Image Credit: Niko Tavernise; Lorey Sebastian The official list of Academy Award-eligible scores has been released, according to Variety. There are the usual list of big names — James Newton Howard (The Tourist, Salt) has four scores in contention, Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1, The King’s Speech) has three — and newcomers. (Pray for a TRON: Legacy upset nomination: can you imagine a ceremony with Daft Punk and The Social Network‘s Trent Reznor?) But the list is just as notable for the names that aren’t on the list. The Academy disqualified Clint Mansell’s Black Swan and Carter Burwell’s True Grit because both scores were deemed to depend too much on pre-existing material. (Mansell folds in themes from Swan Lake, while Burwell built Grit‘s stirring score on 19th-century music.) Two other scores were disqualified because the film was “diluted” by having just too many darn songs on the soundtrack: Farewell to The Fighter, scored by Michael Brook, and The Kids Are All Right, scored by Carter Burwell, who clearly just can’t catch a freaking break from these people. As a film-score obsessive, I have to ask: Why do the rules for the Best Original Score category make no sense at all?
This isn’t the first time the Best Original Score field has knocked out serious contenders because of minor technicalities. Three years ago, the Academy caught some flak (but not enough) when they disqualified Jonny Greenwood‘s majestic, eerie, utterly original There Will Be Blood score. The same year, they disqualified Eddie Vedder’s work on Into The Wild for being too song-based. Are they actively trying to make the category less interesting by eliminating big names? In 2008, the intriguingly bizarre Dark Knight soundtrack fell victim to another technicality: Too many composers!
There are plenty of bizarre bureaucratic technicalities in the Oscar race — witness the annual train wreck of the Best Documentary eligibility list — but what angers me about the fuzzy logic of the Best Original Score category is that it proposes to take such a silly hard line on “originality.” No music is composed in a vacuum — should John Williams be punished for the fact that much of his most famous music wouldn’t sound out of place in a Richard Wagner opera? More importantly, what separates the “unoriginality” of True Grit‘s score from Hans Zimmer’s Academy-eligible music for Inception, the most famous portion of which is actually a riff on an old Edith Piaf tune?
What do you think, PopWatchers? Do you agree with the Academy’s rules, or do you think they’re way off-base? Can we all agree that a category that places Brooklyn’s Finest and Chronicles of Narnia 3.0 in contention but disqualifies The Kids Are All Right needs some sort of overhaul?