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and the academy award goes to...

January 30, 2009

For the past week, nearly every blog I frequent has been posting stories, features, opinions, photo galleries, and predictions about the Oscar nominations, and why should LACO’s blog be any different? But instead of tackling all 24 categories, or even the 5 or 6 most prominent ones, let’s focus on just 1 category – the one that most pertains to LACO: Best Original Score. I’m a huge fan of film scores, and have been since high school. I can’t remember exactly when or why I was turned onto them, but I remember buying the score to Edward Scissorhands (still one of my favorite movies) and listening to it non-stop for a couple weeks. Plus, the timing is perfect: LACO’s next concert
features a new piece by Lalo Schifrin, who has written scores for dozens upon dozens of movies (and is best known for the Mission Impossible theme). And I’ve heard that a lot of LACO musicians record film scores regularly – maybe someone played in one of the nominated scores! So what are we waiting for? Let’s discuss the nominees!

The nominees are:
Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
James Newton Howard, Defiance
Danny Elfman, Milk
A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Thomas Newman, WALL-E

I’ll say upfront that I’ve only seen 4 of the 5 films – I haven’t seen Defiance, and probably won’t before the Awards. The most recent one I saw was Button, and boy, did I bawl my eyes out. That is one depressing movie, with tragedy after tragedy, but also a stunning one, and one I won’t forget for a while. I though the score was wonderfully executed. It set the somber tone, served the story and the emotion, and had interesting sounds and flourishes that helped illustrate what a spectacular, fable-like life the title character led.

Milk is another flick that requires kleenex, and is memorable for a lot of reasons. But I’m not sure the music is one of them. I saw it, and loved it, but there’s, like, 8 things I remember more than the score. I really had to dig deep to remember how the music fit in, and, still, I only can remember how the music enriched the ending sequence, which updated the audience on what all the people portrayed in the movie were doing now. I wish the score was more memorable, because I am a huge Danny Elfman fan – I’ve blogged about him before and he wrote the Edward Scissorhands score I’ve already mentioned, along with the scores for most all of Tim Burton’s movies. I just think he’s amazingly inventive and unique, and hits it out of the park most times. That’s right, a baseball metaphor.

The first 30 minutes of WALL-E, which are dialogue-free, introduces us to the world of the movie: Earth, 800 years from now; what’s happened to it; and how this one little robot fits in. The visuals are striking – it’s calm and eerie and funny and overwhelming, and all those beats and feelings are emphasized or reflected in the score, creating a breathtaking sequence that’s challenging and wondrous.

And then there’s Slumdog Millionaire. It’s a pulsing, exhilarating movie, with an equally pulsing, exhilarating soundtrack. When I left the theater, I actually didn’t think there was a score; I thought the soundtrack was all pop and electronic music, brilliantly selected and edited into the movie. But there was a score amid the pop songs, and I thought it’s genius in that it never seemed like there was. Rahman blended all these modern and worldly sounds and beats, giving the film an authentic and exotic, yet stylish and hip feel that threw me headfirst into the film in ways I wasn’t expecting.

The nerdy statistician in me says that I have to point out that 4 of the 5 nominees have been invited to this prom before – in fact, they have, collectively, 19 previous nominations, but no wins. Desplat got nominated two years ago for The Queen; this is Elfman’s 4th nomination and Howard’s 6th nomination (he also has 2 Original Song nods as well). Newman has racked up 9 Original Score nominations, including this one, and he’s also nominated this year in the Original Song category, for a grand total of 10 nominations. Only A.R. Rahman has never been nominated before – but he’s catching up quick, with 3 nominations this year: the 1 for Original Score, plus 2 more for a pair of Original Songs from Slumdog (his only competition is Newman, nominated for the Original Song from WALL-E).

The pundits will tell you that there are two frontrunners: Rahman, because he won the Golden Globe for Slumdog and because that movie has the most buzz going into the awards; and Desplat, because Benjamin Button has the most total nominations (13), and often, those movies sweep up the gold in most or all of the categories they’re nominated in (like Titanic or The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). But when I fill out my Oscar pool at work this year (which I won last year!) I think I’ll gonna mark Slumdog Millionaire, for the way that the music heightened and focused an already eye-popping film.

Which begs me to ask: What about you? Who do you think will win? Who do you think should win? Who was snubbed? Speak up in the comments section below!


It was wonderful seeing Yo Yo Ma so at one eith his cello perfectly adapted. I loved seeing Jeffrey Kahane speak and play. I do enyoy his youthful yet very skillful style. I like hearing him speak. He's delightful.

  • —cassiopiajane, February 03, 2009 03:47 am

Yes I can honestly say it was an absolute joy to watch the very talented Yo Yo Ma.

  • Lee, March 01, 2009 02:34 pm

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