Academy Award Nominations for Best Original Score

The nominees for 2010's Academy Awards were just posted yesterday morning! Its always exciting to see great films that aren't always recognized by the ticket office get some much deserved attention. And while I'd love to see one of the more experimental films like The Social Network or Inception take the Best Picture award home, my money is on the period drama, The King's Speech. Although I haven't seen it yet, The Academy Awards have a history with period dramas and films that feature some kind of disability, and The King's Speech has both! You can see the full nomination list here:

When it comes to soundtracks though, the results could be a little out of the ordinary this year. This year's contenders for Best Original Score feature some familiar faces, but also some newcomers. Scores for films are often seen as unartistic and practical uses of music, but there are plenty of artists and composers who are doing some really creative things with their scores. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' electronic score for The Social Network has been garnering a lot of momentum after winning at The Golden Globes earlier (and also from receiving the #11 spot on my Top 20 releases of 2010 of course!). Their unorthodox soundtrack is definitely my pick for 2010, but we shall see what "the Academy" deems worthy. In the meantime, lets take a look at each of the nominees, who wrote the scores, and why they were chosen.

The Social Network

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

I've already written some on this soundtrack, but I'd like to insist that not only does The Social Network OST point in some exciting directions for single artist scores, it also also plays a significant part in what makes The Social Network successful as a movie and a piece of culture. Just as I now can't view Zuckerberg without the words of Aaron Sorkin, I can also no longer view him as a character without the electronic music of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The nomination and the Golden Globes award give hope to a number of non-classical or non-film world musicians and the credibility that they can receive.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - In Motion

127 Hours

A.R. Rahman

This is only Rahman's second Academy Award nomination (having already won an award for his Slumdog Millionaire score), although he already feels like an institution in Hollywood filmmaking. Rahman's got an experimental edge behind his music that doesn't shy away from pop styles and interesting recording techniques. The song "If I Rise", which was also nominated for Best Original Song, is absolutely gorgeous, featuring Dido Armstrong and Rahman himself on vocals. Here is one truly unique composer: he sings on his own soundtracks! I haven't seen the movie yet, but I could definitely feel the desperation of the desert in the dry acoustic guitar and Middle Eastern scales in tracks like "Liberation". In general, the 127 Hours score is strange and multifaceted and Rahman is an exciting composer to have working in Hollywood.

A.R. Rahman - If I Rise

The King's Speech

Alexandre Desplat

Desplat's soundtrack for The King's Speech is just what you would expect from such a movie. Its floating strings are emotionally gripping and its tinkling piano themes are characteristic and heartwarming. The score, like the movie, is all the things a great Hollywood Academy Award-winning film should be and rightfully so. The fact that both the film and the score are "safe", does not erase the fact that this is just great stuff. Desplat has been nominated previously for his work on The Queen in 2008, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 2009 and Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2010, quickly becoming a force in emotional film scoring for dramas. Having written scores for three humongous movies in 2010 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1, The Ghost Writer, and The King's Speech), Desplat's blossoming reputation will no doubt only continue to grow in the future.

Alexandre Desplat - Lionel and Bertie

How To Train Your Dragon

John Powell

John Powell is a kid movie/action movie film scoring veteran. Having scored everything from Ice Age to X-Men to the Bourne Ultimatum, Powell has a knack for writing lively and colorful pieces of music for films that demand that style. The scenes from the surprise hit, How To Train Your Dragon, give him just the right amount of variation to write sweet, minimalist tracks like "Forbidden Friendship" and be Hans Zimmer-inspired in tracks like "Dragon's Den". The score has plenty of fun folk references and nice listens as well, but to me still lacks the character and precision of scores for animated films such as Thomas Newman's Pixar films or Michael Giacchino's Up. Definitely an interesting pick over Danny Elfman's score for Alice In Wonderland, but it might have more to do with the quality of the movies themselves.

John Powell - This Is Berk


Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer has been criticized quite a bit lately for his music all sounding the same. Let me just say this: its mostly true. And when you write as much music as Hans Zimmer does, its almost inevitable. However, the Inception score that he produced is probably one of the best pieces he has written since Gladiator back in 2000. Like the movie itself, Zimmer's score is subtle and detailed but big and soaring as well. The score is deeply rooted in the ideology of the film, even taking its infamous brass cue from a slowed down rendering of the Edith Piaf song that the characters use to wake each other up from dreams in the movie. Don't believe it? Check out the viral video below that shows it. Either way, if you've seen the movie, there's no way you can listen to "Time" and not can chills. Well done Hans.

Hans Zimmer - Time

But let's face it: for all the times film score heroes like Hans Zimmer and John Williams have been nominated, Hans Zimmer hasn't won since 1994 (The Lion King) and Williams hasn't won since 1993 (Schindler's List). Just as pop music and classical music is constantly changing, film scores will no doubt shift as well. Traditional scores will always be around, just as traditional films will always be around. But as the Golden Globes have predicted, the times are a-changin'. So whether its David Byrne who is creating music for Sean Penn's newest film or Johnny Greenwood's (of Radiohead) score for Norwegian Wood, I am predicting that 2011 will be a big year for single-artist film scores and more non-classical musicians breaking into Hollywood.

What do you guys think? What are your favorite films and film scores of 2010? Who deserves to win this year?

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