Monday, January 01, 2007

Predicting the Oscars 2006: Best Original Score

For my first in a series of category analyzations, I am taking a look at one of my personal favorite categories at the Oscars - Best Original Score.

One of the most wide open races so far, Best Original Score has the sad distinction of also being one of the year's weakest categories this year. With few standouts in the film score world in 2006, picking the 5 final nominees will be tricky.

So what will be nominated? Well, as much as I know many film score fans don't want to hear this, I think the Gustavo Santaolalla lovefest will continue as he keeps picking up critics prizes, netting him his second nod for Babel. Also, Clint Mansell's The Fountain (my personal favorite) is gathering quite a following, and with its Golden Globe nomination and several critics award wins, it looks like it has a good shot of getting Mansell his first nomination.

One of the two high-end (i.e. not Firewall) Alexandre Desplat scores of the year will probably get in the race - The Queen or The Painted Veil. But probably not both. There is an outside chance he could be nominated twice though. Veil got a Golden Globe nomination, but The Queen is getting all the awards notices, and is a likely Best Picture nominee, which gives it the edge, plus, in my opinion, it's the better of the two.

There has also been lots of buzz building around Philip Glass' score for Notes on a Scandal, with some calling it the best work of Glass' career. Glass is very well respected within the industry, and Notes will probably net him his third nomination.

The fifth slot is tricky. The Da Vinci Code was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critic's Choice Award, but I just can't imagine that the Academy's music branch (i.e. composers, musicians, and lyricists who do the nominating) will recognize a score that was just too much for a film that wasn't very good. It's a great listen on album, but it's overbearing in the film.

The Academy loves Randy Newman, and they could give him a nomination for Cars (after all they did nominate Monsters, Inc.). Ditto Danny Elfman, who could get a nod for his magical Charlotte's Web. Since there is generally (but not always) score for a children's film in the mix, those two stand the best chance (unless the Academy chooses to award a year's worth of stellar work by John Powell by recognizing Happy Feet). There is also the slim possibility that they may throw a bone in the direction of World Trade Center by nominating Craig Armstrong's elegiac score for that film. They could also recognize James Horner's stylistic departure in Apocalypto, but I have a feeling most Academy members won't listen to the whole promo CD sent their way...the score is just too dissonant and off-putting. Also watch out for perennial nominee Thomas Newman's highly acclaimed work for The Good German, but the film seems to be failing to connect with voters. In addition, Alberto Iglesias' work for the acclaimed Pedro Almodovar film Volver. Iglesias was a surprise nominee last year for The Constant Gardener, so he can never be counted out.

However, there is one score that very few people are talking about. And that is Gabriel Yared's Breaking and Entering. Directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, and Robin Wright Penn, the film has gotten surprisingly little buzz despite its pedigree and pretty solid reviews thus far. There may not be much chatter within the industry about in right now, but the fact remains that the last three Yared/Minghella collaborations have been nominated, The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Cold Mountain.

Basically, the Academy loves Yared, especially when he is working with Anthony Minghella. Which bodes very well for the score. It's not a great score, but it is solid work, definitely unusual (with an odd sense of eclectic beauty), and in some ways a bit of a departure for Yared, as the score is performed by electro-dance group Underworld. Which is enough of a surprise and a stretch as to impress Academy members, I think. As a result, think that Breaking and Entering will be the surprise fifth nominee.

Projected nominees:

BABEL - Gustavo Santaolalla
BREAKING AND ENTERING - Gabriel Yared
THE FOUNTAIN - Clint Mansell
NOTES ON A SCANDAL - Philip Glass
THE QUEEN - Alexandre Desplat

Alternate possibilities - THE PAINTED VEIL, CARS, CHARLOTTE'S WEB, THE GOOD GERMAN.

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