year since there really are no standards. Recently, they do tend to go with a little more edgier, raw songs rather than light, easy going songs.
Look at the 1990s, Disney owned that category with its animations. And, many times did it with multiple nominations. It lost four times (1990, 1993, 1996, and 1997). '90, '93, and '96 it did not have any nominees. It lost in '97 to Celine Dion with nominations from Anastasia and Hercules.
This past decade alone, they have awarded a music industry veteran (Randy Newman), two rap artists (Eminem and Three 6 Mafia), a political song (from Melissa Etheridge), and a foreign language song (from Jorge Drexler).
First things first, Enchanted has some great songs in it. "That's How You Know" and "Happy Working Song" probably have the best chance. After watching that film, "So Close" didn't really stick out to me as much. My issue with these songs are they are just too light. Disney has a lot of luck in this category (see previous paragraphs), but it's last win was back in 2001 with Monsters, Inc. It also is dealing with three nominations. You have a dilemma of what should you vote for? This splits the vote and the film goes home empty-handed. I really think that was what happened last year.
My other concern is that this is not the Disney from the past and the songs don't blow you away like they did with films such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Enchanted may have the Disney name, but does it have the Disney power?
"Raise It Up" from August Rush is somewhat of the oddball this year. Yeah, it's a movie about music, but will it have much support? The song has a bit of a gospel feel to it, but I'm just not feeling it. I just don't see it getting the votes over the over four nominees. I feel like it's lost in the shuffle and can't find its way out.
"Falling Slowly" from Once to me is in the best position to win. It's not this happy-go-lucky song and has a personal meaning to it. I like the duet and I like this song. This film is about musicians (played by musicians) and what better way than to reward them with an Oscar?
Here is one thing to remember. The last two years were complete surprises. When I picked "I Need to Wake Up" at a school Oscar party last year, the kid I handed my ballot into laughed at me. And, no one gave Three 6 Mafia a chance to beat "In the Deep" from Crash. My feeling is Once right now, but don't be surprised if August Rush wins. And, DO NOT underestimate the power of Disney. This category really is a crap shoot.