The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences takes its rules very seriously and no committee is tougher on potential contenders than the music branch. More than previous years, there has been some controversy over a number of potential best original score nominees. Today, that concern appears to have been warranted.
Variety reports that four films (that’s not a misprint, four) have been disqualified from the original score category this season. As expected, “Black Swan,” by Clint Mansell and “True Grit,” by Carter Burwell, didn’t make the cut because they use too much pre-existing material intertwined within the score. “Swan” features many cues from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and “Grit” includes a number of 19th century hymns. More surprising were the disqualifications for “The Kids Are All Right” and “The Fighter.”
“Kids” is another Burwell creation and “Fighter” is by veteran Michael Brook. What they both have in common is that the Academy has deemed them “diminished by in impact by the predominant use of songs.” Basically, too many songs on the soundtrack were seen as making the film’s score seem secondary.
The most disappointing aspect of the news is that Burwell has never been nominated for an Oscar even though he’s scored such films as “Fargo,” “Gods and Monsters,” “Being John Malkovich,” “No Country for Old Men” and “The Blind Side.” It’s worth noting Brook and Mansell have never been recognized by the Academy either. With four major contenders out, where does that leave the always competitive category? Here is a rundown of some of the possible other contenders left in the field.
“The Social Network” by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Already acclaimed by most of the nation’s critics, the duo’s score has been considered the frontrunner for weeks. “Swan” and “Grit” could have been serious challengers.
“127 Hours” by A.R. Rahman
Former winner for “Slumdog Millionaire” surprised with this fresh and moving work.
“The Ghost Writer” by Alexandre Desplat
Memorable, chilling and already rewarded by LA Film Critics and European Film Awards. Also, three-time nominee.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1” by Alexandre Desplat
See above, plus this was one score that stood on its own without referencing too much of John Williams’ original “Potter” tunes.
“The King’s Speech” by Alexandre Desplat
The third wonderful work by Desplat this year, but some on the committee were concerned by some well known classical themes at key moments in the score. It wasn’t disqualified, but will that hinder a nomination chances?
“The Town” by David Buckley and Harry Gregson-Williams
Solid work, but neither composer has been nominated before
“Never Let Me Go” by Rachel Portman
A winner for “Emma” in the now defunct musical or comedy category, Portman has been nominated twice since. “Go” may be her most moving work yet.
“Inception” by Hans Zimmer
Zimmer was the expected frontrunner before “Network’s” score was heard and is an expected lock for a nod. Zimmer has been nominated seven times, but only one once (“The Lion King”).
“Toy Story 3” by Randy Newman
An Academy favorite, he’s been nominated 14 times and won for another animated flick, “Monster’s, Inc.” He was also nominated for best musical or comedy score for the first “Toy Story.”
“Tron Legacy” by Daft Punk
It’s great, but considered a reach because the DJ duo might just be too hip for the room. Can the committee find themselves influenced by the massive sales for the soundtrack?
“Alice in Wonderland” by Danny Elfman
Nominated four times, but never for his best work. Why do we think that might happen again?
What do you think about the disqualifications? Which scores do you think should make the field?
Follow Gregory Ellwood and Awards Campaign on Twitter @HitFixGregory